While I’m riding, one of the main ways I know my bike is running ok is by the noise, or lack of it. As I often ride in quiet places, I’ve become used to the normal sounds of the gears and tires on the road and I’m acutely aware of any other rattles, clunks or, in this case, creaks. This is good because I tend to notice problems early. The downside is that I can be driven crazy by a leaf in the mudguard which probably isn’t slowing me down much.
The creak started a few months ago and was occasional, mostly when climbing. I managed to live with it until recently when it became more persistent. It definitely came from the front of the bike and could be recreated when stopped by leaning on one end of the bars then the other.
Lennard Zinn’s website has a long list of problems which fit this description, some much scarier, and more expensive, than others. At first I thought it was the headset or stem, so tried adjusting these, a bit tighter, then a bit looser. No change to the squeak. I inspected the titanium head tube and carbon/aluminium fork for signs of damage, but they looked fine to my inexpert eye.
Then I looked further down at the One23 QR skewer. I loosened it right off to the point that the wheel would drop out if I lifted the front of the bike. Pushing on the ends of the bars was now silent. Looking closer I noticed that the plastic bearing surface on the skewer closure was badly worn. It had large grooves in it, probably from the last few months of winter grit and maybe closing it too tightly sometimes. I was fairly confident that it wouldn’t be unsafe to ride with. There was no chance of the wheel coming out, but the creaking was reason enough to replace the skewers.
Of course, it’s a bit pathetic that a pair of £23 skewers would wear out within a year, even when ridden many miles on mucky roads.
To replace them I got some Hope skewers with a brass bearing surface. This, or an enclosed cam is far more reliable in the long term as I discovered from recent internet research. Had I known this, I never would have bought the One23 plastic ones. Still, lesson learnt. The Hope skewers are more than twice the weight mainly due to having a stainless steel rod rather than titanium, but the difference is still less than 100g – a few sips of water.
The noise seems to have gone, but I won’t know for sure until I climb a few hills.
Lately I’m tending towards kit which is low maintenance and built to last rather than cheap and lightweight. This is partly for the long term financial and environmental cost, but mostly because I don’t want the hassle. I prefer riding to tweaking.
EDIT: It turned out I was wrong. The creaking continued for all of my 600km ride. I did manage to get used to it, but I was annoyed not to have fixed it. Interestingly, it was actually more persistent than before. Secondly the noise disappeared completely when I rode in a torrential downpour on a different ride. This suggests that it is a two moving surfaces problem rather than anything internal/serious. As suggested here, I’ve just picked the plastic coasting off the fork dropouts and can’t recreate the sound, but that was the case last time. I’ll update again when I’ve taken the bike out for another ride.
EDIT 2 : OK, I really think it’s fixed now. It wasn’t the plastic coating on the dropouts, but the mudguard stays attachment, which was butting up against the skewers. Presumably this was moving very slightly when pedalling hard and causing the creak. Noticing this I moved the plastic eyelet to the other side of the dropout, so it’s now inside the fork. The downside is that the plastic eyelet slightly rubbed on the edge of the rotating hub – not great for an efficient ride, but trimming a little plastic off them seemed to solve this.
EDIT 3 (October 2017): So the squeak came back in spite of the fixes above. I noticed it often changed, getting worse or better, when I swapped my B&M crown light bracket for the Dynamo light. This swap necessitates undoing the bolt through the fork crown. The last time I replaced this bolt I covered it in copper slip grease. I guess any grease would do but it’s what I had to hand. I’ve done at least 300km since then with no noise. Maybe that means it’s the solution!