Bicycle Mechanics - Wheel Problem, How Serious?
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09-20-06, 10:06 PM
Changed a tube last night on my front wheel because the old one had a slow leak. No problems with the change. Today I am riding to work (15 miles one way) and after about a mile it starts making a strange noise. When I turn the wheel and swerve back and forth it's louder. I thought maybe it's the hub because I checked for brake rub and there was none. I checked for a busted spoke...but other than one slightly looser spoke they all looked fine. Wheel is pretty true. Over lunch I dropped the wheel by my LBS and I was prepared to get a new wheel because this is the stock one that came with the bike which is 16 years old. I've put 1700+ miles on it this year which is more than I have the last 16 years by far. The mechanic said "it seems like the hub needs some lube, when was the last time the hub was worked on." He wasn't surprised when I told him the factory probably was the last place to work on the hub 16 years ago, especially when he opened it up and there wasn't any apparent grease in there. I suppose the bearings were ok because he didn't say they looked bad. So he packed it and put it back together. I put the wheel back on my bike after work and started back home....same exact sound....no change. Again with swerving the noise gets much worse...almost like the wheel is flexing when any lateral pressure is put on it. With no pressure the wheel makes no noise when spinning.
One more thing, when I go over this small people bridge on the way home I have to make a sharp turn onto the bike path and, not even touching the brake, when I turn hard left I can hear the wheel rub up against the brake pad when it normally doesn't. I know it's hard, if not impossible, to diagnose a problem without seeing the bike but I'm hoping you can offer me some answers. I commute every day and my LBS is slammed with repair jobs so they can't turn things around too quick right now. I don't have a back-up bike yet and I'd rather ride a rough/noisy bike then no bike at all. Tomorrow I could pick up a new wheel and just figure it out later, but if this thing can be repaired pretty easily, maybe I should forgo buying a new wheel.
My guess is that the mileage I put on the wheel while it was "riding rough" may have messed up other parts in my hub, or the bearings, or something....or....there is something else wrong with the wheel.
Bike: 1990 Trek 830 Antelope
Wheel in question: Unknown make (Trek stock?)
Rider: Big dude...299 LBS
Checked: Spoke tension (by hand), quick release tension, brake rub
Tires: New Duro Metros 26 X 1.5....2 weeks old
Tire pressure: 85 PSI (tire recommendation is 50-100 PSI)
Thanks for your help
Given your size and the lack of grease, my first guess would be that the hubs were damaged. Probably the bearing races have been scored and perhaps pitted. I'm not sure I would trust a mechanic who can look at a hub like that knowing it hasn't been maintained and doesn't replace the bearing balls.
Another, cheaper, possibility is that the tire tread is just creating a lot of road noise. You might try flipping it around so it rotates the other direction.
09-21-06, 06:22 PM
I'm not sure I would trust a mechanic who can look at a hub like that knowing it hasn't been maintained and doesn't replace the bearing balls.
I'm sure. I wouldn't!! If he really didn't even replace the balls or check the races carefully for damage, there could be some major issues in there that he missed. Even the possibility of an axle fracture which isn't broken all the way through yet. Those are rare on front wheels, but they do happen.
If you check around all the spokes and the tension seems fairly even still, then see if you can move that wheel back and forth when you're off the bike and the wheel is securely mounted in the fork. Test it like that before you get back on it. It may not be safe to ride any more until you get it thoroughly checked out. If there are spokes with very uneven tension, let us know and we can help you with adjusting that.
You might want to check the frame/fork for cracks. Is it the front or rear wheel?
09-21-06, 11:24 PM
Good idea, check carefully where the dropouts meet the chainstays and seatstays, as well as the chainstay bridge (little tube between chainstays in front of the wheel) and seatstay bridge, plus where the chainstays meet the bottom-bracket shell and where the seatstays meet the seat tube.
If the frame's OK and you're that big/heavy/strong and using it that much, then maybe you should move up to a new handbuilt wheel for the long haul. Here's one recipe I've used for big commuters:
36-hole Sun RhynoLite rim
DeoreLX or DeoreXT rear hub
DT or Wheelsmith 14-gauge spokes
Velox rim tape
Carefully hand-built by a reputable local builder, and bring it back after a couple weeks for a tension check, and again after another month.
And you'll need a new cassette (rear gear cluster), a new chain, and possibly new chainrings if yours have enough wear that they gripe about meshing with a new chain.
09-21-06, 11:26 PM
I think you should be pumping the tires to a higher pressure--you're a big dude, and those aren't the lightest bikes. But then, I'm skinny and paranoid about throwing my wheels out of true. You say yours is pretty true.
Maybe you could describe the actual sound a little more--is it high-pitched or low-pitched? Sudden or slow-rising? Groanie or more like a click or whir or...?
Might want to invest in some cone wrenches and take that hub apart yourself.
Does it make the noise off the bike at all? Or only when you're riding?
09-22-06, 12:46 AM
I always get good advice on here. I rode on the bike today....noise is still there. It sounds like some cross between metal grinding and a busted spoke rattling. I re-checked the spokes and they are pretty good as far as tension...maybe a little off on a couple but nothing too noticeable by touch. The wheel is a little untrue but not to the point of it rubbing on the brakes. The rear wheel was replaced because I kept blowing out spokes on this cheapy that was thrown on years ago. They set me up with a Rhyno Lite and it has been awesome...just a minor truing after my first ride on it and it has been dead on ever since (about 900 miles if you can believe that). My LBS has a Rhyno Lite front rim for me @ $89 for the wheel. I'm tempted to: have the spoke tension checked on my existing wheel...tightened...ride it to see if the noise gets better then buy a new rim. If the tension fixes the issue...great....then I have a replacement wheel if something happens to the new one.
Also, I'm a novice on bike repairs....VERY novice.....so since this is my only bike and I commute everyday by bike I can't mess around with repairs right now. If I mess something up I'm not riding. So I basically treat my LBS guys well (buy them a case of beer once every couple of months for putting up with my Fred-Like questions, and keeping me trucking along on my relic) and they fit in my minor stuff into their very busy days whenever they can. My next bike is due anytime....as soon as the Specialized TriCross Comps hit the street, but until then I have to treat my only bike very carefully....I hate missing my rides to work. Anyway, I have my bike stand, and my repair book (Todd Downs), but my next purchase needs to be tools....I have none. Again, once the new bike is here I can "practice" on my Trek. What kind of a tool kit would you recommend? I want to teach myself how to do practically everything, but I need to start with baby steps. Can you get a good used set (e.g. EBay, Craigs List, etc.) or should I go with some Nashbar set or Park set?
09-22-06, 04:16 AM
I checked for a busted spoke...but other than one slightly looser spoke they all looked fine.
Check out that one slightly loose spoke more carefully. Look at where it goes into the rim. What you're looking for is cracks radiating from the spoke hole or a slightly raised area of the rim where the spoke goes in. If you find either of those, that's your problem and you need a new rim.
09-22-06, 07:38 PM
What kind of a tool kit would you recommend? I want to teach myself how to do practically everything, but I need to start with baby steps. Can you get a good used set (e.g. EBay, Craigs List, etc.) or should I go with some Nashbar set or Park set?
There was a thread about this the beginning of the week. Someone similar to yourself in terms of experience and specific goal. I think the consensus (minus a few dissenters, of course) was that a cheapo mail-order kit will do you fine initially. Performance's Spin Doctor tool kit was noted by some as being better quality than the Nashbar kit, but the Nashbar kit was on sale. You could try a search for the Park Tool kit or maybe a Pedros kit, but I don't think they come up often. Someone here in NYC was selling the Park Tool kit for $190 on Craigslist recently, which was a good deal, but expensive nonetheless.
Good luck with your new hobbie.
If you decide to go to your LBS again I'd recomend that you bring the whole bike just in case it's not a wheel issue. Also, don't go in and ask them to true the wheel, or tension the spokes, or whatever YOU think the problem is. Just go in and tell them you're getting an odd noise when cornering, and let them do the troubleshooting. Otherwise you may end up asking them to fix or replace something that isn't broken, and you pay $ each time you're wrong.
09-22-06, 11:12 PM
That's good advice.
09-23-06, 01:11 PM
My only problem with that approach is that I don't have a secondary bike yet and my LBS is slammed for work. If I bring it in I'm not seeing it back for a couple days. I'd rather ride a noisy bike then not ride at all. I feel guilty and not very happy when I drive to work.
09-23-06, 01:20 PM
Also, check for a spoke reflector buzzing. If you have spoke reflectors, pull it outwards towards the rim until it's nicely snug between the spokes again.
Another cause of weird noises is a loose or damaged spoke protector, the plastic disc that sits inboard of the gears to catch the chain if it falls off the inboard side.
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