For the past month or so one of my bikes has made a small clicking sound every time my right foot comes around the bottom of the stroke. I thought it was just a pedal bearing wearing out, so I didn't worry. (Look Keo Classic pedals with about 30,000 miles, many of them in the rain, so bearing failure wasn't unreasonable.) Every time I rode that bike, I told myself I would check out the source of the noise and every time I got home I would find something more interesting to do. It didn't help that most of my rides of late have either been on town bikes or our new tandem.
Well, my wife is out of town, so off I went on my favorite old bike with the annoying click. As I headed up the hill at the edge of town I promised myself for the umpteenth time that I would deal with whatever was making that sound. Yeah, yeah, sure I will.
About twenty-five miles into a planned forty mile ride I was buzzed by a bright yellow SUV (less than six inches of clearance). To add insult to near-injury, the motorist pulled off the road a hundred meters later at a driveway with a gate. I pulled off and politely informed her that her dangerous passing maneuver was both unappreciated and illegal. (Oregon requires a motorist to give a cyclist room to fall in the motorist's direction when passing on a road with a speed limit over 35 mph and no official bike lane.) Like most motorists, she proclaimed her ignorance of the law.
Whatever could a common dangerous pass by a motorist have to do with my clicking pedal? Well, about a quarter-mile after our little chat, the clicking pedal came apart. It wasn't a failing bearing at all. The platform onto which the cleat attaches had unscrewed from the spindle portion. Needless to say, when this happened I did have a noticeable wobble that took me slightly over half a foot out of my line. Had the pedal failed just a bit earlier, like at the moment the yellow SUV was buzzing me, I might have had a more interesting day.
So, I'm advertising my stupidity to remind everyone to take care of maintenance and inspection issues, particularly when the darned things are talking to you. Here's a short list of things that have caused a few close calls for me over the years:
1. Chain breakage. Sometimes there is an audible clue that something is giving way.
2. Worn tires. Pay particular attention to the front. Is getting 200 more miles out of that tire really worth a 40 mph blowout?
3. Pedals. See above, but I have broken a few and they usually give some warning. On a related note, my wife once lost one of the three bolts that holds her cleat tight. This resulted in the cleat not releasing when she twisted her foot to get out. She was quick enough to change sides and avoid the tombay.
4. Cranks. This has to be the worst thing to break. Unless we're talking about the old one-piece things, they usually just snap under load. Only a close inspection will show the flaw, and it is often invisible until AFTER it fails.
5. Crank Spindle. Okay, I've never broken one of these and I thought they were indestructible, but my son, Godzilla, did snap one clean off. He doesn't ride anymore; he got tired of breaking bikes.
6. Forks and Rear Triangle. I've had several steel rear triangles fail. Those have been nice, soft, slow-motion failures. It's not a bad idea to inspect the joints once in a while. The only forks I've ever heard of failing were carbon and were being used outside their rated loads. I have no idea what to look for in cf.
Feel free to add to the list of items that can cause an ugly dismounting.