This is going to be short: when diagnosing funny sounds on your bike make sure to look at everything, even something as inane as the reflectors on your wheels. Otherwise you run the risk of showing up to your LBS and sounding like a pompous idiot. Ask me how I know.
This past year I rode 5,800 km on my Miele Svelto RRD road bike. During that time I expected some of the components on the bike to grow weary of delivering me to and from work, which they did. Even though I prepared the Miele it still suffered from stretched cables resulting in braking and shifting issues, worn out pads, and several flat tires. However I had the benefit of a service warranty which meant it could drop it off at my LBS to take care of such issues free of charge (just one of the several reasons I prefer to buy my bikes at local shops as opposed to big-box stores).
Things were going well for a while, and then… I starting hearing the noise. It was occasional at first and it happened only over bumps – a metallic scratchy ‘ting’ emanating from the front wheel. Was it the axle? Perhaps the brakes, or spokes? The next time I was cleaning the bike I made sure things were solid and found no evidence of any components rubbing. Defeated, I thought it had to be internal to the hub itself. By the time I dropped it off at the LBS a few weeks later the sound was persistent on anything other than buttery-smooth asphalt.
“I checked the front wheel, I think it’s the hub. Maybe a bearing? It hasn’t even been a year, it should be covered by the parts warranty”, I explained to the tech. The words of an idiot. A few days later I was back to pick up the Svelto. “What was the issue with the front?” I asked.
“The wheel reflector was a bit loose. It was vibrating” was the response.
The only thing I could muster in return was a long, drawn out “ohhh…” as I thought to myself “this is exactly why you’re not the mechanic, keep your mouth shut next time”.
For reference here’s a list of “do”s and “don’t”s when dealing with a mystery noise:
- Explain the sound to the technician
- Replicate it if possible
- Check everything, including your reflectors
- Tell the tech how to do their job