Ask a Mechanic: Tire Curing and Creak Diagnostics

Welcome to our Ask a Mechanic column where our expert mechanic Daniel Slusser answers your bike maintenance questions. If you have a question for Daniel, please post it on our Facebook Wall or e-mail Daniel directly at daniel.slusser@artscyclery.com.

Question: I was thinking of hanging the extra tires that I have to “cure” them upstairs in my loft. It is pretty dry and hot up in that area. Will this affect the tire over time?  From: Charles

Answer: For aging to occur gracefully it cannot be rushed. If you grow up too quick your adulthood will likely resemble a misspent youth, or worse, your therapy bill will exceed the funds spent on our beloved sport. Although our fast paced modern lives and our chosen sport continually pushes for greater speed, sometimes taking things slowly is the best path to follow. This is one of those cases.

I have always advised customers that wanted to cure/age their tires, or simply store them safely, that the best place to do this is in a humidity neutral area with a consistent temperature range somewhere between 50-80 degrees. Constant temperatures are best. Wide variances in temperature or extremes will crack the tire tread. The most important thing to avoid is sunlight as the UV rays will kill a tire’s performance quickly. Of course riding in the sun is not the same thing as storing a tire in the sun as the tire is exposed to the sun evenly when riding unlike it would in a storage location. I keep mine in a closet under the stairs where there is no light, constant humidity and little temperature variance. Basements tend to work well too. With that said, the practice of aging tires is overrated.

Blind tests administered to wine tasting experts reveal that even their sensitive pallets are often unable to distinguish with any consistency between a $10 bottle and $50 bottle. I suspect the same holds for cyclists riding aged tubulars or clinchers if they were put to a similar test. So don’t worry about “curing” your tires so much as storing them safely. There is greater potential for damaging your tire than improving the ride when placing a tire in storage for an extended period.

Ingratiate your desire for instantaneous gains in performance by mounting up your new tires today. Don’t delay reveling in your newfound speed until some unknown point of perfect rubber maturity is reached. Carpe Diem Charles, Carpe Diem!

Question: My 2005 Specialized Enduro is creaking and I can’t figure out where it is coming from. First I thought it was the bottom bracket so I took it out and cleaned it, lubed it, and then reinstalled it. The creak was still there. I then cleaned and lubed all the pivots, but that wasn’t it either. I am really frustrated and I am about to give up. Any ideas on where it might be coming from?   From: Mike

Answer: If a “river runs through” the life of a fly fisherman, then a “creak” certainly runs through the life of a bicycle mechanic. Of course that “creak” is polluted with damaged innertubes, drivetrain gunk, and suspension fork oil, but I digress.

The trick to fixing creaks is by using thoughtful elimination of potential sources. For example, if the creak stops when you are standing, then the creak is coming from the saddle or seatpost. If the noise only occurs on the left or right down stroke of the pedal, then it is likely a pedal or cleat on that side of the bike. Careful listening can also get you closer to identifying where the noise originated.

In your case you have eliminated the most common causes of creaks without success, which does help to make the search for the creak easier. Before going any further I should emphasize that just because the bottom bracket and suspension pivots are the most common source of creaks that does not automatically mean the creak is emanating from that area, or that those are the first places to look. Your experience helps to prove this. I would estimate that bottom brackets and pivots are the culprits for 40% or less of the creaks I find on customers’ mountain bikes.

Assuming that you eliminated the cockpit area by torquing on the bars, I suspect the creak is coming from either your wheels or your rear derailleur hanger. Grease your skewers and the area where the derailleur hanger meets the frame. Then check your hubs to make sure they are adjusted properly. Most of those bikes came with Shimano Deore rear hubs with adjustable loose ball bearings. These hubs are prone to working their way loose, especially when ridden hard. Borrow a wheel from a friend and install it on your bike to see if the creak goes away. If so, it is time for you to dance a little jig of joy and then overhaul your rear hub. Happy trails, Mike!

Daniel Slusser is a professional bicycle mechanic with over ten years of experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from HSU and a master’s degree in history from Cal Poly University. When he is not riding, wrenching, or writing he enjoys spending time with his wife and two children.

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