All cyclists have a special affinity for increasing their sensory powers while they ride. In other words, we all smell good. See good. Hear good.
I love a quiet drivetrain. One time, there was this little tick-tick-ticking sound that drove me nuts. I checked the bottom bracket. Checked my crank bolts. Chain. Debris on a tire. Brakes for rubbing. Cassette for a tiny metal shaving. Finally I took it to the shop. Tick-tick-tick, I explained. Only when I’m pedaling and especially uphill. The mystery continued. The harder I tried to figure it out, the worse it got. Finally, one day, while climbing a hill with a friend, I mentioned the ticking. He moved behind me for a sec. Then came back up. “That little Hello Kitty toy dangling from your saddle rail hits the seatpost when your bike is rocking”. I sure felt like a doofus that day. Ironically, now I love that sound. It means I’m rockin’ my bike!
This chronic listening for problem noises has segued into the realization that there are plenty of sounds my bike makes that I don’t really mind. Like the high pitched whistle I’ve come to love, created (only in the exact right conditions) by the roomy eyelet for the front brake caliper. I even named my bike for it. All these sounds are the bells and whistles of a bike ride. Bells! Sweet, cheerful, ringing bike bells.
Then there’s the sound of the tires on the pavement. Ahh, sweet pavement. I thought I loved it before, but on the Gorge Explorer tour, a small (and hearty, maybe foolhardy!) group of us took an alternate route one morning. This route took us up (and up, and up!) to a beautiful ridge. The road surface? Hard-packed dirt. With gravel mixed in! I think I may have chipped a nail. Seriously, though, it was great fun and it’s good to go adventure. When we got back to the paved road, I could’ve gotten down on my knees and kissed it. The whispery song of sweet, smooth, sultry pavement is my siren.
Another great sound: the chichik of clipping in. Yes, that’s right. I’m finally part of the clipless club. Or how about that noise when your high pressure road tire hits a small pebble, launching it into the air. Even the sound your floor pump makes when you take the nozzle off the valve is pleasant. Shwish!
And, of course, there are enjoyable sounds that do not emanate from the bike. I’d go into the sound of a snot rocket, but my mom reads these articles. Instead we’ll talk about the sound of panting. Climbing the hill with a cyclist looking over their shoulder as you approach because they can hear you breathing is embarrassing. It makes me think I’m not in as good of shape as the other riders because they’re not panting like crazy. Maybe it’s because I have allergies. Maybe it’s because I talk a lot on bike rides. I’ve decided to say it’s because I work super hard to climb a hill and can afford to be in so deep an oxygen debt that I’m loud. So there.
Other riders’ calls keep my ears company too. “CAR BACK! Car left. Car up. Bikes up. Runner up!” That last one makes me think of the Miss America pageant…now, for the first runner up. And there are so many more. We’ve all heard ‘em. “On your left. GLASS!!!! Gravel! Hole. Pole. BUMP.” Useful information. Did you know “on your wheel” translates to “you’re fast and strong and I trust you”)? Then the unusual ones: “Door!” warns you of a parking car. “Rumble” tells you there’s a rumble strip starting. Then finally “slowing”, usually followed by “stopping”. “STOPPING” now.