by Scott Martin
Cycling might seem, blessedly, like a sport of silence – no droning motor, no sneakers squeaking on hardwood, no thud of foot against ball. But if you pay attention, bike riding is full of sounds. Some good, some bad.
One of my favorites is the hum of high-quality wheels speeding over smooth pavement. One of the worst is the screech of metal on tarmac that can mean only one thing: crash. In between lies a whole range of beautiful and annoying noise.
The tick-tick-tick of a coasting freehub is one of the most relaxing sounds I know. Makes me think of leafy lanes and sun-streaked summer evenings. Just imaging that quiet mantra calms my blood pressure like no CD of sappy flute music or whale calls could ever do.
Then there’s the click of cleat merging with pedal. That’s the sound of beginnings, of possibilities. No more bleating cell phones, no more hectoring bosses – at least till the sad thwok of shoe releasing from pedal that marks ride’s end.
Speaking of sad, is there anything more deflating than the hiss of escaping air that portends an interrupted ride, greasy hands, fumbled tire levers and sore pumping elbow?
I also dread that soft thunk – more a feeling than a sound, really – when you try to change to your smallest gear and the shift lever bottoms out because you’re already as low as you can go. Much better is the bright, sharp crack of the upshift, which heralds the coming of giddy speed, perhaps in the form of a swoopy downhill or blistering attack.
Don’t forget – as much as you’d like to – those crazy-making squawks that could signal anything from an ungreased chainring bolt to a cracked droput.
Sport of silence? Shut up.
Scott Martin has been writing about cycling for more than 15 years. He worked as an editor for Bicycling magazine for 10 of them and wrote the “Scott’s Spin” column for RBR from which this is republished. He has also covered cycling for several national magazines.