It was a dark and stormy night one day when I replaced the grips on my Soma. Classic black OURYs on a sweptback Nitto bar. In the ends I tucked some old Cinelli bar plugs I had sitting around to keep the handlebar from slicing circles through the end of the grips over time or the end of my knee some day.
Fast forward a few weeks when I’m rolling to work and I heard a rattling sound up in the headset handlebar area. In my groggy state I assumed it was cable housing slapping around or the headlight bracket or Steve clipped a paperclip on my bike somewhere back in 2009.
On the way to work, it’s all downhill to the train and then all downhill from the train station to the mothership. So bike things rattle and bounce and clickety clack. The fastest my bike ever rolls is coasting downhill. On the way home it’s a slow motion single speed grind up hill. What I’m getting at is that the mystery rattle didn’t rattle on the way home and I forgot about it for a while and switched bikes a few times. But when I came back to the Soma another morning, the same thing happened.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you would have pinpointed and fixed that rattle within 30 seconds of hearing it. Some of you spend your entire weekend cleaning drivetrains and tweaking little bike tweaks ad nauseum. You may be very particular about your particulars. But I have gotten pretty slack on things bike related these days. My few ounces of give-a-shit evaporated when I wrenched on bikes full time. Good enough is good enough for me with bigger fish to fry and four bikes to ride… …that rattle hung around for weeks, giving me time to speculate about the source and really listen to the sound when I’d hop on the Soma in the morning and then forget about it in the afternoon.
It sounded like a couple of plastic chicklets rattling in a steel tube. My speculation became a hypothesis which evolved into a theory: a tooth or two broke off the back of the Cinelli bar plug and began to rattle around in the handlebar. The manufacturer refers to them as “stay put ribs” designed to tuck into drop bars and keep the bar tape nice and neat. Aside from the RB-1 for RAGBRAI 2007, 08,09 I haven’t really rolled drop bars since 1998, which is one reason the teeth on these plugs were a little brittle.
Yesterday morning at 5:47am I pulled one of the OURYs off and shook the busted chicklets out. My theory was correct. Then I slid the grip back on and rode down the hill to the train.