You may or may not remember (and guess the year) when the top Liverpool band, FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, knocked out that great track, Relax. I never owned one of those t-shirts that boldly said, ‘Frankie says Relax’, but it felt like I was the in the minority at the time. It is a great track, and there are two lines in the second verse that are very relevant to this post. The lines are “Relax, don’t do it, when you want to sock it to it“.

There are certain things that bug me, not drastically annoying, but stuff that can take the shine off an experience. For some people, this can be really extreme. There is a condition called Misophonia, which is a strong dislike or even hatred of specific sounds. In extreme cases, certain daily sounds trigger an over-the-top emotional reaction, but yet don’t seem to bother anyone else. When people with Misophonia experience certain sounds, it triggers an emotional or physiological response that some might perceive as highly unreasonable given the circumstance. It is the normal, everyday sounds that can drive them crazy, like horses chewing grass or someone who is fidgeting or making repetitive noises. Sufferers‘ reactions can range from anger and annoyance to panic. Apparently, this disorder is also sometimes called, selective sound sensitivity syndrome.

Would the sound of these two beauties munching away really bug you? Not me.

So, that’s the medical lecture over, now here’s my connection with it. I’ve had a Marin full suspension mountain bike since 2009 and I haven’t really ridden it much. It’s only ever had one new set of tyres and brake pads in 10 years, so it’s still quite unused. I’ve never really got on with it for some reason. Well, actually the reason is clear. It creaks, and it’s bloody annoying. It doesn’t go any slower or work less efficiently, it just has this really annoying creak every time I do a full pedal revolution.

The offending bike awaiting its new bottom bracket.

The frame of the bike is aluminium and so are the rear suspension linkages. This means that if there is anything not running smoothly, the noise, or in this case, the creak, gets amplified throughout the frame, which makes it really hard to detect where it’s coming from. I decided recently, after some research into the issue, to fix it once and for all. Firstly, I greased the seat pin, but with no non-creak-joy. Secondly, I stripped down the complex suspension linkages, cleaned and greased them and put it all back together. It still creaked. The next stop was to replace the bottom bracket, so I ordered one. I checked the old bottom bracket after it’s removal and it was well greased and didn’t look worn. It was also nice and tight in the frame, so not loose or anything like that, which would cause a creak. Anyway, it wasn’t going back in there. That place was now booked for the new one.

In addition to the creaky Marin, I had also recently become aware of another creaking sound as well. Our VW van has recently decided to produce a creaking noise from the passenger seat when there is someone sitting in it. On a straight road, it’s fine, but when we’re driving down winding roads, the movement from side to side of the passenger, makes the seat creak. As my wife and I share a lot of our driving, we both make the seat creak when we’re passengers. If we are on a long-ish journey and my wife is in the passenger seat, out comes the knitting bag. The gentle knitting movement of her body on the seat doesn’t make it creak, but corners do. It’s the same if I’m sitting in it, although I’m not knitting (yet). If there is music or the radio on, or there is much conversation, we don’t hear it. It’s just a bit annoying sometimes. Not sure if we’ll ever even investigate it to fix it. As the van and I get older, other stuff will creak anyway, like me for example.

Turn up the music and you don’t hear the clicking of knitting needles or the seat creaking

I’ve had another and more recent annoying creak experience as well now I come to think about it. You may/may not have read my ‘Arizona Cannondale’ post, but anyway, I had to take the Cannondale Prophet to the local bike shop, due to no tools around at the time, and to get a new bottom bracket because the one in situ was worn out. When I took the bike into the shop, it did not creak, even if the bottom bracket was shot. However, when I got the bike home with its new bottom bracket fitted, the bloody thing creaked on every revolution. I only had 3 days of desert riding left before we came home so instead of wasting another day taking it back to the shop, I tried to ignore it, which was tough. When you are riding through sandy desert or even cotton fields on sandy tracks, it’s noisy and annoying. It does take the shine off the experience, even though I’d never ridden through an area on the planet that is dedicated to cotton growing or has cacti everywhere. Anyway, that creaking Cannondale is hanging on the wall of an Arizona garage and will be fixed, by me, and once and for all, when I next get back there.

No comment 🤬

To be fair, I’m pretty lucky when it comes to not having annoying noises or people around me, and I definitely don’t have misphonia. However, let’s get back to my creaky Marin. The ordered bottom bracket arrives in the post and I set about fitting it, cleaning all of the threads on the bike, greasing stuff and then in it went. I put the crankset back in and tightened everything up. I stand back and look at it and I wonder what it’s going to sound like. I decide to oil and grease every other moving part on the bike prior to testing it. The time comes to lift the bike off its workstand, put in the front wheel and as a first check, I bounce the rear suspension a few times. No creaks. I’m now feeling a bit tense, because if this doesn’t work, it’s going to have to go to a new home to annoy somebody else for a change.

I throw a leg over the bike and put my full weight on it. No creak. Hmmmmm……..so far so good. I push off and start pedalling. I hear one slight creak as all of the moving parts settle into place with the new oil and grease, and then, silence. Only the noise of fat, grippy off-road tyres on the road can be heard. So far, so good again. I decide to charge up a hill in a big gear to put maximum force through the pedals. No creak. I ride off a few concrete kerbs, jump up and down on the suspension and bunny hop some imaginary big gaps in the smooth tarmac road. Still no creak. At last! I’ve nailed it! It is now a joy to ride and I commit to get some off-road distances done on it. Time to celebrate my creakless bike with something fizzy.

No water bottle cage on this bike and that bottle of champagne doesn’t fit either

I know that the more complex a bike is, the more risk of something like an annoying creak will appear. Today’s bikes, including the latest generation of ebikes, aren’t simple and need regular maintenance to keep them creak free. I also need to be tolerant of some stuff like creaks on things and remember that stuff does not need to be absolutely perfect to be amazing, which is easier said than done sometimes. So those ‘Relax’ lyrics are relevant. “Relax, don’t do it, when you want to sock it to it”. Just fix it instead.

All photos by the Author

4 thoughts on “Frankie Says Relax”

  1. I would say 1984 was the year of the song. I remember Adrian Newey talking about it in our race shop. He was our engineer in 1984 and 1985 but didn’t come down to the shop floor much in 1985.

  2. My memory must be somewhat intact. I wouldn’t have thought that the song was released a whole year earlier in the UK than the USA though. I am guessing that when Adrian was talking about it he’d recently come to the USA from England, perhaps a month or more after the BBC had banned the song from airplay. The ban was probably why it came up in conversation, and surely contributed to the song’s popularity. I think that I have the LP here, but probably haven’t listened to it in over 30 years. I should attempt to do with music what I do with bikes – try to listen to (ride) each one once every year. Wonder how much time is involved in listening to 1500 LPS? Guessing that it would take 2-3 hours every day if done on a dedicated basis. Where’s the collecting post? Funny how these topics seem to merge.

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