Robot’s Useless Reviews – Squonkin’

In ancient times, when humans still scurried about in the bushes arguing over whether disc brakes were really better than rim calipers, we didn’t really yet know about the squonk. I mean we knew, but I think we were in denial. “That sound will go away when disc brakes get better,” we thought. “Maybe mine just aren’t adjusted correctly,” we thought. “I’ll figure it out.”

You won’t.

Oh, you’ll put time into it. You’ll realign those rotors. You’ll bleed the hydro lines. You’ll clean the rotor surface with rubbing alcohol. You’ll sand your pads. But add a little rain and behold the panoply of harmonic resonance the added friction will elicit from your disc-equipped contraption!

You’re squonkin.’

When I begin to squonk, I convince myself that I can defeat its peace-destroying eruptions by lightly feathering the brake, in effect drying the rotor as I go. Like any truly half-baked solution, it works just a little bit, almost enough to convince me I’m on the right track, but actually no. I’m still squonkin.’

It is a more patient, more well-adjusted bike rider than me who can accept the squonk. Dance like no one’s watching. Ride like no one’s squonkin.’ I can’t do that. The sound is not only offensive to my ears, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s bothering other people too. Passersby. Innocents. Possibly damaging the hearing of young children and woodland critters. I don’t need a legion of deaf chipmunks on my conscience.

Squonkin’ then demands post-ride action, because you sure as s*#t aren’t gonna leave on your next ride squonkin’ from the jump. So you go back and clean, and sometimes that does the trick. You’ve successfully escaped the cycle of squonk, a cacophonous state of disrepair that makes you the pariah of any group ride. But maybe you’ve got to do more than clean. By the way, what cruel mistress is this modern technology that puts the squonkiest possible bike part in the exact location it stands most likely to get befouled?

Maybe you won’t get away with a quick rub with a dry cloth though. Maybe you somehow dinged that rotor on a rock or had a branch levered up into your works in such a way that the metal disc is slightly, almost imperceptibly bent. First, you will go nearly mad trying to see the warping, to confirm that it’s slightly off before you take an adjustable wrench to it, because a gentle bend in just the right spot can solve your problem…or make it much, much squonkier, like the Gulf of Squonkin. Next thing you know you’re at war.

Now you’re stuck in the cycle of squonk, and it’s best to cut your losses, take it down to your local bike shop and let it be someone else’s problem. Someone else is usually far more capable than you are anyway. Be warned though. I have taken a bike to the shop to address a squonk, paid my money, and returned home still squonkin.’ No one, it seems, has quite the sense of urgency about your squonk as you do.

Someday an engineer will change all this with the invention of a squonkless rotor. In the space of two seasons, cyclists everywhere will adopt the new technology, and the woods (and everywhere else) will fall silent. You’ll be able to hear the chipmunks fart. And it will be glorious. And you won’t understand how you every rode any other way.

Join the conversation
  1. erikthebald says

    I like it when my disc brakes make noise while listening to old country music.

    I call it honky-squonkin.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      @Erik – I have a lot of time for this sort of thing.

  2. dr sweets says

    I don’t mind the squonk and have enjoyed hearing that echo in deep dark forests since the late 90’s. However, I have my limits and that limit was reached last season doing multiple DH runs at Snowshoe in the wet (it’s always wet there). My brakes (Hayes Dominion A4’s) worked great, but were screaming howls of agony nonstop as we careened down the steep AF slimy runs there. Once back from the wilds of WVA the occasional squonk returned, but I still wanted a better solution. The solution is MTX Red Label pads (they make them for all disc brakes available). While more costly than most replacement pads somehow not only made my brakes dead silent, but made them even more powerful. Czech out this write up… The hype is real.

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