Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Try to be nice. Try to be nice. Try to be nice...

Home Mechanic Week continues. On the stand before me is a Cannondale Flash 29er with Avid Elixir hydraulic disc brakes. The customer got mad when the rear brakes acted up out on the rail trail, so he ripped the pads out and flung them into the undergrowth. He also managed to lose the screw that secures the pads in the caliper.

He had tried to make things work better by blasting both brake calipers and the bottom bracket area with spray white lithium grease. Wasn't I just talking about grandpa grease?
The front caliper still has pads, but the customer says, "They don't work very well." Apparently, a blast of lithium grease does not enhance brake performance.

People feel free to mess with their bikes when they wouldn't dream of ripping into their car, their electronics, or the plumbing in their house, because bikes are kid stuff. Has anyone told the bike industry this? That whole Tour dee France thingie is just a bunch of overgrown kids in short pants who have figured out how to get paid not to grow up. It ain't a real man's sport, like football,  or NASCAR.

The customer says he only rides on the path. I will recommend that he ditch the hydraulics completely, in favor of a mechanical system less vulnerable to abuse. Grandpa grease will still contaminate the pads, but he won't have to worry about caliper pistons. I'm having to reseat the pistons and bleed the system as a result of whatever was wrong in the first place, compounded by his completely unhelpful intervention.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Internet knowledge

The customer who dropped this off at the shop today said he read on the Internet that if your shifter isn't working, put grease in it. I didn't get to hear this first hand, but our fearless leader texted me the pic.

The Internet can be a great resource, but it is also a fantastic vehicle for experienced misinformation and profound misunderstanding.

People frequently ask us to grease their chain. "Grease" is their shorthand term for any kind of lubricant. These are often the same people who say their tire needs to be trued, or that their bike needs a new rim. They don't usually apply their terminology literally before turning things over to us. One exception would be Grandpa Grease, which is our own term for white lith in a spray can. At least half the time, when a grandfather comes in with a bike he's fixing up for for a grandkid, the chain has been blasted with spray grease.

Sunday was a great day for walk-in experts. One guy was explaining to his buddy that you only ever want to ride in a gear that gives you a perfectly straight chain line. He had learned this from his own guru, who apparently rides almost more than humanly possible, and knows everything. At least they were interacting in person.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Wolfe Disney World

The old theme park ain't what it used to be, but summer is trying to get going. Even though only a handful of people come in, they all want what they want right now.

You don't make a living in vacation country by telling people to chill out and wait. Especially now that numbers are way down, you need to score all you can -- ethically, of course.

In the peak years, we could come in an hour early and stay an hour late, and still fall behind. The instant gratification crowd had to be patient because of their own numbers. If someone decided not to wait, someone else was right in line behind them. Even then, that intensity would only last a few days at a time, for a few weeks.

These days, work does not back up enough to demand an extra hour or more, but if things come in late in the day, late in the week, closing time may not be quitting time. The few people who still show up don't seem to have noticed that nearly everyone else is gone. They come in with the same urgency the whole crowd had when the town was a party from late June through Labor Day. Things kept perking fairly briskly to the final peak on Columbus Day weekend.

No more.

Today I could have put in a little extra time, but I wanted to sprint out from under the leading edge of a line of thunderstorms the weather service is calling a cold front. Pretty funny cold front: the high today was in the low to mid 80s, and tomorrow, after the front, it's predicted to hit 90. I guess the key here is the humidity. It will be a relatively dry heat, after a couple of days of jungly mugginess.

I wonder what the town would do for an economy if tourism died out completely? Back in colonial times, when Governor John Wentworth had the summer place that established Wolfeboro as "The Oldest Summer Resort in America," the area was known for timber, furs and fish. Now there's much less demand for wood, people don't wear much fur, and you can't eat more than a little of the fish for fear of mercury contamination.

If we have to rely entirely on the super rich and famous, how many lackeys do they need to keep their toy village looking good enough for the few weeks a year any of them are here?

I wonder if there's a good dystopian fantasy story in this. If I can come up with a screenplay, I can cruise Main Street until I run into someone in the biz.


Thursday, July 07, 2016

No deal with the devil

A guy who used to ride mountain bikes with us in the 1990s, before the needs of family life took him off the trails, wandered back into the shop a few weeks ago with a neighbor's garden cart wheel in need of a tire. While he was there, he spotted the fat bikes and was intrigued enough to test out a couple.

He decided he really liked the Fuji Wendigo. He was going to go home and lobby for it. Meanwhile, because he had mentioned serious neck issues, we put together the parts we would need to raise the handlebars to accommodate his fused vertebrae.

He'd been a ghost for years, so we did not fret when he submerged again for a week or so. Then, suddenly, he popped back in today to say he couldn't buy the bike.

I expected it would be the usual spousal veto. This frequently hinges on the release of funds from a family budget that may be strained by all the boring bullshit of real life. But no. He's come up with an angle we had truly never heard before.

"Do you know what a Wendigo is?" he asked. Steve said he did. He'd looked it up on line when we got the bikes. It's some freaky demon of ancient North American legend: Exactly the sort of thing a bike industry enthralled with their badass image would name a bike model. Think of the Surly Krampus. At least the Krampus is only a seasonal demon.

"I can't buy this bike," said our customer. "If I believe in God and good and stuff, then I have to believe in evil and Satan and all that. The Wendigo is a horrible creature. I can't support that."

When the discussion moves from componentry to theology, the ramifications of the sale become cosmic. It's all fun and games until you believe you are actually living on a planet with supernatural monsters that eat people's flesh. Our buddy Bob's observation shoves religious faith smack into the middle of modern consumerism in the age of science. I have to refuse to believe in such monsters, because I ride a lonely commute entirely in the dark, once autumn arrives. What am I going to do, load up on silver weapons and crucifixes? That shit weighs a ton. But I'm not going to mess with Bob's concept of his immortal soul just to cleave him away from some coin and move a bike off the sales floor.

This is hardly an issue to trouble the bean counters of the bike industry. Guys like Bob are scarce enough to ignore. On the other hand, some marketing idiot's choice of a badass name for a bike model will likely cost us a sale. Bob may be rare, but I doubt if he is unique. How many other potential customers turn away, perhaps without saying anything to anyone, because they're turned off by the juvenile embrace of an evil image?

Krampus at least rides shotgun with a saint.

The badass crowd will say if you can't stand the names, don't buy the bikes. "If you don't like what we're sayin', we ain't talkin' to you!" It's fun to have your group identity and sense of pride. If you're okay with who you offend and why, keep it up. It's a free country. It's silly and pointless, but so much of life can be described that way that it doesn't really matter. I was just fascinated by the intersection of supernatural belief, marketing bullshit, and inanimate machinery.

Bob went home to contemplate his options, because he really likes the bike. Only after he had left did I think that he might justify the purchase by being the man of God who tames the demon, and bends it to the will of good. But that might be considered prideful, and then he'd be in worse trouble.

I am not mocking his beliefs. I don't share his beliefs, but the issues are his own to sort out. If he is concerned enough to tell us all this, we're not going to brush it off. People can be very serious about the care of their souls.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

When you can't please everyone...

This stunning human being in Columbus, Ohio, summed up what I would guess is the majority attitude among motorists, with his entry in a whimsical parade there to celebrate Independence Day. The sign on his door says, "I'll share the road when you follow the rules."

I considered a post titled "Don't ride like an asshole," but I realized after a nanosecond's thought that riders who draw attention by flamboyantly anarchistic behavior are only the excuse that motocentric road users throw up to justify their hostility. Many bad habits that ignorant or stubborn riders use, like riding against traffic, are embraced by the motocentric, because they reinforce the stereotype of the wheeled pedestrian. Bike riders belong somewhere, anywhere, other than in the lane, taking up valuable space and demanding a traffic flow that respects their humanity. Humanity ends at the door handle, pal. Once the motorist is sealed in the capsule, the only things that count are horsepower and cunning.

People who are generically hostile to bike riders will take exception to nearly anything a rider does. Add this to the hostility between biking subcultures themselves and nothing ever gets fixed. And I don't imagine it ever will. No single solution or workable set of solutions will please everyone. The yammering will continue, with occasional blood drawn, mostly from riders who get caught in the crossfire.

The cellist and I were ordered off the road this morning, by a motocentrist in a shit brown and pond scum green step-side pickup truck coming the opposite way. He was defending the rights of the poor motorists I had trapped behind me while I waited for the oncoming truck to clear the lane. To their credit, the motorists behind me took it all calmly, and passed safely and methodically once the oncoming driver had made his statement and gone on. It reminded me that angry people with simplistic points of view can throw a little or a lot of tension into what should be simply a normal piece of traffic flow. The offended truck driver would say the cellist and I were taking excessive liberties because we did not wobble along the right rim of the pavement, allowing any driver to pass at any time. Good luck explaining anything to someone like that.

I do believe there is a right way to ride on the public streets. I just know better than to put it forward as the one true path. It IS the one true path, but my advocacy will not hasten its discovery. Its own truth will guide riders to it, if they ride for enough years. It's a wide path, with probably half a dozen One True Alternate Routes and a couple of dozen special exceptions, but it's true. Perhaps the growing population of people with riding experience will infiltrate the motoring population to the point where cooperative behavior becomes a reflex.

Many motorists already do remarkably well. But then, the fact that many places don't get shot up by a miserable attention whore with an assault rifle is little comfort when you are in the place where it happens. Same deal when you're riding along and you meet the wrong sorehead driver. There's no defense, really. You just have to keep living in a way that sets a good example, and hope it becomes the universal choice.

There is no battle. There is no war. There is only patient teaching, endurance, and luck.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Again with the bears

The wide angle lens on the handlebar cam makes this bear into a distant dot that rapidly leaves the frame. But at least it's a little something.

I like how you can see the bottoms of their feet when they're walking away. I watched this black, black animal, with these tan foot pads, sauntering along in front of me, as I followed at a respectful distance.

People I met at the road crossing pointed back into the woods and said they could still see it after it left the trail. I couldn't, and I was on a bit of a tight schedule to get to a friend's 60th birthday party. I tooled on out the trail with no further excitement.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Recreation Nation

I can only take my best guess what the human species will need - aside from mass sterilization -- to enjoy life in  *The Future*. I gave it my best shot, focusing on non-motorized recreation, because we were a recreation nation, for all our protestations of industrious work addiction. People worked hard to play hard. Buy a speedboat, a jet ski, an RV, a dirt bike. Get tickets to a professional sports event.

The alternative energy folks and the neo-agriculturalists offer lifestyle solutions that do not directly attack the motor mentality. You can kill cyclists on the road just as effectively with a hybrid or full electric vehicle, and still have a modest carbon footprint. Indeed, kill enough people with your electric vehicle and you will be carbon-negative, because you've reduced the population while avoiding your own fossil fuel use.

All motorized transportation and entertainment can be greened up. Electricity is the rage right now. It still has to be generated, but we'll get that tidied up, too. Try an electric speedboat!

I have a feeling that recreation may be at the top of a declining slope. In fact, it has probably started down it. I see fewer people at play at the theme park I think of as Wolfe Disney World. It's not just traffic in our store. The surges are shorter and smaller in every activity.

Even the annual herd migration known as Motorcycle Week seems to have been shrinking steadily. This year, most of the participants I saw made me think, "born to be wild...a looooong time ago." Now their tune is "Born to be Wide."

We could never have maintained the pace we set in the 1980s and '90s. I rode that wave, but it scared me then, because I knew it had to crash on the shore eventually. The lifestyle I envisioned when I was inexperienced enough to believe society's problems were not only soluble, but on the way to being solved, used pedal power extensively. Pedal to work. Pedal on errands. Pedal on vacation. A few years of it showed me how much nearly everyone else hated that idea, and hated people like me for being out there in the way. But maybe its time will come. More likely we'll go straight from the explosive end of the machine age right back into the stone age, but I'll be out there riding in any case.

I have a lot of trouble getting myself just to play. The commute serves multiple purposes: exercise, recreation of a sort, and cheap transportation. Meanwhile, my livelihood depends on other people recreating, since that makes up the vast majority of bike use, and all cross-country skiing.