Monday, August 08, 2005

A Sad Truth

The management of many bike shops does not care if you ride your bike, as long as you buy it from them and dutifully get it tuned up at least once a year. Indeed, the bike industry itself has been slow to grasp the connection between purchase and use, expecting repeated purchases from people when it has only recently begun to take active steps to improve their riding environment.

Some people in shops create a hostile environment because they don't want enthusiasts hanging around. Not every bike shop owner really likes to ride. Less active people, especially as they get older, don't really understand active people. The bike business can be very frustrating to someone who is more interested in the money they make than the activity itself.

The fact is, many of the apparently time-wasting lip-flappers who come and tarry a while bring us information from the outside world, another perspective on cycling. It's a point of view we can use to improve our own understanding. It helps us make reasoned decisions about techniques and equipment we ourselves might not have had time or inclination to study.

Others come to us as students, in search of some of the secret knowledge. They may become our helpers and allies in the future. Certainly they will take away a better impression if they don't sense passive-aggressive disapproval radiating out of the scowling face of someone who clearly cannot wait for them to leave.

I will admit that some people who come into the shop annoy me to no end. Some of them don't even own bikes. They come in to air their views on various national and world affairs in a setting where we can't really debate it.

The technowitalls who only want to buff their egos by stumping me can get lost, too. But they're a lot rarer since mountain biking got so esoteric. Any really techie mountain biker could lose me in the technicalities in a few seconds and I wouldn't really care. You want to spend a couple thou on a bike to beat up, have at it. I probably don't have what you want in stock and I don't want to fix yours when you smash it. I used to think a lack of hydraulic systems was a POSITIVE thing about bicycles.

The shop has helped me learn a lot about how I would like to be treated in places where I shop or look for service. A displayed lack of integrity solidifies my resolve to act with as much integrity as I can muster. Hostility reminds me how easy it is to present an unwelcoming facade, perhaps by accident. I'm sure I fail often in the courtesy department, but I always try to be trustworthy, if not charming.

I am so reflexively argumentative that I will look for the flaws in just about any statement someone cares to make, even if it seems I should agree with it. The companion philosophy to Question Authority is Question Yourself. Don't let your own assumptions go unchallenged. Every once in a while you have to slap the bedrock hard, just to assure yourself it is still bedrock.

I don't know if many shops have the space or leisure to provide as social a setting as some people seem to seek. Certainly one has to set limits. But the shops that obviously and habitually shut people down will find themselves with plenty of free time eventually.

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