Saturday, July 15, 2006

Where to begin when you can't even remember the beginning?

Raise your hand if you can remember what you were doing on Monday.

Everything I've worked on has been weird this week. The most normal jobs were two tuneups for a couple of members of what we call The Sliding Board Club. They're both middle-aged gentlemen, quite tall, who ride with their saddles tilted down about 40 degrees at the nose. They absolutely forbid us to change the angle and refuse to discuss the matter. It makes their bikes incredibly uncomfortable to test-ride after repairs.

A portly lawyer brought us his trusy Cannondale hybrid for an overhaul. When he rode off on it afterwards, he returned immediately to say it skipped. I asked him a few questions about shifting under load, and whether he might be torquing on the Gripshift while riding up the steep hill headed out of town. He assured me he was not.

I could not make it skip. Ralph, pushing 190 pounds, couldn't make it skip. Our customer could make it skip, but not in front of us.

I wondered whether he might just have Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy through his bike, but it turned out his shift cable was just the tiniest tad too snug. Why he could get it to cause problems when Ralph and I could not is still a mystery. It was the faintest bit out of adjustment. We do aim for perfection.

We also continued to deal with the ongoing saga of a Cannondale T2000 with a treacherous shudder caused by the front brakes. The problem appeared after its first ride in wet conditions, following 600 trouble-free kilometers in France, during which time the weather had happened to be dry. After trying three or four different sets of brake pads at all angles including the absurd, two or three different wheels, disassembling and reassembling the brakes, cleaning rims, checking and rechecking the headset and pretty much anything else you could imagine might be remotely related, we had decided the problem was simply demonic possession. We asked Cannondale to recommend a brand of holy water and a good exorcist.

You don't make any money on a situation like that. It was a new bike. Cannondale is now willing to issue a replacement fork or complete bike, but we have hours into this job. We'll have more hours putting in a fork or assembling a replacement bike with all the racks and doodads this genuine tourist uses on his bike.

Into the midst of this chaos came an E-Bike owned by a captain of industry who has a summer home in town. I guess he's buddies with Iacocca. He started amassing a fleet of E-Bikes starting back in the second half of the 1990s. Someone said he has about 14 of them now. The one he brought in had an undetermined electrical problem that cropped up after he changed a battery in it. He gave us the number of his electric bike guru in New York City and said the man could talk us through any repairs the bike might need.

I got into bikes because they didn't have electrics or hydraulics. Everything was simple and straightforward. Ah, that was then.

Bear in mind that E-Bikes weigh about 65 pounds. I would start the job, hit a snag, put in a call to Bert Cebular at NYCEwheels, put another repair on the stand, get a call back from Bert (who is also a busy guy), write down his suggested procedure, try to finish the repair I'd started when I set aside the E-Bike, move it off the stand, bring the E-Bike back over, delve a little deeper, hit another snag, make another call, as the other mechanics went through their own maneuvers in the tight confines of our workshop.

At one point I was trading back and forth between the ungainly, massive E-Bike and a delicate, featherweight Cervelo triathlon bike. All in a day's work.

When I got deep enough into the E-Bike, I could see where flames had actually shot out from inside some piece of circuitry. Bert has not returned that call yet.

This day followed yesterday, when I got up at 5 a.m. to get out of the house by 6. My car had started making that smell you always hope is coming from someone else's car, so I wanted to drive it over to my auto wizard with enough time to ride the 27 miles from his shop to mine by 9 a.m. So, out the door just after 6, drive 42 miles to Gilford, drop the car with a key and a note, hop on the bike, ride back to Wolfe City as fast as I can manage, work the full day and ride the last 17 miles home.

Actually, before I could leave town I had to ride back and forth across the village on a couple of errands. As I came up Main Street the final time, just as I set up to turn onto the side street that would take me out toward the highway headed home, I heard the unmistakeable sound of a car out of control. It wasn't the shrill screech of locked brakes, it was the low moan of tires overloaded sideways. I looked up to see a small black pickup truck just getting launched into the air as it hit a car in front of it. The truck came down on its left-side wheels and careened across the lane. It looked like it had to flip over. Because I was already committed to my turn, I did not get to see it land. By the time I popped back out onto Main Street the truck had come to rest upright in the front yard of the Wolfeboro Inn. A cloud of dust and tire smoke spread over the scene. Bystanders gathered from the large crowd already on hand. It was amazing none of them got mowed down.

I moseyed up the street for a closer look. A Cadillac sedan sat crosswise in the end of Sewall Road. The pickup had apparently slammed into the corner of its trunk, launching the truck and spinning the Caddy right around.

No one appeared to be injured. I called Ralph to see if he wanted to get some news photos. Then I trudged off toward my own home. I'd had enough for one day.

The fun continues tomorrow.

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