Thursday, June 21, 2007

Problems in Diagnosis

A good diagnostician may be helped by a poor work ethic.

The other day, a mechanic with an excellent work ethic missed critical factors when diagnosing a front shifting problem.

Did I mention he has an excellent work ethic? Both techs on duty that day hate to be idle. They want to move work through the shop on a conveyor belt, and they don't want to sit and muse.

Unfortunately, time and money get wasted by this seemingly productive style when overlooked details render the whole repair useless.

I love to ponder. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know everything. I'm happy to let the modern wonders of bike componentry sicken and die in massive numbers until they evolve into something truly sustainable. I hate hydraulics. Full suspension mountain bikes strike me as an expensive and complex way to spoil what was once a pleasant, challenging hike. So at times I have to force myself to care.

I may rapidly conclude that what really ails a bike was built into it at the factory. But against that limitation I will still try to get it working as well as it can.

All this involves a lot of sitting and staring, coffee-drinking and doodling, or rummaging around among the nuts and bolts. It requires looking at the bike from many angles. Did I mention coffee drinking? I will flip through back issues of the Quality Bicycle Products catalog to trace the lineage of drive train parts. At some point I can find where one branch split from another, to see if they can be grafted back together. I have to correlate all kinds of dimensions, availability and prices.

It doesn't look like work. But we're not just shoveling sand here. I think a lot of engineers in the bike industry can go pound sand, but that's another matter entirely.

At day's end I hop on the fixed gear or one of two road bike variants with friction shifting and ride peacefully home. People have to discover true value and happiness for themselves.

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