Sunday, August 26, 2007

Cleaning up ethical debris from the 1990s

Today on the stand we have about a 1992 Specialized hybrid with early Gripshift. It's not the original Gripshift, which made anyone wonder whether that company would last a year, but the later product, which made us wish it hadn't.

Once you get to know it, Gripshift isn't so bad. But their convoluted cable routing inside the shifter housing was always one more pain in the ass you didn't need on a busy day. The early 1990s models have the cable nozzle coming down off the bottom of the shifter rather than making the bend to come off horizontally at the adjuster barrel. This calls for some artistry when leading the cables. Factory assemblers never displayed this sensitivity. So when the housings inevitably fail, the shop mechanic is technically correcting a defect in design and manufacturing, but it has lasted past the warranty period.

The average bike buyer trusts the manufacturer and the shop. At least they did going into the 1990s. Coming out of it, when the corporate greedheads and the technofascists between them had plundered the sport and burned off most of the casual participants with their torrent of planned obsolescence, fewer riders still had that innocent cheerfulness. By 1993 or '94 the whole industry had taken on a bit of the character of a strip of used car lots full of fast-talking people in loud suits.

The survivors of this period bring their bikes in and I have to figure out a fair amount to charge them to fix things they didn't know were wrong in the first place. I shouldn't over-think it. A doctor will charge you top dollar to treat your kid's birth defects whether it succeeds or not. But most people won't just throw their kids in the dump if the estimate runs too high. The kid industry continues to thrive. But then the initial manufacturing process is so much more fun.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just slunk into the shop in my 'hood to bring in my son's bike to be serviced. Ok, well, maybe raised from the dead would be closer to what needs to happen next. We are, erm, a little, how shall I say. . . We beat our bikes. We use them hard every day and don't maintaing them worth a poop.

This lovely man (end of the day on Sunday at his shop, his hands were shaking) isn't going to charge me because we bought the bike at his shop, and he thingks he can more or less fix it with, youknow, a hammer and a prayer. All I can say is thank god for shops and guys like him. We have bought and will buy ALL our bikes and bike stuff from him. Mostly because he doesn't yell at me and has thus far, even refrained from rolling his eyes -- as he applied lube to the slightly rusty chain. Hey, It's been raining!!