Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I miss the simplicity of bike season

The skiing here is fine, but the local powers are addicted to intrigue and the self-proclaimed aristocracy yearn for the days when subservient grunts grubbed gratefully for a pittance. Why drive all this way just to look at immaculate grooming while trapped indoors instawaxing set after set of abused planks for people who only get it done because someone told them they should?

Honesty goes a long way with those customers, as long as you remember to bring it out instead of reflexively doing their bidding. Ironed-in wax on a beat-up, high-density or extruded no-wax touring base is a waste of their money and my precious life energy. Instead, buy this F4, smear it on everything and go have fun.

Unfortunately, the cheerfully codependent wax grunt has a long heritage in skiing. What instawax customers usually don't realize is what a hack wax job they're getting. In places where they do a lot of them, it's an assembly line to separate the gullible from a few bucks between the front door and the trails. We don't have a facility that lends itself to such mass-produced fleecing.

The bike repair shop presents a much more straightforward challenge and attracts far fewer people who just want to know what it's like to have servants. I actually get a measure of respect for what I know and can do for people there. And if I don't, I can always grab a big wrench to tap meaningfully into my palm as I listen to the whining.

Outside of work, bike season also presents more savory transportation options. Which bike should I ride on what route variation? What should I have for lunch/fuel? Sometimes I wish I had a magical short cut home, but I just keep turning the cranks until I get there. I set the schedule of effort and rest rather than having rest forced on me by sedentary transportation and the demands of work in a shop running on the most pared-down staff.

As winter stretches before us for more than two months, I can't let myself hibernate. The actual skiing is as wonderful as ever. It's just all the clutter I have to cut through or chuck aside that wears me down.


redcliffs said...

I always find your posts interesting. That said, the title of your blog promises advice, yet most of what you write is just whining about the frustrations and injustices of your chosen life. What gives?

cafiend said...

There's advice buried in the archives and occasionally when something new comes up. Many of the frustrations stem from the difficulties thrown into the path of the happy cyclist by the industry that feeds on cycling, whose propaganda really mushroomed in the 1990s.

I thought my wistful essays had more wit and acidity than mere whining. I'll often post a rant or whinge just to put a sign of life up there.

Tom Reingold said...

difficulties thrown into the path of the happy cyclist by the industry that feeds on cycling

You mean the hyped up, super-expensive bike components, and the wheels with far too few spokes? I'm amazed at the prices of bike stuff these days and how technological advances have made bikes less durable where they could have made them more durable. My road bike has 36 spokes on each wheel.

I don't live near a ski area. I'm in Noo Joizy, near NYC, so I don't know much about skiiing, but I imagine it's frustrating that you have to pay so much to ski whereas you can just get on a bike and go, without paying anyone anything.

cafiend said...

Hey, Tom -- Cross-country skiing has a lot of hidden social dynamics that no one will ever study because it's a small population and seems unimportant. XC seemed like cheap skiing for he masses in the 1970s and '80s. That lured me in. But just as the bike industry confiscated mountain biking from the masses, so did the ski industry segregate and ultimately help reduce numbers in Nordic.

The price I pay to ski is my indenture to the business. When I can no longer hack the business I'll have to yank the needle out, because I won't be able to afford the good stuff. But cycling does walking/hiking.