Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Buy a steel frame. Shift in friction. Use toe clips. Try a fixed gear. Ride conventionally-spoked wheels. Keep it simple.

Cafiend out.

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.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


During one of many busy days last week at the touring center, a guy I should recognize came up to the backshop entrance to say hello.

"What do you think? Is everybody going to be using the new Campy Ergleblurgle next year?"

The what? I gathered it was something that must be getting a buzz in the cycling media, but I had no idea what he was talking about. Not only have I been trying to keep up with the Nordic ski industry's own Shimano-like ADD, it was Christmas Week and I had already gone about nine long days without a break.

Cross-country ski season used to be a relaxing break from the frantic pseudo-innovation of the mountain bike industry in the mid 1990s. Now Nordic has its own avalanches of poorly-thought-out equipment solutions to attitude problems. And more people come into a ski shop hacking and dripping snot than in a bike shop. Vacation weeks are hell. It's as if you earned your meager annual income by letting several motorcycle gangs and a couple of sketchy fraternities use your house and yard to party for ten days.

In a while I'll start to think about bikes again. If the weather turns warm it will be sooner. If the snow sticks around it will be later. Right now I have enough to do, starting with disinfecting the counter top where the last customer dripped on it.