Monday, July 19, 2010

Almost too tired to stretch

Stretching used to be an effortless pleasure. You don't notice flexibility when you have it. Later, when you have to work to maintain it, the term stretching exercise takes on new significance.

When I get home from work I try to hit the floor as quickly as possible for the stretching routine so I don't cool off and stiffen up. The longer I wait, the harder it is. The stances for effective stretching take strength. Otherwise you might hurt yourself worse.

This week was more like the second part of a 12-day marathon because I went to Connecticut to a family gathering on my last days off. Driving through any built-up area of this country is stressful. Then sharing time with three generations of family members and assorted spouses isn't exactly restful. We're not wildly dysfunctional but we're philosophically diverse. The only activity we all share is argument. These are usually rational discourses, but each of us holds a kernel of principle we refuse to give up. So you go to the shell of that, bounce off and try to change the subject before things get heated.

My older brother and I went for a little ride. He brought his Trice. It comes apart in about five minutes to fit in the trunk of his car. Putting it back together takes a little longer.

I should have taken the Traveler's Check completely apart and reassembled in solidarity with him, but I hate to make work for myself.
We rode first to the CVS pharmacy in the village of Niantic, to get a card for my sister's birthday. Big bro' also was looking for batteries for a vintage Nikon he had received in partial payment for helping a friend move. He therefore spent considerable time examining the battery selection while I went back outside to our bikes.

A beautiful woman in a nice sundress and well-worn SPD cycling shoes pulled up on her Jamis cross bike. I took a picture of her bike. Taking a picture of her seemed needlessly intrusive.
From the CVS we went to Book Barn's downtown location. I could walk out of there with crates of stuff, but I restrain myself. I learn a lot just by looking at the books there. For instance, thriller writer Alistair Maclean wrote a non-fiction book about Captain Cook. I'd read several of Mr. Maclean's more exciting fictional offerings without ever knowing about this more scholarly side. I still don't, really, because I did not buy the Cook book.

The store provided some much-needed caffeine, because my parents have been brewing a largely decaffeinated blend for many years. That brought us near the front counter, where a large man named James kept us instructed and entertained for much longer than we'd planned to stay there.

"I know, I'm the image of the Comic Book Guy," he said, shifting his bulk on his seat behind the counter. "To make things worse, my previous job was in a record store." He did possess and share an encyclopedic store of knowledge about nearly any subject that came up. He had the acerbic delivery, too. It was not as supercilious as the more offensive Comic Book Guy specimens can be.

As I suspected when I first saw the Trice last year, people do mistake it for some kind of weird wheelchair. My brother reported that sometimes onlookers appear astonished when he is able to rise and walk after parking it. This might explain the remarkable amount of patience motorists seem to show, compared to an upright bike going the same speed, taking up less lane. Hey, whatever works. A woman outside the CVS said, "Nice chair!" when we pulled up. She did appear nonplussed when my brother stood up and explained what the vehicle really was.

I had a few hours when I got home to prepare for the work week ahead.

Summer brings urgent repairs. It brings impulse purchases of special-order bikes. These land on top of the pile of other repairs for which we have been given a few days or a week. Little things stand out, like the front hub on a Specialized Dolce women's road bike, with the wrench flats on the bearing cone completely blocked by the curvature of the domed dust cap in the hub shell. Ta daaa! Adjustable bearings that cannot be adjusted! Innovate or Die, you stupid bastards! The hub shell itself looks a lot like an Atom hub from the early 1970s, except that the Atom has flat dust shields so the bearings can actually be adjusted and locked in position. See how much we've learned since then?

I just get sick of working on poorly-thought-out, disposable componentry. You can really see the whole panorama from factory to scrap heap, one line on the graph, resources to junk, crossing the other line which represents people scrabbling for money they can burn buying this endless conveyor belt of doomed equipment.

On Thursday, the $12,000 Beater Bike came in for some gear adjustment. Its mixed road and mountain Shimano drive train requires a lot of fussing just to work pretty well.

I had just finished fine-tuning the shifting on a Ted Wojcik touring bike with Shimano XT. That demanded extremely precise cable tension. Just what you want: a finicky touring bike. Hey, I just fix 'em.

No sooner had the $12,000 Beater Bike left than a call came in from another avid rider who has been happily thrashing the Long Haul Trucker I built for him several years ago. He keeps about a 30-pound load on the racks all the time, probably so his touring load won't be a shock to his system. Putting the bike on the stand is like an Olympic weight lift. But he's a good guy. He let me build him a bike, wheels and all, and it's holding up to his heft and riding style. It's another fussy eater, though, because he insisted on brifters instead of barcons with his LX crank, XT derailleur and wide-range gearing.

Another guy came in on Sunday needing brake fluid for the hydraulic discs on his wife's mountain bike. We don't keep that stuff on hand because the technical mountain biking demographic largely died out in our area. If we saw more demand we'd invest in more supply. Meanwhile, mountain bike stuff has gotten too tweaky and expensive to allow us to fill up the shop with stuff we might or might not unload. Mountain biking started as a niche activity and the bike industry successfully turned it back into one. They were aided by the hard core of mountain bikers who eat that stuff up, but we're talking addicts here. Not everyone who tries a substance will get addicted. The hard-core addict keeps the pusher in business, but the expense and side effects naturally limit the size of the market. The pushers either have to be fellow users or, more likely, cynical exploiters of the users who take advantage of a location convenient to large groups of them.

Because the wrong fluid can damage the brakes, your hydraulic user needs to know what he's putting in his veins. I looked it up, but I couldn't hook him up. At least he left knowing what scrip to ask the next doc for.

"Dude, I need some DOT4! I'm crashing, man!"

I returned to the battered 1960s Raleigh 3-speed I was resuscitating. I just fix 'em.


Steve A said...

"poorly-thought-out, disposable componentry" is hardly new, or did you never see those plastic Simplex dérailleurs that gave Suntour its brief push to glory?

cafiend said...

Steve, I've been doing what I do since then. Simplex plastic was better than SRAM and Sun Race plastic because the straight parallelogram derailleur was easier to make straight enough to work, compared to a bulky, slant parallelogram, index-only modern marvel.

Suntour had some really good stuff, like actually functional long-cage derailleurs and the aforementioned slant parallelogram.