Among the check-in notes on the Trek FUBAR I worked on last week was the instruction: "Test ride HARD."
The owner of this bike is a teenager who may not yet be old enough to drive. His father brings the bike in. I did not see him this time, because I was off, but last time he told me the kid has been hucking 10-foot drops. Even when I was young and foolish I did not have that little regard for personal safety.
This guy always brings a quandary with his kid's bike. Last year the rear shock was acting up. I'm not even sure it was the same bike. I screwed up and spec'd the wrong size replacement shock. Not only did we have to give a refund, the kid had destroyed the incorrect shock in the meantime, so we ended up with nothing to resell to someone who could actually use it. Dad came in ready for a fight and told us he'd taken the bike back where he bought it, where they fixed it easily. Then he took his hundreds of dollars and we saw him no more. I figured he would never be back. But the other place managed to screw up during the intervening year, so there was the greasy carcass, awaiting my ministrations.
After replacing all that was bent, crushed, worn out and thrashed, and sponging away the sticky gook and grime I had to go out and try to reproduce some fraction of the young projectile's headlong riding style, so that Daddy-o would not come back and accuse us of shirking our duty after handing him yet another prodigious bill.
"I told you to test ride this thing HARD!"
Can't I just throw it off the roof a few times and call it good? But no. I have to be shifting under load while I ride up and down a mine shaft. I have to be hurtling down a cliff and then grab a double fistful of brake levers. I can throw it off the roof, but I have to be on it. And cross it up in the air, too.
Even when I mountain biked actively I was more into endurance and uphill speed than downhill craziness. I just tried to survive the downhills. I know one or two riders around town who could give the bike a good workout. I should try to hire one.
Test ride it hard. I have a track around the building. If I had the chops and the foolish pride I could launch it off a retaining wall at one point. I almost did, on Saturday, but I figured I would probably stuff it right in front of a bunch of patrons at the neighboring restaurant. While I might be well advised to take that one and only chance at Internet video notoriety, I don't want to buy this kid any more bike parts, let alone get myself stove up. One trip to the emergency room per year is more than enough. I made several laps, but always veered away from the jump to shoot the slot between the rose bush and the litter barrel. I'm all about the corners. But unless you're laid out horizontal at the top of some berm you get no respect.
I don't deny I'm an old fart when it comes to mountain biking. How many mechanics could fix this bike and then put a ferocious hurt on it during the test ride? I'm sure someone can. But if you stuff it on the test ride, who pays? "You told me to ride it HARD." I wouldn't worry about it except that the Dad tells us to spend whatever it takes to get Junior's ride back up to snuff, and that always takes a bundle of cash because Junior is such a hammerhead. So then he feels like he's bought himself another trouble-free few months. If he doesn't get that there's liable to be another brittle scene.
I can't wait for this kid to get a driver's license so he becomes a car mechanic's problem instead of mine.
"Test drive it HARD! The tickets are on me!" Hell, that might be fun.