Saturday, March 28, 2015

Maybe the bike shop can fix it

Anything with spoked wheels or pedals or a chain drive is liable to show up at the repair shop. If any part or parts remind someone of a bicycle, the bike shop must know how to fix it.

Bike mechanics being habitual improvisers, we usually can figure it out. And we tend to work cheap, because our skills are not valued in society.

Most of the people who bring in weird stuff don't buy bikes from bike shops. If they bring us a bike it's something from a department store. But when they have nowhere else to turn, the bike shop seems like the place to find help.

Yesterday, a woman brought in the wheels from her manure cart. They radiate the rich, earthy smell of a livestock barn, from years of steeping in a mixture of animal bowel contents, urine, and soiled bedding. I'm considering removing the old tires with a torch.

At the same time we see the constant inflow of garden cart wheels, mini bike chains and re-purposed cables of all sorts, we also get the sneering inquiries of self-styled aficionados in both road and mountain biking, interviewing us to check our credentials. We have to serve each of the parts of cycling that considers itself the heart of it, in order to support the whole. We have to keep up with the workload of relatively ordinary repairs. And, increasingly, we have to be "nice."

Nice is nice, in moderation, as long as it doesn't come at the expense of honesty and competence. In fact, nice people make me really nervous. I keep waiting for them to crack. Most of them do, eventually, and it's never pretty. I'll take neutrality any day over too much niceness. Kinda sorta friendly works. Even mildly abrasive can have its charms.


Justine Valinotti said...

It's my experience that most really good bike mechanics are a bit grumpy, or at least cynical (a.k.a. realistic).

It always seems to me that the less the customer spent on the bike, the bigger the miracles he or she expects from the mechanic.

cafiend said...

I've learned to deal with the cheapskates, but I have not figured out how to please the cool kids. Elitists have claimed both road and mountain biking, pushing the image of each through the medium of technologies aimed at riders who are obsessively committed to the specific genre. Committed to spending boatloads of money on equipment, anyway. If you don't make them think you're one of them, you're outside their bubble. They may pride themselves on being outside the box, but they depend on their bubble. Anything outside THAT is automatically beneath them.