Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Poodles, canaries, and cows

 A few years back, a local farmer referred to a local veterinarian as, "a poodle and canary vet." He needed someone who was trained, equipped, and inclined to put her arm into the back end of a cow up to the shoulder, and otherwise take on the heavy lifting and industrial-size details of large animal practice.

In a similar vein, the expanding popularity of smokeless mopeds has turned us into large animal vets in our line of work. We're not real mechanics in the eyes of the internally combusted, particularly four-wheeled and up, but the gross vehicle weight and motors of the new favorite "bike" have pushed us to grapple with larger beasts with more complex anatomy.

In predictable irony, we were asked almost daily if we carried ebikes and now that the answer is "yes," the comeback is "Oh, not those ebikes!" However, we did have one for a local man who had decided that he wasn't satisfied with the support for the ebike he had bought online. He wanted to buy locally. He made a point to ask whether we would service the bike, unlike the online source that wanted him to send things back and pay upwards of $100 just to have it diagnosed, because they have no dealer or service network. Incidentally, no ebike specialist in our region would work on his bike either, so apparently the owners of these vehicles are being abandoned in the wilderness. I've seen online forums in which tinkerers and whiz kids are getting right into the deep details of their sparky steeds, but it's only simple to the adept. 

I told him that we would open up the hub motor on his bike and learn as we go, but it wouldn't be quick, it probably wouldn't be cheap, and it might not work at all. We're still buried in repairs to conventional bikes, and the electric motor would take up a lot of bench space while we dissected it.

This particular customer elicits a higher level of concern from us because of a gruesome family tragedy a few years ago. It has long since dropped from the news cycle, but I doubt if it's ever far from his mind. Therefore, we can't let it slip ours when we deal with him. He's always easygoing and pleasant, but his nightmares must be brutal. For him I will make an extra effort to learn about something that in most other respects doesn't interest me that much.

On the plus side, I don't think that the evolution of the ebike has spawned as much variety in tools as the suspension sector, as much ridiculous speciation as bottom brackets, or the tweaky sensitivities of drivetrains. Fingers crossed, but I think that when we tool up we won't have to turn right around and tool up again in a year or two and every couple of years thereafter. We can concentrate on concepts instead of hardware. In the end, it will probably come in handy to know.