Saturday, July 25, 2009

Fucking People

Uuuuughhh… What is it about this bike shop that slowly and inexorably kills my soul? Why does selling inexpensive bikes to fat people make me angry? What’s wrong with me?

Maybe it’s just because it’s the end of July in the bike biz, and everybody’s frickin’ burned out. Maybe if I was selling Super Record equipped Pegorettis, I’d still want to fucking shoot myself. But maybe not.

Long have I pondered this phenomenon, and I’ve come to few conclusions. Part of it is the perception in my community that bikes are toys. They’re to be purchased, neglected and disposed of. They are not investments worth keeping up. As a bike wrench, this perception makes my job immeasurable harder, because by the time they bring the bike to me, they’ve dug such a deep hole, maintenance-wise, that I’m nearly always tempted to try to talk them into a new bike, even if it’s a used bike from some other shop. I just wish they could understand that bikes can and should function well, and that makes riding more enjoyable, and that it takes some money and attention to keep them working that way, but in the end, it’s worth it. They just don’t get it.

So, I sold some cheap bikes to some fat people today. Big fucking deal. Poor me. Well yeah, poor fucking me. I’m sick of this shit. I’m sick of lazy people. I’m sick of cheap people. I’m sick of ignorant people. I’m just sick of fucking people.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Some Shit Up With Which We Will Not Put

Sorry for the lack of correspondence folks. Being a full-time shop manager, wiping the asses of colleagues and customers alike, biking, beering, and womanizing, all whilst getting another degree really takes it out of a guy.

A drivetrain is only as strong as its weakest link. Or your legs. Actually, I’m pretty sure your legs wear out first. Anyway, I've identified my shop's weakest link. Beyond a certain point, there is no right or wrong way of doing things. Maybe you finish off your bar tape with a whip of cord or with a tidy, single width of color-matched electrical tape. Either is fine. What is not fine is cutting the tape haphazardly and winding a two inch wide gob of black tape around it simply because it’s easy. That is some shit up with which we will not put.

To expand on the above analogy: beyond a certain point, there isn’t a right and a wrong way to run a shop. As long as customers are satisfied, you can hang whatever the fuck on your walls and stock whatever the fuck on your shelves. What is not fine is dropping the ball on customers. Again, that is some shit up with which…you get the picture. It’s Bad Business.

My shop, very unfortunately, has a reputation for dropping balls.  Case in point: when writing service, it is generally accepted that you pull parts while filling out the work order. Thus, if an item is out of stock, you may get it before the bike is to be worked on. This is Good Business. Owner cannot get the hang of it. Furthermore, he’s been fucking up for so long the habit is ingrained, and it remains to be seen whether my influence can make the difference. So, we pull a repair tag tonight that’s been on the wall for a week, a week during which we’ve received orders from all our vendors, to find that we need to replace a wheel that’s out of stock. Call the customer, tell him we need to order the part, the bike won’t be finished when promised, etc.


Dead-in-the-water repairs are inefficient time-sucks, and lemme tell you something: inefficient time-sucks do not boost The Number, and if The Number does not get boosted, I have little hope of ever making what I’m worth. Can’t dwell on this any more tonight. Fuck it all…

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Days Off

Ahhhhh, did not have to clock in today. Still stopped by to make sure the chimps that wield wrenches while I'm away knew what to do besides fling poo at bikes. Some of them can tell the difference between a Y-wrench and a banana...

Then it was off to a ridiculously productive day with the 53-tooth therapist. One of my friends commented that he misses the 39-tooth sessions offered by Oregon, to which I reply: me too, and Colorado, but it's amazing the short climbs you can find in Wisconsin. They're over fast, but in that short period of time, it's pretty easy to see Jesus.

While on the ride, I pondered what makes my bikes work better, every single day, than most people's bikes ever do for more than a week or two. A few reasons we can tick off immediately: I ride nice bikes. Record doesn't need the constant tweaking that Sora does. I'm an exceptional mechanic, and I know what's likely to go wrong and how to prevent it. I want to disregard those variables and focus on something deeper: the relationship with the bike.

I spend a lot of time on my bikes. I know them. I know the sounds they make. I know how they like to be shifted and braked. I know the cuts in the tyres and all the other little flaws a good bike accumulates with riding. How much time do you have to spend with a bike to develop that kind of bond?

My kneejerk reaction is: a lot. But further introspection tells me that may not be true. I’ve got bikes I ride four times a year, and I still know how they sound and how they behave. Again, disregarding the aforementioned variables, maybe it’s just being observant.

I’m in a methods of research class, and it’s gotten me thinking about my job. Every day, a customer brings me a machine because it no longer functions as he/she has become accustomed to it functioning. I must then recognize the variables which might be responsible, eliminate the variables in a systematic way, isolate the variable(s) that may be responsible and then manipulate them in order to make the machine perform once again as the customer expects it to. But that doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are 13 years of data in my head that allow me to disregard certain variables out of hand; if a customer notices a squeak when he/she applies the brakes, I don’t need to consider the bottom bracket as a possible culprit. This streamlines the process and allows us to deal with the sundry stimuli with which we deal every day without going bonkers. So, in a nutshell, it’s observing, establishing a baseline, and then noticing anomalies. It seems simple to me (the process, not necessarily the execution thereof), but I wonder if, in this day and age of being “dumb as we wanna be,” to quote Thomas Friedman, we’ve just lost the ability to notice things like a click in the drivetrain. We just want to get on our bikes and tune out, and maybe that’s fine. Maybe that’s what people need out of their bikes. I prefer to develop that bond.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Skills I Hope To Never Acquire

Well, today goes down in the annals as one of the shittier I ever hope to experience:

"Hey RacerRick (not his real name), let's go have a chat."

As expected, stunned silence.

We walk upstairs, and this is the shittiest part, because the writing's been on the wall for the last three weeks. We've been cutting hours, mostly his. We sit down.

"I'm sorry. We don't have any more hours for you." For some reason this seems better than telling him he's no longer employed here, or that he's fired, or that his services are no longer required. If silence can attain another level of stunned, his does.

"I'm happy to explain the reasoning behind the decision if that's something you're interested in."

He is, so I explain that I appreciate his enthusiasm for the high-end and his involvement in racing, but that that will never be what we need him for, and that, too often, that same enthusiasm got in the way of the things we did need, like selling 7100s and 820s. There was more, and I tried to explain it to him as well as I could, but is there any way to make sense of that? I doubt it.

Thing is, it was the right thing to do. I mean, I started this fucking blog because I'd lost my patience with him one too many times. I feel like none of that really matters right now. Even when it's anonymous, it's uncomfortable to kick someone who's down.

And maybe, probably, I'm putting a lot of this on myself. I'm the service manager. Did I manage him properly? I try to recall if we ever discussed his shortcomings before it was as explanation for his termination. I'm pretty sure we did, but pretty sure is nowhere near adequate enough to make me feel better. Fuck it; its done.

On a lighter note, whats up with fruitcake triathletes? Had one come in today complaining of speed wobble. Now, I'm no expert on this (yet), but I've read enough to know it's a complex problem, one that uses terms like "harmonic oscillation" as explanation, and rarely is it easily resolved. I try to explain that to him. He encourages me to check the balance of the front wheel. I assure him that's the first thing I'll check. In the next ten minutes, through the course of discussion of other issues with his bike, he mentions the balance of the front wheel no less than three more times. Each time he's assured that's the first thing I'll check.

I'm no linguist, but I'm fairly certain we're both speaking English, but even as I write this, I know I'm wrong. I'm speaking English and he's speaking a little known dialect, Trigeek, and somewhere in the recesses of his aero helmet, or maybe in the space where the sleeves of his jersey might exist, the message is getting garbled. Frankly, I have neither the time nor inclination to learn Trigeek. To exacerbate the problem, I'm not the type of wrench to let anything go. If it's not the front wheel, I'll check the fork and then the frame alignment and the rear wheel and so on and on and on and on, and if I don't find a satisfactory explanation, it will gnaw at me. And, even if I do find a satisfactory explanation, I've still got to translate it into Trigeek.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Welcome to Angry Bike Wrench, a forum for everybody who's ever had to explain the difference between a wheel and a tire. A thousand times. This is my forum to vent about dumbass customers, douchebag employees, and everybody's flavor favorite, the poseur roadie. I make no apologies for language (it will be R-rated at least) or content (maybe NC-17). Unsolicited tech advice will be dismissed out of hand, unless it's something I don't know and it sounds useful, in which case I will espouse it as my own. Bon appetit!