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.

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