Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Flat Tyre Schema...

I just don’t get it.

Right now, I’m studying organizational theory and behavior, specifically social and interpersonal perception. It seems that “schemas” are cognitive frameworks that systematize our knowledge of…everything, I guess. We have schemas that make sense of ourselves, others, events, etc. They’re mental frameworks that help us perceive everything around us.

Well, I think I have a fundamentally flawed schema of flat tyres. In my mind, flat tyres are just like shit. They happen. You fix them. Then you get back on the bike and ride some more. That’s it. You don’t overanalyze them when they happen. You don’t reflect on your misfortune. You don’t hire somebody else to do it for you, since any cyclist should be able to fix a flat. And finally, you never ride in fear of getting a flat. They just happen. Flat tyres as much a part of the riding experience as the sun in your eyes or the sweat on your forehead.

Gentleman came in yesterday with a Trek 1000. I’m not so much a bike snob as to turn my nose up at an entry-level road bike. What turned me off immediately was the torn bar tape, the scuffed and misaligned brake lever/shifter, the filthy drivetrain, the small/small gear combination, etc. The bike had an aura of neglect about it. This guy rode the bike without any thought toward the service the bike was providing for him, and as such, he took it for granted. This is the guy who will bitch and complain when a mechanic tells him that his chain needs to be replaced. In his mind, a bike is no different than a plastic butter knife. You use it and throw it away when you’re done. I have no patience for this attitude toward bikes.

He’s got a flat tyre. Rather than communicate effectively to me that he wants me to install a new tube, he walks in and says, “Got a flat tyre.” Well, no shit. I’ve got two eyes, and even if all I had was half a brain, I could have figured that out. What the fuck do you want me to do about it? Tell you the proper sized tube so you can fix it yourself? Point out the tubes to you? Fix it for you? The information I need is what you want me to do about it.

After that ground breaking assertion, he proceeded to say something about the age of the tyre, and again I’m puzzled, because in my flat-tyre-schema, the age of the tyre has nothing to do with the frequency of flats, unless we’re talking about a severely worn tyre with a measurably thinner layer of rubber. Finally, after asking the right questions, I determine that he wants me to install a new tube. We could have gotten to this point in 5 seconds rather than 5 minutes. That’s time I’ll never get back.

So I fixed his flat, continuing to think about our differing schemas. In his mind, flat tyres are unusual and as such, deserve scrutiny and analysis. I suppose understanding that isn’t so difficult. What is difficult is reconciling his schema with my own.

The difference is based on experience. I’ve ridden more, gotten more flat tyres, and fixed more of them. So after all this rambling, what’s today’s take-home message? Just ride your fucking bike and learn to fix your own flat tyres. I promise it’s not painful and will make the whole experience better. Once your flat tyre schema and mine are aligned, then you can hire me to fix your flats.

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