Thursday, August 15, 2013

The "W" Word

"Yes, my bike has a kickstand on it, and the little foot at the bottom of the kickstand fell off, so my bike fell over onto a post and it dented the top tube.  I'd like it considered for..."

I'm thinking, "Don't say it.  Don't you dare let that fucking word escape your lips..."


Goddamnit.  Even when the claim is legitimate, I hate the W-word.  There has never been a positive discussion around the warranty of a product, unless you shop at good ol' REI, in which case you could return an item they've never sold, or because you change your mind, or because you're a douchebag, or if you have a SRAM product, in which case they seem to have a shotgun approach to quality control, in which they anticipate a 50% return rate and plan accordingly.  I've heard Campy had a no questions asked warranty policy in the good ol' days as well, but I'm gonna corral this before it turns into a full blown, no holds barred, back when people had ethics, retrogrouchathon, but it does illustrate what a warranty is for, and what it is not for.

Read most warranties, and you will come across the following or something similar:  "This item is guaranteed for X years from date of purchase against defects in materials or worksmanship." 

Don't get me wrong.  I believe in protecting consumers, which is what a warranty is supposed to do.  That's where the clause, "defects in materials or worksmanship" come into play.  What that says is, "Hey, if we fucked this up, we'll make it right.  Mea culpa." 

What it does not say is, "Hey, we'll replace your shit even if it broke because you were any or all of the above: stupid, willfully ignorant, abusive, unlucky, and/or negligent."  Take some responsibility for the care and upkeep of your shit.  Pay attention to it, or make friends with people who will. 

And always, always remember: SHIT HAPPENS.

Monday, August 5, 2013

My Flat Tire Schema, Continued

"Hi, I was hoping you could help me pick out a tube."

"Sure.  What size?"

"Seven hundred by twenty-three."

"OK.  Presta or Schraeder?"


"Here you go."

"I'd also like to lodge a complaint."

I thought, "Yeah, well go fuck yourself.  Or find somebody who's going to give a shit.  They amount to the same thing as far as I'm concerned."

I said, "OK, what's going on?"

"Well, a while ago, one of you guys, I don't remember which, fixed a flat tire for me..."

I was afraid at this point he was going to tell me about a flat tire he'd gotten weeks or months after we'd allegedly fixed a flat for him and claim it was somehow our fault, as if a responsible bike shop would've installed a magic force field that would clear debris from the path of the tire.  That is the kind of shit up with which the ABW does not put.

But, it turns out he had a legitimate claim, maybe.  He got a flat, and when the mechanic was changing it, he said the tube was pinched between the tire and rim.  I know it happens, although when it does, at least on a road tire, the pressure blows everything up before the wheel makes it back on the bike, or the mechanic notices the growing bulge, quickly rolls the wheel out onto the sales floor, dives behind the counter, and covers his ears.  Ha ha, fuck you sales guys.

But, I know if the pinch is small enough, and the bead tight enough, it can happen like he claimed it happened, and that is no es bueno at all.  Imagine what could/would finally cause that tire to blow: increased pressure.  The kind of increased pressure that might be generated by heating the air in the tube.  The kind of heat that might be generated by a wheel sitting in a hot car.

Or by heavy braking because the bike is being piloted down mountain switchbacks.  No es bueno at all.

Thankfully, none of that happened, and I'm feeling like the grumpy douche I am for wanting to punch this guy in the throat for bringing up what sounds like a legitimate issue.  We then got to talking about the frustrations of flat tires, and how they seem to travel in packs.  This guy never got flats until he got that first flat, and then he got three in a couple months.

I could relate.  Believe it or don't, but I almost never get flat tires.  I used to tell myself some bullshit about how in tune I was with whatever garbage I had to ride over, and somehow telepathically guided my tires around the nasty bits capable of causing punctures.  Maybe.  As I get older, my ego gets more wrinkled and saggy, and I'd feel more comfortable making claims like that if somebody could show me data proving I actually get fewer flats than average, but I digress.

Last week, I got a flat on my bar bike.  It was a speedy one.  I could hear the leak when on the bike, and had to walk a couple blocks back home.  Because in addition to being an egomaniac I am also a magnificently cheap bastard, I brewed myself a cup of coffee and sat down to patch the hole.  15 minutes later, I'm back in business.

On the very next ride, same exact fucking thing happens.  Now, I had inflated the tube and found the hole.  Marked it with Sharpie.  Lined it up to the hot patch on the tire and tried to find the offending sharp object.  Nada.  Flipped tube 180 degrees.  Still nada.  I then carefully did the ol' visuotactile examination, running my hands carefully through the inside of the tire while looking at the outside.  As is so often the case, I found nothing and assumed whatever had punctured the tube was gone.

After the second flat, I did the same thing - inflated the tube, found the hole, and noted with glee that it was EXACTLY the same distance from the valve stem in the opposite direction from the first hole.  Now that's some data bitches.  This time, I turned the tire inside out, and there it was: a honkin' big piece of glass that had so neatly cut the tread it was fully encased in the rubber when viewed from the outside, but (I'm assuming) only extended into the interior of the tire when under load.  I dug it out and sealed up the cut with some super glue, patched the second hole, and slept well that night knowing I'd solved that issue.

What's my point?  FLAT TIRES FUCKING HAPPEN.  Even with my telepathic ability to ride between punctures, and my superhuman mechanical skills, and my Sherlockian powers of deduction, they happen.  If you can't accept that, riding bikes is going to be a whole lot less enjoyable.  Learn how to fix a flat.  Carry what you need to fix one on the road, or don't ride any further than you want to walk.  If you're buying a bike and the sales person doesn't mention this, find another bike shop.  If they do, they are not trying to rip you off.

And then ride your fucking bike.