Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My PF30 Creaks... We Have a Cream For That

About that Evolution of the BB string I've been neglecting: fuck it.  I still think it's interesting, but I think I made the point I was trying to make, and neither you nor I really care to take it any further.  To sum it up: bicycles, like organisms, are subject to competitive pressure, and the "fittest" designs will succeed when others fail.  In the bike industry, the following are pretty generally accepted as competitive pressures:
  • Weight
  • "Stiffness" which is really a measure of efficiency
  • Cost
  • Aesthetics
  • Aerodynamics
  • Durability
  • Other
Thus, if all else is equal, the lighter/stiffer/cheaper/better looking/more aerodynamic/more durable component is going to be more successful.  Enough said about that, but it does bear on where I'm headed next.

It seems that, without really thinking about it, I've come up with a catch phrase: "Just ride your fucking bike."  This sums up pretty well how I feel about bikes and what you should do with them, but it occurred to me the other day that some are no so lucky as to be able to do that.

"My bike is creaking again.  When I stand up or put a lot of pressure on the pedals.  And it's feeling kind of sluggish..."

This is a great customer of ours.  Let's call her Karen.  I roll Karen's bike (carbon, recognizable brand that's not one of the Big 5, PF30 BB, Red cranks) and toss it on the stand.  This is not the first time it's been in for creaking.  Fuck, this could be the 5th or 6th time we've had it in for creaking. 

I derail the chain and give the cranks a spin.  Smooth as a baby's ass.  I check the brakes and wheels.  Wheels true, no rubbing anywhere.  I tactfully let Karen know that, as far as I can tell with an admittedly cursory examination, the sluggishness is either tire pressure or her motor.  She concedes it could be the motor.  Great, but we still haven't addressed the creak.

That fucking PF30 bottom bracket.

Let me say this up front: the PF30 makes sense on several levels, but I do not believe it is a superior "standard" for most riders.  Take Karen for instance.  She's an enthusiast, puts on a respectable amount of miles every year, does a few long disease-type rides, and she's fucking loaded.  She is absolutely not competitive.  But she's riding a carbon bike, deep dish carbon wheels with 20/24 spokes, and light components.  We tell ourselves that this is a great all-around bike, but that's not fucking true - it's a race bike.  Karen wants to just ride her fucking bike, but she can't for more than 10 miles before it starts creaking again. 

I try to explain that sometimes, bikes make noise and it's OK and it's normal.  I tell her about my Salsa Spearfish, a great bike, and all the noises it makes (brakes, BB, suspension).  She's having none of it, and then I realize it: we're both stuck, she and I.  She's got a bike that's poorly suited to the kind of riding she does, and I'm stuck trying to polish that turd.  I'm an experienced mechanic, so I'm better equipped to hear and diagnose, to decide what needs attention and what's normal, but she is not.  I can't tell her to ignore the noises (even if she was willing to do that, which she is not) because sometimes, there are noises that do need attention lest something expensive break.  We didn't sell her the bike, so I can't even tell her that I can take measurements and talk to the manufacturer to see if the BB shell is within spec. 

We could blame the bike manufacturer, as so many internet douchebags do.  We could blame an unscrupulous sales person.  We could blame SRAM. 

But I blame us (except for Grant Peterson). 

We did this to ourselves.  We allowed ourselves to be convinced that we all needed lighterstifferfaster to get to the fucking coffee shop and to do our once-a-year disease ride, and we started to believe that a 15 pound bike made a difference when we're 30 pounds overweight, and we expected the poor fucking bike mechanics to be able to fix our silly-light wheels when they were designed for 120 pound climbing phenoms with a van full of team mechanics who are ready to tear down his bike at the end of the day.

Well fuck that shit.  I'm opening a bike shop.  It's called No Bullshit Bikes.  You come talk to me.  We'll sit down over a cup of coffee or a beer, and you'll tell me what kind of riding you like to do, and you're going to be fucking honest with me, you understand?  Don't ask for fucking Zipp 303s if all you do is ride the MS150.  And then I'm going to call on my decades of experience, and I'm going to put you on the bike that best suits your riding, and you're going to fucking trust me, you understand?  And when I quote you the price, you're not going to fucking balk, because you understand it's an investment, and it's not a fucking toy.  And you will NOT cite a fucking internet forum as evidence in support of what you do or don't want, you fucking bastard.  And your bike's going to work for a long time, and when things go wrong, it will be because stuff wore out after the expected amount of time, and I'll fix it for you for a reasonable fee.  And you know what?  You wanna know what the best fucking thing is?


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