It’s always a little weird when the space-time continuum opens just a hair to show you your future…
Egg and cheese w/salt & pepper on a salt bagel. My heart may give out but the EMT’s will concur that today I had the legs.
Descending at 50+mph knowing that if it all to end right now that the impact crater would be epic.
Ascending Skyline knowing that if I were to throw up, I’d have to take one for the team and swallow it back. Bile had caloric value too.
Hopped behind a truck to draft and then noticed that he was going 15mph. Strava segment ruined…
Ran out of liquid. Almost as bad as running out of alcohol.
Understanding That You Don’t Know Shit And Thriving
I don’t know it all as it pertains to bikes, women, beer; fuck, I’m still working on figuring out myself. I am functioning at a slightly higher level than your common ariolimax californicus aka “banana slug”. Slugs and service managers are the vuclanized glue/icky slime that binds the fabric of America together.
In most pursuits, we all know what we know and then maybe a little more. What those who tend to succeed understand is that, knowing too much and knowing enough tend to yield similar returns. Surrounding yourself with complimentary pieces is not only the wise way to get business done, but also lessens greatly the need to want to shoot innocent (and not so innocent) people in the face. In these days and times such displays of malcontent are frowned upon. Major news outlets eat that shit up, but shooting people in the face in general is bad for business. Finding good help without having a rep as a bike shop where people get shot in the face is hard enough in the best of markets.
Individual knowledge is just one part of what it takes to be successful in the bike shop biz. The collective experience of the group is what really makes a good shop, great and a service manager sane.
“You just don’t expect to hear this type of music in a bike shop.” What the fuck is that? If you have a problem with Doris Day, we may not be the service department for you. We happen to have a very eclectic taste in music. Everything from “post-industrial Christian death metal, to ska-meringue, to country heartbreak-trap to the smooth and sultry sounds of the Jim Crow era. We mix it up. No standard faire retail selections here or traditional service department staples. We do on occasion play the Black Keys as we are contractually obligated to do so by the masons. When they’re not on that whole world domination/illuminati kick, they do appreciate systematically toppling strategic KOM Strava segments and ridding the world of those high cadence “Nancy-boy’s”.
“My bike needs a little tlc, you know a little tender loving care?” No shit on both counts. I can see that and I know what the acronym “tlc” stands for. This dumb look on my face is just a look. What I don’t see is a case of beer and a compelling enough reason as to why I should break away from from my xxx-rated match of “Fucked Up Words With Friends” to assist you. Alas it is my responsibility to help ensure that your time spent on the bike is as pleasant as possible.
So your GT mountain bike spent time in Syria infiltrating ISIS? Didn’t play out well? You can’t go over there with bean pies and a Final Call and think that you’ll be accepted. Wrong Muslims entirely, though I’m sure the pies were appreciated. Caliphate or not, everybody knows that bean pies are the shit.
There’s No Crying In The Service Department
We in service are generally immune to your shared stories of inspiration. We are a cold-hearted lot.
“What’s your bikes malfunction private?!!!”
Then convention got tossed on it’s head. A customer who frequents the shop came in and told me just how much the other women on our ladies rides inspire her. They are supportive of one another and have developed a sisterhood from it. I think a tear began to form. I was genuinely moved and then I started thinking about the October beers again.
For The Love Of All Things Decent
Customer: “So this is how you want to run your business?”
Service Drone: “By providing you with information in order for you to make an informed decision? Yeah I think so…”
The customer is always right? Not in service. Your achievements in that strange world outside of our basement don’t qualify you to do my job, even though my uncanny skill to discern IPA’s from stouts does qualify me to do yours. Weird equation but more true than not.
It’s a cold world. Most of the time the customers and the techs working amicably together in order to satisfy one another’s needs. It gets steamy in service, but what happens in service stays in service except when someone feels it their duty to defile you on that internet thing. People “wrench and tell” all the time now. Societies on the skids.
In service you had better have a tough skin, because certain customers see you as the guy/gal that wants to pick their bones clean.
Customer: “I have a flat. Can you fix it?”
Service Drone: “Is it ok if we replace the 3 spokes that are missing as well? You’d be amazed at the performance gains from a wheel not just holding on for dear life.”
Customer: “I just need the flat fixed!” Your not gonna get the drop on me! I’m on to your game; see!!!”
Doing reputable work and helping to ensure your safety is pretty important to us. Legal ramifications aside, nobody in service wants anybody to do anything less than have a fantastic experience, get to work safely or engage in whatever the pursuit they see fit. Ripping people off isn’t part of the business model. We’re not getting rich doing this shit. Stand down irate customer, stand down…
Do You Fix Bikes?
Nope but our service team can make you a mean tiramisu. When your call was directed to us, the option on the outgoing message said, “service”.
I used to work at Tower Records during the time when grunge was king and the internet was just used to play the military grade version of Candy Crush. I used to get questions all the time about that song that has a “crushing guitar part and indecipherable lyrics”. I wanted to tell them that they just described half the songs on Sub-Pop and Dischord and to leave me alone because I was severely hungover, my flannel was itchy and making me highly irritated. Good times, good times…
What else would a service department do in a bike shop other than service bikes? The spectrum runs from people asking if we tap bb shell threads to asking if we have the technology to repair a flat on a 20″ bike. Now I’m severely sober, not itchy and perplexed. Can’t devote too much time to simple questions, gotta get ready for The X-Files reboot and cleaning the heads on my cassette player is a full-time gig.
Was out on a ride with my son on a hilly trail and inadvertently passed the torch. I told him to take point on the climbs because he was faster than I. I took the lead back on the descents because I can but watching him effortlessly pull away from me was bittersweet. Blood or no blood, I don’t like being outdone. I had to check that because he asked me if I wanted to hang out with him. I leap at these opportunities with my teenagers. There are still teachable moments out there like, to grip the saddle on the downhills with your thighs and picking your line before it picks you. Maybe not life lessons but if it helps him avoid a tree my job is done. That said I need to work on my power to weight to age to beer ratio.
Grease May Be The Word, But Not The Answer
Your bike isn’t an assault vehicle. It doesn’t work on crude. If your bike won’t shift its not because the chain longs for fossil products. Loving your chain doesn’t mean drowning it in muck. No tech wants to engulf themselves in a Exxon Valdez amount of sludge. There are some bikes that practically slide through the doors. If you see a tech grab the heavy gloves its not for extra care, its because they don’t want to spend 30 minutes scrubbing your grease, ball-sweat (or female equivalent) and everything else those magnets attract from their hands.
One thing that is a constant in the world of bicycle retail is the ever present chance to see some guy clicking through the store with his junk on display. The more experienced the rider the less the shame. Experienced riders however do understand that 2 seasons of hard riding kill off most kits. You can possibly get one extra fondo out of one if you religiously use light detergents and air dry. Newer riders show theirs off with an air of societal defiance. It’s a dick. We get it. It’s a big dick. Noted. Tie it up outside before you come in next time. We have a small store and space is at a premium.
Ladies click around the aisles as well, but somehow manage to not look as pathetic as guys. Women at least look tasteful. Snotty noses and sweat stains are totally welcomed. Shows a ride well ridden. With some of the guys its all dick and balls. Sometimes I want to remind dudes that we have children walking about. No need to add to their future therapeutic unresolved concerns.
“It’s Good To See You Again. Now Who The Fuck Are You?”
Nothing worse than the customer who visits seldomly yet expects you to remember everything about his last visit. Dude…I see a lot of people in a day and I used to smoke my fair share of pot. Please forgive me if I can’t discern your Trek 7.1 from the other 20 I’ve dealt with over the last week. Not that yours was taken any less seriously than anyone else’s but if your not a frequent shopper, have a kick-ass story, a total dick or Jesus Christ Himself, chances are it’s going to take a little something more than “remember me”, for me to actually remember you.
The Unfortunate Return of The Man Purse
I by far am not the manliest of fellas. I think an Amaretto Sour is a fine drink and have learned to stomach Project Runway. Tim Gunns tough but fair. I also love Peggy Lee and don’t just watch “Orange Is The New Black” for the shower scenes. I really enjoy the character developments and Uzo Aduba “Crazy Eyes” is a brilliant actress.
All to say I don’t wear my testicles like little tributes of honor on my shoulders. Didn’t man-purses go away in the 80’s? I blame the European Union on this one. I have no basis for this accusation but economic unrest can lead to unforseen consequences. What honestly is wrong with the strapless wallet? Money clips are pretty bad-ass. I can’t even pawn this one off on the metro-sexuals. It’s bigger than them. The gentlemen that have carried them in (and thankfully out) of service have been totally cool, but what decent God-fearing American would accessorize them with their Lees?
Nobody Loves Campagnolo More Than Themselves
It’s the sexiest grupo on the planet, just ask them. I’ve never heard anyone talk with as much passion about a set of hubs as a Campy person. People dig Shimano components and appreciate SRAM but rarely talk orgasmically over them. Campys love-affair with itself makes is totally incompatible with any other component group. Its sorta like a pretty young lady rocking a 3.9 g.p.a. with no identifiable social skills. Exceptionally functional but a bore at mixers. To be fair every company worth its weight in ceramic bearings has a superiority complex. It’s healthy for business. Campagnolo has thought differently for years and in doing so has made some of the best components mechanickind has ever had to never hear the end of.
Better Off Alive
We see all types of bikes everyday from the luxurious to the practical. Every customer presents their own unique challenge. Every customer has a story and not always an audience to recieve it. In service the doctor is always in and the fee for unsolicited unqualified advice is always free.
I get stories about divorce, death of children, births of children, lifestyle changes, accomplishments, failures and all in the spate of writing up a job order for a flat change. Sometimes you want to give said person a hug and other times just a quote and a time of expectation. You cannot escape the human experience in the bike store and especially not in service. The alcohol in house is generally reserved for employee use only, but some days you just want to clear a space on the counter pass a guy a bottle and a shot glass and just keep the tab open. Understanding the human mind really isn’t my shtick but 44 years has taught me that in most cases we’re all just as lost as the next guy, but perspective like decent beer is everything.
Accidental or possibly purposeful, racism happens in the last bastion of all that is pure and decent; the bike shop. Sometimes I don’t think people really take into consideration just what in the hell they are saying. I’m not the Sesitivity Inspector as I failed my civil servants exam but, I think I know foul shit when I hear it. When someone had used that term as part of a poorly slung together anecdote about who she was and who she wasn’t I paused and waited for something from her to expound on her words. I really believe she thought she was using a term that was not offensive like, “fag” or “chink” or Afro-American. Some moments are teaching moments and others are made for Michelob.
Service folks are not cynics by trade but by design. Bikes fatigue just like everything in the known universe. They fatigue even faster if you happen to get hit by a truck. In service our responsibility is to inspect the bikes for anything that could cause future heartache and certain regret.
Step 1 in this dance, is to ask about the health of the one fortunate enough to find time to ride, only to cash in those chips by doing “the bump” with a Chevy. Sometimes you see the person still clearly fucked up trying to address the shifting issues there bike was having pre-wreck. Gotta love (from a distance) the vigor.
Step 2 is seperating the cosmetic damage from a piece destined for a shop art piece. Not every shop has a Jackson Pollack hanging but most will have some sort of homage to a dead bike.
Step 3 is cleaning the frame and inspecting it for telltale signs of damage like missing chain stays. That’s usually a dead giveaway that the bike is beyond repair.
Step 4 is putting your arm around the client’s good shoulder and giving it to them straight. Eye contact is crucial. As their bike is suspended on the gurney lifeless and cold, the way in which you deliver the news is vital to the next step…
Step 5 is the estimate. You usually don’t want to lead with, “I know a guy______”. That works in Jersey and the un-gentrified sections of NYC but sounds like a crock of shit in every other part of the country. Carbon repair is costly but there are avenues that cater to the super metal-type substance. Usually with the steel bikes we see, the fabrication outweighs the cost of the bike. The carbon repair estimate pill for the customer can be harder to swallow than the oxy that they refuse to share, but still cheaper than going new.
The Cake Is In The Oven And Chicken Raising
I had a customer tell me that she would come over to get her bike as soon as something she had in the oven was done cooking. I really didn’t need to know why she couldn’t come now, but its the quirky people that make life tolerable. When her pie did finish she came over. Empty handed too. Pie almost beats a case of beer for mechanics. You bring pie and you have mechanical friends for life. She did tell me about the network of chicken farmers in town. Again, I don’t know why, but I love a quirky yarn. I think chicken raising may be what hiptsers evolve to after drinking artisan Pabst, skinny jeans and Italian fixed gears are all passe’. Someone will no doubt raise the stakes and have an in town cow named Mabel. Fuck hipsters and their fresh milk!!