Life in a Bike Store

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.

The Package

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.

Life in a Bike Shop

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.

Garmin LiveTrack, A User Story


So I’m a UX designer. “UX” stands for User Experience and means that it’s my job to make it as easy as possible for users of products to accomplish their tasks. When us UX guys and gals are feeling touchy-feely we create what are called ‘user stories’ where we follow a user from the beginning of a path to their goal and identify friction points and fix them. We are the champions of the end user.

I recently purchased a Garmin Edge 1000, primarily for the LiveTrack and SMS capabilities. Previously I had been using the RoadID e-Crumb app to let my wife follow my rides and get updates on my whereabouts. The concept is sound but the execution is tragically flawed–the app frequently freezes or fails to update making it look like I’m dead on the road. With my phone packed in my pockets with tons of gear I often miss her text message asking if I’m ok.

The Garmin seemed to promise the solution to both problems: more solid tracking and the ability to see incoming text messages if my tracker did fail for some reason.

The reality is that the onboarding is very, very bad and once configured, the remainder of the experience leaves a little too much room for improvement for a $500 bike computer.

In an effort to look chipper and on top of things @Garmin responded to an admittedly cryptic tweet of mine inviting me to contact their customer support. Of course this is an issue for their customer support but it is also an excellent lesson on exactly what kind of setup experience you want to avoid, so I’m posting it here.

The User Story

This user story is a slightly abbreviated version of my first actual attempt to set up and use LiveTrack on a ride with my wife as the at-home follower.

In order to set up text message notification I needed to pair my Edge 1000 with my iPhone in the bluetooth settings. Pairing required two connections as if my Garmin were two devices. Jeckyl identified himself as ‘BLE_Edge 1000′ and Hyde was BT_Edge 1000’. Or maybe that’s the other way around. Either way, with the devices paired, alerts on, and Garmin Connect running, text messages were not being passed through from the phone to the Garmin. Online forums provided no clues but suggested that this might be a software-version-incompatibility problem, or that this function was simply broken. You never know with online forums.



With my phone linked to my Edge I fired up the Garmin Connect app on my phone and started a LiveTrack session. As part of the setup I needed to invite a contact. Apple’s search filter works great within address book and narrows down the list as you type but here Garmin seemed to have written their own, much worse version. The results you see apparently only match the first letter you typed, and none thereafter.

None of the names shown first on my list matched the letter pattern I typed. They are also not alphabetical so I have no idea what logic, if any, this system is following. My matching name ended up being at the bottom of the second screen.

None of the names shown first on my list matched the letter pattern I typed. Since I’m on a first-name basis with my wife and my friends, and because Apple’s built-in address book sorts by first name, I expect that this will work in the same way.

After finding my wife I obviously choose her SMS number because I wanted her to receive my message right away.


but all she got was an error:


So I had to resend the invite to a real email address AND send a separate text to my wife telling her to check her email manually. She doesn’t see it. The message went to her the Junk folder:



…and was not formatted for phones:

Message set to display at half the available screen size, which is not much on a mobile phone!

Message set to display at half the available screen size, which is not much on a mobile phone!


She taps the link and is taken to a web page containing a map and some data. The tracker doesn’t seem to update, even though there have been methods to refresh web pages available for a decade.

There are also aspects of the display that are a little confusing such as the minus before the time and distance. Am I traveling back in time? Do I have 35 miles left to ride?

When thinking about what your viewer may want, elevation gain probably isn’t on the top of their list. More useful would be defaulting to a ‘current’ speed–this way the follower knows if you’ve stopped and if you don’t start moving again within a certain time period they can legitimately start wondering about you.



So my wife sees the screen above and wonders what’s up and sends me a text message asking if everything is ok. My phone gets it quietly but does not register on my Garmin because something failed in the pairing of the devices and instead of producing and error or warning, it gave a confirmation that all was well.


Instead of seeing my incoming text messages I get crickets. Hand credit: DC Rainmaker.

So I never get back to her and she worries for two or three hours until I get home when…



I’m done! After finishing and saving the ride Garmin Connect sends no additional email or text to her so the only way she knows I’m really done and alive is:

  • when I fish my phone out of my pocket and see her text messages and I reply or
  • when I walk in the door, completely unaware of the angst created by this notification system

What a horrible story.

So in summary, here are a few to-dos for Garmin:

  • Improve error detection so that if a bluetooth connection has a problem that will prevent a text message from getting passed from phone to edge that the user is notified
  • Fix the name search in Garmin Connect’s LiveTrack
  • Allow people to be notified of live track session via SMS
  • Auto-refresh online map
  • Improve data of online map
  • Send notifications to followers when activity is completed

Postscript: After this first ride I gave the bluetooth pairing another go and deleted all connections and re-added them, with the BLE_Edge 1000 first, after which text messages started showing up on the Edge. As and end user don’t know if this order is important or if it was just luck of the draw that it worked.

Life in a Bike Shop

Camel Jockey

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.

Grief Counselors

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!!

Life in a Bike Shop


They are evil. Not like Hitler, but if the two were spoken of in the same sentence I wouldn’t be surprised.

I was talking to a woman the other day and in our conversation she used the acronym, “E.O.D.” (end of day) when I explained that we couldn’t do the service on the spot but would complete it by close. I had no idea what in the fuck she was talking about. I think my expression relayed that. She peeped the grays in my stubble and dumbed it up for me. Unless your hitting two packs of smokes a day, you can spare the breath it would have taken you to complete your sentence. And yes…Get off my lawn!!!

Why are you using code in casual conversation anyway? I don’t think the Russians give two shits about when your bike is going to be serviced unless your riding for Teams Katusha or Astana.

Holy Grime Is Still Grime

A guy came in from Israel to have his bike assembled. No problem. I took it out of the box to be welcomed by Israeli dirt. The last road this bike may traveled may have been one lf biblical importance. Not too many of those roads in the USA. River Road that runs alongside the Passaic River may be as close as it gets for Jersey. No prophets that I’m aware of floated down those mighty waters, but in Paterson anything’s possible.

As I was giving the bike a good wipe down the grandeur of holy dirt faded. Holy dirt is as much a pain in the ass as the secular stuff. Maybe even moreso. The consistency was clay-like. After applying the holy trinity of bike detailing which is, Simple Green, Bike Luster and a shop rag I took it out of my stand and moved on to a less sanctified machine.

Do You Want A Medal?

Shops closed. We have specified times of operation like 100% of the business in this country. Just because the doors not locked doesn’t mean the times on the door are bogus.

I’m a people person between the hours of 9 and 5. Something weird happens at 5:01. My warm and fuzzies get a little cold and prickly. We rarely turn people away in service at close, but when we do it’s done with a republican look of abject remorse.

A gentleman comes through our doors drenched in sweat. Not moved by his Herculean efforts to still fall short. He tells me that he just snuck in and then smiles as though I’m supposed to follow with a hi-five or Muslim terrorist fist bump made popular by our president. Stuff happens and people call ahead. We try to be accommodating. Don’t kill yourself or others trying to make it by close for a brake job on your Emonda. Its all about communications and preferably libations. If you have a tri-bike I totally understand your need to improve on your splits in every facet of your life. “It’s a tri-thing, you wouldn’t understand.”

No sorry for keeping me later or nothing. A case goes a long way. Say it with beer. I’m listening.

Life In a Bike Shop – Cycling Takes All Types

Thurston Howell

The most awesome thing about biking is just how many people regardless of level of brokenness still have an opportunity to enjoy the sport. The filthy rich shop with us, as do the plain ol’ filthy. It’s all good.

I was helping out a gentleman the other day who looked like the kind of fella that never leaves the house without at least 2 g’s in his Vucana wool lined pockets. That said his tires pop just as easily as mine do. The cycling gods don’t give two fucks about who you are or who you think you may be. He tells me that he’s off on his way to the Hamptons and he needs a few tubes just in case. He became a whole lot less snooty. He was prepared to roll up the sleeves on his Givenchy to do a flat repair. Self made man possibly? I don’t know, but the conversation steered its way towards alcohol with me sitting in the captain’s chair.

I tell him that a beer is in my future. He shares with me that he was never a beer guy and that wine was more his fare. More beer for me more wine for him.

The Body Builder

It’s customary to offer to carry out a customers bike. It’s chivalrous in some cases and in other cases quite useless.

A woman comes in to purchase a bike. Someone else has down the heavy lifting of finding her ideal new partner. I help set her saddle and congratulate her on her purchase. As she is preparing to leave her partner walks in the door. His shoulders clear the door frame but not by much. His muscles weighed more than me. The Crusher!!!! Some people live for the gym and others live in it. I’m sure in that gym on the walls hung a sign that stated, “Cardio is Fags” or “Get Ripped or Get Lost”

I offer stupidly and out of habit to bring her bike out to their car. He looks back at me muscles glistening and shit and tells me that he’s got this. I don’t even bother to hold in my gut.

Firm Handshake Man

A lot of shit has changed over time. It’s totally acceptable for gangsters to wear skinny jeans, a cup of coffee to cost $3.00 and biblical movies to be trendy. Side Note: I think its fucking awesome that studios need big name stars to sell movies about biblical happenings. It’s the bible! The star power is in the book.

I had sold a guy on a rack for his car. The deal wasn’t complete to him until we shook on it. Sounds good. A nice throwback. Our first flesh-press was firm but not the kind this magnate was accustomed to. He asked for a do-over. I obliged. We took all of one anothers hands and strongly shook them. He made a man of me. The only thing we neglected to do was spit in our hands first. In another time without the saliva the agreement would not have been ironclad. Different times indeed…

Saddle Sores, Torro, Fake Ass Cubans

I was riding today. Its hot as this is Jersey in July. You see a lotta stuff when your rambling through the different townships. Tiny little slices of America.

One gentleman caught my eye. Average schlubby white guy. I pass by dozens on any given day. When I’m riding and my chamois isn’t quite fitting right, my senses divert my attention from the imminent saddles sores and onto whatever else outwardly has value. When those seams find a weakness, no crotch is safe.

The guy in question was mowing his lawn. Nothing strange there. I looked at his face and saw that he was puffing on a cigar while doing his chore. I’ve seen this before but never really thought too much of it. Guys doing chores with cigars in tow. Ok…What was he trying to convey? He is still a force to be reckoned with? I’m a rebel with or without my Toro?

Regardless of reason, my ass still hurts and is now in intensive care, the guys lawn is mowed and everyone in the neighborhood knows that his lawn was mowed but on his terms…

Chocolate Outrage


I was getting ready to leave work and decided that I needed a few supplements for a training ride in the morning. I thumbed through all of the usual suspects: powerbar gels, hammer gels and cliff bar shot blocks. Crack for athletes. Amphetamines got a nasty reputation from half the inductees in the Baseball Hall of Fame, so selling it on our shelves is a no-no. Also bad aftertaste. Shout out to Pete Rose. Let him in!

Gu gels had a flavor that caught my eye, “chocolate outrage”. I wondered for a second if this were marketed towards black endurance athletes or if it were merely a clueless execs attempt at wordplay? Maybe Chocolate Outrage was a hero in DC Comics, “Justice League” that died in Mississippi on his first day on the job from a gamma ray infused noose? Our consolation was Black Vulcan, a friendly sort of subjugated hero that looked like pre-shit going down, OJ Simpson.

How do you mix economic depravity, racism, police abuse, exploitation at-large, etc… and get it in one tiny little foil packet? It doesn’t even sound appeasing to the palate.

That’s almost as bad as a flavor called, Vanilla Power; “superior energy that will last a thousand years, metaphorically speaking of course”. I wish these companies would run their ideas past a more diverse board of marketeers. Maybe “chocolate outrage” would have drawn a flag. Maybe it did and the company looked at their core base and said, “fuck it, blacks make up 2% of our sales anyway”. I doubt it went down like that, by why even give that quandary a breath of life?

Life Outside of a Bike Store

My neighbor pulls me aside last night to talk to me. I had no clue as to what he wanted to share, but the look on his face was concerning. I steadied myself for whatever was coming next be it family, house, work, etc…. I was kicking myself for not having had that pint before going outside. In dramatic fashion he told me that the drive train on his mountain bike was skipping. It was really bothering him and sapping his performance. I’m looking at him bewildered. It’s 8pm and not only am I off the clock, but completely sober. I give my probable diagnosis and as quickly as he had gotten my attention he was gone into the night.

Some reasons to not get down on yourself over your winter Strava stats

  • You won’t be putting on the regular miles that you do while the weather is warm so your baseline will be lower
  • You’ll be riding with the extra weight of all that winter gear
  • You’ll be riding with the extra weight of perspiration and/or precipitation soaked into all of that extra winter gear
  • You’ll be riding with the extra weight of your winter bike (you do have a winter beater, right?)
  • You’ll be riding with the extra weight of Thanksgiving on you (hopefully not, but you know…)
  • You’ll be riding with the extra resistance that good windproof gear brings
  • You’ll be burning extra calories just to stay warm

Speaking of which, I would recommend choosing shorter routes so that you aren’t tempted to stop for hot chocolate once you’re out. Once soggy you finally gets moving into that cold, winter wind you will immediately regret it, followed by getting hypothermia and dying. Happy riding!