Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Bike Whisperer

(right, Josh is the Bike Whisperer. He listens to bikes and diagnoses their owners.)

Josh smiled at me, “Did you get my message?” I had just walked into the service area at Conte’s Norfolk.

“No, I have not checked my home phone messages. Did you leave it there?”

“I left it on the number I have on file. Liz, there are issues.”

“Oh yeah, well, what else is wrong?” I had dropped off my Fuji cross bike for fresh stem and handlebars to be installed. I am pretty good about not going long with the same stem and bars after seeing what can happen to overused ones. I also had new brake pads installed.

“Are you the type of person who lets things pile up?” He looked at me a bit sideways.

The mail pile, coffee cups in the car pile, clothes pile on the bed pile rushed my senses and I was sure he could see them all in my eyes. “Why, yes I am, Josh.”

He was standing, so I felt I should sit. I lowered myself awkwardly onto a rolling ParkTool stool as he spread glue on a sew-up tire. I love to watch mechanics work.

“It’s not that the bike is in bad shape, it’s that it could be so much better,” is how he started. I recognized the sentence structure as ones that counselors use. “Those brake pads were down to nothing, rear wheel is out of true, the cables need replacement, blau, blau, . . .” I could do nothing but nod my head and agree that the bike needed more TLC as he put it.

“Did you even notice that you could barely shift into the big ring?” he asked, exasperated.

The shifting indeed had been nagging in the back of my mind. “That’s one of those frogs in the boiling water things, Josh,” is the best I could come up with. I was happy that he didn’t get what I meant so then I could at least tell him something he didn’t already know. The other mechanic in the shop chimed in and we explained how when heat is applied gradually to a frog in water, that it does not sense the danger until it’s too late. He feigned amusement for my sake.

“How often do you clean the chain?”

I knew I could score points here. “About every three rides.” It was the truth. I knew better than to fib. He was satisfied with that. We chatted a bit about chain lube and he didn’t even criticize my choice lube (White Lightening) as others have.

“So what’s the next step?” he asked as I got up from the stool. I recognized that he was not telling me what to do, but helping me figure it out for myself. Great guy.

“I am going to order a chain, cassette, pulleys and cables.”

“No, not pulleys yet. Let’s wait to see if you need them with the new chain.” He isn’t into wasteful spending. Perfect mechanic.

It’s a cliché to cite “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” but here it goes. The speaker tells about how he and his wife maintain their motorcycles whereas another couple does not. Their differing views about maintenance cause friction because they reach on a deeper level to their attitudes about life in general. I put the book down after 70 pages of a 350+ read, but this maintenance thing has always stuck with me since I identified with the 2 who were less engaged in the maintenance process. I remember paying much better attention to my car and motorcycle after reading those 70 pages many years ago.

I started to think of those who ride bikes that I most admire, and, surprise, they all have extremely clean and well-maintained bikes all the time. I also realized that Josh had pointed out an aspect of my personality that I have had a hard time putting a name to. I am not exactly a procrastinator. I know I am not lazy.

He had said, “Are you the type of person who lets things pile up?” I am a PILE-UP-ER!! I somehow “like” to allow and even watch things, tasks and even wrong thinking pile up. It’s never far from my mind what needs to be done, but there is big part of me that likes to see how far things can go before they implode. It’s exciting somehow. I sure need to better balance that urge. Let me go sift through those phone messages. . . .

(left, Conte's Norfolk is complete with an outdoor shower in a private courtyard.)


Marco said...

Shouldn't the title be, "The Liz Whisperer" since he's trying to get YOU to change your ways and not your bike?

I'm just say'n...


Liz Schleeper said...

You are right, I think. I did not sit through the whole Horse Whisperer, but isn't the horse there dependent on owner getting well in some way? And I bet any dog whisperer (there are such people aren't there?) will say dog gets better when owner fixes something.

GaryZ said...

Josh is a cool guy!

JB said...

I'm definitely a pilerupper.

Without a doubt

Anonymous said...

Man, Schleeper, you can WRITE!

Impressed Cook