Fixed by Monday
by David B.
Working in bike shops is probably the worst thing to do if you want to ride a lot. Ask the guy in the back, Mr. Mechanic. He's repairing a bike for that special customer, the one going on an exotic trip -- Costa Rica, New Zealand, the Swiss Alps. Mr. So-and-so can't wait to get on the plane with his bike carefully asleep in its coffin case. Mr. Mechanic in the back is struggling, wedging everything inside the case, assuring Mr. So-and-so that the airlines will take care of his baby.
The case closes, Mr. So-and-so settles up at the counter and drives off to the beginning of his marvelous adventure. Mr. Mechanic looks up at the clock. The shop closed a half hour ago, and he missed a ride with his buds, again. Can't tell you how many times I've been Mr. Mechanic. Can't tell you how many times I've not been Mr. So-and-so.
After all of the energy expended to see Mr. So-and-so off, there is no energy left to give my own bike a little love, much less the energy to go ride, too. I found myself in this situation too often, and I needed a solution. The small shop I owned in New Jersey was doing great -- lots of carbon fiber hanging, rich Italian fabrics, shoes and helmets piled high. It was a dream of a shop, not too big, not too small, but it was growing to the point that the last thing there was time to do was ride.
I found myself oddly in the middle of two worlds, too slow to ride with my old no-kids racing buddies, too fast to ride with my buddies who closed the pubs at night. I was bored with shocks, bored with the realities of product comparisons. I just wanted the feeling I used to have when I kept my bike in my bedroom at night and dreamed of becoming a cycling star.
I called my good friend Carl at Vicious Cycles. We often lamented to one another about our curious lack of riding time. I needed a poker to stoke my fire, a hot new girl with long legs. I knew Carl could cook up a beauty for me -- six weeks later, I had "Le Peche."
Le Peche became the catalyst I needed. No more fiddling before rides. I could change my shoes and go. Sometimes offroad, sometimes urban, sometimes 50 on the road. It didn't matter. I was riding a bike I loved like the Fat Chance I had in high school. We knew each other well, and took every opportunity to share time before and after my long days at the shop. Le Peche became a curiosity among my customers who were always looking for more features and less weight. "What do you do when you come to a hill?" they would ask me, their heads tilted to the side like my terrier.
I would shrug and say, "Pedal harder."
Was it that easy? Pedal harder? Why didn't I think of that?
About two years later a good friend offered to buy my shop. I was thrilled. Not to get rid of the shop or the good friends/customers I'd made. I was more excited about what to do next, and how to incorporate more time to ride. It occurred to me that the happiest bike friends I had were the guys and gals riding singlespeeds. No one was riding offroad-fixed on the East Coast yet. "There are too many logs, too many places where the timing of feet is too hard. You're gonna get killed," they'd tell me.
I think they were right. I tried it once; it wasn't fun.
Another friend of mine was looking to sell his shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It wasn't a shop like I'd owned. They rented bikes, repaired bikes, gave tours and guided trips into the mountains. Santa Fe shines on a 7,000 foot plateau, with a massive 12,000 foot summit behind. Dirt roads and little ribbons of singletrack led off in all directions.
My wife was down with the cause, and we made plans to move across country.
Santa Fe is full of surprises. One of the biggest was a burgeoning fixed gear bike scene. Dozens of skinny kids in cut-off jeans riding around on cast off bikes from the back of the shed. One by one we began welcoming them in -- building wheels, selling bars, wrapping them in good old fashioned cotton tape. There was so much interest, so much enthusiasm. Again my mind was curious.
I built new wheels, bought a fancy handlebar, and set up a 32x16 to start. I followed a railroad grade from the city limits out to the community where my wife and I were living on the outskirts of town. Twelve miles of perfect dirt -- climbing a few hundred feet, descending a few hundred feet. I had a few close calls, but felt more in tune with my bike than ever. Le Peche was flying high in the high desert.
Now Le Peche is my well-known secret weapon. She sets the pace of all rides she begins, and breaks the hearts of those who think they need 'more'. I am her willing navigator, following the orders demanded by the trail.
And now it seems I can share in all of the rides I used to pass up for work. Le Peche is always there and willing to go. Worst thing to do is fill the tires, lube the chain. So when Mr. So-and-so walks in at 4.30pm on Friday, I tell him, "It'll be fixed on Monday."