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Snap, Rattle, Crunch, Bang!
By Chip Haynes
Editor Note: This piece first appeared in the Wire Donkey Bike Zine. Subscription information follows this essay.
I heard it coming and I had to look. From behind me on the sidewalk, he passed me, moving barely faster than I was walking: A tall, lanky guy on a red Fuji folding mountain bike. He was all hunched over the handlebars, smoking a cigarette and moving just fast enough to keep the bike balanced. Not a bad bike, but both the bike and the rider had problems.
Snap, rattle, crunch, bang!
I watched him pedal slowly away, and looked at the bike. The seat was too low. The tires were too low. The derailleurs were out of adjustment and something--either a pedal or a crank arm--was either loose or broken. Maybe both. I have a soft spot for good bikes that are stuck with bad owners, and I wouldn't mind having one of those folding Fujis myself. I'll bet I could fix that one right up, and having it running smooth and silent in no time at all. But it was not to be. He pedaled slowly across the intersection and down the sidewalk, as I turned into the office building and went back to work.
Snap, rattle, crunch, bang!
It was almost painful to listen to that. Didn't he hear it? How could he not? Did he think that's what bicycles were supposed to sound like? Or ride like? Geez Louise.
People are idiots. If you go through life with that understanding, you're seldom disappointed and only occasionally surprised. That guy was an idiot, and his bicycle was suffering as a result. (So was I, just to hear it.) Not to mention, he wasn't doing much for the image of bicycling. Still, wouldn't he have been happier with a bike that was working as well as it was meant to work?
Properly set up, the bicycle is not only, as Daniel Berhman once put it, the noblest of man's inventions, it's also the most efficient. It's five times more efficient than walk. Set up correctly for its rider, the bicycle is a delight to use--fast, quiet and effortless. Do it wrong--or not at all--and it's a noisy energy-sucking mess. Who wants that? So what happened with Sparky there?
I'm guessing he go the bike cheap or for free, and no one bothered to mention that maybe he might want to raise the seat for his six-foot tall frame...or that he might need to spritz a little atmosphere into those big knobby tires every couple of weeks or so...or that "bang" was not, in fact, as sound a bicycle should ever make. (Not to mention snap, rattle, or crunch.) I'm really sorry I let that one get away. I should have yelled at him and offered him twenty bucks for the bike. I'll bet he would have taken it. Next time.
Bicycles don't take much to keep running, but they do take a little, every once in a while. Keep yours in tune, and it will go forever. A little air in the tires, a spot of grease now and then, and it will do just fine. Please. Don't make me listen to that noise again.
Snap, rattle, crunch bang.
For Wire Donkey subscription info, contact Mason St. Clair, Editor and Founder, 3620 Rolland Road, Nashville, TN 37205-2434. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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