Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mr. Adjustment

One problem with having a blog is that people read it. Sure, it would seem like that was the idea, but it's different when it actually happens. For instance, there are three members of Team Two Wheel. We are known by the names our parents gave us in the "real" world, but on this blog we are known as Rider 1, Rider 2 and Rider 3. Unlike BikeSnobNYC, who is reported to have two roommates and six siblings, none of whom know his identity, if you happen to ride bikes with us, you can also reasonably identify us. Also, it turns out that when I referred to my team mates as Mr. Millimeter and Quicksilver, it turns out they read it. Of course, I meant these terms with all the love and respect I usually show them in person. I don't know, maybe that's why they didn't like it.

I can't really explain why Rider 2 is adopting the name "Quicksilver", but Mr. Millimeter is a bit more obvious. I really don't mean it as a term of disrespect. I am frankly amazed by the idea that someone can see, feel or sense very small differences in seat position, stack height or Q ratio.

As a child, my brother had a dog that was well intentioned, but completely dense. At a dog obedience class, the instructor said that the animal was a "2 by 4" dog. PETA will object to this idea, but the instructor said that meant you had to hit the dog with a 2" x 4" piece of wood to get his attention. I would caution that it was not meant in a literal sense (nor literary sense), but it clearly expressed a level of attention to the world at large. So, if Mr. Millimeter is akin to the Princess of the "Princess and the Pea" fame, then honestly my riding sense is much more like the 2x4 dog. Instead of adjustments by the millimeter, I tend to adjust equipment with a rock and some duct tape.

When I am on a ride, I also tend to ignore anything that I possibly can. I once finished a 200 mile ride on a flat because I was sick of changing a problem tire. I am convinced that any success I have had on a bike (by the way, my personal definition of the term "success" is being the slowest guy who can still keep up with the group, not a real fast group, but just a group) is a function of my ability to ignore minor and major discomforts.

So, the point to this whole post was to discuss a ride I took with another Mr. Adjustment type of guy. This particular rider was a friend of mine, but not a rider. Yes, it is true, I have non-cycling friends. Not close friend, but you know. Anyway, this guy was being influenced by a number of mutual friends to adopt cycling as the truth and the light, the way most of have. To help with his conversion, I agreed to go on a ride with him. We took a common South Hill ride, the Hangman Loop, heading down Hatch Road and back up Baltimore into town and to his house.

We met at a spot a few blocks from the top of Hatch Road. For the benefit of non-Spokane riders, this is a steep mile and a half hill that leads to a nice valley road and a more gentle climb back into town. The loop is about 15 miles the way we were riding. Even with a slow rider, it should have been about an hour. Instead, it was about two hours.

Here is how our ride would be narrated by Mr. Adjustment.

[Top of Hatch hill] Wow, this hill is long and steep. I better ride my brakes the whole way down. I'm secure enough in my manhood that I don't mind that grandma on her trike passing me.

[Bottom of Hatch hill] Something doesn't feel right. I need to adjust my seat.

[300 yards after spending five minutes adjusting the seat] Something doesn't feel right. I need to adjust my seat again.

[1/4 mile after spending five more minutes adjusting the seat] I think there is something wrong with my shoe. I need to adjust my straps or something.

[300 yards after this adjustment] No, not right yet. I need to stop again.

After repeating this process for the next ten miles, I had spent an equal amount of time riding my bike as sitting and watching Mr. Adjustment fiddle with every single thing on his bike. I had no idea you could adjust your fork rake on the road.

We finally made it up the hill and back into town. Since this was a friend and someone new to cycling, I was completely frustrated, but trying to be patient and supportive (people who know me will be expressing disbelief at this concept). Less than a mile from Mr. Adjustment's house, we came up to a stop light. I had been putting something back into my jersey pocket when Mr. Adjustment accelerated through a yellow light. I stopped, which gave me a great view of Mr. Adjustment riding off into the distance. For the first time since descending the hill, Mr. Adjustment had found it in himself to ride for more than a 300 yards without stopping. He dug deep and found it in himself, in fact, to hit his highest speed.

I assume that this new found sense of speed and purpose was due to either 1) finally making every adjustment possible on his bike so that it reached a state of perfection, or 2) his house was finally close enough that he could taste the relief of not having to be on the saddle anymore. I don't know the answer to this question because I couldn't catch him before he turned off to his house. Interestingly, I never had the "opportunity" to ride with Mr. Adjustment again.


  1. I read this sneakily at work and stayed under control by simply smiling as I have had a similar experience...until I read about "adjusting the fork rake". I burst into laughter out loud, at which point I had to explain that I had just thought of something my dog did yesterday. Wonder if they bought it. Maybe I'm the one that needs the 2 x 4.

  2. In the early 90's GT made a cool weird bike with their proprietary 700D wheels (smaller than 700, bigger than 26 -- actually just a 3 mm larger than 650b-- but I digress) that had horizontal drop outs in the front fork so you could adjust effective rake/trail. Pretty cool actually. It also shipped with Suntour Command shifters. I think it was a CX'y/touring bike. A friend of mine has one of these rotting in her ex-MIL's basement. I've been trying to figure out how to get my mitts on this bike for a while...