Human-to-Machine Relationships

Large cycling events such as charity fundraisers are great opportunities to observe different types of bicycles and their owners. If you work these events as a mechanic, you get to see lots problems in a short period of time, as you quickly diagnosis the issue, fix it, and send the riders on their way.

position07 52 A technician finishes one bike while the Park Tool repair stand looks hungry for more work.

If you are riding and not working these events, you can still glean much knowledge just by keeping your eyes open. Inspect the bikes laying around before the start, and you will come to appreciate the range of bicycle technology. Carbon fiber frames will be leaning on the same wall as Huffy Aero-winds. Try to look around and see if you can match up bikes and riders. Like pets, bikes may come to reflect their owners (or is it the other way around?). Human-to-machine relationships have always been fascinating to me.

At the ride, I see a gentleman, possibly in his late 60’s, his white goatee matching his white Bell-biker helmet, both sharply contrasting his French-made bike. My thought: these two have been together a long time, maybe since the 1970s, possibly when he was a professor at a liberal arts university. He could afford a new bike, but he has been served faithfully all these years by this one. The machine represents a time and part of his life he treasures, and he will never part with that.

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The down tube shifters, combined with toe-clips, provide all the technology that matters.

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This vehicle is not lacking for add-ons.

Down the road, a bike with upright bars and wire baskets rests on its kickstand. The owner stands nearby, smoking a cigarette and taking a break, probably one of many to come. He might have bought the bike at a yard sale, and found out there was some sort of ride in the area. Here, in this man, I am seeing a battle between good and evil, and his body is the battlefield. You can guess which side I am on. Some people may look at him aghast, but I wave encouragement. Here is a place where war technology would be a working derailleur, a bit of chain lubricant, and some fully inflated tires.

A man has stopped, and is picking up his front fork, spinning the wheel. He is agitated, for the computer is not working properly. He rode this course last year, and knows this last leg is 18.1 miles, not the 18.0 miles he is showing now. This man must have order in his life. Plausibly, he is an accountant, spreadsheets are his in his blood, and a Blackberry is probably in that saddlebag. Numbers should add up... there is no “approximately” or “close enough” in his world. He worked for 18.1 miles and will not be cheated out of the 0.1 mile. Not to mention that now the rest of the ride will be off as well, each pedal stroke shorter by 0.55555555%, to round it off. He might want to double check the roll out calibration, as changes in tire widths, tire models, and air pressure can subtly affect the true tire circumference. Alternatively, he might try not to worry so much, and perhaps read more poetry

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The laid back posture of the recumbent should relax the rider.

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A fully extended leg allows full use of young, and old, muscles.

There is a young woman of perhaps 13 struggling to ride up a hill on an “all terrain bike.” The bike has 24-inch wheels, and she has obviously been riding this bike for a few years. Note to mom and dad: “HEY, YOUR KID IS GROWING... SHE’S TALLER... TIME FOR A BIGGER BIKE.” No, I cannot say that, so I point out the location of the seat post binder, and suggest we raise the saddle a bit—quite a bit.

A large bike leans against a sign, but the rider is not visible. Steel, lugged, but no obvious brand name. No matter, the frame is dated, probably late 80s. The seat post appears fully extended and the stem is long and upright, making the owner a tall drink of water. There is a potpourri of unmatched equipment. The front wheel is aero, the rear bar end shifter is on the wrong side, the cranks are modern external bearing type, but are those center pull brakes? Feasibly, the owner is in the bike industry, or perhaps just cheap. This exotic wreck is hauling a single wheeled trailer with a huge toolbox and a tire pump. The word on the street is that this ungainly rig has been spotted assisting others in need. So, what really drives these 3 wheels? What sense of duty guides these handlebars? Where will this outfit be stopping next? We may never know the answers to these questions.

position07 87 This bike rarely rests.