Sunday, May 31

God Bless Bike Mechanics

Interior of the LaVogue Bike Shop, in Hoquiam's "Historic LaVogue Building"
This last week, I was reminded that a bike mechanic is more than simply someone who knows how to turn a wrench on a fastener. He or she is someone that can get you back on the road, whether your problem was complex, or simply minor but irritating.

I decided to “multimode” by bike and bus into Aberdeen again, taking advantage of the “local knowledge” acquisition I did here on “Steve’s Day Out.” Well, as it turned out, I had problems of a different sort. My now venerable U Lock has been getting a little cantankerous lately, but still seemed to have a lot of life in it. After getting off the bus, I rode over to the nearby Walmart to see how THEIR film processing compared to that of Rite Aid. As it turns out, their film processing is both quicker and cheaper, though it is clear that the days of quick and good film processing are sadly behind us. Rite Aid has their film developing horse and buggy come by once a week while Walmart has twice a week service. Still, either of those are better than Tall’s “Camera” in Seattle which not only doesn’t handle film developing, but didn’t know of any place closer than about ten miles away.

To make a long story short, after completing my recon at Wallyworld, I rode over to Safeway in order to get groceries either not available at IGA, or with greatly superior value. Pulling up to their bike rack, my lock would not open. Golly! I tried again. Sheesh! Suddenly, it seemed I was 25 miles from home and on a shopping trip with a lock that wouldn’t open. While I felt lucky it didn’t fail with the bike locked inside at Walmart, shopping and a library visit now seemed out of the question. After considering options, I decided that the best option would be to ride over to neighboring Hoquiam and pay a visit to the only bike shop in Gray’s Harbor County.

Front of the LaVogue Bike Shop
The ride was uneventful, retracing a route I rode the week before, and in due time, I was at the LaVogue Bike Shop counter saying “I need a lock” as I plopped the frozen U lock down. The owner indicated that usually, the locks just needed lubrication and he tried that. Apparently, however, lube doesn’t help locks where the mechanism is falling apart beyond making stuff greasy. I indicated that the only thing it would be nice to save from the old lock was the cable which I use to attach the front wheel to the frame/rear wheel/bike rack combination. The owner stated he could probably get the lock apart and proceeded to put it in a vise until a potential customer diverted his attention. It is a wise bike shop owner that will ignore a bike sale in favor of hacking into a now-greasy lock.

U Lock in Happier Days
Still, I was not out of luck. The mechanic in the back of the shop inquired about the problem and I related how the lock was terminal, but I’d like to keep the cable or, if he couldn’t save it, to buy another to go with the new U lock. Being a guy with a golden touch, he cranked away on the lock and soon had it broken in two, with my old cable free to go with the new lock. In reply to my jesting “golly, if you don’t make it as a bike mechanic, you can always go into the business of breaking locks,” he said “yup, as long as I have a vise and a big hammer with me, I can break most any lock.” Well, perhaps a vise and a hammer is not the most subtle way to steal a bike, but I was reminded, once more, that bike mechanics are blessed. Anybody can adjust a working derailleur or replace brake pads, but fixing stuff not designed to be fixed is a talent not given to us all. And they DID sell me a new lock! I let them keep the key for the old one...

I Still Swear by the Combination of a U Lock and Cable


Chandra Eswaran said...

Well, some good stories and lessons in this post, Steve.
Most importantly, I am happy to note that you got to go out and enjoy the day on a bike.
And, get to see a new bike store. The store's showcase looks nice, with a whole bunch of 'possibly affordable' bikes.
I am not judging their quality or anything.
Film processing - do you mean developing real film or printing digital stuff? I just had to ask :)

Come to think of the lock situation, in St. Louis, I once went out with a key to the bicycle lock.
Had to ask the nice folks at REI to watch my bike, while I went next to door to Whole Foods to buy some stuff.

Now, I have a bike key in my key ring, with the car key :)

Have a Wonderful Day!
Peace :)

momaverill said...

Film, as what they used to use back in the 20th century!

Trevor Woodford said...

I like a U-Lock and cable too Steve.....
A few years ago, when on a touring trip and hoping to catch a ferry from the Isle of Wight back to the mainland I had a lock jam with the bike inside.
It took me and the guy I was riding with a good hour and half to break the lock in order to release the bike..... This proved that I would never make it as a bike thief and therefore I was forced to stick with my then current job until I was able to leave and draw the pension :-)

John Romeo Alpha said...

We had an IGA right across the street for a long time. I always enjoyed being able to walk to buy groceries. Right next door was a large, non-chain office supply store that sold solid steel filing cabinets and sturdy desk chairs that you could actually use. Both are gone now, replaced by apartments...I mean, "city lofts." To get back on topic, I dropped my u-lock of the same manufacturer as the package in your photo, and it promptly broke in half--at least, the plastic outer casing did. The steel innards remained functional, but the broken plastic outer sleeve constantly rotated to interfere with either shackle engagement or key usage, so I replaced it eventually. I could I guess remove the outer plastic case and go all "steel is real" with it.

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