I don't really remember much about Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" and I'm pretty sure my bike wasn't mentioned in it, but it probably should have been. Yeah, so maybe I've packed on a little beer weight lately. Perhaps so much so that if my ride of choice had been a horse (*scoff!*) he would have Christopher Reeve'd me long ago and trotted off into the muddy, post-holed sunset (and left big piles of fly-covered poop all over said sunset scene, but I digress). Instead my favored steed has been a much-loved ("tough-love", that is), somewhat-aged Turner Burner... and it'd apparently had enough and died while JRA at Castlewood... an unceremonius death by metal fatigue.
Such is life, I guess. Crap happens and things break. I should probably spend more time fishing and less time smashing my mountain bike. No biggie. Turner offers a significant customer loyalty discount on new frames so it's really just a matter of choosing which sweet new model I want, right?
Well, yeah, maybe not so much. Turns out Dave Turner has been keeping up with the Joneses and the Joneses have been living large. Like $2400- for- a- frame large. Wow. I'm all for supporting American craftsmen (especially since I'm buddies with some out-of-work American welders and CNC machinists) but holy crap! My loyalty started to waver at the prospect of plunking down more bucks for a bike frame than my car is worth. Maybe something more plebeian would be in order for a man of my financial stature (or lack thereof)... like a used Surly. Or another rusty Redline. There may be champagne wishes and caviar dreams here but, truth be told, I'm on a beer-budget (in the literal and metaphorical senses).
After much gnashing of teeth and beating of man-breast(s) and like 50-zillion consolation beers I opted that I should stick with the company that had sold me a good product in the past (Turner), and provided excellent support when I called them for advice (Turner), and were employing American welders that most likely were bike nerds like my friends (Turner)... so I sucked it up and did the right thing. I called Turner...
...'s warranty department (guy) and got all pathetic on him. Like "Boo-hoo, woe is me, nothing to left to live for" pathetic. He had pity on me and scrounged up a lightly used front triangle to help me out. A few phone calls, some pleading, several hundred dollars later, there's a practically new Flux front triangle at my doorstep. I think the warranty guy's name was "Greg". He rules. Seriously. He didn't know me from Adam, but since I was a prior customer he definitely took care of me. Huge props.
So, my brand loyalty and grovelling pay off. I rob a few parts from the deceased Burner to get my old POS SS running again in the meantime, order some new parts and tools, and wait for a rainy day to Steve Austin-ize the mangled remains of my fav ride. Next free day I decide to sneak in a quick ride and, just to keep things interesting for me, the seatpost head on the SS promptly blows the hell up for no apparent reason (I'm self-consciously sucking in my "Dunlap" as I type that) and it's one of those not-so- easy-to-find sizes like 26 point -0- and six-and-seven-eighths or something. But whatever, crap breaks... it's definitely not the end of the world or anything. I knew I should've just gone fishing instead of pushing my luck with bikes.
Long story longer; the planets align on a rainy day off from work, I make a sick-strong pot of coffee, load an all speed/death metal playlist into the iPod and sequester mystelf to the basement to Frankenstein this bike back to life... assuming one can use "Frankenstein" as a verb. As a service to the casual reader, I should of course truncate the text here, favoring a 80's TV-style video and music montage to depict the frenzied flurry of over-torqued bolts, splintered carbon, and the comic-relief imagery of my dangling iPod headphone cord being drawn rapidly into my rotating cranks and rings with my head in tow (music choices range from the "Yakkity Sax" of Benny Hill's chase scenes to the inspirational snare drum and brass "A-Team Theme"... both somewhat fitting in their own regard).
After laying waste to my eardrums and mangling my knuckles for the better part of the morning, the trailing shuck of the donor Burner had been cast aside and the salvageable bits grafted to the Flux. Flashing well forward through a series of sodden days that relegated me to road riding on a Guerciotti that Karl Becker had infused some new SS life into (sparing it from the dumpster), things outside eventually desiccate enough to take the new bike for a spin. (I must add in the interest of complete disclosure that on one of the aforementioned road rides I did manage to fire one of the chainring bolts from the Guerciotti sharply due north while westbound on Arsenal approaching Sublette during some high-torque, fat-guy-mashing-on-the-pedals-style climbing... so if someone finds an injured Italian-American with a ring-shaped wound on 'em or should you or someone you know receive a heaping bowl of Cunetto's pasta with a malformed bit of threaded metal in it, we may presume who might be culpable).
Turns out, "Frankenstein" can really hold her own on GORC dirt. The Fox suspension is really impressive. The bike has enough heft to feel substatntial on descents, very unlike my old aluminum hardtail + SIDxc (a combination that rivalled a thoroughly cooked ramen noodle for stiffness) and enough giddyup to scoot me up some of my favorite climbs. As with any bikes I build, there are some nuances present... nuances that make "click"ing sounds although they are frequently drowned out by the biologically generated "clicks" and "pops" of my knees and vertebrae... (combined with the racket I make struggling for air, I'd imagine that I sound somewhat akin to an obscene phone caller being pursued by a meth-crazed castanet player... or a reasonable facsimile thereof).
Duly impressed with my new orange beastie, we continue to thrash dirt as the vagaries of spring weather allow, clicking, popping and panting all the while. If NPR's Car Talk has taught me anything, it's that 'if your ride's making a racket, turn up the stereo'. And largely, that strategy works for me, save for the day that finds my first downhill application of the rear brake punctuated with a profound squealy-then-crunchy sound that muscles its way past the din of my iPod. Something was definitely rotten in Denmark... if "Denmark" is my back hub and "rotten" means that the frickin' rotor bolts have exploded out of frickin' "Denmark". Now that's a pretty convincing argument for me to drop some beer belly baggage... If "F=ma", my "m" can generate some serious effing "F", son.
The walk back to the car that included brief stints of low-speed cruising on flat roads with my rear rotor jangling freely about the hub gave me ample opportunity to ponder how I've neglected my instinct to do more fly fishing and give the bike a rest... I mean, clearly the bike has been sending me a message (and the message is most likely "Get off of me, you fat jerk.")
Not one to ignore my instincts (*scoff again*!), Frankie lies is blissful but temporary repose in the basement while I take a fishing field day. To sweeten the deal, I'd saved my pennies long enough to have recently netted myself a new Imperial rod festooned with a smooth and lightweight Ross reel. Waiting for its chance to shine, I think it had been telepathically contacting me from my back room for months while I wrenched and wrecked bicycles, whispering "hey, Dummie, let's go fishing... bikes are for dorks". And, honestly, when that day arrived it was pretty grand; ...big, energetic sunfish awash in spawning colors and pot-bellied bass taking advantage of the sunfishes' preoccupation with gettin' freaky, and neither cognizant enough to mind me prowling the lake in a belly boat, picking them off one by one.
The new rod punched poppers straight through a wind stiff enough to push my floating watercraft around. It would lift great lengths of sinking fly line up from the depths and turn over waterlogged streamers with only minimal effort on my part. It's feathery weight allowed for hours of fatigue-free casting. Best off all, the tip was sensitive enough to telegraph subtle takes as I dredged the deep with sinking flies yet had ample enough backbone to steer hooked fish back to the bellyboat and away from snags.
What it couldn't do was float.
A fish that warranted a photo was brought onto the stripping apron of my bobbing belly boat and in a fleeting moment of inattention, the Imperial must have slipped away from me. I received the last of her telepathic transmissions shortly thereafter as she sank to the bottom of the lake... it sounded like "blub, blub, blub... you asshole... blub, blub, blub..."
All things considered, despite what appears to be series of whiny sob stories from me, I think what really matters is that I'm actually quite happy and thankful just to have so many opportunities to go out and smash, mangle, ruin and lose things.
It's just stuff anyway.
...(although, if anyone would like to lend me some money for some new "just stuff", that would be pretty rad...)