Saturday, November 28, 2009

cable housing connector

Are you vain and stupid or is it just me? I am so vain that in spite of my munted neck (ha! Munted again. New Zealand's best word) I want to put drop handlebars back on my trike so I can pretend to be young and fit, and to match its skinny racing tyres. I am also stupid because I'm doing it myself in spite of knowing for a Very Big Fact that the cheapest and best way of changing handlebars is to nip to the bike shop and pay Josh, which offers the marked bonus that it doesn't involve my gashing the second finger of my left hand and stomping off to the first aid cabinet wondering - again - how to cut a plaster off the strip with one hand incapacitated. And while we're about it, why do wives keep the first aid box in the bathroom? Do they anticipate our gashing knuckles while taking the toothpaste cap off the tube or something?

Unf. my economic beliefs compel me to Not Buy a New Part when a similar part is to be found corroding quietly on some ditched piece of junk at the bottom of the Bike Heap. - I expect you have a Bike Heap too. All recumbent makers have a Bike Heap. As soon as people stop you at the whole food shop and get past the 'it looks awfully uncomfortable/ vulnerable/ d'you steer with your feet?' conversation, they remember they have an old bike festering in the back shed and before long a maroon estate car parks briefly outside your fence and you find yourself the owner of yet another Elswick 10-speed with a chain made out of rust. So you chuck it next to the greenhouse and before too long presto! a Bike Heap.

And the rotten thing is my economic beliefs compel me to undertake the work myself even though Josh's compensation package is affordably less than the $3,250,000 he'd get if he wore a suit and wrecked the planet for a living. (So why don't bankers get a salary? Why is it 'compensation'? Compensation for what? For making 6,999,999,999 people hate you or something?)

Which handlebar change involves cabling.

Oh god. I hate cabling.

I hate cabling because somewhere in the Bike Heap is (probably) a cable housing the right length and somewhere else is a cable the right length and every single one has to be checked for breaks and corrosion and fraying and if, absolutely the worst case scenario, I have to buy a new cable, I know I shall cut it an inch too short. I know it. I just know it. I would cut it an inch too short even if my economic beliefs permitted those Nokon ball thingies that Rob Hague espouses that you can't actually cut too short. I know it without trying because I'm stupider than the Nokon engineers ever anticipated.

However, because I happen to be a really clever stupid person, which I apprise you of sufficiently often for you almost to believe it, I have thought up a Cunning Scheme using .22 cartridges nicked from John's trench art supplies that he in turn nicked from the rifle range. - Swords into ploughshares. - You take two .22 cases and solder them back-to-back. - Well you don't, of course, because you live in Engerland where there isn't a deserted rifle range up the Rocky River Road and where you'd probably go to gaol for five years for possessing empty .22 cartridges and anyway where you're not allowed solder any more. But in New Zealand empty rifle shells are to be found everywhere, and the recumbent builder amasses a collection because it's in the nature of recumbent builders to pick up discarded brass cartridges just in case you can braze with them. (You can.) And in the middle of the joint, you drill a 3mm hole. Lo! a cable housing connector. It works, too.

Incidentally, is there a mandatory uniform for whole food shoppers that I haven't been told about? So why does everybody else have a ragged brown woolly cardigan and a stripy musette and long matted hair and ear-rings pinned through their eyebrows? Eyebrows? Strikes me you'd have to be pretty inept to mistake an ear lobe for an eyebrow. Also why can they never afford socks? And anyway why are they whole food shops? Are there also partial food shops? - Questions, so many questions, Grasshopper.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I have just been visited. By a Christian gentleman. I knew he was a gentleman because he was on a gentleman's mountain bicycle, and although I don't know for certain he was a Christian, he was ugly. He had a shrunken head as if he'd been recently mummified. Half the Christians you meet are ugly: it's why they're Christians in the first place. There were a heap of them in Nottingham when I was young and the university chaplain was the son of the Bishop of Durham and eager to assert the independence of his mind by giving fantastically thought-provoking lectures in the guise of sermons. The congregation overflowed with ugly people in dowdy dresses, along with those who were so old as to be almost dead of course. Whenever he got his father to come and preach the congregation was full of people universally in black with dog-collars on, and they all heckled at the end with polite hatred and he dealt with them swiftly and surely because before he was Bishop of Durham he was a professor of theology and knew more than all of them combined. But it made no difference. They were still half ugly.

My ugly Christian gentleman would have been better off as a museum specimen in the Pitt Rivers museum where they like to specialise in shrunken heads except their shrunken heads are all dead and he was still alive. Anyhow he didn't visit me on account of his unusual head dimensions and what he wanted wasn't to enter a museum. What he wanted was for me to do work for him. He was a businessman and - I'm guessing - ran a B&B.

'I heard about you, and was wondering if you could help. I've got some bikes I keep for my paying guests, and I need someone to do some maintenance on them.'

My heart sank when he said this because I knew what was coming next. What was coming next was that he was far too busy himself, and that the local bike shop had quoted far too much money, and that because they were only cheap bikes, maintenance should cost him next to nothing and that since I seemed a handy man with a spanner maybe I could do the work for him. For which I knew he would offer me sixpence by way of payment.

'Well I'm not quite sure - ' I started to say.
'It would be very easy work. They're only cheap ones, but there's nothing wrong with them. They just need routine servicing.'
'The cost of servicing - '
'I went to Coppins but they were way too expensive.'

Coppins is Motueka's only bike shop. They currently employ Josh who used to be the head boy at the high school. He's a good mechanic and he knows his stuff because he studies it with the extreme interest of youth. When I get stuck I go and consult Josh because he knows how to set up these new-fangled index shifting thingies so that they change gear and not so that they go clickety click all the time which is how I know how to set them up and which is why I don't use them at all.

'I think you'll find,' I said, 'that Coppins isn't expensive. On the whole people run bike shops because they love bikes, not because they're out to make a lot of money.'
'Oh what they quoted was much more than these cheap bikes are worth. They wanted a huge profit. I'd do the maintenance myself of course, but I haven't time - I'm running a business.' I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to be impressed at his knowing how to maintain a bike, or impressed at his being a businessman. I said,
'Servicing a bike is very time-consuming. And it may make a difference whether or not it's a top-end bike because - '
'Oh it's not for servicing my bike. I've got a top end bike alright, but that's mine, not the ones I've got for my guests.'
'What did you pay for it?'
'Over a thousand dollars!'
It's funny how you can tell when people are trying to impress you with how much money they've spent. I thought for a moment what to say next. Last year when I enquired, a 23.5 lbs full suspension carbon mountain bike cost nine thousand dollars locally. I stepped outside: he had a perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle but I could see at a glance that a crowd of people immediately hadn't gathered round to admire it.
'And those for your paying guests?'
'Oh no, they were much cheaper.'
'Well there may be a problem. Cheap bikes are often badly set up and therefore hard to maintain, and the time spent working on them can be much greater. If you buy a very expensive bike, the shop will have set it up perfectly. They make virtually no profit on expensive bikes.'

This is a curious phenomenon about cycle shops. Cheapness and profits are inversely proportional. In the olden days when I lived in England and you could go to Halfords and buy a hundred quid mountain bike, I was told by one of their buyers it would have cost them twenty. But if you went to the local bike shop and spent a thousand quid then their profit would still be eighty quid because they knew that they couldn't break the thousand pound barrier or no-one would buy them at all.

I said,
'I'd be surprised if they made a huge profit on maintaining your bikes. Their mechanics charge a pittance compared with what you'll pay to have your car serviced. You see, I charge two hundred and eighty dollars an hour because I do experimental work and write it up for magazines. You probably can't afford that.'
I was lying of course, and quite outrageously at that, but sometimes you have to lie when you bump into shrunken-headed Christian businessmen who aren't prepared to support other local businesses. I don't charge two hundred and eighty dollars an hour for anything at all because nothing I do is worth it. I plucked the figure out of the air. (And here's a useful tip: if you're going to lie, make the lie a really, really big one because then people will be more likely to believe you.) And I don't write anything up for magazines any more because
a) magazines don't pay anything at all these days and
b) magazines aren't interested in 'experimental work'. (Home-made recumbents, to you and me.) They're interested in sycophantic reviews of expensive commercial stuff because that way they can collect advertising revenue, which is why if you read a detailed report in a magazine on Swarovski binoculars, you will (I guarantee it) find a glossy advertisement about Swarovski on the opposite page, and should you read the article carefully you will find not a single sentence that isn't full of praise and gush. (Not that I object to Swarovski optics. I have several. They're very good. 'Very good' is as far as I can manage in the sycophantic gush line, but even so I should be grateful if they will now send me sixpence for saying so. Thank you very much.)

So my ugly Christian gentleman got on his top-end thousand dollar (that's about ₤300) perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle and rode away a trifle disgruntled, and must now rely on the efficacy of prayer to find someone who will do the work for 0 dollars an hour. And I have to stop writing this blog entry for 0 dollars an hour because I must get on my not-top-end experimental (home-made) recumbent bicycle and go to the dentist who does charge two hundred and eighty dollars an hour, mostly to shrink my head by drilling holes in it, though probably not enough to warrant Pitt Rivers status. And who rides a $280 mountain bike. Which he bought at the Warehouse. Which I shall decline to maintain, should I be asked.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Juno Watt

D'you know what. D'you know what. My wife said such a weird thing yesterday. -

[The children say "D'you know what" almost all the time, usually twice, and before I can ever say whether I do or do not know what, they tell me what, though I always do because it's always to do with a certain teacher -
'Juno Watt, Juno Watt, Mr ― is such a ―.'
And the fact of the matter is that Mr ― actually is a ― so we can't argue with them. Mr ― has solemnly assured his pupils that Peak Oil will never happen in their lifetimes so he ain't much of a chemist, and he ain't much of a physicist either because he was driving them to some event and passed another car with so little space that they were white with terror, feet pressed hard and uselessly against the footwell of the car. Should Mr ― be up to a little arithmetic, he could calculate that whereas the time saved by overtaking on New Zealand roads is negligible, the energy a car possesses at even slightly higher speeds is highly significant and the death rate on New Zealand roads from head-on collisions is horrific. There are roadside white crosses everywhere. So when the children come home in a rage - yet another rage - shouting 'Juno Watt, Juno Watt, Mr ― is such a ―' I can't fault them, because he actually is a ―.]

Er. - Where were we before that rather dubious aside? -

D'you know what is where we were. -D'you know what, my wife is weird. The other day she said I had enough bikes. I have hardly any bikes, almost none in fact. She deceives herself by thinking that all those I have artistically hung round the garage don't belong to Other Family Members. In fact I have the bare minimum. I have one road bike and that's all. Well and Walter Haenni's racing bike of course, but that is an icon and I can't ride it anyway because of my neck. And I do have a recumbent bike but where would I be if I hadn't? and a recumbent trike because there's no sense in having made - um - counts - goes bright red - decides not to say how many - if you don't keep just one for yourself. True there are two in the shed but the other is actually hers or Susie's or someone else's in the family who I've forgotten I've set it up for. And there is that upright trike I built, but that's set up to do the shopping. Amazing how much you can get into an ugly old cardboard box on the back of an upright trike, if you can't afford for Mr Hembrow to make you an elegant basket and ship it out here. Good bloke, David Hembrow. I think I raced against him in the days when nobody ever knew who they were racing against. He now lives Abroad in our colony of Europe so I shall nominate him for the Colonial Diaspora. He did once live - vexingly given my current basket needs - in New Zealand. David Gordon Wilson lived in New Zealand too, before moving to Loughborough where they still haven't installed an appropriate Blue Plaque on his boyhood house. (Philistines, the Loughborough council, even though Ariadne Tampion was a councillor and rode a Claud Butler racing trike with a great heap of children on the back.)

A cardboard box that David Hembrow didn't make

And all the other bikes - all of them - belong to my wife or the children. Well except for the rain bike. And you can't count the penny farthing because I was going to leave it in England and it was the children who made me keep it for when they're big enough. And the one that we keep for visitors but that's for visitors. And the Brompton - Juno Watt, it's my wife's Brompton and she blames me for buying it. And she nicked the mountain bike that I had bought for myself, a perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle and she despite, or because of, not being a perfectly good gentleman, simply said 'Thanks' and got on it and made me adjust the saddle for her, the horrible witch. And the tandem's half hers. I mean what use is a tandem if there's only one of me? So she's a dissembling lying git saying I have enough bikes.

But then she always does this.

She said I had enough longbows when I was a longbow person, carefully scraping six-foot lengths of ash and elm and lemonwood and osage orange and yew, delicious sweet-smelling yew that eventually poisoned me and now makes my nose seep blood if I start scraping it. I had hardly any longbows. She said I had masses. She said Was I trying to corner the market for when there was Peak Gunpowder.

Hardly any longbows. Almost none. Well there *are* a few more on the other wall, and some propped up between the wardrobes, but that's still hardly any.

And now Mr Gillions is on at me to go and buy that lathe from Invercargill but he doesn't care that I've got a wife who will make Peak Lathe remarks. So I shan't. I shall buy a shaper instead.