I ride right out the door into the street and take
a few careful pedal strokes. Racing bikes are optimized
for lightweight and, although this bike was built
form the finest equipment utterly without compromise
we could still have a shuttle disaster here that would
drive my testicles onto the top tube with the snap
of a pedal spindle. So I am a careful person.
The first few pedals strokes confirm it: Energy in
nearly = energy out. It is straight and unyielding.
I hover above the pavement, gliding over it. I think
shift and with only the slightest physical suggestion
at my hand the shift occurs. Silently, nearly telepathically.
But there is a rattle. It rattles. How can that be?
I ignore it, mostly out of denial and that fails immediately.
It is not supposed to rattle. But it does rattle.
Damn. My mind swirls across the bike's systems for
the one place where I may have lat something go. But
there is no place like that. Everything was perfect,
but it still rattles.
Maybe it is the cables inside the down tube. Damn
this design. Didn't they think of that? Didn't they
test that? Maybe body weight on the headset has changed
its adjustment and now it is suddenly loose. Maybe
a phantom washer around the cranks has come loose
and is now rotating stupidly with every pedal stroke,
flopping around in there, rattling. God, how can this
be? The counters were so clean. There were no distractions.
I even used new wrenches!
This is a bicycle and even in a perfect world they
can be maddening. So after hours of meticulous toil
I put it away and slink off to bed.
It is as though some rebellious part of the bike
resisted this absolute perfection that went into its
assembly. It is like a bad song that will not leave
my head. That rattle. Where could it be coming from.
I ride the bike to Northville and back and it is
a miserable ride. Cold and windy, I am out of shape
and the road is torn up where we make our turnaround
to come back to Dearborn. During the ride the bike
has its moments but the rattle spoils them. For the
life of me I cannot identify it. But I will.
I will wait until everyone is gone, clean the counters,
wash the bike, turn up the music and diagnose and
dissect it. I will find that rattle, and perform a
When I return from my first ride that Saturday morning
I meet Seth, waiting to open the store. He asks the
"How's the bike?"
"Ahh," I answer, "Typical deal. It's
really nice and it fits perfect and I like this version
of compact geometry but the damn thing rattles."
Seth is a man who works with his mind, and his mind
is always working. Always. In the deep abyss that
is his bizarre psyche he contorts problems until he
enters them through their back door then solves them,
usually with little or no effort. He is a sideways
thinker. But mostly, he is a thinker: analytical and
controlled, methodical and thorough. Seth is a person
who works with his mind rather than his back. Even
his taste in cycling runs to styles that are driven
mostly by gravity rather than brute force or mindless
perseverance. He and I are opposites in that regard,
and an opposite is what I need right now to find The
He casts an inquiring gaze at the bike, at nothing
in general, just its entire space.
"I'll find it."
I retire to the office to put on street clothes and
start the day. When I walk into the shop area Seth
flatly states, in his typical monotone:
"It is fixed."
"What did you do?" I asked. I have learned
not to be skeptical if Seth says it is fixed.
"The carbon fiber dust cap on the hub was not
being held in place by the rubber "O" ring
behind it. You couldn't see it because it was behind
the dust cap. I pulled the cap off and moved the "O"
ring forward. The carbon was rattling. Let me show
Seth found this discrepancy in less than 60 seconds.
Seth showed me the inside of the hub. He gave me
a clinic on how the hub was assembled. This is the
new Zipp hub and I had never been inside one before.
How Seth knew this I have no idea. But he did.
With the hub fixed I have since ridden it again.
It is silent perfection now. The sum total of extensive
attention to detail, 21 years experience building
high-end road bikes and obsessive perfectionism. And
still, as Seth illustrated, there is still room for
improvement, something more to learn.
In the relentless pursuit of The Best this was an
excellent exercise. It is repeated many times, every
week. It's what makes me love this job. It's the bikes.
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