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Published: December 9th 2009
"The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn't any other test. If the machine produces tranquility it's right. If it disturbs you it's wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed."
— Robert M. Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values)
Over the years I have had to accept certain things. For example, I can’t sing. My attempts in the shower make even me wince. I have no aptitude for playing a musical instrument. A couple of years ago I tried to learn the harmonica but my attempts to suck and blow sounded like Bob Dylan’s voice on’ “Leopard-Skin Pillbox-Hat.” I’ve spent a lot of time at art classes trying to draw but my efforts have improved little on the stick figures I did as a child. And sadly, I’m no good at anything mechanical. Once in Germany a friend and I tried to adjust the timing on my four cylinder motorcycle. The backfiring that followed disturbed an entire campground, and campers emerged fearful a gunman was on the loose. I had to push the Honda two kilometres to the nearest workshop.
To Tinker or Not
Three Little Screws
I've contemplated doing a diagram - a quarter turn of the top left, a quarter turn of the top right, bottom untouched. But I have no idea what each screw is supposed to do.
That incident with the motorbike should have taught me a lesson. It wasn’t running that badly and I should have left it alone. I face a similar dilemma now with the THE BEAST OF BURDEN - to tinker or leave it alone. The gears have not been operating smoothly for days. Sometimes they refuse to obey my commands when I flick one of the levers on the handlebars - they won’t change down. I get around the problem by changing down twice in quick succession. The chain leaps from one sprocket to the next, or sometimes the next. It’s a bit of a lottery. And sometimes there’s a persistent “tsk…tsk…tsk” sound that tells me I’m in one gear but the gear lever thinks I’m in a different gear.
Drongo Cog Zone Land
As I click through the misbehaving gears, I lose momentum and the bike slows. On other occasions I go into what I call, “drongo cog zone land” where I’m daydreaming about other things and don’t realise the bike is making that horrible tsk sound - for example I may be asking myself should I have a drink of water, what was the best song Robbie
Weapon of Madness
My multi tool which can do most things on a bike. But the person using it has to know what they are doing.
Robertson and The Band ever made or will there be a campground at the next tiny settlement I reach.
Calling in the Experts
The problem is not so bad that I can’t ride the bike. But it’s frustrating so in Palmerston North I took THE BEAST into a bike shop and asked them to fix it. $47 lighter in the pocket, the problem is no better. I do have a new gear cable which I don’t think I need. The mechanic said he replaced it to “eliminate possibilities”. He may have eliminated a possibility but he certainly didn’t fix a problem.
Not Much Zen Here
Which is why I’m poised with my bicycle multi tool in one hand, ready to tweak any or all of three screws which I understand adjust the gears. But I have no idea which screw does what. I have the information in a book at home which has a spin-off title from “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. This one is called “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” and is written by an author who’s left the philosophy to Persig and written a manual that is 95 %!p(MISSING)ractical information.
But without it, I’m at a loss to know which screw to twiddle. Maybe the mechanic in the shop needed the same book. He couldn’t fix the problem, and I suspect I can’t either. Perhaps in Wellington there will be a man who is devoting his life to making bike gears run sweetly. If anyone knows of such a person, I’d love to learn where I can find him. In the meantime, I’m going to ponder that question about Robbie Robertson.
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