Essay: On the Ten-Year Challenge
Those that have been paying attention to useless social media campaigns may have noticed the Ten Year Challenge recently. For those not in the know it is a social media giggle where the user digs into his/ her digital shoe box of photos from a decade ago, digitally tapes the old photo to the freshest snap in the collection, and posts it for all the world to see. Expect captions like, “Oh my gawd I was so awkward!”
After thinking this challenge over I recalled an article I wrote for back page consideration in Bicycling magazine. Considering their campus was located up the road in Emmaus, PA, I really wanted to work for the publication. Every once in a while I sent submissions but never heard back. This article was no different. While it was less than a decade ago I wrote it, I figured it was the closest attempt at a ten-year challenge.
It’s no there-yesterday-gone-today comparison. Nor is it thin-ten-years-ago-chubby-now. It was an article that taught me the varied appreciation of a bike. That is, there is a bike out there for everyone, and the guy I observed was no different. He really was proud of the bike he was about to take home. That being said, the following is the article I sent off. If for nothing else, at least it finally sees the light of day all these years later.
A Bike Shop Lesson
Working in a bike shop always has its perks: I’m surrounded by objects of about every fit-person’s desire. I get to talk bikes and bike routes and chamois butter. However, I’m also surrounded by twenty-something coworkers who seem to have the most disposable income as evidenced by the rigs they ride into work.
And there it is: The drawback to working at a bike shop. Imagine being surrounded all day by bikes and drivetrains and Oakleys. One morning I show up and tell myself that I’ll pull that Roubaix off the wall by day’s end. I’ll ride it home because my bike fund is bursting out of my top drawer. At the end of the day though, that Speed Concept is speaking to you. And what’s another thousand dollars?
Work at a shop long enough, everything sucks. “Oh that aluminum bike? Yeah it sucks.” “Is this a titanium bike from last year’s sale? Yeah that sucks, too.” As with any job becoming calloused to the very reasons I was drawn to work there develops. Fixing flats on BMX bikes with pegs gets monotonous, people asking if alligators were in a northeastern United States lake, dropped there as a pet (I was seriously asked this), and those whose eyes are bigger than their bank accounts who come in just to talk bikes with no intention of buying the bike I’m trying not to sell because I’m riding it home that night after it’s paid for.
That’s why bike shops are a lot like bike events. It took a customer to derail me from calloused course and return me to why I love being surrounded by bikes. He had purchased an entry-level time trial bike for his needs. It was nothing special but to him it was the world. He would sneak a glance at it in the fit stand on the way to the dressing room. He ogled over it on his way back to the fit stand. It was obvious he worked hard for this bike. It wasn’t carbon. It wasn’t fewer than fifteen pounds. It wasn’t sporting a power meter. It was just a bike paid for by a hard-working person.
Bike shops always have their perks. Seeing him walk out of the shop with his new bike created the greatest feeling. Just because the guy on the expensive bike next to you doesn’t mean he’s going straight to the front of the race. Conversely, just because the girl rider isn’t sporting a space-aged rig and has an entry-level road bike doesn’t mean she won’t leave you hanging your head as she rockets up a climb.
He walked out of the shop with a grin that probably didn’t stop until a week later but I regained my viewpoint because of him. When the lights go out at the end of the workday and I get ready to pull the BMC off the wall because it’s coming home with me, I’ll think of him and decide that maybe my bike isn’t so bad after all.