By The Power Of Grey Skull – Or, Why The Power Meter Is Ruining My Life


Do you want to know the fundamental difference between the common cyclist and a bicycle mechanic?

Sorry if you don’t. I’m going to tell you any way.

A cyclist will lay eyes on that new, must have wonder product and immediately start fantasizing about how that product is going to transform them into the cyclist they’ve always dreamed of being.

A bike mechanic will barley need a glimpse at that wonder product before immediately dwelling on the fact that his life is slowly, but steadily being ruined one innovation at a time.

Lately, the bane of my existence has been the power meter.

Not just one but all of them.

SRMs, Powertaps, iBikes, and even the Polar monstrosity– over the past few months I’ve installed and subsequently troubleshot them all. I don’t know how I became the anointed one (maybe in Karmic retrospect I shouldn’t have been so mean to Mr. Bechner in the 10th grade) but at the shop where I’m indentured, any time one of my esteemed colleagues hustles anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand slices of cheese from the pocket of a power hungry rube who inevitably lacks the technical know how to find a set of boobs on the internet, I magically get to be the one to install it.

During my various quests to install the almighty power meter, I’ve been treated to career low lights such as:

Fielding a call from a frantic customer who accidentally snipped the cable that makes his SRM’s magic happen during a multi-day charity ride. Desperate to pour over his power output between pit stops, this fella asked if there was any way we could get SRM to next day air him a replacement cable to the next town on his ride’s itinerary.

Gotta give this guy credit though, during our chat he advised me that I’d be better off trying SRM’s office here in the states because over the wee hours of the night he’d placed a call to SRM’s German headquarters in a surprisingly clever attempt to work the time difference to his advantage but sadly, he had no luck getting through to them. “I left them like four messages and those bastards never called me back.”

Having a conversation with a technical support person who dispensed this gleaming gem of advice, “If you’re trying to synch the sensors and you’re close to a cellular phone, the phone can interfere with the signal.”

Being that I was calling for help from a rather large, technologically advanced city, my response was “Oh great, you mean I have to go way out into the woods to set this thing up?”

Then a couple Fridays ago when I already had one foot out the door on the way to Chipotle for a rare summer time lunch break, a pair of carbon fiber wonder bikes were being wheeled in by a customer’s latest assistant.

“Hey, are you Bobby?”

“Unfortunately.”

“Uh, I’m supposed to bring these bikes in because the Powertaps stopped working and the twins are scheduled to ride tomorrow. Oh yes, these Powertap equipped bikes belonged to a set of twins who’d just celebrated their 12th birthday.

Oh the humanity. How could a 12 year-old be expected to go for a bike ride with a non-working Powertap? So instead of taking a visit to the land of guacamole lucky me got to go on an obscure battery scavenger hunt.

Still, nothing tops what just went down here at the shop.

A few days ago a gal came in her with a simple shopping list. Her dad was turning 75 and was starting an exercise program so she thought a heart rate monitor would be the perfect gift.

I showed her the simplest thing in the display case- a Polar with just a single button. Just the ticket for a 75 year-old, right?

There was just one hitch.

“My Dad’s a total gadget man and want to get him the best one. I don’t care if it’s expensive. The more stuff it can do the better.”

Three days later a silver haired man shuffled his way into the store clutching his birthday present. I didn’t even have to stand up before my colleagues had thrown me under the bus and indicated that I was the guy to talk to.

“Hi there, my daughter gave me this for my birthday and I’m having a heck of time figuring out. Before you write me off as some old nincompoop, do you mind if I tell you something.”

“Shoot,” I said as there was something so refreshing about an old person with the ability to be self aware.

“I worked for Boeing all my life. When I was about your age, my job was writing the operations manual for the 747. The manual filled up two binders about this thick,” he said spreading his hands apart just far enough that you knew he wasn’t lying.

“I wrote the manual in such a way that even you could sit down in the captain’s chair open it up to page one and follow the directions step-by-step and fly the damn plane without any training whatsoever. For the life of me I can’t figure out these directions. Whoever wrote the sequencing needs to be taken out in the street and beaten.”

You hear that Polar? The guy who wrote the instructions for the friggin’ 747 thinks your directions don’t make any sense.

Think y’all might be able to do something about that before me and my new septuagenarian friend decide to go vigilante on your collective arse?

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