Archive for the 'Ghost In The Machine' Category


Why It’s Really Not My Fault That It’s Taken Me Over Two Months To Fix My Friend Todd’s Really Cool Wheels And Other Excuses

This is a story that I started about 9 or 10 years ago and never quite finished. My buddy Todd has since moved away. While I sorta miss Todd, I miss the wheelset more.

I have the front wheel from my friend Todd’s Litespeed up on my truing stand right now. It’s as beautiful as a bike wheel can ever be: lightweight, aero and, as if I had to actually say it, really really cool looking. Badass even.  Its mate is over in the corner, waiting its turn.

Eat my dust, assholes...

My problem, if you can call it that, is that this particular set of wheels has been knocking around my shop for quite a while now, waiting for me to fix them.

For the first week or two it was a case of overscheduling on my part; I had other things that I was working on and, unwisely as it turned out, Todd told me that he didn’t need them back in a hurry.

But even after I cleared away the jobs that I had lined up ahead of it, I found that I was still putting off fixing Todd’s wheels because, well, I simply liked having them hanging around the shop. This particular wheel set has that certain something about it that just screams reckless speed, enough so that merely being in the same room with them tickles the little spot in the unconscious portion of the male brain that is the source for certain very basic, very fundamental urges.

Competitive urges.

Urges that make you treat a friendly training session with your friends like an unholy cross between Grand Theft Auto and a stage of the Tour de France. Urges that make you do things like show up to a casual ride with your friends with mayhem in your heart and an ass-whooping in your legs.  A call to evil fashioned from whisper-light aluminum and carbon fiber.

kind of a wheelset.

So there they sit, leaning against my work bench, leaving me to bask in the aura of their quiet menace while I work on other things.

Now when I’m working on something in my shop I usually tend to ignore the clutter and stay pretty much focused on what’s in front of me. However, having Todd’s wheels in the shop has changed all of that. I’ll be truing a wheel or adjusting a shifter when, for no reason at all, I will suddenly get the urge to glance over at Todd’s wheels sitting there in the corner. No they haven’t moved or fallen over, but something about them makes me want to stop what I am doing and walk over to admire them. Sometimes I will reach down and pick one up and twirl it on its axle, admiring the smoothness of its bearings and the impossible slenderness of its spokes as they whooshwhooshwhoosh past my gaze.

The impact of Todd’s wheels hasn’t been confined to my workshop.  Let’s just say that things have gotten a little weirder as more time goes by.

Right about the time that I picked up Todd’s wheels and deposited them in my workshop I began to notice that small things about my personality started to change. For example, I find that my approach to my daily commute to work on my old beater bike has started to shift from mellow to malevolent; I am starting to ride faster, feistier, and a whole lot more aggressive when I hit the road. Casual bike rides are no longer simply for pleasure; they have became search-and-destroy missions designed to catch and drop as many riders as possible. Things have changed off the bike, too. There is a new-found swagger in my step and glint in my eye. I’m ordering my steaks rare and my whiskey neat. I watch a lot of John Wayne movies.

And it feels good.

After a couple of weeks basking in the transformative thrall of Todd’s wheels, it has suddenly dawned on me that, my God, I really don’t want to fix Todd’s wheels. It is plain to see that every time I pick them up or fiddle with them I get a little meaner and a little faster. If I fixed them I’d eventually have to give them back, and giving them back simply isn’t an option at this point.

I need more time.

So I’ve started to make up excuses why I couldn’t or shouldn’t work on Todd’s wheels.

After casting around for a plausible bit of sophistry to justify keeping keep Todd’s wheels in my shop for the foreseeable future, I had a bit of good luck. Actually, it is pretty rotten luck for Todd, but really excellent luck for me.  The reason that the wheels are in the shop in the first place is because Todd has managed to have the mother of all wrecks on his bike during the Thursday night ride. Lately the guys have been riding way more aggressively – caused, no doubt, by being in the vicinity of Todd’s wheels – and the inevitable happened. It took three ambulances to clean up the mess. Anyway, Todd is now off of the bike, laid up with a broken shoulder, cracked ribs, and a wicked concussion.

My argument that I have come up with for keeping his wheels is as impeccable and pure as my motive: handing Todd back his race wheels before he is medically cleared to ride would be akin to giving Britney Spears a gallon of whiskey, the keys to a hotel suite in Vegas, and a video camera. We know that the girl just can’t help herself, and I strongly suspect that neither could Todd. I mean, shoot, his wife has already caught him trying to sneak out of the house on his beater bike for “just a quick spin up to the coffee shop with the guys.” Can you imagine the kind of trouble that my fun-loving, chuckle-headed buddy Todd might get into if this bit of irresistible, hairy-chested speed weaponry was thoughtlessly returned to him?

Yup, so can I. He might end up beating me in a sprint.

Feeling that I would be justly held responsible for any future injury to Todd if I allowed him to be tempted into a too-early return to the bike, I’ve decided that the only thing that a true friend can do under the circumstances is to keep his extremely cool, very fast wheels locked up in the protective custody of my workshop, where I can personally keep a close eye on them.

I mean, it’s the least that I can do for Todd.

But just because I am helping my friend by providing a safe refuge for his wheels while he’s on the mend doesn’t mean that I have to wait any longer to fix them.  No, no, no. A few more minutes with a spoke wrench and these bad boys will once again be ready to rock. And since Todd is likely to be laid up for quite a while, I’m sure that he’ll understand if I show up to the next Sunday morning ride with his wheels fitted to my bike.

Quality control, you see. Simply a little test ride, nothing more.

And, yes, I’ll be certain to give them back when he’s ready.

Which should be soon. Really. Very soon. Like when I’m finally able to drop the group on that long climb up to Gunston Road. Or when I finally win a sprint in the Park. But certainly not before then. No, we don’t want to rush this. We can’t rush this. Protecting Todd’s health is far more important than sorting out who has some silly wheelset bolted to his bike.

I’m figuring that I can start thinking about giving Todd his wheels back sometime around Christmas…2019.


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