Monday, June 22, 2015


Simplicity is underrated in today's modern society.  We embrace complex high-tech.  There are "specialists" for everything, because everything is so complicated.

Among my other duties at "the day job," I do tech support for our computer systems.  And I've become convinced that our system has become so complex, with so many little wheels that need to be spinning, that something is always broken.  You just hope it's not something really important.  (I've been doing computer-related stuff for almost 40 years, and it hasn't always been that way.  Back in the glory days, there were data entry people, and after-hours batch processing, and lots of printed reports.  (An early-on colleague couldn't make the transition from punch cards to monochrome green monitors connected to the mainframe, and decided it was his signal to retire.  How times have changed!)  Nowadays, information is so vital that it has to be maintained "real time," and everybody - even people out "on the road" - needs immediate access to the right-now info.

From my seat, our "civilized" transportation isn't so different.  Motor vehicles are so complicated that when something breaks, the dashboard "idiot light" comes on, warning you that your car computer has to talk to the car-doctor computer, which will tell the parts replacement guy (formerly mechanic) what part needs to be replaced.  Fer cryin' out loud!  I'm seeing cars advertised that have eight-speed transmissions!  And of course, there are more cars all the time with both a gas motor and an electric motor, working in computer-controlled harmony.  Compare that with the ol' '57 Chevy or '68 Mustang!  And even if the car is purring like a kitten, there's the transportation infrastructure.  I observe that morning commute with amazement... thousands of cars rolling into town, all counting on a no-mishap morning.  One fender-bender... it can throw 5000 people off schedule!

By contrast, bicycle transportation seems like a marvel of simplicity.  If you carried to the ultimate form, I s'pose it would be the single-speed direct drive.  What can go wrong... at least with the machine?  I settle for slightly more complexity... I know how the derailleurs work at both ends, and the brakes... I know what needs to be maintained (and am often guilty of neglecting that stuff for too long).  I haven't taken my bike to the shop for years - I can fix everything out under the shade tree.  Barring a totally weird catastrophe, there's essentially nothing I can't maintain myself, nor anything that can happen on a ride, that I can't fix and limp on in.  It's a beautiful thing!

Frankly, I'd prefer if my bike were a "10 speed" instead of a "30 speed" - I don't need all those speeds!  But like computers, for as long as I've been paying attention, even bicycle manufacturers have been motivated to make this year's models a little more complex than last year's.  It's probably driven by the cyclists who drive hybrid 8-speed climate-controlled cars, huh?

(Tonight I'm replacing a rear tire.  The tread was getting pretty light... but it's been so long, I can't remember... should I replace the tire when the rubber is worn all the way thru in a few places, or wait 'til it's worn thru all the way around?  ha-ha-ha!)

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