With a Grain of Salt...

Who's bicycle advise should you listen to?

June 2008

When I was in high school I had a good friend named Monty. He and I used to terrorize all of southern Idaho on our bicycles. I built Monty a Motebecane out of the scrap yard for about $12. Monty relied on me throughout our high school friendship to maintain his bicycle and give him good bicycle advice, but if there was something to be cooked, Monty was the cook.

Monty's mom worked the graveyard shift and his dad lived hundreds of miles away. He ended up doing most of the cooking for his family. He was a natural born cook. He could open up the cupboards and pull out anything and make something incredible. I remember him making excellent doughnuts out of a tube of Pillsbury biscuit dough because it had popped open when he had accidentally dropped it.

Fast forward 25 years and what do you think Monty does for a living? He's a chef of course. He's been a chef ever since high school and he is a very talented one at that. Working as a chef for 25 years has made him an even better cook than he was when it was a fun hobby for him. Me on the other hand, I'm an awful cook. My most famous recipe is cinnamon toast flambe.

The first and last time I made it was back in 1986. When I first moved to Seattle, we really had no money at all, so we rarely had great food available. One morning, I was really in the mood for a hot breakfast. I decided to try and cook what ever I could find in the cupboards like Monty used to. Unfortunately, my search turned up the same crud I'd been eating cold for the last several days.....bread (the last few slices) and some margarine. The only kitchen device I had used to cook bread was a toaster, but we didn't own one, so until now I was out of luck. Determined to have a hot meal, I spread the margarine onto the last few slices of bread, and then sprinkled on some cinnamon and sugar. I then put the whole thing on a pizza pan and into the oven then turned it up to 'broil'. I was certain that I'd seen my baby sitter do this when I was little so I figured this would be a way to have a hot breakfast. I watched the concoction through the oven window. It looked and smelled just like I remembered when Mrs. Skiver (our baby sitter) made her famous cinnamon toast. The butter bubbled and the scent of cinnamon permeated the air. I waited for the bubbling to stop, and then I opened the oven. Much to my surprise, the entire thing burst into flame! Not just any flame either, this was really fire and smoke. Fortunately I had the oven mitt on my hand already, so I grabbed the pizza pan I had used to cook this stuff on, and ran for the front door. I threw the burning concoction onto the front lawn and sprayed it with a hose. I watched as a couple of our resident dogs (there were several living in our house) sniffed it and then walked away.

My buddies thought the whole sight was very funny, until they realized there was no more bread in the house. Needless to say, I didn't go into cooking as a profession, but rather cook out of necessity. My cooking will do in a pinch, and I rarely have to use a hose to put out the fire. Dogs will often eat food that I've cooked, and once in a while I even enjoy some of my own cooking.

I continued on the path that I enjoyed (and exhibited some talent).....bicycles. When Mr. Krog (a Rodriguez bike customer) called me in 2004 and told me his doctor said he had to stop riding his bike because of a neck injury, I asked him to bring the bike in. He and I worked on a solution to his extreme problem until he was comfortable. His doctor signed off on his new fit, and Mr. Krog hasn't stopped riding since. Although I do have talent and enthusiasm for bicycle fitting, it was really my decades of experience working with hundreds of customers just like Mr. Krog that enabled me to give him the proper advice to keep him riding. These decades of experience are not only important when designing a bicycle, but also when choosing the proper components for the type of riding.

My friend Monty still rides his bike all the time. He's still a chef in Idaho, and he commutes to work on his bicycle. He's learned about his bicycle, and his needs when it comes to his bicycle. His real talent is cooking though, and his ability to cook is only amplified by decades of honing that skill as a professional.

If I want a suggestion about how to cook something, I would trust Monty's opinion above anyone else's. He's extremely talented, and has decades of experience. His opinion about bicycles though is much more limited. He has only his own experience to draw from, and has never worked in the bicycle industry. Although he rides a lot, his opinions cannot reflect the experiences of hundreds of thousands of hours working on and manufacturing bicycles. The age of the internet has spawned an unbelievable number of enthusiastic "experts". I post opinions all the time about things that I love to do, but are not a big part of my everyday career. As a computer enthusiast for instance, I share my opinions all the time about computer stuff.

My father-in-law always says "paper doesn't refuse ink". I would say here in the new century that "keyboards don't refuse fingers". My suggestions on computer programming or cooking are not nearly as sound as my opinions on bicycle stuff. Although a talented enthusiast can give you some good advice, a talented enthusiast with decades of professional experience can be even more helpful if you know one. Just as a talented cooking enthusiast who can follow an intricate recipe must learn to be a chef through years of professional experience, a bicycle enthusiast learns to be a professional through years of designing, building, painting, or repairing bicycles all day long.

Although I am willing to give advice as an amateur cook, my suggestions for an elegant dinner may not be nearly as useful as Monty's suggestions. As a self taught computer hack programmer, my suggestions on how to write a computer program are certainly based on my experience, but they are not nearly as sound as my brother's suggestions. My brother writes computer programs for a living 8 hours a day, and he's very talented at it.

At R+E Cycles, when you are working with any one of us, you are working with someone who has chosen to work in the bicycle industry as a career. We do what we do as a full time job because we love it. Our mechanics work on every type of bicycle, and we've run into just about every situation. As a matter of fact, a guy from Texas just sent me a tandem to work on because we're apparently the only shop with the know-how to do the job he needs done. Our frame builders and our painter each have decades of experience, as well as our bicycle fitting team. It's a great pleasure for me to work with such a talented and experienced staff as we have here. Now, don't get me wrong, if you want some recipes, we're more than happy to oblige, but they may not be as good as the ones you'll get from Monty.