Posted by: Ian | September 17, 2010

Imperfection

I wrote recently about my problems with my Garmin Edge 500. Its excellence of high level design is not reliably transmitted to perfection on the road because of flaws in the details and in the build.

The same is true of the MacBook Pro on which I write most of my blogs, and also its predecessor, my old PowerBook. The Mac OS, much of Apples application software and their laptops all have fabulous design. The flaws are Apple’s inability, in my consistent experience, to source reliable batteries, and memory management issues that necessitate frequent Force Quits and/or restarts whenever I work on large photo libraries (in either iPhoto or Aperture). My Mac issues are compounded by the fact that Apple doesn’t even attempt to run anything recognisable as a support service other than for those living in metropolitan areas with employment patterns light enough to permit camping out at Apple Stores at off-peak times. The fact that the alternatives are risible does not make the Mac experience flawlessly excellent.

We’ve found the same recently when trying to buy a house. Despite persuading ourselves that we have a lottery-winner-level budget, not one of the houses we looked at was as classy as you’d expect. The problem isn’t the absence of sunken walk-around baths with discreet surround-sound hifi, it’s again the details: dodgy grouting, grubby bubbling paintwork, plumbing so poor the taps don’t all work, the lack of a fuseboard… We’re moving anyway, a week on Tuesday.

Bike-wise, my latest problem has been with tyres. The ones I want to love are my Conti GP4000S’s, and like my MacBook Pro and my Garmin there is plenty about them that makes me loathe to seek an alternative. But recently I keep getting punctures, at an incredible and increasing rate. I keep my tyres topped up at 110-120 PSI, checking them before every ride or two. I look over them frequently for nicks. When I get a puncture I track the source from tube to tyre at the roadside to avoid getting stung by the same shard twice. I don’t get pinch flats from catching the tube under the bead. Yet still, after a long period of reasonably infrequent punctures, I now keep getting more, and with winter coming I can only expect to get more still so I can see no alternative but to get new tyres, at least for my fixie commuter.

What I really want on my wheels are these Hutchinson Serenities:

Since they were just demonstrated for the first time at Eurobike I can only look forward to buying these next year. A couple of days ago I went into Condor on my way back from work intending to buy Schwabe Ultremo DD’s. They boast ceramic particles in the rubber compound that they claim impede embedded stones and shards of glass from working through to the tube. Condor didn’t carry these so instead I bought a pair of Conti 4 Seasons, which lack the GP4000S’s black chilli nanotechnology but instead have an extra layer of armour. I swapped onto them shortly after I left the shop when I had my next puncture. The rolling resistance seems higher than on the GP’s but that could be cycleogical.

Paula uses that self-repairing gunk that lives inside your tubes. It may work but there’s something about the idea of it that I don’t like.

I had hoped the purchase of my Van Nicholas Zephyr would be an excellent experience and it began that way. The pre-sales interaction was good and I got exactly what I wanted from BespokeCycling. The post-trade experience so far has been less great. The delivery estimate will not be met, I’ve been misinformed about progress and trying to discover the status of my order has been inconvenient and unfruitful. If I ever set up an online retail business the purchasing process will be far better. Ultimately I’ll forget this and remember only how much I like the bike so I’ll park my destructive thoughts and stay optimistic that the bike itself will be flawlessly excellent.

I’d like to say that my Felt is, and maybe it is. However, the flimsiness of the fabric of carbon stops me seeing perfection in any bike built from it. I have a more unqualified regard for the excellence of my steel Condor Tempo. Although there are components I could improve – the bars aren’t as good as the nice new 3T ErgoNova’s on my Felt – there’s a satisfying simplicity to it, especially given the fixed gearing, and when things go wrong (the rear brake has been broken for ages and the bearings of the rear hub are starting to creak) it only makes me appreciate how serviceable it is. The Tempo is as close to perfect as anything I own, except for my Tag Heuer Kirium Formula 1 watch.

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Responses

  1. House buying in the UK surely has a very long list of imperfections related to the legal process. In the US when you make an offer on a house it is a contingent contract with a definite date when contracts will be exchanged – and very few escape clauses. No guzumping, no endless chains of buyers, …

    As hardware the iPad is pretty close to perfect, but the software lets it down (and the spell checker that just corrected lets to let’s!)


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