Thursday, September 15

Book Review: Cannondale Owners' Manual

I'm a bad, bad boy. I rode my new bike before reading the owners' manual. Coming down from the euphoria of New Bike Day I collapsed in the recliner with a frosty beverage and noticed a thick tome laying haphazard in the floor. I scooped it up and to my wonderment saw it was an all English volume dedicated to my new bikey bike.

Ooh goodie! Goodie! I flipped it open in hopes of getting some extra warm fuzzies to round out the exciting day. Inside the front cover I found this encouragement:

“Because bike riding is so much fun, we encourage you to partake whenever the whim strikes you...”

I love when my obsessions are reinforced in print. Gives some credence to my quirky behavior. I continued, skimming through the technical jargon and numerous "caution" and "warning" sections. Don't harsh my mellow, man!

But I was stopped cold by this one:

“We recommend that children not ride on rough terrain unless they are accompanied by an adult.”

Huh? I mean...these guys build bikes. I would venture to say they ride bikes. I would bet they rode bikes as kids. What do they know that I don't know? I crashed a few times in the dirt as a younger dude. But c'mon! adult supervision? Aren't bikes representative of youthful rebellion? Don't bikes represent freedom for youngsters? Its their first taste of self-sufficiency. You can't learn that garbage on the road! Someone will get killed!

When I crashed racing my best friend down a dirt road at seven years old we did just fine without any adults around. I mean, after we dragged ourselves back to the house we didn't even bother to tell the adults we'd crashed. By then the bleeding had stopped. When I was 13 and hit a concrete block riding through high weeds and went over the handlebars I was just fine without any mature influences looking on. If I'd learned those lessons on the road I probably would have been run over by a logging truck at some point.

But they just recommend...maybe its not such a drastic statement after all. They're not saying kids must be accompanied by an adult, as if they're trying to view an R-rated horror flick. We'll sweep that one under the rug. Don't tell my parents.

Anyway, so...pressing on. Further down the pages I came across this happy heading:


Again...YES!!! What do the sage bicycle making people at Cannondale have to say about bicycle commuting?

“Riding in traffic (and commuting) is hazardous and you can be severely injured or killed doing it.”


Nooooo!!! I do it everyday, man! You can be KILLED?! Seriously injured?! Well, good thing my new bike is a mountain bike. Maybe its just riding an off road bike for commuting that's bad. We won't tell anyone the Cannonball used to be an off road bike.

I had to chuckle, and rub knees and elbows nostalgically as I read the next passage:

“Getting into and out of pedals with toeclips and straps requires skill which can only be acquired with practice.”

Now, to be fair, I've never had toeclips and straps, but I did once ride a bike with clipless pedals. I can say that I probably never acquired the skills they're talking about.

And then we see a few snippets that give pause and cause some head scratching:

“Patching a tube is an emergency repair.”

Like, do you call 911?

“Bicycles have exposed sharp surfaces.”

So I guess I can't take one on an airliner.

Am I on camera? Can anyone see my reaction to these letters arranged on the page? Seriously?!

A few weeks ago this one wouldn't have registered on my radar, but after meeting the guy who was riding the homemade electric powered recumbent I say "neh" to this one:

“Do no install a power system (gas or electric type) onto your bike.”


And finally, Cannondale leaves us with the simple, yet profound statement. After reading this my life was changed. I quit my job, sold my kids and hit the road to promote a new paradigm in cycling that only those wise and sage enough to read between the lines would understand...

“Mountain bike riding is very different from riding a bike on the road.”

I would recommend this book to a friend. I'd give it a star and half for entertainment value and absolutely no stars for the artwork. But the prose is very nice. The butler did it.

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