On the complexities of relationships with gear

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This year– Anno Domini 2022– I took the plunge and finally bought myself a kayak. Then I took another plunge and finally bought myself an e-bike. That’s a lot of plunging.

It’s a privilege to be in a financial position to purchase these items (even used, which the kayak was, but in very fine shape), and I’m grateful that I was able to buy them.

Now that I own them, everything is hunky-dory, right? Well, as any of you who deal with active gear (like bikes, boats, skis, tents, stoves, hiking accoutrements, computer-assisted tracking doohickeys, etc.), the purchasing is just the beginning of the relationship with the gear. There’s also the following:

  • the storage
  • the transporting to and fro
  • the cleaning
  • the maintenance
  • the organization of accompanying bits and bobs
  • the response and troubleshooting when things go wrong
  • the repair
  • the inevitable replacement of parts and the gear itself

Honestly, I have no idea how people manage the above-mentioned tasks, as well as others that I never even thought about. I do as much as I can and hope for the best…

But I have to say this: if the next time I’m trying valiantly to figure out how to attach bow and stern lines to my kayak for transport on top of my car, one more person says, “oh, it’s so easy!”, I’m going to blow a gasket.

There are a lot of reasons why I fear, loathe and avoid dealing with gear other than buying it, using it, cleaning it occasionally and maybe storing it.

  • I come from a long line of non-outdoorsy non-gear using folks.
  • My above-mentioned ancestors are also famously non-handy; I mean really non-handy. I don’t recall seeing any relative of mine ever using a hammer, much less a drill.
  • So, I didn’t grow up doing anything with any gear, ever. I think we once had flashlights, but then the batteries died. And that was that.
  • I have generalized anxiety disorder and ADHD. This double-whammy diagnosis brings with it many difficulties with complex and multi-part tasks. Among other things.

I have learned how do basic maintenance on my bikes, but anything beyond that I entrust to my local bike shop, so I don’t have to deal with complex bike gear finagling. Winning.

I am in the early stages of my relationship with kayak. Yes it’s lightweight. But it doesn’t do knots itself. That’s right, I never learned how to do a) trucker’s hitch; b) bowline; c) other knots that I googled and have never heard of, but which some of you probably use all the time. And, yes, I know: “it’s so easy!” Recall prior gasket-blow warning.

I’m not saying I’m sorry I bought the kayak. I love kayaking and love this kayak. But I am saying that I find dealing with all of the above-listed tasks really stressful and shame-inducing. The feelings of shame come from not knowing what to do, feeling like I OUGHT to know how to do… whatever it is I need to do, seeing other gear owners who DO know what to do, and being seen by them as not knowing what to do. It’s a thing: a thing to recognize, a thing to deal with, a thing to get support around. I know this. But it is not an easy thing.

I also have another fine and complex piece of gear: my new e-bike, purchased 23 days ago. It’s peppy and lightweight (lightweight is a thing with me these days) and I’ve been dreaming about this bike for more than two years. Now I have it. Yay!

Of course, there’s the usual break-in period where you have to make adjustments to bike fit (e.g. throwing away the saddle it came with and getting one that works for you), tweaks to the gearing assembly, and such like. I’ve ridden almost 50 miles on the bike so far, and that process is humming along.

Or at least it was, until today. The fancy electronic assist computer interface (i.e. the button on the top tube) and the connected bike computer went… well, I think the proper term is kaflooey. The computer showed me riding 0mph, with 0% battery and level 0 of assist. At least it was consistent.

The computer interface on the bike kept cycling through 3 levels of pedal assist: zero, one and two, indicated by flashing circles of white, green and orange. I could even feel it on the bike. Weird. And not what I had in mind. My friend Rachel, a very experienced cyclist and level-headed person, helped me do some diagnostics, which included:

  • pushing the bike interface button both for longer and shorter durations, a whole bunch of times;
  • pushing buttons on the bike computer in similar fashion;
  • disconnecting the cable connecting the motor to the battery/computer internal assembly;
  • reconnecting the cable after waiting a few minutes and futzing with the connectors;
  • recommencing button pushing.

None of this resulted in resetting the electronic assist computer. Oh, well, it’s still a bike. So we did the only thing we could do: ride to our favorite coffee shop. At least the espresso machine there was in good working order. Whew.

Here’s the thing: I want to be more chill and more sanguine and more confident around gear, especially MY gear. I get anxious about the possibility of things going wrong, and I get extremely anxious when things actually go wrong. I fear looking incompetent in front of others, and actually being incompetent.

Today was a good lesson for me. The new fancy gear went kaflooey, but nothing bad actually happened. It may be easily fixable or a big pain in the butt to deal with. Either way, I’ll move through it.

Readers, what would you say is your relationship like with your gear? Are you best buddies? Do you tinker with it all the time for fun? Do you delegate gear maintenance to others among your family and friends? Do you ride a single-speed bike because you don’t want the complexity? I’d love to hear from you (just don’t tell me how easy some task is… 🙂

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