My Crusade - Opinion


There’s a look some people get when they think you are absolutely bat shit crazy. I know the look well, which probably says more about me than I’d like to admit, but I’m having a hard time being introspective at the moment. Why? Because I’m on a goddamn crusade. Nothing short of an epic quest of good versus evil.
Admittedly, it didn’t start out that way. It began like this: I went to the hardware store in search of a bottle of Loctite 243. For the record, I did not envision this simple errand sprawling into a journey into the very bowels of hell. This is Loctite, after all, and not the Holy Grail, the Lance of Longinus (aka, “The Spear of Destiny” that Hitler was such a fan of) or The One Ring.

It Began in a Secret Laboratory

What is Loctite? If you are that rare soul who has never turned a wrench in their life, the name may elude you. Okay then…Loctite was born on a dark and stormy night (I’m making that part up, but it sounds good) in 1953 when Vernon K. Krieble had a eureka moment in his underground lair (i.e., basement laboratory in Hartford, Connecticut). At the time, Krieble was experimenting with anaerobic adhesives. The result would become what just about every swinging dick knows as Loctite—that goop you slather on bolt threads that keeps said bolts from loosening and backing out after they’ve been vibrated a bunch. The stuff has been around for decades now. It works. It smells sweet, but will assuredly kill you if sprinkled on top of your breakfast cereal. It is, after all, a threadlocker. What’s more—and this part is relevant to my tale—you can readily buy the crap at just about any hardware store.But not this time. Let’s go back to me getting the look that suggests I’m a complete nut job.

In the Bowels of the Home Depot I’m standing before a man—an expert in his field—let’s call him “Jack”, it’s what the badge on his orange vest declares. And Jack is having a hard time. A real hard time dealing with the absolute barrage of bullshit flowing from my mouth. His eyes dart left and right. He is looking around for help. Maybe Sally or Doug in the Plumbing Department can come to his aid…For the record, here is what I said to our man, Jack.“Hi. Do you know where I can find some Loctite 243?”Blank stare. It lasts about seven seconds. Maybe I haven’t given Jack enough substance to run with here. I try again.“You know, Loctite—it’s the liquid threadlocker. The version I’m looking for is a blue, medium-strength formula.”More blank staring.“So, yeah, it comes in a little red bottle with a white top…”Jack finally reaches into his pocket and pulls out some kind of store directory app on his smart phone. He starts typing. He frowns. Swipes a few times. Then he speaks.“Dude, you’re totally in the wrong department. It’s over in Paint and Wallpaper.”Ah, I know where Jack has gone wrong. You see, “Loctite” is, technically speaking, now a name brand that includes several home improvement products including window sealants and general purpose caulking supplies, which, of course, can be found in the Paint department of this particular store. I know this because of two facts:(1) I am not an idiot; and (2) This is the fourth goddamn hardware store I have been to today and every single time I have asked the people at Lowes or Ace Hardware or Home Depot where they keep the Loctite (I assure you, I ask this in a calm and friendly fashion), they have all directed me to the paint department. Every time. Without f*ckin’ fail.
falling down
There are days when I can relate to this movie. Note to the lawyers: I am in no way advocating senseless, gun-related violence. Just, you know, sometimes your vision gets all blurry and you feel like screaming and... oh, wait, that's just me? Okay, I'll work on it...

This is Why My Eye Twitches I am now three hours into my search for an $8 bottle of threadlocker. What the hell? It’s as if I am asking for permission to casually browse through their top-secret stashes of plutonium or peruse their stolen ancient artifacts collection.

Look, I get it—the hardware store is full of mysterious and confounding items like shovels and rakes and garbage disposals. It’s probably challenging to keep track of it all. Fair enough. But did Jack and all the other vacant store clerks I have grappled with today not hear me say “threadlocker”? Are we not standing in the damn Screws/Nuts/Bolts aisle? This is where Loctite belongs. And yet I have thoroughly combed this aisle and the other aisles on either side of it before I gave in and approached Jack. Because, dammit, at this point I know Jack isn’t going to be able to cough up the goods on this one.

What Sets Bike Geeks Apart From Everyone Else

So, three hours and 15 minutes after I began my journey, I find myself trudging back to the car. I will pull out my laptop. I will summon the awesome power of Amazon.com and I will get that bottle of Loctite 243 sent directly to my doorstep tomorrow. There’s a new swingarm that needs mounting. There are bolts that need to be tightened… that little red bottle of Loctite 243 will be mine. Oh, yes it will.
For the record, a bottle of Loctite is not to be confused with The Spear of Destiny. The two items should not be equally difficult to obtain.
The Loctite will arrive, the bike will get built and in a few days, this will all be behind me. I know. First world drama and all that. I concede the point. But here’s the thing that really strikes me. If I was talking to a bike nerd and I said I needed some Loctite threadlocker, they wouldn’t give me a blank stare or send me to the Lawn and Garden section of the story. Instead, they’d say something like, “What kind of Loctite? Do you need that high-lubricity, high-strength, LocTite 2047 stuff? No, wait, of course not. Do you need the Loctite primer? Are you going to prep a press-fit BB shell? Or do you need 242 or 243—because if the bolt has any grease on it, even traces of it, you are going to want the 243.”Because that’s the thing about bike nerds—they give a damn about this kind of thing. They tend to know their stuff. They care. I find that fact refreshing. I mean, I’ll be the first to admit that our conversations about brake fluid—the relative merits of DOT fluid versus mineral oil, for instance—may not be riveting to non-bike geeks, but I find it refreshing that riders actually give a damn about these things.
I used to work in the same building as a bunch of ski, snowboard, skate and surf magazines. The editors at those magazines were always dumbfounded by how intense we were about testing the products that showed up on our pages. “Why do you guys spend all that time riding those bikes? We just print the catalog copy.”I’d hear that and a little part of me would always die. Bike nerds are different. I may disagree with something another bike editor writes, but I rarely doubt that he or she went out and rode the test bike a bunch. They are fellow nerds. I don’t question their actual diligence. It’s hardwired into their DNA. And besides, you are writing to other nerds who have that same “give a damn” gene in their own double helixes: If you put out a half-assed tech review and 70 percent of it focuses on the color of the bike or some flowery bullshit about “the brand”, you’ll get crucified by those readers. And that’s a good thing. Mountain bikers care about the details. The details matter. If nothing else, you can ask a mountain biker where the Loctite is and they won’t hand you a tube of window caulk. There’s a lot to be said for that.