Operator Error

The Comptoir Voltaire

The definition of a ‘bad day on the bike’

I work in the computer industry. In our industry there is a phrase we use when a user complains about an application when there is really nothing wrong.  We call it operator error. It means that the problem is in the way the user is using the application, not the application itself. Now sometimes the application works fine but the problem is with the instructions provided to the user or the user interface. But when computer folk say operator error it is usually a polite euphemism for:

Apparently this guy is too stupid to use this …

In the case of my mishap (pictured here) it was not a problem with the user interface, it was not a problem with the instructions, it was not a problem with the S&S couplers … it was definitely a case of operator error :(

In my previous job I travelled about 100,000 miles a year by air. I took my bike with me almost every other week. Since I was constantly packing and unpacking the bike I was assembling and disassembling it weekly. Therefore I found myself inspecting and adjusting it often. Now that I don’t fly very much it has been nearly six months since I have assembled my bike. Unfortunately, I have not been very good about checking to see whether the S&S couplers are tight and the picture above is the result.

The down tube coupler worked itself loose and then completely disconnected. The resultant force caused the top tube to buckle in the middle. Fortunately, I was just getting on the bike. I saw the top tube start to bend and I was able to unclip and put my feet on the ground. If this has happened earlier when I was going downhill, it could have been much worse. In the end I was not injured and I sen the bike off to get the top tube replaced.

I should have known better. On the ride the coupler was coming loose and I could tell the bike didn’t feel right. I checked the tires, made sure the wheels were reasonably true but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. The best clue was when I noticed the derailleur cables were stretched. Since the frame was coming apart, the cables that ran along the down tube were stretched until ultimately they came apart. I saw that the cable was stretched but couldn’t figure out why.

The moral of the story is that if you think there is something wrong with your bike, even if it just doesn’t ‘feel right’ — there probably is something wrong. Don’t ride it until you can figure out what it is.

Finally, I sent the bike off to Bilenky Cycles in Philadelphia, they did the original S&S conversion, and I got it back last week. They replaced the top tube and coupler and gave it a shiny new paint job. I am assembling it and looking forward to riding.


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One Response to Operator Error

  1. John McNeil says:

    Isn’t Bilenky just the best?
    Get another S&S wrench from them and use it every ride!

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