You know you have it great when something so stupid bothers you. Either that or you’re stupid, which I may be, but I’ll leave that to you and the comments section below.
Here’s what happened.
I have a new bike. You read about it already here. This bike is as close to perfection as I can imagine, and it’s new bike tight. The brakes are perfect. The chain still has that factory grease on it. The wheels are as true as a first kiss or a last hurrah.
So you can imagine how I felt when I went to throw a leg over the other day and noticed that one of the bar-end caps was missing. “What fresh fuckery is this?” I thought. I scanned the floor of the garage for the cap that wasn’t there. I thought, “I’m not really going to be late for the ride, so I can fish out some spare end cap and replace that right now, am I?”
What I found in that one plastic bin that harbors disc brake blocks, canti noodles, stray bits of housing, two chain tensioners, a few odd master links, and a chain that’s not quite new and not quite old yet, was a small handful of bar end caps from various bar tape makers. I won’t name them here, because what I can tell you is that each of them makes a really bad bar end cap. I also found two heavy, screw-in tension caps, the sort you insert and then expand with the turn of a screwdriver. I rammed one into the end of my handlebar, cranked the screw, and rolled out.
“You’re late,” said my friends, and then I made them sorry for pointing it out by ranting about the shit-tacity of the caps that come with most every roll of bar tape I’ve ever opened. Then I detailed my technique for overcoming their inadequacy with a twisted piece of electrical tape, and how even this method occasionally fails to keep the damn things from working their way out of the bar end. I spent a few minutes guessing at where this galloping tragedy might have transpired, and then proposed a class-action lawsuit to prevent anyone else from suffering this same bit of velo-calamity.
In return for my dissertation on the subject I received mostly shaking heads, patronizing chuckles, and long, breathy sighs. I deserved that. We rode away.
Here’s an idea. What if end caps that fit the bars properly came with the bars, instead of with the tape? What if handlebars were notched internally to receive the compressed nub from the cap? What if, on a machine that has been engineered half-to-death over the last few decades, the masterminds of our cycling destiny turned their attention, however briefly, to solving this one stupid problem?
I know people who use champagne corks for end caps. I shit you not.
Right now, you’re sitting there clucking and harumphing to yourself, as you should, about what an addled lunatic I am. This is not a problem you have. Your end caps never fall out. What’s wrong with me and my squirrelly bike maintenance routines?
Fair question. I don’t know.
I also don’t know why I let these things bother me. I’m a nothing cyclist, not fast, not strong, not particularly good at bike handling, or even staying on the damn thing. I’m not matchy-matchy in my kit choices or very particular about much. But somehow looking down at that void rends my soul. It mocks me, a mirror for my own shortcomings, many though they be.
And so I’m writing about bar end caps today, a product you absolutely must use, though they’re all bad. A thing that doesn’t matter at all, except that it’s absence offends the eye. That I keep spares tells you everything you need to know, i.e. that the ones I have now are going to fall out, that I know it, and that the possibility is so painful to me that I’ve devised a storage and replacement strategy to remedy it.
Image: The Scream – Edvard Munch