Confessions of a loan-er

Missy Votel - 08/31/2017

It’s a familiar scenario. A friend has an opportunity for an epic adventure but not quite the right gear to enjoyably partake in said adventure. You – caught up in the excitement of it all – blurt out that he or she is welcome to use your gear. You figure if you can’t go, well, at least your gear can. Granted, this occurs a few drinks into happy hour – you know, that warm fuzzy feeling of invincibility that comes with a little buzz.

Naturally, once you return to sobriety, you realize the small jaunt you have now agreed to is more like a major expedition. But, like heading down the tongue of a huge horizon line, there’s no turning back – you’re committed. Plus, no one wants to be a tightwad when it comes to their gear – especially since you never know when you’ll be on the asking end of such requests. So, you put any evil thoughts aside, scold yourself for being such a worry wart, and go with it.

Of course, it’s a well-known fact that the more expensive the gear, the more epic the potential for disaster. Take a recent deal I struck with a friend (yes, we are still friends) over the use of my trusty Salsa titanium hardtail for a multi-day bike-packing trip in exchange for a couple bottles of wine (from the $20 shelf) and pre-and post-ride bike tunes. Seemed reasonable – plus it would give me a chance to get reacquainted with my long-neglected singlespeed that was banished to recreational Siberia once I discovered gears. The one whose bottom bracket creaks almost as loud as my knees, that I like to refer to as my “crabby machine.” (I would like to add, in our defense, single-speeders don’t have an attitude; they’re just exhausted. And maybe a little hangry.)

“What’s the worst that can happen? It’s titanium!” I reasoned. And yes – cringe if you must at my reckless optimism – I said it out loud, in front of horrified witnesses. Fate, meet destiny.

I won’t go into the gory details, but let’s just say, the bike did not exactly come back in one piece. Sure, she profusely apologized, vehemently denied any wrong doing and offered to buy a new one. But, as we all know, especially when it comes to stuff that’s been around the Gulch a few times, it’s complicated. Yes, the bike did suffer a mortal wound the size of the San Andreas Fault, but who’s to say whose fault the fault was? And thus begins the swirling vortex of speculation and second-guessing.

Possibly the seat post was too high? Or too low? Perhaps it was that slow-motion auger into the rocks a few weeks back. Or maybe it was a holdover from the random guy I bought it from off the internet. (I know, major faux pas. But have you seen what new bikes cost? More than my car – which isn’t saying much; I’ve had parking tickets that cost more than my car – but definitely out of reach for a girl of humble means such as myself.)

Needless to say, none of this speculation really mattered. Buying secondhand had nullified the warranty, despite a groveling but charming letter to Salsa – which is based in my home state – in which I tried to play the Minnesota card, to little effect. Apparently not even Chuck Foreman or Grainbelt beer were enough to persuade their sympathies. As for buying a new frame – that was financially out of the question. At least not without me feeling extremely guilty over bankrupting my friend. Plus, as the loan-ee, I had my fair share of culpability in the matter.

In other words, it sucked all around. But not for you, dear reader. This is where you get to learn from my mistakes – because lord knows, even after a zillion times, I have not. Sure, it’s OK to loan out your gear, but here are a few guidelines to save you from heartbreak and bikebreak.

And having to spend the rest of the summer on old Crabby (your knees will thank you):

• First we’ll start with that asinine “What’s the worst that can happen?” line followed by the equally appalling “it’s not like you can hurt it.” These sentences when uttered independently from one another are extremely risky, but together they are the kiss of death. It’s a little-known fact that Leonardo said this to Kate right before the Titanic hit the iceberg. Just shut it.

• Size matters. Yes, but so do a lot of other factors that perhaps you may want to take into consideration. For example, are you the type that breaks a sweat opening a jar of pickles and whose idea of adventure is a brisk ride to the bars whereas your friend has been known to sharpen his chainsaw with his teeth and enjoys 110-degree ultra-marathons? If so, it’s likely that although you may have the same inseam, you have vastly different gnar thresholds. Proceed with caution.

• Shit happens. Boats fly off roof racks, hats and sun-glasses get swallowed by keeper eddies, and zippers have an uncanny knack of blowing out for no good reason. This is despite how careful, anal and downright paranoid you are being. If it’s something that can’t be replaced without having to sell your firstborn, think twice.

• Find out details before agreeing to anything. The more information you have, the easier the decision-making process. For example, will the outing entail tornado

chasing, komodo dragons, squirrel suits, excessive tequila consumption or active volcanoes? If so, your first reaction (after asking “what kind of tequila?”) should not be “no,” but “hell no.”

• When worst comes to worst, make up an excuse (“I’m having the air in my tires changed that week” or “The dog ate the key to the garage”) and then politely say no. Here, I’ll practice with you: nnnnnnnn-oooooooo-wwwwuhhh. Good.

• Better yet, you can always offer up an “alternative;” you know, the cooler that’s missing a hinge; the sparkly disco helmet from 1995; that old tent with the indoor “water feature.” And, there’s always old Crabby.

• And last but not least, let’s not forget our old friend, duct tape, as well as Gorilla Glue, epoxy, rubber cement, P-tex and – in this case – a really good welder. They’re much preferable to trying to salvage a friendship – and much less sticky. 

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