Things You Learn in India: Bash It Into Place

February 19th, 2013

Country/Day:      India/14

Bikes Fixed:                  20

Bikes/Day Avg:               1.42

So I don’t think I would be very humble if I wasn’t able to shared things that I’d learned. I mean, I have been sharing a lot of facts, but what about methods and processes and things that I can bring back and recreate, instead of just write a paper about?

Oh yes. There are those things too.

I am learning Hindi (which I will do a post on later). I am learning some new recipes. I am learning new games.

Most importantly, I am learning new ways to fix bicycles.


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In the US we call that nice coat of rust GNB — “Get a New Bike.”

I’d like to use this post to highlight one of those bicycle-fixing ways. This one in particular is called the “bash it into place” method. This is the preferred method of most of the mechanics in India.

Note: This post is only half-joking. Seeing this done can be really funny. But it’s also really what happens.

Today I got my first “perfect” on building an India Special up from scratch. Namely, the mechanic usually has to adjust the brakes for me. The brakes need the most adjustment, and I am too afraid to bang and bend everything into place.

That’s right, we use this method on new bikes, too.

Anyways, after seeing the debacle I’m about to describe, I went liberal. The mechanic tried the bike and hugged me. The brakes were perfect.

Bash it into place.

– – –

First, some background. As you may know, Indian labor is cheap. As you may know, but haven’t really had time to think about, tools are not cheap. As a result, here in India, it’s cheaper to have a smart employee than a good tool. And all the better if that employee can do things that not even tools can do.

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My name is Indian Bike Mechanic and I’m 10x smarter than US Bike Mechanic.

I mean, just look at my truing stand.

In the US, we spend a lot of money on high-quality components and materials. Any maintenance person or builder or fabricator or mechanic will tell you: better quality materials are easier to work with and almost always result in a better quality product. I have seen it time and time again when sewing, carpentering, cleaning, etc. Some fabrics just make better garments. Some wood just makes better shelves. Some cleaners just work better.

So in the US, there’s usually a nice compromise between quality of personnel and quality of tool. In India, for the most part anyways, there’s no such compromise. The workers are capable and smart and the tools suck (re: the cost of labor mentioned above).

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This guy forgoes tools completely and just makes a living off of facial expressions.

Okay, duck noises too.

Enough background. This method is awesome. At first I was a little hesitant to start bashing and banging and bending, but any India Special can handle it. Consider exhibit (A):

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One of these things is not like the other.

If all you see bent out of place is the crank, keep looking. It’ll sink in eventually. Think about the angle of the camera.

This bike was hit by a car (yes, the rider was OK – miraculously). Due to the lack of law enforcement the driver doesn’t have to pay for a new bike. In the US we’d toss this. Even if we could fix it, we’d never call it “fixed –” it’s a liability. The frame, chainguard, wheel, and both cranks are “permanently” bent out of place.

Notice how the word “permanently” is in quotes.

Enter the hammer.

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Ready… aim…

And don’t forget our good ‘ol friend the drain cover.

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It’s good stress relief too. Just look at that face.

It’s funny, but it’s legit. It took five minutes to get the bike back in working order. We made some money and the customer walked away happy. Also, I think I’m experienced enough with India Specials at this point to say the bike is as good as new and the customer has nothing to worry about.

I see this method used at least once a day, usually two or three times. I was just never quick enough with the camera. That’s the other thing — it’s efficient. If a customer brought that bike to a US shop and said they’d pay whatever it took, we’d order a new frame, crankset, and rear wheel. It would take a few weeks to get the parts in and an hour or two to transfer everything to the new frame. We’d also charge them up front because that’s the sort of cost people walk away from.

Not in India, my friends. Not in India.

2 thoughts on “Things You Learn in India: Bash It Into Place

  1. Marilyn says:

    Great blog post! It says a lot about the U.S. and India. You could write a book on that – what bike maintenance methods tell you about a country.

  2. Jenna says:

    Dear sir,

    I has been like 2 and a half days since your last post. How do you expect me to avoid studying for finals without your adventures in India?

    Also FB said you fixed a TON of bikes! How many? Can’t wait to hear about it 🙂

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