In praise of simple technologies

Matchstick in hand, yesterday I was sitting on my driveway, fettling with my push bike. When I say fettling, before anyone runs away with idea that I was knee-deep in hex keys, I mean picking crud out of my chainset. And there was an awful lot of crud. Big lumps of it to prod out with a matchstick. The best tool, bar none, that I’ve found for doing this job.

I’d just come back from a 45-minute bike ride where one of my gears was running a bit clunky. Very Tour de France isn’t it this terminology – clunky, crud – and so I thought I’d take a look. And what occurred to me was, no wonder a couple of gears aren’t running very well, but how am I able to ride this bike as it’s clogged, yep, another one, to the point that I’m amazed any of my gears are working.

But that’s what I love about my bike. It’s a piece of relatively simple technology and so will continue to work even if it’s not at optimal cleanliness/servicedness. It just carries on with what it was designed to do. Nothing complicated. Most problems I can fix myself and best of all it runs on pure pedal power. Modern life is full of too many over complicated technologies that stop working at the drop of a hat or need a certified engineer to come out and fix. They rob us of some fundamental part of what it is to be human; to make and fettle our own environments. Let’s keep things simple instead.

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