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Quarantine and the art of bicycle maintenance

My indoor training setup during quarantine

I’m in an unusual spot, at the beginning of 2021, writing from my hotel room in Ho Chi Minh City. I’ll be making some bag inspections at the factory and developing products for the coming year. I love the country and working with manufacturers here, but I’m faced with a 2-week hotel quarantine before I can even step foot outside. Vietnam’s strict entry restrictions have forced this, but has allowed them to handle the coronavirus with relative success. More countries should be enacting tougher entry restrictions, even if the thought of spending 2 weeks in a hotel room sounds unfathomable. I can hear my fellow Americans: "muh Freedom~"

I miss America already, but having CNN blasting on the TV all day gives a little feeling of back home, despite the events in the country this month. Having your bike, a smart trainer and a training app helps to distract. If you’ve had the ability to stay and work from home throughout the pandemic, then this is not all that different. It’s my third day in quarantine and it hasn’t been bad at all (check back with me after day 14.)

Quarantine done right. An Aeropress, a Kindle, local craft brew (for post-ride hydration) and my indoor trainer delivered to the room. My new Allied Alfa arrived safely, again, thanks to the Transfer Case.

It’s also the third year of Post, and what a journey it’s been. I started Post with the idea that more cyclists should get out there and explore the world with their bikes. I needed to find a way to inspire, and designing bags was my way of inspiring. The adventures and stories that come from cyclists using the bags are what inspire me back.

2020 Highlights

2020 was tough for many of us. Despite the near-complete stoppage of travel early in the pandemic, there were some highlights for Post. One was the outpouring of response when I reached out to the community for Frame Pack product testers. Those prototype half-frame bags I made in my studio validated that a functional frame bag could achieve the all-important fitted look on a variety of frames, without the need to be fully-custom. Look out for another call for product testers real soon for the new bags this year!

A Frame Pack prototype on Chris's Stigmata.

Another highlight was the conversations I had with some of you, even if some of our encounters were only virtual. One of the greatest benefits as a small business is being able to have direct conversations with people and customers. Some were willing to share their perspectives such as Sky, Carolin, and Marty. They each had a unique view as cyclists adapting to the crazy year, and if you haven’t read their recaps of 2020, please do so!

Moving Forward

I'll say one last thing about the pandemic. I'm appreciative of all the amazing work that people have done to develop a vaccine in record time. It's giving us hope and in some ways, feels like "the golden ticket" that once you have it, it will "cure" all. However, we can't fully rely on the vaccine to be the only answer. In reality, the vaccine is only one part of the solution to this pandemic. Collectively, we still have to do our part in this crisis by socially distancing, wearing masks, and limiting your travel until it's over.

There’s a joke about consumerism I make with my industrial designer friends: Everyone’s looking for a product that solves their problems. As a business owner selling products, it’s ironic to say that this is not how we should expect solutions to problems. We want products or things to “cure” our problems. We want things that are easy to understand and simply do what we want. But problems aren’t solved with a single solution. There's a system we need to understand which involves all of us to keep doing our part. So, please, keep staying strong, limit your group riding, get vaccinated.

I keep thinking back to one of the most influential pieces of writing in my life that also has something to do with my point above. Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is an obscure reference to make, but the connection here is quite relevant. Those that've read it know it's actually not really about motorcycle maintenance. How does the coronavirus relate to components of a motorcycle or bicycle? What if we approached it with the same understanding of components to a system like how a mechanic sees it?

I had been seeing that shim in a kind of intellectual, rational, cerebral way in which the scientific properties of the metal were all that counted. John was going at it immediately and intuitively, grooving on it. I was going at it in terms of underlying form. He was going at it in terms of immediate appearance. I was seeing what the shim meant. He was seeing what the shim was.

Most people that are reading this were probably led here because they are savvy cyclists themselves, willing to take apart their bike to pack it in a tiny travel case. We all know that a bike is made up of many components to have a fully functioning machine. We can't just buy a bike. We have to intimately know its components to know it can ultimately reward us back with performance, style, or whatever it is. An understanding of underlying form is one of the great benefits of being a cyclist. Keep doing your part.

-Marc Mendoza
Founder & Lead Designer @ Post