The Law of Accelerating Bicycle Gear Entropy

02.18.2015 | 9:45 am

Last summer, my feet started hurting. Bad. The MTB shoes I owned left my feet in agony after even medium-sized rides. Trying to fix this, I bought a couple pair of mountain bike shoes, then went to a cobbler and had the shoes stretched to make room for where my feet were being cramped.

I went to Leadville with two pair of shoes: the Giro Code VR70s, and the Shimano SH-XC90s. After riding around for a few days, trying both pairs of shoes, I went with the Codes for the race itself.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the Shimanos. I really liked the Shimanos. However, when one pair of biking shoes is more comfortable than the other — even just a little bit more comfortable — I tend to go with those shoes, pretty much all the time.

A few days ago, however, I thought to myself, “I should start wearing the Shimanos while I’m doing short rides early in the season. I bet that if I start wearing them in, they’ll be plenty comfortable by the time I get to the long rides.”

It was a fine idea, and I was happy to execute it. Unfortunately, there was a problem.

The Hunt Begins

I could not find the shoes. 

At first, I chalked this up to a simple misplacement. I looked in the obvious places. On the shelf by the steps in the garage where I usually take shoes off before entering the house. In my closet. In the trunk of my truck. 

It was, of course, in none of those places.

So I looked in the many storage bins we have in our garage. Not there. I looked under the bed. Not there. I looked in the coat closet, though I couldn’t imagine why they would be there.

Not there.

Nor was it in any of the suitcases in the house. Nor in The Swimmer’s closet (she has a habit of “borrowing” her mother’s clothes, and I thought maybe she had “borrowed” my shoes by accident). Nor under the bathroom sink (no idea why they’d be there).

I commenced to tear the house apart. No longer searching just because I wanted these shoes, but because the fact that they had entirely vanished was driving me insane

In my distress, I fired off a tweet:

Many people had witty and sarcastic responses. Nobody had any helpful responses. Which pretty much describes Twitter in general, when you think about it.

The Explanation

Finally, I resolved myself to the fact that I am a victim of the “Law of Accelerating Bicycle Gear Entropy,” which is defined as follows:

As you fail to use any bicycle-related item, it becomes unusable at an increasingly fast pace.

What does this mean? Why, I’m glad you asked.

Essentially, as long as you use any bike-related equipment on a daily (or at most, every other day) basis, it will remain easy to locate, and in good working order. This of course doesn’t mean that these things won’t break or wear out; it just means they will break and wear out at a predictable, understandable rate. Clothes will get old, socks will get holes in toes, bike tires will wear out. 

But none of this will surprise you, and you will know where all of these things are.

However, if you stop using an item for more than a couple days, strange things will begin to happen.

After a week of non-use, your bike’s rear derailleur will become misaligned.

After a month of non-use, one of any given pair of socks will develop an unexpected hole. Or relocate to under the couch. Dust and / or grease will accumulate on non-used bike parts until they are no longer recognizable as what they once were. Clothing items will shrink, drastically.

After a season of non-use, a bike will have two flat tires, the chain will be so creaky and rusty that you would never be able to convince a jury that it had ever been lubed, and the saddle will tilt far forward and to the left. This demonstrates a corollary to the law: the longer you don’t use an object, the harder it will be to ever start using it again.

And once half a year has elapsed, the Law of Accelerating Bicycle Gear Entropy will have had time to take full hold of the bike-related object.

And it will spontaneously crumble into dust. Which will, incidentally, then go out of its way to coat other non-used bike-related items.

Or, sometimes, it will travel into a parallel universe, where it will peacefully exist forever.

Unless, of course, you buy a replacement for that vanished object. At which point it will immediately return.

Farewell, Shimano SH-XC90s.


  1. Comment by Tom in Albany | 02.18.2015 | 10:19 am

    Did you call the hotel in Leadville and ask for your shoes back?

  2. Comment by Shugg McGraw | 02.18.2015 | 10:21 am

    Did you lend them to Lisa’s son?

  3. Comment by CVR | 02.18.2015 | 10:42 am

    my foot issues got a lot better when I got rid of all the shoes that used to hurt my feet that way I wouldn’t wear them anymore or be tempted to wear them even. Consider it a blessing – or blame it on Levi.

  4. Comment by Frank | 02.18.2015 | 10:43 am

    Don’ forget that black hole that builds up in any car/moving truck. It’s getting bigger over time and swallows pretty much anything.

    You should ask the cat. Maybe she needed the shoes for her paperclip collection…

  5. Comment by ohfreak | 02.18.2015 | 10:51 am

    Wait you’re giving up? Ummmm no I don’t think that’s acceptable. Sir. THEY ARE OUT THERE SOMEWHERE.

  6. Comment by berry | 02.18.2015 | 10:55 am

    I lost my Garmin HRM strap last fall. Lost it. Even took the drastic step of cleaning out the car – it was gone. Must have fallen out somewhere and I didn’t notice.

    It fell out of a jersey the day after I bought a replacement.

    So now I have two!

  7. Comment by Chris | 02.18.2015 | 11:26 am

    This is a corollary to the law:
    “Availability is inversely proportionate to need.”

    Which, itself, is related to Murphy’s Law.

  8. Comment by PNP | 02.18.2015 | 11:35 am

    Your truck has a trunk?

    Yep. Honda Ridgekine. -FC

  9. Comment by MattC | 02.18.2015 | 11:43 am

    I believe that items can be teleported to a new location by gremlins. This is kind of a parallel deal to your Law of Accelerating Bicycle Gear Entropy. I don’t have a fancy name for it, but the law states that the odds of something becoming ‘missing’ is equivalent to your need of the item at that moment.

    Thus explaining why things suddenly show up when you are no longer looking for them. I’m STILL looking for a 10mm socket that disappeared when I was working on my dirt bike back in 1977. I was sitting in an empty 2-car garage (well, empty except for me and my dirt bike, sitting on a milk-crate). I was USING the socket, set it down, and BAM…it was gone, NEVER to be seen again.

    I personally think it’s sitting in some giant gremlin-warehouse somewhere along with about 17 gazillion missing socks).

  10. Comment by MattC | 02.18.2015 | 11:44 am

    ahhh..Chris has a name for the missing item rule (posted it while I was typing).

  11. Comment by berry | 02.18.2015 | 12:36 pm

    Also, “…went to a cobbler…” is not a phrase I would have expected to be reading in 2015.

  12. Comment by leroy | 02.18.2015 | 1:55 pm

    My dog insists your rule also applies to the bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape I had been saving for a special occasion and that I owe him an apology.

    But he wants a quiet apology, no loud noises, he has a headache, and doesn’t feel much like eating anything at the moment.

  13. Comment by chickenbocks | 02.18.2015 | 2:03 pm

    A thought – email the people with whom you stayed in Leadville to see if anyone picked them up by accident (which would absolve you of even the tiniest possibility of responsibility for their misplacement.)

  14. Comment by TK | 02.18.2015 | 2:45 pm

    Did someone say cobbler?! Mmmm, cobbler…

  15. Comment by roadrash | 02.18.2015 | 3:28 pm

    “Clothing items will shrink, drastically.” So true.

  16. Comment by Jeff Bike | 02.18.2015 | 4:19 pm

    Isn’t cobbler related to PIE?
    Remember what mother said, “if you haven’t used it in that long, you don’t need it”.

  17. Comment by Rydeordie | 02.18.2015 | 4:48 pm

    Oftentimes when you use your car as a closet and changing room stuff falls out. For this reason I always watch the ground as I back out of the parking spot. Unless I’m backing into a highway in Lake Tahoe in which case I don’t and leave my shoes on the ground. Fortunately they were there on a rock where someone left them 2 days later. or on the bench by the portapotty at the other trailhead after the night ride. Or at the parking lot of the park/ trailhead after the ride with the wife in which I was to busy explaining that the reason she had issues with driving were because of her mom having issues with driving. (Being a back seat driver, having to drive to have control, jerking and hitting the imaginary brake on the floor when any car she was a passenger in came within 20 carlengths of the car in front of it.)

  18. Comment by Aaron | 02.18.2015 | 6:42 pm

    So…how many of those bikes in your garage are you willing to part with? I’m sure they would be much happier in my heated garage, which has very little dust. And of course I would make sure all of the chains had the appropriate amount of lube at all times, and all seats would face forward.

    Wouldn’t that make you feel much better about your bikes? And I would do this all free of charge!


  19. Comment by Rolis | 02.18.2015 | 6:43 pm

    Clearly, you have too many MTB shoes. When you find them, send them to me please, I need a new pair.

    What size are your feet? And do you live in the continental US? – FC

  20. Comment by Chris | 02.19.2015 | 6:22 am

    Thank you for finally defining this. I spent 15 minutes last night looking for a Park Allen key tool that somehow ended up not with my tool box, not in my Road or Mountain bike saddle bags but the second drawer of my desk.

    So as entrophy sets in do they also grow legs?

  21. Comment by leroy | 02.19.2015 | 9:01 am

    Like you, my dog often misplaces footwear.

    When he and his friends get together for game night, he’s often shaking dice and declaring “baby needs a new pair of shoes.”

  22. Comment by Isaac | 02.19.2015 | 9:40 am

    “What size are your feet? And do you live in the continental US? – FC”

    9.5US, I’m in Minnesota. (Stealing Rolis’s Thunder)

  23. Comment by J | 02.19.2015 | 11:56 am

    Let me check with my 2 year old, she always steal our bike stuff. Particularly the expensive items. If she doesn’t have your pair, she’ll have someone’s pair…

  24. Comment by Rumpled/Jim | 02.20.2015 | 1:51 am

    Rebecca took them?
    Your race crew brought them on course and the took them home?

  25. Comment by Glen | 02.20.2015 | 1:29 pm

    My old Garmin 500 disappeared that way (a knee injury/surgery that prevented biking for several months). I biked without it for a couple of years, but then bit the bullet for a new one, fully expecting to then find the old one immediately. Surprisingly, it hasn’t yet reappeared.

  26. Comment by BV | 02.24.2015 | 1:04 pm

    Adidas Mundial Team and old school toe clips. Have yet to “fall” while clipped in. And the turf treads make it easy on the feet in an uphill scramble “off piste” for the best parking spot in front of the local coffee & donuts.


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