PBMA President James Stanfill is well respected on the race scene and this month he worked a couple of races... here's what he has to say.
Things always begin as a question. "Hey we are looking for a mechanic for X." It's a call, text or email I get on a weekly basis. The PBMA is keeping me pretty busy but I always enjoy supporting athletes.
As usual the call came in, this time for the Amy D. Foundation and instead of connecting them with a mechanic I said I would be honored to be a part of their team for the Redlands Bicycle Classic. The team was incredible, we had no expectations other than to give these athletes a professional experience in a Pro-Am race. Well by the end of the weekend they owned the top two spots in the best Amateur classification and the 15 year old wonderkid on junior gearing scored 2nd in the criterium, being bested only by a solo breakaway rider...
Redlands has been around for 33 years they say. Myself like a few others have been to this "small" Inland Empire town year after year for perhaps more years than we care to remember. What's familiar in Redlands is the local love for the Classic. Residents opening their homes to host teams, filling the sides of the streets to cheer the racers on.
The favorite spots to grab a bite like El Burrito and the usual "union" meeting on Friday at The Royal Falconer. Redlands is a race worth going to and well worth supporting with whatever resource you offer.
Lucky for the PBMA the team needed a vehicle moved back to Colorado. This offered me a couple days of windshield time. Between Redlands and Golden are a couple of important stops like Vegas, Moab and Grand Junction. Vegas perhaps not so much but a place to sleep... plenty of days yet to be spend there in September for Interbike. In Moab I was able to make the hour detour to visit PBMA member shop Poison Spider Bicycles, a shop I'd personally not been to in somewhere around 10 years.
Grand Junction was the next overnight with a morning visit to DT Swiss who are doing some amazing things in a small facility off the beaten path. Most don't know but this facility serves all of the Americas for aftermarket and warranty needs. They also handbuld somewhere around 30,000 wheels a year and produce much of the spoke product sold in their region... all right there in Colorado. One of the most interesting things for me about their facility is that for most assembly in the US bicycle companies that spec their wheels... DT Swiss is producing and delivering that product from this Colorado facility... think of brands like Pivot, Yeti and others.
Since as noted I am always asked for help or to assist in connecting teams to help... while at Redlands I was asked if I could go to a race in Gatineau (Ottawa). I said yes. So home for 4 days and on a plane again (60 airports now this year).
Gatineau is great if you like Poutine... going into Canada always offers some unique and interesting challenges. Think it's hard to get into the US... Well Canada is harder. Luckily this customs crossing was seamless unlike the 2 hour delay and questioning last year entering into Calgary Alberta.
Gatineau is distinctively French, the language, roads, menus and way of life. On my quest for things needed I popped into a little bicycle shop in Hull. I wanted tubular glue, the shop owner said "nobody is asking for this for like 10 years", he then proceeded to show me a collection of NOS never seen the light of day tubular rims. I want to buy them all when I go back at the end of June - please let me know if you want some!
The racing took place almost entirely in the Parc de la Gatineau which is just beautiful. I was working for the Sho-Air Twenty20 team and had 4 athletes. My function was all things as it was me as the entirety of the staff.
We had fun, three raced the TT with 5th, 7th and 10th places and all raced the road race. The Canadian National Team had a strong group and their play was almost derailed when their sprinters rear derailleur literally blew up.
There she stood on the left side of the road trying to cross a field of riders and a caravan of cars. Understanding how support works, I let her cross. Her car came about and made the bike change and her team waited. Nobody attacked when they probably could of changed the entire outcome of the race being this whole incident happened at the base of the climb.
Oh well, that stuff happens. For myself as a mechanic my goal is to never get out of the car. Mission success, driving and jumping is not for the faint of hear nor the untalented. I've had to change a bike in a TT while driving... like most things, when you're in the actual doing of it - you give it very little thought leaving you to reflect or watch it on TV.
Life on the road is fun... no doubt. That said, it's always good to be home!
Guest writer Michael Kubancsek
A mechanic with far more experience than I, someone I look up to, once said (I believe in an Instagram caption), “The best thing to do, when you've done everything, is to remind yourself why you do it to begin with.”
Luckily, as a collegiate cycling team mechanic, that’s the easiest part of the gig. We travel a lot, race days are long, logistics are often a major headache, and there are too many moving parts to count (70+ athletes – five disciplines – overlapping schedules – pros through brand new racers). But… we have a bigger goal than just winning bike races. There’s intrinsic value in development, watching students graduate and move into the world, and most importantly, the value of TEAM with a collegiate program is far beyond anything else I’ve ever seen in the sport.
But this blog post isn’t supposed to be about why I love what I do. It’s about one of the toughest parts of being a race mechanic… life on the road. And life on the road is all about how you manage it. I’m no expert but I’ve learned some tricks.
Average race day for collegiate road season? Starts around 5am. Team time trials at 8am. Road races starting around 10am and running all day. Then re-set for crit day on Sunday and do it all again. We’ve got seven different categories of riders in both genders, we’ve got the most possible variety of equipment, and there’s always a new challenge. But I wouldn’t trade it for a shop job… or a 9-to-5…. Or really anything.
Being on the road a lot teaches you to be prepared. I might be over-packed, but my background in the Scouts drilled into my head that it’s “better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” And as recently noted in with the interview with traveling legend Troy Laffey, you must have your creature comforts lined up. Mine are Holiday Inn Express cinnamon rolls, a supply of quality coffee, and good music for the long driving hours. And the relationships can’t be taken for granted, not just with the athletes and colleagues, but with officials and the other members of the road show that you inevitably run into every weekend. Special shout out to the official a few weekends ago who gave me a bunch of (light-hearted) grief for bringing a chair to the crit pit … six hours of racing is a long time to stand.
Bike races are fun, but so are the peripheral stories that accompany the travel. I’ll never, ever forget barreling down I-80 in central (desolate) Iowa and discovering the truck has no brakes. Or the hotel in Wyoming that used dial-up to run my card at check-in. Or the host house that had multiple animals roaming the grounds and home.
I may not have logged the miles and hotel nights that some of my pro team peers have, but I have seen some beautiful places and witnessed some excellent racing… which is what gets all our adrenaline up at the right time to make for a rewarding race day. I’ve been on the staff for a number of team national championships, at velodromes, road race venues, cyclocross parks, and BMX tracks. I’ve been pushed and learned a lot… and I hope that never stops.
this blog post submitted from the road… the author currently en route from Indy to Grand Junction, Colorado for Collegiate Road Nationals
Follow along with MK’s adventures with @MarianCycling on Instagram @MKubancsek.
Working as an events mechanic is a blast. In my job for DT Swiss, I get to travel to festivals, races, tours, gravel grinders, etc, all over the U.S. (plus a couple of events in Canada). Once I show up in my Sprinter van, I get busy demoing our wheels and fixing broken stuff so people can keep on shredding the gnar (or asphalt). It's so awesome to work outdoors, helping nice people and being an ambassador for a great brand — I wouldn't trade it for the world. However, the flip side to road life is that, at times, there is the Monkey in Space phenomenon.
Last month, not only did I get to return to Earth, but I got to touch down in Biel, Switzerland, at the DT Swiss magical motherland where wheel dreams come true.
I knew I was in for an authentic European adventure when I spotted these dudes in the Frankfurt Flughafen (see, I even learned the German word for airport on this trip).
From there, I few to Zurich and hopped on a train to Biel. It was absolutely freezing and the clouds never lifted, denying me the stunning view of the lake and mountains that I was told was just beyond the fog. But that's okay, it's something to look forward to next time (which I hope happens during better weather for riding). Here's a photo of the building that they obviously took in the summertime.
The lobby has some fun displays for people to ogle... and who doesn't like a nice nipple collection?
In case you didn't know, the very original company that eventually became DT Swiss began in the 1600s, drawing wire for things like chainmail. The company as we know it today began in 1994, making bicycle wheel spokes — then expanding to hubs, nipples, wheels, rims, shocks and suspension forks (yes, really!).
Now, DT Swiss has subsidiaries in the USA, France, Germany, Poland and Taiwan. I got to meet folks from almost every office during my visit (here you can see the two gents from the German office, Thomas and Jan). Due to a travel snafu with one of my coworkers (hence I'll offer this Public Service Announcement: don't try to fly outside the U.S. if your passport has six months or less before it expires), I had to quickly prepare to give his presentation during the International Marketing Meeting. It detailed our sponsorship of Whistler Mountain and the Crankworx event, which I managed to deliver to a roomful of strangers without too much sweating or "ummm"-ing. That said, I certainly won't expect any public speaking requests to come my way anytime soon.
Next I joined a group of mechanics in the Service Center for technical training. I was the only American (and female) in a room full of folks from all over the globe. The training was delivered in English, to my relief, and then we all got our hands on various jobs, like replacing a spoke in the new DICUT hubs.
Luckily, the Swiss love to take frequent breaks, where everyone mobs the coffee machine and enjoys a fresh croissant. I'll definitely miss that when I'm driving in the boonies and can't even find a damn Starbucks.
During one of the evenings, a bunch of us drove to nearby Grenchen to check out the velodrome. I was a bit lost with all the announcing done in Swiss-German (not the same as "high" German, in case you were wondering), but it was still a lot of fun to watch.
Finally, I got one afternoon to poke around Zurich before flying home to Colorado, where I felt compelled to take some sort of Henri Cartier-Bresson inspired street photo before hustling off to the Flughafen.
I have to say, I was really pleased to meet so many of my international coworkers. Prior to this trip, I had only met one of our Swiss owners, Frank Böchmann, who slaughtered us at Go-Kart racing after Interbike last year. Speaking of which, don't waste time having high hopes while racing a guy who cut his teeth driving on the Autobahn.
In the end, I learned a ton from our global meetings, topped up my technical knowledge, and really got a feel for the Swiss approach to making well-designed, quality products. Speaking of which, Biel is a hotbed for watchmaking. The DT office is surrounded by factories for Rolex, Omega, Swatch, etc. I narrowly escaped coming home with a new watch... you can guess which one I could have afforded.
Now that I'm back in the States, I am off to Frostbike and then the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you out on the road!
- Marty C
Life on the Road is a new monthly feature from the PBMA. As implied this is a tale of happenings from outside the normal 9 to 5 shop job. Life on the road will feature events, places and time from around the country and sometimes the world; photos and stories as told by those who experienced them.
The cycling industry is full of opportunities. Working on the road sounds glamorous and many are surprised to find out it oftentimes is not. Long days, long travel and exhaustive work aren't for the faint of heart. At many events, be it expos, demos or races you find a familiar cast of characters akin to a traveling circus at times. The rewards from being on the road come in many forms from friendship to food!
The road can be fun, seeing new places, experiencing worldly cuisine and making new friends. It also has its challenges such as being away from your family or not seeing "home" for weeks or months on end. Trust me when I tell you there is something very special about being in your place and not a hotel. The road challenges you as an individual, it challenges your will. Surviving equals growing as a person.
Believe it or not, I spent 300 nights in a hotel one year. I have reward points, frequent flyer miles and I've been to somewhere around 22 countries and more cities than I can actually remember. Its fun to talk about and people can never believe it, however it's an odd feeling when you're on the road and half way through dinner you realize you've eaten at this restaurant before. That feeling turned into a happy memory because the food was amazing both times!
Life on the Road is going to highlight the ups and downs of travel. A real life view of what happens when your workbench is mobile, be it in a van or out of a tool box. Life on the Road is going to capture the essence of the traveling mechanic. We hope it will inspire you and provide a realistic view of what its like in the wild.
We look forward to offering you insights from Marty Caivano, James Stanfill and surprise guest writers over the next few months. First up in February will be a story from Marty including her visit to the DT Swiss "Mother Ship" so be sure to check back in or subscribe.
This intro to Life on the Road was written by James Stanfill and you can check out his 2017 travel map by clicking here
This page is a collective of articles relavant to consumers, enthusiasts and the whole of the cycling industry in general.