Who are you?
Where do you work?
DT Swiss USA (Grand Junction, Colorado)
I spend my time helping with OEM sales and aftermarket product support, among many other things.
Tell us what it is you do on a daily basis.
Anything from working with OEM customers to help determine next year’s spec to helping answer questions from shops/mechanics. Despite DT Swiss being a big company, our US crew is relatively small and we all do a bit of everything. On the OEM side, I help specifically with the customers who take delivery from our Colorado office, and a couple bigger guys. Determining specs, obtaining forecasts, helping with customization, etc. are all under my umbrella.
Other than that, I help our customer service and sales teams ensure we are giving out the right information in addition to working with our distributors to make sure they have the right parts on hand. Our product mix is both simple and complex, and coming from a mechanic’s viewpoint helps me every day.
Can you tell us a bit about your history as a bicycle mechanic (like where you began, what you’ve done along the way)?
I got my first job in a bike shop (Bicycle Warehouse in San Diego, thanks Mike and Debbe!) because I had destroyed my rear wheel and couldn’t afford a new one. In the end, I got much more than just a good deal on a wheel, I found an industry I love which I expect to be a part of for life. I worked in many service departments, at some great retailers (Bicycle Warehouse, Family Cycling Center, Another Bike Shop, Summit Bicycles, Trek San Diego), eventually managing a large service department.
Along the way I was racing a bit and going to school. In 2008 I jumped into the race mechanic world head first, spending two years each with Team TIBCO and UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling as a mechanic. My mixed experience in retail and racing landed me a job testing wheels at Specialized before my wife’s career took us to Colorado. I was lucky to find that DT Swiss was in Grand Junction, and my experience and contacts from Specialized and elsewhere helped me get my foot in the door here.
How important in your opinion are wheels when it comes to bicycles?
Wheels, and the components they are made of, are the best and quickest way to change the way a bike performs. When I was in retail, wheels (custom or pre-built) were always my favorite thing to sell as you can make a direct improvement to a rider’s experience very easily. A great pair of wheels can make a mediocre bike work quite well, but a poor wheel choice does quite the opposite. Luckily there are a ton of great options in the wheel world these days, both pre-built and custom built.
From a mechanic’s point of view, it is crucial to know and understand all the details related to wheels in order to support your customers (be that retail, racers, whomever). Wheels are no longer something that your average rider (or sales person) can easily wrap their head around. So, learn the standards, learn the various options, and help guide your customers to the right product for them. And always use a tensiometer.
What is your favorite experience as a bicycle mechanic that you’ve had thus far in life?
Obviously a tough question to answer given I’ve had so many great experiences specifically tied to wrenching on bikes. My years in retail were formative, but I’d have to say that working for professional teams allowed me to see places in the world I would never have been to otherwise. The requirements of running the mechanic’s side of a pro team while you have zero chance of buying what you need on site requires some good planning. I made some mistakes and learned some lessons from that world which have served me well to this day. One key lesson, always have some cool stuff to give away when you need to bribe a security guard to open the fire hydrant so you can wash your rider’s bikes.
What is professionalism to you?
Professionalism is a bit of a “dog in a hat”. We all know it when we see it, but it is hard to describe. For me, following through on what you commit to, admitting when you are wrong, and listening are key elements of professionalism. Don’t forget to say please and thank you!
What is your favorite tool and why?
I’m not much of a tool geek, but I absolutely love my T handle allen keys I picked up in Italy while on the road (Facom brand I think). The quality is second to none, and I’ve yet to find a US company making anything similar. Plus they remind me of some fun travel.
Motors in bike or wheels? What’s the better place to hide something like that?
I’ve been working really closely with some key OEM customers to find solutions for this question. Wheels are clearly the place to hide a motor. Otherwise, why would us wheel guys keep selling this silly idea of “wider is better” to the masses? Gotta gain some space for the motor somehow.
What else should we know about Steven Sperling?
Safety Third is my motto.
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