Going for Gold
As a professional mechanic I've been honored and lucky enough to work with a lot of great athletes. The video below is a great friend of mine Carmen Small winning her 2nd Professional Women's USA Cycling National Championship. I've worked with Carmen a lot over the last few years, this year she crushed it! She didn't just win, she won in style.
As you can see in this video she is all over the road and has left nothing behind at the finish. To put things into perspective her last KM was only 3 seconds slower than Taylor Phinney.
We spent a week in Winston-Salem (for me this was after a week at the Tour of California) preparing. Prep included 90 minutes in the car each day driving to and from the time trial course, riding the course, motor pacing on the course and generally examining every element imaginable.
As a mechanic with a race team often times we become everything. A coach, a mentor, the expert and of course the chauffeur. This in addition to being simply the mechanic. Being a professional bicycle mechanic isn't just a lifestyle for me it is a career. We don't learn how to do all these things in books, we learn it by watching and observing and from our interactions within a race team environment.
The reward for me is not just her victory but the trust she puts in me to get her to the finish line, the confidence that her bike is dialed and the effort she gave to grab the victory. Jerseys and medals go on the wall. Friendships forged in the process last forever. The skills learned over the years will never be forgotten.
What's in a name?
For Shimano, the Shimano Technology Education and Certification course, or S-TEC as the program is more widely known, the name means a lot. In a recent survey, conducted on the Association of Professional Bicycle Mechanics Facebook group, Shimano’s online training ranked 1st among all certification programs currently available to shops and professional mechanics.
What is S-TEC? Simply put, S-TEC is Shimano’s training and continuing education program for the professional cycling industry. Shimano views S-TEC as a community, ranging from industry newcomers to tried and true veterans.
Dave Arnauckas (Shimano’s North American Retail Education Manager) says S-TEC
was started in a simple, basic format in 2009 as what was then a training program for
their Di2 technology, though the real driving force was to have this type of elearning in position for the upcoming Dyna-Sys and future technologies.
Currently, the S-TEC program has 15,000 active members (including myself) from over 4,200 different storefronts, and that is just North America (S-TEC is also available in more than 7 other regions).
Wondering about completion rate and how many modules have been taken? Try just over one million modules delivered. In June of 2015 the one millionth module was completed and Arnauckas says there is a module completed every single minute, meaning over 1440 completions per day! To date Shimano has issued 20,000 Certificates of Completion. In 2014 they also launched multi-day live workshops at their Irvine, CA headquarters.
Within both S-TEC and some shops, you have little competitions to complete the training modules and earn your plaques trying to beat your coworkers or other S-TEC community members. The format for the modules is simple. Watch a brief video and take a short 3 to 11 question multiple-choice exam. Pass with 80% or more and you’ve completed that module.
Just to keep it interesting, every now and then a free gift shows up like a pair of socks or a flash sale on Shimano fishing equipment (not cheap… and the pricing during these sales is great!).
Shimano isn’t the only company using this sort of online training to educate the masses in a convenient way. Trek, Saris, Thule, Pearl Izumi, Yakima and others have all begun to see the value in having free, accessible and rewarding education available to store staff all around the world. There are also milestones within the S-TEC program. Silver, Gold, Platinum (and a rumor of Diamond)… they really just mean you’ve taken the time to complete more modules. Shimano awards completion plaques (so far they’ve produced 7 of these metal certificates as well as on demand printable diplomas) and mechanics in shops proudly display them over their workbenches to show they understand for example Di2 works, how to adjust, install and diagnose the myriad problems that can come with new technology.
Certification and training are an important part of our industry’s future. Bicycle technology is becoming more advanced on a daily basis. Long gone are the days of friction shifting where making adjustments to a shifting system was as easy as working on a ‘68 Beetle. Now we are dealing with computers to program shifting systems and diagnose system failures and so bicycle mechanics must be professionals possessing a variety of skills, old and new, in order to meet the demands of todays advanced cycling marketplace
I encourage you as a professional mechanic to seek out these training opportunities. I encourage you, as savvy consumers, to seek out only the best mechanics who hold these types of certifications.
Will certification mean they are the best or the expert? Perhaps not. But what certification does mean is that the mechanic that you are dealing with is continually making the effort to become better already possess the knowledge base that a modern consumer would expect from any other service environment. Education and devotion to the craft is an excellent measure of the degree of professionalism possessed by any technical and should always be a primary factor when making your choice of service provider.
Written by James Stanfill
James Stanfill is President of the Professional Bicycle Mechanics, and a working professional mechanic in Austin, TX.
We are open
Our online store is officially open!
We have 4 t-shirt's available for pre-purchase. These shirts will be delivered no later than mid-August and some will never be available again.
Don't worry there will be more to come. Patches, Hats and Work Shirts are in the works.
A percentage of all proceeds go directly towards a cycling advocacy project. For this initial launch we have chosen to support World Bicycle Relief and the Mechanics for Mechanics program,
Thanks for all the support and we look forward to delivering these shirts to you!
5000 and Counting
Yesterday, at about 4pm, our PBMA Facebook group surpassed 5000 members...and that is a huge milestone. When I created the Facebook group back in March I never thought that just two month (8 weeks!) later there would be so many people. I though surely by the end of the year perhaps a few thousand would of found their way to our community.
There are an estimated 4000 independent bicycle dealers in the United States alone. If we imagine just for a moment that, on average, each has about 3 employees. If that is indeed true, we are reaching a bit more than 1/3 of those out there in just two months.
I have a personal request for you. Please take just a minute, scroll through your friends and add them to the group. I'd love to see a 1,000 more next month!
As we move forward, the website is coming along very rapidly. Please bookmark it and subscribe to the RSS feed here for all the latest official information delivered directly to your inbox.
We will soon begin the pre-sale of our 4 new t-shirt designs to help us raise funds and pay some bills. Some of the proceeds from these shirts also support a great cause with our friends at World Bicycle Relief and their efforts to outfit mechanics with the tools and parts necessary to fix the now world famous Buffalo Bikes.
Now about those shirts (yes shirts, as there will be 4 available) please wear them to Interbike. Show your support, show your pride and show that you are part of something new and necessary. What's happening at Interbike? You'll have to stay tuned for that, but it's going to be fun!
Thank you again to all involved in front and behind the scenes, without your support none of this would be possible. I look forward to much much more.
We are growing rapidly. With that we are looking for people who are interesting in being part of the collective voice.
Follow the link here to submit your info. We are currently building committees that will focus on specific tasks and help shape some immediate goals and future direction. These conversations will be web and phone based. If you're passionate about the direction of the Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association this is your opportunity to be directly involved as we work towards the future.
In addition to the organizational structure of the Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association we are happy to share our initial timeline in development of the organization. The chart below covers prior to now and through September. We will be attending Interbike and hope to see many of you there to discuss the future.
This page is a collective of articles relavant to consumers, enthusiasts and the whole of the cycling industry in general.