Some of our readers, let's say those who don't use the internet regularly don't know that in 2016 you were the champion at the Mechanics Challenge held at Interbike. It wasn't a clear victory, you won on a technicality. So will you be back in 2017 to defend the title?
Yes, I will be back to defend my title! The industry has needed an event like this and I intend to give it my full support!
How did you cycling industry career begin?
Like a lot of people in the industry, I fell in love with the bicycle at a young age, about 5 years old, and never looked back. By the time I was 11, I was racing on the road continuing straight through until I was 21. I quickly found myself more interested in the bike than my ability to be a good bike racer so, when I was 12, I started working at a shop across town in the service department learning how to build bicycles. I spent two years at that shop, then moved to a shop that was just down the street from my home (Westlake Cyclery) where I spent the next ten years really learning the trade. 5 years later, I had worked my way up to be the Service Manager.
In 1990 I went to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO where I earned my USCF Race Mechanic License at the age of 17. After working at Westlake Cyclery I moved to Newbury Park Bicycle Shop as the Service Manager for the next ten years. I thought I'd try my hand at being a sales and technical representative for Cannondale Bicycles in Southern California. That only lasted a year - not my cup of tea.
In January 2007, I opened Win's Wheels. This year we are celebrating 10 years of professional bicycle service and still going strong.
You own a service only shop, can you talk a little on how that got started and where it is today?
Yes, I own a service only shop. While I was a representative for Cannondale my phone never stopped ringing; former clients from Westlake Cyclery and Newbury Park Bicycle shop had tracked me down asking me to service their bicycles. I was repping during the day and repairing bikes at night and on the weekend, and it became apparent there was a large need for high quality, fast turnaround bicycle repair in my area.
The tipping point came when I was making more money doing bicycle service, and enjoying it far more than repping. So, I decided to open Win's Wheels, a Bicycle Service Center. I took the leap of faith and went against what EVERY other shop owner said: it will never work because their service departments "never made any money". I started out with 1500 sq. ft. and went for it. I was the only one working in the shop, working 6 days a week, doing 70-80 hours a week. I had to do it all myself. I didn't hire my first employee until I had been in business for a year. In the second year I hired my next employee.
We were busting at the seams with work; when service bikes were being stored in my office, I knew we had to do something. The rental space next to us became available and we jumped on it; the addition of the new space doubled the size of the shop. We had some growing pains with the staff in 2012-2013 - I had to "clean house". It was the BEST decision I've made since I opened the shop. Currently I have one of the best group of employees I have ever had. I have 3 full time and one part time employees, my daughter, plus myself.
It is hard to believe that Win's wheels is celebrating our 10 year anniversary. Now that I have created a well-oiled machine, Win's Wheels, I can leave the shop and do my other love, being a race team mechanic.
You're a team mechanic too?
Yes, I have been a race team mechanic and neutral support mechanic since I earned my Race Mechanic License in 1990. I have done both road and mountain bike race wrenching. I've worked for Shimano, Mavic, and Sachs on the neural mechanic side of the industry. As a team mechanic I have worked for the AC Factory Team, Timari Pruis (12&24 Solo MTB Racer and my wife), Greg Robinson (Ultra Endurance Road Racer), the Liquigas/Cannondale Pro Cycling Team, Cannondale Pro Cycling, the Cannondale/Garmin Pro Cycling Team, and the Cylance Pro Cycling men's and women's team.
Do you have a favorite tool? Ok, Ok, Ok... top 3 and why...
My three favorite tools come from Abbey Bike Tools; the HAG, the Crombie Tool and Whip-It Chain Whip. I travel a lot, and I need tools that with immaculate precision, exceptional durability, and are very compact. The Pedro's Master Tool Case handles all of the abuse the airline can throw at it plus, it has just the right amount of room for the wrenches I take to the races.
From simply being a mechanic to being a business owner with staff. What are some of the greatest challenges along that pathway?
One of the greatest challenges I've faced during my transition from a mechanic (employee) to becoming a shop owner has been finding qualified mechanics with good people skills. It has also been a challenge helping people understand the concept of a service only shop in the bicycle business.
What advice do you have for a mechanic who wants to make a career and be a true professional in this trade?
Here are some things anyone needs to know before getting into this line of work: you must have a passion for the bicycle; if you want to make this your career and become a professional, you need to be teachable, humble, thankful, and willing to continually educate yourself. It’s important to understand that there will always be someone out there with more knowledge than you. You have two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you speak.
You can register for this years Interbike Mechanics Challenge by clicking here. Can you win over Win?
Well this is my my story.
I have a new roll in the industry!
I just recently stepped down from the service manager position at Turin to accept the position of head mechanic with US Paracycling. I will continue to work at Turin when I'm in town and available, primarily to take care of 20 years worth of regular customers who come in specifically to see me.
My main focus will be the national team, and development work with new athletes. I'll be on the road a bit (a lot), working at training camps, world cup races, and world championships. Standard race team mechanic stuff.
I got into cycling young, riding bmx until I was about 12, then discovering road riding and racing through some friends in the neighborhood. I raced road bikes as a junior and a cat 3 until college, when the college lifestyle got in the way. I started at the bike shop when I was 15 to support my cycling habit, and slowly realized that I was a better mechanic than racer.
I'm a part of the PBMA because I believe that it's time for bike mechanics to be considered true professionals, and because after 20-odd years of hiring bike mechanics I really want a way to filter out the bad and highlight those who are committed to the profession and are up to date with their knowledge and skills.
My vision of the industry's future is very much like the automobile industry, where large dealerships dominate the sales side of things with high volumes and low margins, and smaller shops are only successful if they excel at providing quality service.
Come say hi to Steve at the PBMA booth 3271 at Interbike this year.
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