Brandon Hirokawa is no stranger to bicycles
Brandon Hirokawa is the Owner / CEO / President of Hirobel Cycling Solutions. You may of seen or heard of the Hirobel Frame Clamp.
We wanted to know a bit more about Brandon so here we go!
How did you get started in the cycling industry?
I hung out a Pauli's Bicycle and Lawn almost everyday for a year trying to learn what I could from the head mechanic. I was one of the few kids during the late 80's that was interested in bicycles rather than skateboards. Finally the owners wife gave me a job. Then I spend the next year cutting my teeth on Schwinn Sprnts and Aerodynes... the sight of that gold exercise bike makes me sick to this day!
What exactly is Hirobel?
Hirobel is a company with the mindset of innovation. Marc Bellet and I started the company with six solid products. We started off with the Frame Clamp because it would make the biggest immediate impact on how mechanics work today.
We ask everyone, because inquiring minds want to know. What is your favorite tool?
Using the Craftsman Portable Inflator with a Silca Hero Pump Head has been great for the last couple years... it's a time and arm saver at large events.
We understand that you get to visit a fair share of bicycle shops, what are you seeing that's good and what are you seeing that's bad?
I am seeing more space opening up for service or multi-use space being used for trainer events, fitting and even in-shop clinics. I have been more mobile service platforms or shop owners thinking about adding a mobile aspect to their brick and mortar shop.
On the flip side I'm seeing too many shops searching for the magic bullet to optimize their business. They aren't seeing that an optimized store layout, skilled mechanics and a functional service department are a golden goose. I have seen several shops spending a lot money in the service department to make it look amazing with new benches, tools, flooring and equipment, but pay the mechanics minimum wage and expect an instant return on investment.
Invest in people (mechanics) first! The IBD's that don't get it may soon have the best looking showroom floor at the local commercial auction!
How important do you think service will be in the future?
As direct sales become more popular with industry brands and big-box / e-retailers are growing... service will eventually become the cornerstone of the bicycle retail industry. Once those companies offering direct sales have time to realize thee is no amount of pre-box assembly that will replace a skilled mechanic, they will need points of service they can count on.
I do think both direct sales companies and "Service Oriented" IBD's will eventually be more integrated to the delivery of safe bicycles to the end users.
We heard you were back to riding again, What's your bike of choice?
I powder coated by Cannondale CAAD8 and put Shimano Ultegra Di2 on it. It's one fo the frames that I will never get rid of because it was built with a longer top tube back when Cannondale could whip out custom frames pretty fast!
When talking to mechanics, what are you hearing about the challenges they are facing?
I think being taken seriously as a skilled workforce is a big challenge. As bicycle service becomes more complicated the need for skilled labor will increase.
Unfortunately I see a lot of the really talented mechanics go to different industries so they can make a living wage.
What are the characteristics of a great mechanic?
Being able to communicate effectively would be first on my list. Be open to new ideas or products. Being able to see past the fad and recognize true innovation. Pay attention to the details. Details are very important to getting customers back in the door!
This week we meet Adam schmidt from golden colorado.
How Did you become involved in cycling and/or cycling mechanics?
I worked for a sandwich shop for about 11 years as a bicycle courier, but only during the fall/winter/spring months. Summers were spent in the commercial fishing industry in Alaska, working 120+ hour weeks 7 days/week for 4 months and coming home only to be physically exhausted, mentally drained, probably injured in some fashion but with a good chunk of cash. Every year I would use some alaska money to buy a new bike, which i would then destroy delivering sandwiches through Iowa winters. i Eventually got tired of paying someone else to fix my bike, i suppose I'm not totally sure exactly when the "Aha" moment was when i wanted to pursue wrenching much more seriously, maybe 7 years ago? That was my first UBI class out in oregon and i loved it, learned a lot, went back for their suspension/wheel building a year later. I'm always looking for a way to further my knowledge and experience, have gone to more clinics/training/certifications than i care to admit, and have a serious problem with working too hard. Thanks "Alaska"
Do you have a favorite moment or story from your time in the cycling industry?
Honestly working in the winter doing bike delivery was pretty miserable, but there was one year in particular that the store couldn't find any more people interested in biking in negative degree weather. SO it wound up just being me and one other guy Stephen as the only riders all winter. It was a pretty sloppy/icy/terrible year for weather, which only makes people order more so they don't have to go out in it. I can't tell you how many days we both HATED riding, like really despised it! I've gotten a fair amount of frostbite and nerve damage from it, and I really can't discourage doing that enough. Not exactly a "feel good story", but the moral is, don't do that.
What motivation or advice would you give aspiring professional bicycle mechanics
1) You don't know everything, guaranteed, I have been really blessed working with some highly skilled mechanics that were willing and able to teach me and pass on knowledge. I would strongly encourage anyone and every aspiring mechanic to know that value; absorb as much as you can and SHARE it. I am usually pretty eager to teach, and definitely comfortable telling someone "i don't know" followed shortly by "let's find out".
2) Be early. Punctuality is by far my biggest pet peeve. Early is On-time and On-Time is late. I can't stress this enough, a fast way to piss me off is to be like 2 minutes late.
What is your favorite tool
Man that changes too often. there's about 12 tools i couldn't live without, but my favorite at the moment would have to be Topeak's digital torque wrenches. They're extremely accurate, give a real-time reading, are waaay too expensive and "beep". I've found it particularly useful when a customer tells me "I torqued those bolts down" which usually means "I overtightened the shit out of them" or "i didn't put a wrench anywhere near that bolt" Either way, the real-time reading will tell how torqued you got.
Meet Daniel Acosta... aka Wampy. Daniel recently took the top step at the Interbike Mechanics Challenge, it's been happening 3 years and each year he has done better. Finishing to PBMA's Win Allen last year in an upset judgment decision. This year Daniel showed us how it's done with poise and class. This week he's the Mechanic of the Week!
PBMA: How did you get started in cycling?
I started in the cycling environment when I was 10 years old in BMX as a hobby. By the time I was 14 I started racing XC and one thing that always caught my attention was to repair and prepare my bicycle. When I turned 17 my older brother helped me to land a job in a local bicycle shop, and it was then when I discovered that I was really good repairing bicycles. I always try to be the best and work with bicycles with as much detail as possible si my customers leave really happy.
PBMA: Do you have a favorite moment in your cycling career?
I have always tried yo enjoy every moment I have spent in cycling, but bicycle repair has become my passion. About three years ago I competed for the first time in the mechanics challenge at the Interbike event. Since then I dreamt of winning the challenge, and now I have achieved that dream a few days ago in the mechanic challenge of the 2018 Interbike held in Reno, Nevada. That has become my favorite moment and it's something I will always keep pictured in my mind as an inspiration to become even better.
PBMA: What advice do you have for a new mechanic?
My best advice to any aspiring bicycle mechanic is that when someone takes a bicycle for you to repair it, do it with feeling, technicality and as much detail as possible as if it were yours. So, you can be proud of your work and know that when someone competes and wins a race you'll be proud knowing you gave it all and were the one who also helped to make it possible by preparing that bicycle.
PBMA: Everyone has a favorite tool, what's yours?
Adjustable torque driver
This interview was translated from Spanish by one of Daniels friends.
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