What is the USA Cycling Race Mechanics Clinic all about?
Hear from insiders, promoters, team and race directors and past attendees who found success through the experience and reward in life from the outcome. Ready to learn more about what happens and register? Click here
Colin "Chip" Howat - class of 1991
Clinic Director / Tubular Tire Expert / Bike Rider
The Race Mechanics Clinic was one of the most rewarding educational opportunities for me because attending the Clinic opened doors to work with fantastic mechanics and athletes at races and workshops at home and overseas leading on to so many more professional and cultural experiences."
Michael Kubancsek - class of 2015
Director of Cycling Operations - Marian University
"I consider myself super fortunate to have attended the USAC Woodul Clinic. While I had some previous race experience, the clinic helped me really understand what it means to be a race mechanic and the intricacies and details of supporting athletes(both team and neutral). The connections made at the clinic also widened my scope in the industry and led me to some new opportunities and relationships I learned things I didn't even know that I would need to know, but I am far better at what I do because of it. The content of the clinic takes you beyond adjusting derailleurs and inflating tires and shapes you into a prepared and safe staff member for any team or riders you may ever work for. There is no in-depth, complete training for race mechanics like what the Woodul Clinic offers... there is no substitute!"
Ed Beamon - veteran team director
Team Director - Team Tibco-SVB
"As a team director being able to count on my mechanic is critical. Mechanics who've come through the USA Cycling program have been given the preparation, honed the skills and have had practical exposure to the environment that is so critical to perform in a team culture."
William McPherson - class of 1996
Lead Technician - Shimano Multi-Service
"At Shimano Multi-Service we only use licensed race mechanics. Knowing that someone has had the training and understands the process of race support is important to us and the riders we support."
Craig "Calvin" Jones - clinic instructor since day-1
Education, Training, Development - Park Tool
"It has been both a pleasure and honor to teach at these Race Mechanic Clinics. I've been an instructor since the beginning, it's ironic, I have never attended as a mechanic... I want to! This clinic is at the heart of the professionalism and passion for this kind of work. Seeing mechanics from a wide range of backgrounds and regions ask us questions, argue their points, network with one another, and gain confidence to do this, give me the knowledge that our racing athletes will have the service they need to achieve greatness. After all, this is what we are here for."
Deborah Xu - class of 2012
Owner - Tender Loving Cycle
"The clinic was jam packed. We all came out each day exhausted from learning a lot. The final exam took some problem solving skills. It was like going to a boot camp, whatever experience level you are at, you will come out leveled up with something new and useful, not to mention you would meet a lot of people, especially the instructors, who are all so willing to help you advance in your career.
I came out of the boot camp and immediately obtained the opportunity to go work at the Sea Otter Classic. I was able to join Shimano's Neutual Service program as well. Theses opportunities took me to a lot of national level races, and, at each race, you just keep on learning so much more about what it is to be a race mechanic. Going to races also helps keeping your knowledge of current technologies updated, which helps working in a shop tremendously.
It also felt like a confidence boost, not only to myself, but also to my employers. I went back to work knowing so much more. And my boss then sent me to a bike fit school and gave me more responsibilities. Everything I learned along the way, got me where I am."
Brandon Hale - Race Director
Race Director - North Star Grand Prix
"We know that the safety of the riders depends on having the most qualified mechanics working in the caravan. USA Cycling's training helps to ensure riders receive the highest quality service in the fastest manner possible without sacrificing safety. The mechanics are an important component of providing riders an exceptional experience at our race."
Gal Alon - class of 2015
Service Associate - Penn Cycle
"The best experience I recall from 2015 os the people I met and got to know, instructors and students alike. These are the people that are shaping the industry now and in the future. Many of them are the people who started the PBMA! People that share the deep passion to become a bike mechanic in a shop or in supporting races and events are what the Race Mechanics Clinic is all about. Being part of the Race Mechanic group is something special that unites us as individuals to help and support each other. I am proud to be part of that group."
Chris Kreidl - class of 2005 or 2006
Sales & Operations Manager - Unior USA
"When I got there I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to start working at races. I was excited to be at the Olympic Training Center and excited to be around all these people, the instructors, that for a long time have done some version of exactly what I wanted to do.
Attending and getting my license opened the door to begin working with SRAM NRS, and my hard work with them led to the rest of my career turing out the way it did. Without having attending and getting that license I don't think they'd have taken me on in the first place"
Julian DaSilva - class of 2013
South Florida Territory Manager - Orbea, Santa Cruz Bicycle, Atomik Carbon, Ride 100%
"My experience at the Race Mechanics Clinic was that opening ones mind, I was set on my own way of thought and once I did the class and learned from some of the best in the industry, I changed my perception of the industry. One of the things that the clinic helped me do was build a network of likeminded people that I could tap into, learn from one another and bounce around ideas. Because of these ideas I was able to work along side industry people and network with them, eventually leading to a career at a higher level within the industry. Being a race mechanic has led me to starting my own Neutral Support Business in the state of Florida which is desperately needed. The clinic brought me to a higher level."
Doug Martin - friend of Bill
Cycling Industry Professional
"My work with Bill predates the Race Mechanics Clinic - we came out of the same shop together in Coconut Grove, Florida... Dade Cycle Shop. Bill was already the stuff of local lore and was doing a lot of National Team trips to South America, Europe, etc. Each time he came back we'd huddle around eager to hear of some new tech tip or trick. A better way to tie and solder wheels, linseed oil as spoke prep, a bulletproof tubular tire glue combo... you name it. Each trip and experience benefited us all. From there Bill went on to build and run the Campagnolo Neutral Support program, then onto USA Cycling (then USCF). He was an early pioneer and true champion of the bicycle mechanic as a legitimate profession, and the Race Mechanics Clinic sought to build on this. They were successful from the start and have gotten only better over time. There is no doubt that the curriculum, shared information and overall networking are highly beneficial to not just the race mechanics, but shop and industry members alike."
Zane Freebairn - class of 2014
Team Mechanic - Rally Pro Cycling
"There was some really cool tips and tricks learned from the instructors but the best thing that I came out with was the connections. I see guys and gals at races that were in the clinic in 2015 and have leaned on them for help. A great example is Gary Bavolar; he has helped out a few times while working for Shimano and SRAM. Already having a relationship with these mechanics made the race situations go smoother."
James Stanfill - class of 2000
President of the PBMA, Race Mechanic Clinic Organizer
"I attended the clinic in 2000... since then I haven't looked back. The opportunities created from the network of people in attendance is insane. Since 2000 I've worked for men's and women's World Tour Teams, worked with Olympic Champions, National Champions, World Champions and met many great friends out on the road. The skills gained at the clinic allowed me working as a mechanic to visit more than twenty countries. I come back every year to make sure that others have the same opportunities as those in the past. Now through the PBMA we are working to expand the level of learning to reach more mechanics and further build that network of people we can each rely on."
Tristan Brandt - class of 2015
Demo Coordinator - Pivot Cycles
"It was an amazing networking opportunity that has allowed me to further my career in the industry and I am now proud to working for Pivot Cycles. I think the clinic really helped us grasp the scope of what being a race mechanic really entails (late nights, early mornings, long days), through the experience of current techs and those who have been in the field for decades. I think the clinic can teach you a few new skills, but more importantly, give you opportunities to branch out to other fields in the industry besides wrenching at a shop."
Deborah Xu is a shop owner, race mechanic, shop mechanic and engineer. Learn about what she does and why she does it.
What is the name of your shop and how did it come into being? (elaborate as much as you wish!)
My shop's name is Tender Loving Cycle.
I started out my career at an Elite Specialized dealership that deals both Specialized and Cannonade I worked in a service centre with 5 other full-time male mechanics. I started out as an amateur mechanic and was only allowed to build cheap new bikes. I then could do tune ups on non carbon bikes. That lasted for a long time until one day I just grabbed a carbon bike and started working on it, there were some oppositions, but I just firmly told them that I was ready. Slowly, I started gluing tires, having regular customers that only trusted me, and doing pro builds on high-end road bikes.
I then was trained for bike fit and became a licensed USA Cycling race mechanic.
As race support opportunities started to present themselves to me and the fact that I found out that I was being paid lower than all of my male colleagues (some with less experience, biggest difference was 33%), I left the shop.
Besides going to various of races as technical support, I started my own mobile repair services. I would go pick up customers' bikes, repair them at home, and return them back to the customers. I also did my own version of bike fit for people at their own homes. This bike business went on for three years. As I gained a group of loyal customers, in October 2014, Tender Loving Cycle was opened.
Many old and new friends reached out to help, the sales reps from Blackburn and Cannonade backed me up as much as they can, and a lot of my old customers from mobile repair business started coming in as well. For a year, I was working and living in the shop. Then, as things got so busy that I had to work from 7am to 4am daily, I hired my first employee and vowed to always treat my guys and gals right.
TLC has been opened for almost three years now and known for its service and bike fit. I have a trusted friend and coworker, Harold, who works with me, we have a group of freakishly awesome customers, I finally moved into an awesome apartment, and the shop is turning a profit.
What is your favorite thing to do as a mechanic?
As cliche as this sounds, my favorite thing to do as a mechanic is problem solving when resource is extremely limited. I particularly enjoy providing technical support for ultra distance rides. There will always be times when something fails completely, there is no replacement part for it, the next decent bike shop is at least 100 miles away, and the whole crew is looking at you because you were the only mechanic on this 3000+ miles adventure. It's like a survival game but for mechanics. Thank God for toe straps, gorilla tapes, and, sometimes, drills and dremels.
Do you find much push back, side-eye, or suffer odd interactions with your customers because of your gender? If so, how do you navigate those situations? Do you have any particularly humorous stories to share with those?
When I am in the shop alone, I find myself in a lot of conversations that are almost identical to this:
"Hi do you guys fix bikes?"
"Yes, we do."
"Cool, is the mechanic in?"
"I am the mechanic."
(after watching me work) "Are you single?"
or, when my coworker is in, I will be mostly working on things on computers (because paperwork for a business owner never ends)
"Hi I need help with this and that."
(my coworker gets to work we started chatting)
"Oh you bring your girlfriend to work?"
"No, that's my boss."
This kind of interaction can happen anywhere with any profession, gender, race, or sexual orientation. I have had the wife of a demo truck driver telling me that "the bikes on this rack are easier", I have had a gay man telling me "honey, you need to move", and I have had pro racers who took their bikes to another male mechanic after I was finish with them only to have that mechanic came around and asked me "hey what did you need for those bikes? They were perfectly fine." (I swear those were the original sentences).
Maybe because I have been at this male predominant industry for more than 10 years. I have learned to stand up for myself. Sometimes you gotta stand up and speak your mind, sometimes you passive aggressively put people in place sarcastically, and sometimes you get help from friends who believe in you and would back you up (I have to say, there are a lot of these great people, and I am very grateful for them). Eventually, in my case, people will learn to respect this little Asian lady that, most of the time, acts like a 16 year old.
What technological advances with bicycles gets you excited?
There are two things I like seeing in the evolution of bicycles.
One is the material engineering and mechanical engineering companies invested into their products. You can see the materials, be it metal or carbon, becoming lighter, stronger, and more forgiving, and the way they come together or formed becoming more and more clever. It makes me happy when I do pro builds on the same model frames from different years, you can tell it's better (or worse, sadly, sometimes) than its predecessors.
I also like seeing components getting simpler, aka, more serviceable. Regardless how well it works or how long it lasts, I like how simply constructed Sram shifters are compared to Shimano ones. Or how easy it is to service a Mavic freehub body -- it comes together so simple and rolls so well for so many miles -- then it starts to squeal, but, hey, servicing it takes 5 minutes, so who cares! It makes me happy to see the general trend of engineering on components and tools heading to the same direction -- simpler in assembly and more efficient in function.
Do you have any favorite tools you like to use?
I am going to play the girl card here and say my favorite tool is my Grease Monkey Gorilla Grip gloves. They fit on and feel as thin as latex gloves, and they last way longer than other similar lines of gloves.
If I have to pick one tool, like, an actual tool. It's a simple one. It's the Park AWS-50 3-Way Hex 50th Anniversary Set. I really can't explain it. I have been using it daily for four years now. It weighs and fits in your hand just right. This and the SW-7 Multi-wrench are the only two tools that no one in the shop is allowed to touched except me.
Others worth mentioning are the Abbey Crombie set, the dead blow hammer I bought long ago and forgot its brand, and any bearing tools from Wheels Manufacturing.
What kinds of things would you like to see for women in the industry, generally or specifically? What are you doing to make those things happen?
I feel like I am a little off topic here, but I find it very exciting to see that, at UCI and USAC races, the winning prize for the women's teams are getting bigger (even though there is still a big gap between the men's and women's teams, but you can see the gap is getting smaller and smaller ever so slowly).
I would like to see more women in the industry, regardless of job title, so I would like to see more women riding. I would like to see companies creating the right commercial contents for their female consumers. For example, we would like the chamois to fit our entertainment center better, and we would like our jerseys to show our curves.
I would also like to see more local shops hiring women. A lot of my female customer told me that they don't feel intimidated when they walk in the shop and see another female working. Just as a male customer wouldn't want to tell me that they are peeing blood, a female customer wouldn't want to express to your grumpy male mechanics that their no-no-square is numb after a ride.
I have been working with a few local female oriented businesses to provide a local cycling culture for women. TLC's shop kits and bottles are designed with female cyclists in mind and are loved by many female riders. I have had female cyclists in Colorado calling hoping to get our bottles. I have also been working with Aids LifeCycle on hosting regular maintenance clinics for female cyclist to help boost their confidence. I would always love to do more, so if anyone has any good idea, let me know!
What do you see for the future of Tender Loving Cycles?
I am changing the direction for TLC to better adapt to this globalized retail world. What won't change is that TLC will always be a cozy local bike shop that prides itself in fair (non-internet-matching) pricing, great service, and awesome customers.
"the industry has needed this for a long time"
The above is something we hear this daily... likely a few times a day depending on where we are. People want to say thank you and shake our hands and chat about the challenges of the cycling industry. Those things are amazing and we feel great about them. They however don't pay the bills and don't allow the PBMA to grow to it's fullest potential.
Organizationally the PBMA isn't difficult to work with and we don't make insane demands on our partners. We like to be as inclusive as possible keeping our member needs in mind. We like to deliver for our partners with exposure and reach into a community of people interested in mechanical things.
We've established a basic structure of membership: individuals, shops, and corporations. Within each level there are options with specific deliverables and specific benefits. More often than not when asking a corporation for $500 to become a member they reply matter of factly that they can't afford it. If this is true then our industry is in MAJOR trouble. It seems to us a small ask and one that carries tremendous weight when looking at the future and sustainability for the PBMA.
As an organization we are focused on mechanics and service. Imagine your company without one of those two things and what does your bottom line look like then?
Organizationally we are looking to grow certification and applying resources towards training and the elevation of what most outside our culture consider a hobby, we look to the industry to help us build these programs and provide stable financial support. We can't simply rely on mechanics (often earning the least) to carry the burden here.
Is membership worth it? Our feeling is that at all levels we are showing immediate value for your dollars. As we grow our voice grows. We are calling on all those companies building their budgets and looking at where growth in the industry is going to occur. We are calling on all those companies who couldn't spare a few hundred dollars in 2017. We are calling on EVERYONE who has said: "This is a great idea, the industry has needed this for a long time".
Now is the time to step up and show your support.
Service is the future. PBMA is a major piece of the puzzle, we can't do it without you and we don't want to do it without you. Cycling is a community and we all need to participate for future success.
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