Calvin, I am going to guess most who will read this interview have heard your name. You’ve been around the industry, mechanics, tools and education a long time. What happened that you fell in love with bicycles?
Growing up, my dad was a tool dealer, driving a Snap-On truck. To me and my brother it was a big toy box on wheels, full of shinny pretty steel things to play with. That started my appreciation of all things mechanical. But it was in high school that a friend turned me on to riding and racing. The entire cycling thing became an obsession. I remember in junior high, I got a Clubman from a hardware store. The down tube shifters kept slipping so we took it back to the shop. The mechanic look at me and said, "Kid, why don't you put a piece of pop can under that". I recall just looking at him and thinking, "...oh, I can do this job..." And that pretty much got me to where I am now.
What was your first bicycle job?
American Cyclery, on Broadway, Denver, Colorado. Hired by Service Manager Pat Sullivan. Early '70's, so a Schwinn shop, of course.
You worked for a while at Barnett Bicycle Institute back in the 90’s(?), how did you find the transition from a bicycle mechanic in a shop to becoming an instructor to other mechanics?
That was intimidating . John and I had a lot of good mechanics come through, and at first I didn't want to correct them. You had to explain things clearly. Getting challenged was part of the learning curve, and still is. You have to have the right attitude, watching what they do, and listening to what they say. Even if you know you are right and they are wrong, if you can find a way to explain it so they can understand, it makes you a better a mechanic.
After Barnett’s you worked for the United States Cycling Federation (predecessor to what is now USA Cycling), what was your official role there?
I was contract labor at USCF / USAC for a number of years, including working as mechanic for the US National Team at the 1984 Olympics, and on trips. I was the resident dorm coach for the cyclists such as Roy Knickman, and Rebecca Twigg. Later I worked wtih Chris Carmichael developing educational material for entry level coaches. I also managed the mechanics for the MTB Worlds for the US Team for several year. I taught at all the race mechanic clinics at the OTC, at least until recently.
You’ve been to a lot of world class races, how many Olympics and World Championships have you worked at in the service of this nations top athletes?
Total I guess 12 or more. They tend to blend together, and you remember the other mechanics and garages more than the races or racers. You don't really get to see that much of the racing.
Thinking about those Olympic and World Championship tech support teams, is there a moment or year that really stands out as a game changer in terms of how you did your job?
Plenty of eye-opening moments stand out. Having bikes stolen under my watch gives you quite the wake up call. Issues such as having a chain jam on a World DH run that never was an issue in practice was another eye opener. This chain guide was installed wrong by the rider, but no matter, it was in my stand and I should have caught it. More reinforcement that the technical-buck stops right there, with you. But mainly the stand out thing was seeing how all your early pre-race prep come together for good results during the race, which for me reinforces the importance of planning. As another mechanic said, this is about a lot of forethought, followed by a lot of afterthought.
Let’s jump forward - you work at Part Tool Company now. How has your previous shop, educational and event support knowledge helped you in your current role?
First and maybe foremost is being able to relate to the professional mechanic and to speak the mechanic's language. It is critical being able to listen to ideas and problems that are presented and then relate that to our engineers and staff here. That is true also for issues/idea/problems coming from riders/consumers of all sorts. This skill comes from my previous experience at the retail work bench, at events, and from teaching.
We understand that your new passion is NICA and you are the coach of a local high school cycling team. What motivates you to give back to today’s youth / why is being a part of this organization so important to you?
It is actually an old passion, helping people, this is just a new way to do that. My role is as Team Director of a local high school team. I rarely even get to ride with the students. My role is mainly administrative, keeping the ship going the right direction, and sometimes just keeping it afloat. I take on the headaches like dealing with our NGB, the school admin, parents, etc. My role is to free my coaches to just coach. We have grown from 26 riders to a team of 70, and even more next year. It turns out kids like to ride bikes, we are just providing the opportunity. Let me say also mechanics are well placed in the cycling world to make a big difference in this type of riding. We are at the center of things, and if you pay attention, you see and learn a lot about how things can be run. Get involved, and not just by lubing a chain.
If you could tell someone who just graduated high school and wants to make a career in the cycling industry on the technical side - what advice, wisdom or guru level words would you share with them?
Basics. Basics. Basics. Know your basics before trying to do professional work. Things like properties of materials, thread theory, strains, loads, failures; so much of that comes from playing, literally. Arts and crafts, models, smashing stuff with hammers, taking stuff apart, this stuff be ingrained in your flesh, not studies on a flat screen. Be hungry for knowledge, and as always, question authority....tempering that with knowing when to shut up and just work.
Is there anything else you’d like the readers to know about you?
I guess that i relate very much to the theory of "multiple intelligences". There different modes of intelligence, and being a bike mechanic can use several of them. As a young mechanic, I used to think you didn't need to know about the bike user, I'll fix the bike the way it should be. That is not the case, and having some inter-personal skills, that kind of intelligence, helps you get the bike just right. There is the type of intelligence an engineer may have that differs from that of a musician, or a naturalist that is good at categorizing things. There is intelligence of an athlete, which is something I do not posses. We all have some of each perhaps, but not in the same mix. Call it intuition if you like, but respect each type and each person. If I may be allowed to twist this quote, it also tells us that we should be conscientious individuals, having the courage, if necessary, to give up and go out and find ourselves other forms of activity by which to make a position in society.
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