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.
PBMA eTech - designed with the mechanic in mind
In creating workshops that feature manufacture training and business focused conversations, the PBMA embarked on a mission looking towards the future with a goal of identifying whats missing. The eBike segment of cycling is growing (like it or not) and as mechanics we must be educated on the technology. While the fundamental elements of the bicycle exist, now we are faced with electronics and power well beyond the typical electronic component we are used to seeing.
PBMA eTech was created with key partners in the electric bicycle community. The Light Electric Vehicle Association (LEVA) provided us introductions to a number of major manufacturers in the Asian marketplace and we identified Bafang and Phylion as great collaborators in this educational mission. We hope to grow and add more partners as we grow the available courses that PBMA eTech will offer.
What makes these companies so key in the development of this class? LEVA has been educating the cycling industry on eBike technology for nearly 10-years. Phylion Battery is a top producer of Lithium-ion batteries with annual production of 2.5GWh (for reference 1GWh = 1 billion watt hours). Bafang systems are likely found on many eBikes you've already seen in your shop. With more than 900,000 motors sold annually to more than 350 manufacturers worldwide it's more than likely you'll eventually run into their product.
PBMA eTech will focus on battery technology including tips and tricks you can do in your shop to create customer satisfaction. PBMA eTech will also focus on various motor drive systems with emphasis on technique and repair.
PBMA eTech is designed to educate technicians on all eBike technology from an unbiased aspect. Lead instructors from LEVA will be supported by brand representatives to field key questions and provide manufacturer recommended answers.
PBMA eTech is an included course in 3 upcoming technical workshops featuring 12 additional business and tech sessions in small class environments.
PBMA eTech will also be available as a stand-alone course at a number of venues around the country. For more details please click here
After a successful first year, the Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association has revamped its Mechanic of the Week program. Mechanic Monday (#mechanicmonday) will feature a randomly chosen nominated mechanic each Monday with public voting on a Mechanic of the Year taking place over 14 days in January of 2019.
Abbey Bike Tools is returning to sponsor the competition. In addition to the grand prize package, Abbey Bike Tools will be supplying each week’s mechanic a co-branded custom Abbey Stu Stick. Jason Quade, the founder of Abbey Bike Tools, said, "We are focused on building professional quality tools for mechanics across the globe. The PBMA is raising the bar for those technicians and we whole heartedly support that cause."
The PBMA has also bolstered the program with media outlet CyclingIndustry.News and PeopleforBikes helping to identify and promote the value of the Professional Bicycle Mechanic©.
The winner of the Mechanic Monday competition in 2018 will receive an all expense paid trip to the 2019 North American Handmade Bicycle Show plus an exclusive prize package from Abbey Bike Tools and a year’s subscription the print edition of CyclingIndustry.News.
“Bike mechanics are among the most influential people involved in helping riders, and future riders, make great decisions about what they need, as well as providing perspective on what the rider thinks they want. PeopleForBikes applauds the Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association for creating a program to celebrate and promote the best of the best among the industry’s awesome community of bicycle mechanics,” said Charlie Cooper, Vice President of Membership and Development of PeopleforBikes.
“CyclingIndustry.News has been keen to bring to the industry discussion table the voice of the mechanic and so partnering with this great initiative to further highlight the great work of those on the frontline of the bike industry is a natural fit. We look forward to generating inspiring content alongside the PBMA, Abbey Bike Tools and PeopleForBikes to amplify the voice of those working tirelessly to raise the standards in our trade and keep our customers rolling,” said Mark Sutton, Editor at CyclingIndustry.News.
James Stanfill, President of the PBMA, said “Last year’s Mechanic of the Week program generated a ton of interest throughout 2017, culminating in an amazing number of people taking part in the pre-Interbike voting period for the coveted Mechanic of the Year. Winner Josh Boggs received 587 of the 4500+ votes and it wasn’t a runaway competition! Utilizing social media to spread the word about voting we reached around 40,000 people in a very short period of time. We’re hoping with Abbey Bike Tools, CyclingIndustry.News and PeopleforBikes we can further that awareness for mechanics everywhere.”
To nominate your favorite mechanic head to Mechanic Monday.
PeopleforBikes gets more people riding bikes more often and makes bicycling better for everyone across the U.S., for more information please visit their website www.PeopleforBikes.org
The Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association is dedicated to the Promotion, Advocacy and Development of the Professional Bicycle Mechanic©, for more information please visit www.ProBMA.org
More information about Abbey Bike Tools can be found at www.AbbeyBikeTools.com
Keep track of all the latest news by visiting www.CyclingIndustry.News today!
My days presently are split up three ways really. The PBMA is a huge priority so I spend a great deal of time fielding phone calls, firing off emails, building the website and working towards driving the organization into the future. Just to top all that off you can find me working at races throughout the year as a team mechanic or driving and jumping out of cars providing neutral service.
I got into cycling when I was 15. I haven't really looked back since then. I've raced competitively on and off-road. I've been in and out of shops since 1991. I've spent time working for Cannondale, USA Cycling and Specialized. I've done contract work for SRAM, Mavic and others. I've spent plenty of time on the road working for teams like Liquigas, Twenty16, Elita Pro, Webcor, Drapac the US and Canadian National teams as well as world neutral support at more races than I can actually remember. I spent about 6 years working outside the cycling industry with a fortune 500 company, I gained and entire new set of skills outside our industry.
The PBMA began as a conversation between myself and a handful of others, some of whom are on the Board of Directors and some who were simply interested in professionalizing our craft. Having been in the trenches (of all varieties) for many years I feel very strongly about mechanics and service. I know there are challenges ahead and I am personally prepared to fight them on behalf of the PBMA. For service the future is very bright. We as technicians have the opportunity to help the future of the cycling industry by bolstering our personal skills tool box.
Sometimes real life gets in the way of goals. We had intended to post some type of regular blog focused about life on the road. The problem is when you're on the road there isn't much time to peck out something meaningful and interesting. We resort to Twitter and Instagram for those quick flashes of what's going on.
I read the PBMA Facebook page and comment here and there. I check in on the Forum and see it's not as well used as intended. We built it because people asked for it. Some of those people don't even use it!
We put out a newsletter that has a lot of information about what's going on with the PBMA as well as some things that could help to bolster your business. It's discouraging to read that someone thinks we are doing all these top secret things... Some things are meant to be kept secret due to the sensitive nature of their development. Other things are openly discussed in the newsletters which you can go back and read if you've deleted those emails or marked them as spam.
What's been going on is about 50,000 miles of air travel in the first 6 months of the year (and thats only accounting for my travel). A mixture of meetings with important partners, working on valuable relationships for the PBMA and mechanics. Top that off with my desire to be able to feed and house myself I've worked a handful of races with a few more yet to come!
If you're on the fence about Interbike, I'd encourage you to come. Maybe it'll be the last time ever that you go to Vegas, maybe you've never been... what I know is that the PBMA has a lot to talk about including certification, training and education.
We've put a lot of time and effort into bringing a bunch of manufacturers together in three different parts of the country (again something that many asked for). We have spent countless hours working with partners to develop a logical certification system that accounts for prior knowledge. We've spent way too much time in an aluminum tube flying all over!
If you're wondering what the PBMA is doing, ask. Posting it on Facebook is a way to ask but probably won't get you an answer with any official element attached to it. There are almost 9,000 people in that group all with an opinion and idea. Our role is to look at the averages and strive to find something of value within that can suit and help all. Email us, find us at Interbike, or pop a letter in the mail. Facebook is convenient, I won't argue, if you're seeking a direct answer from the PBMA it's the worst. Email us or find us in person at the next event you'll attend.
The PBMA isn't hiding or conducing business in secret. We published our 2016 P&L which nobody else does. We have attended almost every cycling industry event that has occurred so far this year. If you follow our social media or Facebook business page it would be very easy for you to see, understand and know whom we spoke to and where we wend. We are here to be seen and talk with you. All 9 Board Members are here working hard on your behalf for a brighter, better and more profitable future.
We will see you next week at Interbike!
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.
It’s our last Monday of the 2016-2017 Mechanic of the Week season, and we’re excited to introduce you to Cassandra Faustini, of The Devil’s Gear in New Haven, Connecticut! Cassandra is an up-and-coming mechanic extraordinaire, and she was one of QBP’s “Women’s Bicycle Mechanic Scholarship” recipients for 2017.
We were fortunate enough to chat with Cassandra recently about her experiences in cycling and her work at Devil’s Gear. On behalf of the PBMA and Abbey Bike tools, we hope you enjoy our conversation with her as much as we did!
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How did you become involved in cycling and/or cycling mechanics?
I became involved in cycling in as a student in New York City. I lived in the Bronx, worked in Brooklyn, and went to school in Queens. It became clear that I would never be on time if I relied on the subway, and I began cycle commuting. After a few years of getting around the city by bike, I began working as a bike messenger. While working as a messenger, I learned how to fix a flat and adjust a brake--basic maintenance that helped me get back on the road more quickly and keep wear-and-tear from completely eating up my paycheck.
After working as a messenger for a while, I got a job at an NYC bike shop. While I had worked in bike shops for several years, I was always in sales. In NYC bike shops, there is a big divide between the sales and service departments; I always wanted to learn more about working on bikes, it was not until I moved to CT and began working at the Devil's Gear that I was given the opportunity to do so.
It was not until I received the QBP Women's Scholarship to attend UBI in Ashland, OR, that I learned more advanced repair skills. I was definitely one of the least experienced mechanics there, but the opportunity to learn from the instructors as well as some of the more experienced female mechanics was incredible. I'm still building up my skillset, but the Women's Scholarship definitely gave me a solid foundation to build on that I would not have had otherwise.
What motivates you to excel as one of the few female mechanics in our industry?
I'm motivated because I want to show other women that you CAN work on your own bikes. Learning how to do basic maintenance on your own bike is empowering. Not only are you able to make your bikes last longer, you gain the confidence to ride longer and further when you know you won't get stuck in the middle of nowhere with a broken bike.
I'm not naturally a technically-minded person. My brain does not naturally bend like this. You don't need to be a STEM major to do bike mechanics--you just need practice. I'm not a good mechanic--not yet. I'm just determined and like learning new things. That's really all you need if you want to start fixing bikes!
Do you have any advice for women or girls who aspire to become professional bicycle mechanics?
Keep asking questions! Don't be afraid to make mistakes. If you try a few times to do something and can't get it right, ask for help--but not until you've exhausted the limits of your own knowledge. In general, I think society doesn't encourage girls and women to get out of their comfort zones enough; many women I've spoke to about either riding a bike or wrenching on a bike are too intimidated to take the first step because they're afraid of failure. Mistakes are a part of learning; if you give yourself permission to fail, you can learn more quickly.
Follow a few bike blogs or join a bike mechanic's group on Facebook that you trust for updates and information about new product, as well as reviews of products. This is a great way to learn about new tech so you're prepared to work on it when it arrives in your shop, beyond all the marketing buzzwords. You can also learn about common failures, warranty issues, and the "quirks" of certain components from the Facebook groups, as well as connect with other mechanics.
I also watch a lot of service videos from component manufacturers to learn about their product. Sometimes it takes a few views to make sense of what I'm seeing, but it's very helpful for learning about specific components or generations of a gruppo.
What was your favorite moment or experience from your QBP scholarship, or your favorite from Devil’s Gear?
Just one moment? Impossible! There were so many amazing moments in Ashland. Probably the thing that has stuck with me most the QBP scholarship was the sense of solidarity and inspiration I got from being around other women who were passionate about cycling from all over the country. Everyone had a different experience within the industry and had different approaches to growing women's cycling. It definitely gave me a lot of perspective about how to make a small city like New Haven bike-friendly.
We have a lot of opportunities to do repair events in less-privileged parts of the city, and I'm looking forward to building up my skillset enough to represent the shop at these events. I love working here; we have a really great team and share so many inside jokes. I think I like it best when someone drops ball bearings, and we refer to it as the barbarians getting out. It never fails to make me laugh.
Okay, so we always ask this, but… what’s your favorite tool?
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One final note: Mechanic of the Week will be taking a break from now until after Interbike 2017, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone forever! Check out our website and vote for your favorite MOTW to be our Mechanic of the Year! The MOTW who receives the most individual votes (yes, we can tell if you vote more than once) will win a trip to Interbike courtesy of the PBMA, and a special prize package from Abbey Bike Tools!
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