Meet James Stanfill - PBMA President
PBMA Board of Directors Highlights
Many folks I meet through the PBMA ask and wonder how I got here. I used to conduct a teaching session at the USA Cycling Bill Woodul Race Mechanics Clinic "career development", I showed a timeline resume and talked with those folks about the various things found within in... so at that time, everyone I encountered knew how I got to be there in front of them. For this I figured some folks might like a deeper look into what made me who I am.
I cut my teeth in the early 90's as a junior racer and a shop rat... I started by basically begging for a job in Tucson so I could afford to race my bicycle, even back then entry fees for a high school kid were really steep. Luckily my mom saw to it that cycling was a thing that kept me out of trouble and made sure I was able to get to races and still make the (passing) grades at school.
After about 10 years of working in the shop, racing in the US and abroad I was tired. Tired of being a mediocre racer and tired being maxed out of earning in the bicycle shop. I wasn't poorly paid but I didn't feel I was financially rewarded or gaining anything by staying there.
I quit with nothing lined up and no prospects. I put together a resume and started applying all over the place. I had a few interviews, some things were interesting, others not. I interviewed at Blockbuster Video (keep in mind at this time this was a Forbes Fortune 500 business owned by Viacom Entertainment with 9,000 "brick and mortar" retail locations). This interview was intense and with more than one person, something even the business classes in college didn't train me for. I didn't get hired on the spot and took at job at Dillards who I had also interviewed with and made me a job offer... The day I started at Dillards, Blockbuster called, I quit Dillards that day - what a horrible place to work (critical after 3 days of working in a mall, I know).
Some may be laughing a bit, other hopefully are wondering why... it's real simple. Blockbuster offered me a starting hourly position that paid me almost double what I earned as a manager of a pretty busy and high volume bicycle shop in little old Tucson Arizona, two weeks paid vacation, paid on-the-job training, a company matching 401k and a fairly flexible schedule, they were open from 10a to Midnight daily after all!.
I did real well there. I received some really good schedule management training which went right along with forecasting business, I learned how to read and write a budget, I learned people management and loss prevention. Over my 5-year history there I learned more than I did in any school, got paid really really well, managed 100's of people, fired probably just as many. I even made some lifelong friends.
For those still laughing:
When I left I was running up to 10 stores which had an average of 10 employees each and grossing a million dollars per location, this "district" as they called it was one of the most successful in the entire region of Arizona (and the western states)and if you do the math was simply cranking out rentals and video equipment sales.
Eventually my passion for cycling caught back up. I left Blockbuster with a pretty good package of compensation at a good time, a couple years later the store closing began, the writing was on the wall and I and others saw it coming. There were shops and other things that filled the financial void until I really got back into the bicycle world.
After a short stint in Phoenix working at a pretty high end shop which appreciated quality and qualified employees (oh yeah, during those 5-years outside the industry I kept my hands dirty with Mavic SSC supporting all the races around the USA, it was a perfect use of my paid vacation time!), I got a job at Cannondale, working on their photoshoot and driving a demo truck all around the USA supporting shops, events and athletes.
I worked with the Liquigas team and got to meet all those kids who became and are now superstars, I went on to work at USA Cycling in their Athletics Department, managing teams for PanAm and World Cup track events, going to Worlds and supporting our nation's elite athletes.
I left there to work for Specialized Bicycles in their Bicycle R&D Department which allowed me to again work with their elite athletes and teams, see some of the latest innovations and put my thinking skills to the test. My boss there (Mike McAndrews) challenged me all the time to do better and be better, the guy that runs the place did the same, I worked on his bikes and provided him feedback on the products the company was producing, talking about complex to simple things.
Cycling is my passion and my life, today I work for my own companies (yes, more than one) to make ends meet and support the mission of the PBMA. I do race and team support, I share my opinion with owners and managers. I reflect on all I've done and the 30 or so countries I've been lucky enough to visit.
I would not be here today without having left to get the things I wanted as a person, to become a manager, to understand how business and retail work. Some may laugh or snicker but the things I learned outside of our industry are the exact things that we need to start doing inside of our industry if we are going to survive the future. Blockbuster didn't adapt... they tried to, but it was 3 years too late.
I encourage you, if you made it this far, to join the PBMA and let us help you with the future!
Making things happen at Unior USA
Chris Kreidl - Operations Manager, Unior USA
Our final interview of 2018 features Chris Kreidl, Operations Manager for Unior USA. As Operations Manager Chris handles the day to day operations for the US Importer for Unior Tools including sales, marketing and customer service. Chis was also one of the very first mechanics to join the PBMA!
So Chris, how did you get started in the cycling industry?
I was youngish, had no drivers license, and my commute to university was too far to walk. So I rode. As a full time student with no job commuting through Milwaukee winters, my bikes never lasted long. Being a poor college student I couldn't afford to pay for parts and labor to fix what the winters did to my bike so I got a job at a shop near the UW-Milwaukee campus (Chris says Hey! Bikesmiths!) and never looked back.
Your career turned to race mechanics, how did that happen and why was that something you wanted to do?
While watching highlights from the Tour de France I saw a video of a Mavic Neutral Support mechanic standing on top of a moving car doing something with the saddle on a bike racked up on the roof. I thought that looked pretty sweet and wanted to do it. A friend had gone through the Bill Woodul Clinic the year prior and recommended it to me if, for whatever reason, that was the sort of thing I wanted to do with my life. And it was.
You've been all over the place, worked tons of races. Whats your favorite race and why?
Contrary to what many cycling fans might think, my favorite races are the ones in the Middle East (Tour of Qatar, Tour of Oman...). As race mechanics we spend a lot of time in crappy hotels eating pretty crappy food. These races have the best accommodations I've experienced as part of a bike race, and that makes the job that much easier. Aside from that, following the races through all the little villages along the route, it's pretty cool seeing an entire town come out to cheer the race on. I've been through small villages in Oman that have had better spectator turnout than a lot of races in the US will ever see.
You have a new roll in the industry, now you've hung up your suitcase. What parts of your background helped you get this new position?
A few things!
A large part of my role is marketing, or increasing brand awareness and hopefully turning that awareness into tool sales. Cycling teams are marketing vehicles for the companies that sponsor them. It's our job as team staff to make sure we're representing our sponsors to the best of our abilities and doing what we can to provide value to them. It would be nice to think that companies that choose to back a team are doing so out of goodwill and totally authentic reasons, but that's not the case
photo credits Jonathan Devich
The other thing I had to offer Unior was credibility. I've made my living working with tools and I like to think I developed a reputation as a pretty good mechanic. Since I relied on the tools in my tool case to help me make that living I was somewhat choosy with what I would spend my money on. Good tools help a good mechanic do good work quickly. I think my reputation as a mechanic helps lend credibility to the Unior offerings, and that was attractive to my new bosses.
Looking at the future, what's going to be important for the "bicycle shop"?
Service, without a doubt. The Internet undeniably has led to changes in bicycle retail. Online retail and discount outlets aren't going away, but as the saying goes "the Internet can't fix your bike."
Reputation and credibility are going to be important as well. The Internet hasn't just made cheap parts accessible. It's made information accessible. Nobody gives a second thought to reading Yelp reviews on a restaurant they're thinking about for dinner or an auto repair shop when they have a CV-joint go bad. Why should picking a bike shop be any different? In a time where there are fewer and fewer shops I think it's going to be important to be able to provide better service (customer relations and mechanical aptitude) than the next guy(or gal).
Lastly, openness to change. It's easy to dog on eBikes and I've been known to joke around with my friends about fatbikes. I however haven't relied on customers coming into my shop to keep the lights on. It amazes me that I still see retail employees dissing whatever new development there might be in cycling. That is lost income potential if there ever was any.
Educationally as a mechanic, what's important to you?
Providing good service means staying up to date. Being prepared to properly address whatever comes into the work-stand is important. I don't want to ever be in a position where I have to think about saying "I can't fix that" or "I don't know how" -- I want to be able to say "no problem, I've got this" and be confident in saying those words.
When Shimano DA9100 was introduced I insisted on finding a way to get into "Interbike East" because they were going to be there doing a seminar on the installation process. It was important to me to have at least seen the product ahead of time so when I was faced with building 115 team bikes I'd go in with some semblance of an idea of what was going on. Even if I later had to look up the S-TEC videos to refresh my memory, at least I wasn't seeing these parts for the first time when I was faced with building team race bikes.
What are the most important traits you've found to be beneficial as a mechanic?
Time management - there is always something to do, being efficient with one's time helps get as much done as possible in the time available.
Ability to think critically - such as building 115 bikes with product new to me, I've found that even when faced with something I've never had my hands on if I stop and take a look at how I think it should work, often I can make it work.
Ability to switch off - no matter how good we are, there is always more to do. After years of insisting on working non-stop every day, all day. Finding time for myself has become more and more important. Doing something outside of cycling helps me stay motivated and get the most out of the time I do spend working.
It's About a Clamp
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!
Sugar Wheel Works
We caught up with Jude from Sugar Wheel Works, check out the video interview above and read more about Jude from our 2017 interview.
The Hand Dyno is essential to awesome suspension
Anthony Trujillo is no stranger to the wrench, working for major suspension manufacturers since the late 90's he's been in the trenches and now produces tools for mechanics with an emphasis on suspension.
How did you get started in the cycling industry?
I obtained my BS in Mechanical Engineering from California State University (Chico) in 1997 and focused most of my efforts for an entry level position in outdoor sports from golf to bike racks. I lucked out having a friend who was doing a summer internship at FOX in the Powersports Division which he had no interest in pursuing. He gave my info to the Engineering Managers for Off-Road/Bike and Powersports and I went on two-bike ride interviews at the end of '97 and was hired in early '98. I spent the first year and a half in the Powersports division and then transferred to the bike department after a managerial shakeup.
Bikes on dirt have always been my #1! Thanks to older brothers, I was thrown on the BMX track when I was like 5, in 1977. Growing up with older cousins and uncles who liked 4x4 camping trips, I grew up happily getting dirty, wheelin', and riding dirt bikes. I think it was 1986 when I got my first mountain bike. I focused in on suspension while I was getting my degree because it seemed the hardest and best use of the degree in the cycling industry. Despite some serious downs, I've been grateful and stoked for most all of my cycling industry experiences.
You have worked (or done work) for some major brands, tell us about the various roles and how they build upon one another.
Yeah, I've seen and done a bit too much to cover it all! It's been a blessing and a curse what I've seen and done. Starting my career as an entry level mechanical engineer with close to nine years at FOX allowed me to grow and learn in an environment that required me to wear many hats supporting multiple departments. I took care of BOM's (a complete build list for a product consisting of all the individual parts, SKU's sourcing...), generated 2-D drawings for all the departments, and was the resident IT guy during the first few years, then adding on circuit and chassis design once in the bike department.
I remember well when FOX bicycle rear shocks were only OEM and still have the internal document communicating to the company that hiring Mike McAndrews (you can read "Mick's" interview by clicking his name) did not mean fox was going into the fork business... HAHA Right!
The direct hands-on experience I had with manufacturing and production departments under the same roof was invaluable. Working directly with Bob Fox, Mick and John Marking wasn't so bad either. For most of my time at FOX, there were only two of us engineers for shocks and two for forks. I learned a lot from those others guys!
Specialized (SBC) had been working on their integrated suspension department for just a couple years before I was brought over to that amazing team. Mick at the lead with Brian Lampman working solely on SBC forks and Fernando Hernandez as in-house machining and suspension technician. I came in to essentially fix the SBC brand shocks and design/develop new ones. It was an amazing opportunity to work with a completely new clean slate and with frame engineers. The micro brain chassis and circuit layout for the Epic is something I'm quite proud of and which SBC still uses today.
SBC was my full court press experience working with Taiwan for manufacturing and production. It was great to be on the OEM side of the fence to understand that perspective from one of the major bike companies. These experiences helped me later wearing a sales hat for X Fusion (XF) and Marzocchi.
X Fusion is another suspension name that many readers will recognize. Tell us about your time there.
My time at X Fusion was a result of a long history with them as a supplier for parts to FOX and being the sole supplier to the SBC brand of shocks. Their products had slowly improved over a decade and after raising their quality level while at SBC, I was happy to work with them and help move their product to a higher level. It was great to provide them with a new look and line of shocks and improve their forks so they could compete in the higher end market. I am most proud of designing the Vector Air DH shock while at XF.
Tell us about OSO, how did this come about?
I started Off Street Only (OSO) in ’11 as a sole proprietor in an attempt to take what I learned from FOX, SBC, and XF to support anyone who would hire me. It did work out for the most part quite well for six years! It was the last four years contracting for FOX, while super grateful, I was banging my head against the wall seeing what products were coming out from all the companies in the mtb industry. The marketing seemed to be above the engineering in many cases and, along with other factors, I had that building energy of ‘WTF, do your own products already!’ and I just couldn’t ignore it any longer. That, plus the timing of my long-time friend and ex-coworker, Vincent Chen, asking me to get in the bike biz with him. He’s the owner/founder of Racing Bros out of Taiwan and they are doing quite well on the Powersports side of things. Together I expect we can produce what we know can be achieved with our coupled experience. I decided to take the leap and go all in and incorporated OSO in ’17.
OSO is still new with much more to come. Currently the Global Headquarters are happily my garage! Right now we have a range of fork and shock dyno's that are designed to make suspension work easier at the manufacturer, service and shop levels.
What's so special about a shock dyno? Why would a shop want to invest in one?
This is something I took for granted, a shock hand dyno is pretty much a must have for every suspension company's R&D lab and production line. With a trained arm, you can quickly and easily diagnose a shock for errors and or check that it was built correctly. You will see every service center and suspension race trailer with one too. I understand if a shop doesn't do air sleeve maintenance, they might not be interested in one for the service area.
If they do, and want to do a good shock review and ever get into the damper, they would need a hand dyno. Having the shock on a dyno allows you to feel any issues without it being masked by tires, linkage, drivetrain and awkward seat pushes. The shock dyno will also last a long time. My plan is to update mounts to fit new products as they become available. Having used many variations of a hand dyno for two decades, I thought it was best to offer my own designs to the masses.
What's your favorite tool... you can't say a hand dyno!?
Oh... easy. Digital caliper. I am always reaching for my calipers. Whether I'm designing parts on my computer or putting parts together in the lab. Always within reach to either measure something or gain a visual reference on a feature.
***PBMA Technical Workshops registration now includes an entry to win a Shock Hand Dyno from Anthony and OSO... click here for details***
From Motos to Bicycles
His brass hammer is like an appendage
Mike McAndrews is a well known name in the bicycle suspension world. One of the original pioneers of a sprung fork... He now works at Specialized Bicycles as the Director of Suspension Technology and has been "kicking" bicycle tires for 25 years now.
So how did you get started in the bicycle world?
I was working in the motorcycle industry and has a lot of experience in shock absorber technology, so when the suspension boom hit the cycling industry, Paul Turner (founder of RockShox) had offered me a position to help him manage his R&D team at RockShox. I was ready for a change and jumped at the opportunity.
Motorcycle industry... what was that about? I was a Race Mechanic for the Kawasaki Factory Team for 10 years, after that I ran my own motorcycle suspension business.
We love research and the internet is amazing, we found your name associated to 7 or so patents specific to cycling and suspension. Tell us about the one related to "Fork Suspension with Variable Hydraulic Damping"... this was during your RockShox days.
Yes, in the early days of MTB suspension, a few of us came over from the Off-Road Motorcycle world and helped drive some of the early designs based on what we knew from motorcycles.
It didn't take too long to figure out that the application for a human powered vehicle has unique challenges. The Variable Damping patent was my first attempt at trying to get a damping system that would provide firm damping for good chases control (pedaling) while having a better curve for bump control, deeper in the travel. Ultimately this design lead me into the inertia valve system we call the Brain today.
So now you work at Specialized overseeing a team of folks focused on suspension. Tell us about some of the daily activities you and your team conduct.
The primary responsibility of the group I manage is to align the ride dynamics of a given bike design with the vision of the product managers. To accomplish this, we'll do whatever it takes... from designing a complete shock (as we do for the Epic) or simply working with the test engineers at a company like Fox to alter the ride dynamics of their design to align with the overall bike performance goals (and everything in between).
A lot of time is spend quantifying the ride performance using data acquisition and experienced rider feedback on a variety of controlled test sections in the field. From there we analyze the data, determine the modifications needed, measure the changes again on the shock absorber dyno... and then re-test in the field. We run this cycle anywhere from 1-2 times to 10 times, it all depends on the scope of a particular project.
Some first hand knowledge and other interview suggest that you've had some rock-star folks work for you over the years. What made these individuals stand out / what made them special?
In my experience, people who excel in a given role are the ones that have followed their passion(s). They love what they do and they love being the best at what they do. When I have people like that in my group, the best thing I can do is give them guidance when needed and get out of their way! As advice, I'd say don't be afraid to follow your passions even as they change...you'll love what you do...and the chances are, you'll be really good at it!
When looking for an employee, what are three characteristics (or qualities) you look for during the hiring process?
Assuming the person has the skills and experience needed for a specific position:
It's a toss-up, between my 3/8" drive Snap-on speed handle and my very old Proto brass hammer. In my race mechanic days, we didn't have the battery power impact guns, so the speed handle was vital to getting the work done quickly between motos and the brass hammer I've been knocking the shit out of stuff for almost 40 years with it... it's like an appendage.
Abbey Bike Tools, the Friar
A video interview with the head Friar at Abbey Bike Tools
A second installment to a series of video interview within our industry features Jason Quade. Jason is no stranger to many in our community so we encourage you to take a watch or listen and hear from the man in his own words.
Looking for other PBMA video content? Check us out here!
Winged Wheels?Read Now
Development for Everyone
Mike Reisenleiter is the main man behind Winged Wheel Development. He's taking his diverse cycling industry background and applying what he's learned to help others excel.
So how do you get started in the biz?
When I was barely a teenager, I was fortunate enough to have a couple of close friends introduce me to mountain bikes. We weren't called "groms" yet, but that's exactly what we were. We would hang out at the local bike shop, ride lots and dream about bikes.
I had my first job when I was 12, then worked in my first bike shop when I was 16. When I was in college, most of my time was either spent riding, running a bike-trials focused website, or working on bikes at Johnny Sprockets in Chicago. I was working on portfolio reviews in school and realized I really enjoyed working at the shop so much more.
After a lot of thought I decided to see where my love of bikes could take me for the rest of my life!
What exactly is Winged Wheel, and how did it get started?
Winged Wheel is a business dedicated to giving bicycle retailers the same tools and techniques used by the best businesses in the world. I started Winged Wheel because I believe that the world is better when communities have a local hub for bicycles; and I believe there is no better hub than locally focused retailers.
At the same time, two important ideas converged in my mind:
I've heard countless stories about retails who felt they were working harder than ever to make the same (or less) income. But as I looked at the likely future landscape of retail, I say a very unique opportunity to bicycle retailers to thrive in a way that other retailers simply couldn't... so I founded Winged Wheel to share that vision and build a nation of successful retailer. Those who focus on the customer experience, bicycles service and community engagement.
Tell us about your background that landed you a 12 year career at SRAM.
Over 12 years, but who's counting... I started at SRAM before SRAM offered trigger shifters! When I left SRAM I held the position of Global Warranty Manager. Prior to that I worked in sales and marketing with a focus on dealer interactions.
I ran such programs at SRAM STU (SRAM Technical University) and SRAM's Ride Experience in addition to various events, programs and projects. When I first started the job was based in dealer service. I was answering technical questions for dealers and flying out to support the race truck at NORBA (pre-USA Cycling) races. This was right after SRAM had acquired RockShox in 2003. At that time, my skillset was a good base of technical and communication skills, plus a heap of ambition. Because I had been working in customer service and technical jobs, they gave me a chance despite my age (I was only 22). I had been a lead mechanic at Johnny Sprockets in Chicago and Ed Nasjleti (you can read about Ed here) walked in one day to drop off a part that we needed from SRAM. That connection got my friend Craig a job at SRAM and I joined a few months later.
When traveling you visit shops... what's going on out there?
It is wild to think about how many retailers I've visited. Over the last decade I've probably visited around a thousand retailers on five continents! Lately, the good things I've been seeing revolve around adaptation to the best parts of technological advances. Retailers capitalizing on consumer excitement around eBikes, retailers utilize online booking / scheduling for rentals, tours and services. Retailers who have worked to dial-in their inventory management through open-to-buy planning, auto re-order and so on. Additionally, I've met lots of retailers who see challenges as opportunities and that is really inspiring: one of my favorite retailers went through the hell of an IRS audit, but came out on the other side knowing more about his business than ever before!
On the other side, I've seen many retailers who don't have a bias to action...and worst of all: have engrained that into their culture. I've seen retailers that don't greet customers, that show bravado instead of humility, that don't cherish every customer they have like a family member. These are all death rattles, but can all be undone. Winged Wheel has a service on the site called "Retailer Nightmare" and we can help you right these wrongs.
What does the future bicycle shop look like through your eyes?
I see it as a community focused hub that helps customers live a cycling lifestyle. A place where the customer's name is known, their experiences honored and their needs exceeded. It is a place where consumers are happy to pay full price, feel well served by the retail team and advocate passionately by word-of-mouth. These retailers already exist today and are thriving.
Give us seven words to summarize the future of service.
How about two seven word answers:
You knew we'd ask... favorite tool?
A fresh Bondhus 5mm L-bend allen with a ball end. There is probably no other tool that is so effective on so many fasteners on so many bikes... ok and Wikipedia, the best mechanics don't know everything but they know where to find the answer and information they need.
Do your homework, vote with your dollars
B Vivit is an experienced industry veteran, she is currently an instructor at United Bicycle Institute. B wears many hats like all the instructors at UBI spending time teaching as well as helping manage their social media and marketing. How she got there is an interesting journey including her time at UBI as a student thanks to a QBP Scholarship.
So, how did you get started in the cycling industry?
I do not like driving. And believe it or not, I was so poor for a second that even bus fare sometimes seemed like a luxury[even if waiting for the bus wasn't]. I saved up the few bits I could manage and bought my first used road bike and used that to get around everywhere, and the South Bay Area was NOT bike friendly, wide roads but fast speed limits.
I was working for the footwear department at Sports Basement in the Bay Area, and instead of asking the other staff at my store to fix my bike, I asked for a transfer to the bike department to learn the industry and to start to learn for myself. After a couple years of struggle, I found a mentor that really went out of his way to help me.
Tell us about your current role and how you got there.
LOONG story short, you could say that I started as a bike commuter and then worked my way to Bicycle Mechanics Instructor and Framebuilding support at United Bicycle Institute. I asked a lot of questions, read everything I could get my hands on, and used up a lot of my breaks and days off to learn as much as possible. Eventually my experience managing other departments paid off in my ability to manage a department full of people who knew more than I did about bicycle maintenance.
I relied heavily on my mechanics but slowly gained the knowledge to do-it-myself, while helping turn a non-profitable shop into a profitable one. I went back to school for metal fabrication and with a lot of help from Jon Stynes(City and County Bicycle Shop, SF, CA) I felt comfortable enough to be a full service mechanic. I left Sports Basement and during that summer took the Paul Brodie fabrication course in British Columbia. I moved over to Huckleberry Bicycles and they supported me through the QBP Women's Bicycle Mechanic Scholarship course at UBI. 2016-2017 (read more about B's UBI Scholarship and time at UBI at the bottom of this interview) was very packed with good things. I was back to school learning metal fabrication. The fab industry is another place where women struggle for recognition.
After aaalllll of that, I got back to San Francisco, and looked around at my life. I'd accomplished some major goals that I'd set for San Francisco, my degree, moving forward in my career... I had momentum. After a few interviews with other bicycle companies and a stormy, fearful, overnight drive to Ashland for an interview with my former teachers; Matt (Eames) called to tell me that I got the job.
What challenges have you faced being a female mechanic?
My mother was actually the one who instilled a firm belief that I should learn to maintain the things that I own, by myself. As a single mom, she had been battling to make sure that my brother and I were self-sufficient, and that we had the tools and skills to handle whatever we could. Being from the first wave in the tech industry, she told me that because I was a woman most places of the mechanical or scientific sort would try to take advantage of the fact that I wasn't expected to know anything. She wasn't wrong.
My road to UBI is littered with people who assumed(and told me) that because of my gender, I didn't have the qualifications to do this job. I still do. I try to focus on the things and people that make me happy, let the rest roll off. We still have a culture that thinks women should not be treated on an equal playing field. While vocal when I feel I have a soapbox, my ethic is still to put my head down and work. I think every woman in the science, fabrication, and engineering industry has exceptionally thick skin. Some days, though, it still gets to me. I have to remember that I am thankful for the mentors that have taken their time to show me, the ones that held space for me, for the women who came before and the women who are still fighting for equality. The ones who made my journey even a little bit easier. I hope I can pass that on.
How do you feel about industry diversity? What needs to change? How do you feel the PBMA can help affect that change?
There are 2 major ways I think that the industry can change for the better.
And I think we are seeing a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of change. Mostly because companies are realizing that they are missing out on profits by excluding certain demographics(duh!). And those demographics are becoming VOCAL. They, and their allies, are asking to be included and calling out those who casually exclude or insult them. And also because there isn't any more room in this economy for shops who can't get past their own egos to help people.
Increasingly I'm calling on everyone in the industry to do your homework and vote with your dollars. For all you folk out there, keep on keepin' on, and reach out to those who show you kindness. Show it back and stay in touch. We all need each other.
I'm in the education side now, so of course I will say that I think more mechanics need to value education in their lives. But I also think that education takes many forms. Rarely in our line of work does it mean reading a book and taking a test. But sometimes it means actively looking for torque values, practicing an adjustment multiple times, or completing S-TEC modules. Sometimes it means calling your local rep for the information, or taking a vacation that includes a clinic. The test-in real time-is always, 'Can I make it work better(without breaking it the first time)?'
PBMA has created clinics for furthuring the industry and has stepped up in a big way to create the title "professional" bike mechanic and to really ask us(as an industry) what that means. We have an increasingly technical industry that the rest of the world doesn't really acknowledge as a skillset; we have to evolve with it.
If you had to hire a mechanic or two, what type of qualifications or traits are you looking for?
I have hired mechanics, and I have also fired them. Sometimes it depends on who I need. The specific skillsets and how fast I need them. Suspension mechanics were always in high demand.
Honestly though, as a manager, I was always willing to train someone who was ready to learn. Someone who 'plays well with others.' Enthusiasm for the sport, but specifically for the technical side. Someone who took initiative to find some initial information all by themselves. Seriously, take the initiative to do what you can, until you do get recognized.
You have to pick a goto snack. What is it?
Coconut rice bars(vegan if you omit bacon); based off a Filipino recipe my dad taught me but handed down from my Grandma. I make them myself because even though I use pre-packaged food, I get tired of it. I cook some rice with coconut milk and sugar in the rice cooker until sticky(until the rice is cooked) and then put it into a cake pan. Top with brown sugar, or slices of banana, or squeeze of lime, and sometimes already-cooked bacon; and set it in the oven. Let cool and wrap in foil or wax paper and they are good to go!
B Vivit talks more about her opportunity to attend UBI via the QBP Scholarship...
The QBP Women's Scholarship 2017 was an absolute dream. I'm teary-eyed even thinking about how that changed my life. I spent the first three years after the first QBP Scholarship happened (it wasn't til 2017 that I received it) building my resume and focusing on how I could give back in whatever way possible, without the knowledge to do so; throwing rides, sponsoring coed and women's teams, throwing events that benefited the WCA, etc.
UBI was a space that was dedicated to the education of everyone inside of it. And we were THERE. The Ashland instructors, Matt and Nathan(and sometimes Rich), focused on giving us as much of the material as we could handle. Every night consisted of a dozen or so blue binders, a big table, page markers, highlighters, lots of conversation, and sooo much studying. Denise, Ron, and Lynn made sure that we were taken care of outside of the classroom, making sure we knew where to eat and buy food; gluten free, vegan, and all. Kaitlin and Seth (QBP) flew all the way out to Ashland to make us all feel like rockstars. And of course all the sponsors that sent us things to start off a new leg of our careers.
The women I met were absolutely incredible. Every single person in the scholarship was driven. They had goals, and had already set about trying to implement them. There were folx who'd been in the industry for decades and a few who were fresh; non-profit, for-profit; old, young; pink, yellow, brown, olive, blue, and purple; but what we all had in common was a goal specifically to further our communities (whether by providing the best possible customer service, or by creating new opportunities through non-profits). I still talk to most of them. A few have dropped off the map, but usually in the best possible way; by keeping themselves busy with those goals and dreams that we spent each night talking about. It's truly a dream now to watch them all achieve the things they aimed at.
Over the weekend Nathan - who lives a triple/quadruple life as a local pro enduro rider, a dedicated father of two children and husband, as well as his full-time instructing role at UBI and a moonlighting product designer - took us on a mountain bike ride in the Ashland watershed (also an awesome place to mountain bike ANY time and definitely a destination). During that ride, I crashed hard and even took Kaitlin from QBP down with me![Sorry Kaitlin!] I still remember coming back from pain to see Rich bent over me, trying to tell bad jokes to get me to laugh through my bruised ribs, and Kelly Paduch (also a student of the scholarship) using her nurses training to help me turn over. Lynn, from UBI, happened to be driving by and she ferried me to the hospital. After an afternoon in the ER and a catscan, they held me for 3 days with a tear to my liver and a bruise to my pancreas. Over the rest of that weekend, a few girls came to visit, and we hatched a plan to stream the class into my hospital room, so I could at least listen to the lectures, then catch up on the hands-ons. Which Matt and Nathan were super on it about helping me complete. Nathan, Rich, and Matt called me pretty much every day to check-in; and Ripley(Nathan's son) along with Nathan, stopped by to give me a new helmet so I could keep riding when I got home. Above and beyond!
I know I just spend a few minutes of your time telling you about the extras in my experience during the scholarship. But that's because the education was everything you could expect from an institution that has made it their mission to educate an ever-evolving industry for over thirty-five years. An institute that has slowly and surely rolled along trying to create a more professional experience across the board in the industry and to make sure that as a professional bicycle mechanic, the title was one to be earned through study, practice, and effort. And just as important: your gender, your sexuality, your ethnicity, your nationality, etc. are not barriers to the information being passed down. The manual[which is created by the instructors] contains everything to educate a fairly novice mechanic on 90% of the industry; the instructors have the tips, tricks, and answers of decades in the industry, watching the evolution of bike components and companies; and the facilities and hands-on education are clean and well-thought out. It's the education that I would've felt good about paying for, and a lot of times I don't feel that way about my bachelors degree, had I been able to[again, a luxury].
I've already taken too much of your time but suffice to say that without this experience, I definitely wouldn't be where I am today, and I may not even be entertaining that there was anything beyond struggle, financial and cultural, in this industry.
Texas oil Man
Magura USA Oil Man Jude Monica
We're excited to share our first ever video interview. Jude Monica from Magura USA talks brakes, training and travel. If you've never met this "Oil Man" yourself and you see him at an event make the effort!
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