After taking a week off to celebrate all of the active and former military members of our cycling mechanics community, the PBMA is once again ready to feature another outstanding Mechanic of the Week. This week, we are excited to introduce you to the one and only Josh Boggs , of Greenville, South Carolina.
Josh has been working in the cycling industry for nearly twenty years, and he is currently the Sales Manager at Trek Store South Carolina. He’s also a tour/camp mechanic with Carmichael Training Systems, an experienced race mechanic, and (in all of his free time!) a U.S. Marine.
We hope you enjoy our conversation with Josh as much as we did!
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How did you become involved in cycling and/or cycling mechanics?
I started mountain biking in 1994, when my cousin and a few other friends decided to get into the sport. I bought a cheap mountain bike and started tinkering with the bikes a bit (because that's what curious teenagers do...), and begged the owner of my LBS for a job. He suggested I get a lawn care gig, because it would pay better. I didn't stop trying to get in. I got my first shop job in 2001. After that shop closed in 2003, I went back to the original shop and stepped into the store manager role for a few years. During that time, I did race support with the Clemson University Cycling Team and with the short-lived Cane Creek neutral race support program for some races in the Southeastern US. In 2005, I saved up to go to the Bill Woodul Race Mechanics' Clinic, and through a series of connections, I got my first gig with Mavic SSC at the 2005 Tour de Georgia (RIP). I finished out my work that year with the Jittery Joe's/Kalahari Pro Cycling Team. Fast forward to now... I'm not doing a lot of wrenching right now at the shop, but I do some contract work every now and again. Just finished up my third Tour of California camp with CTS, and I'll be in Knoxville with the Amy D. Foundation Team at Nationals in a few weeks.
What motivates you to excel as a professional mechanic?
I like to consider myself a hard worker. If I touch something, and it isn't done to perfection, I get upset at myself. I suppose that drive to excel is what motivates me. I'm the Sales Manager at an LBS now, so I don't get to work on bikes as much as I'd like to, but when I do I hold myself to the highest standards of workmanship and quality. I love getting back out to the races, more because of the familiar faces and the people I get to deal with on the road, but also to keep myself sharp. Early on, I found a few folks in the race mechanic community that I looked up to, and I tried my best to emulate their work ethic and aspire to get to that level. TJ Grove is one of those people that I look up to. He lived in the same area as me, and I would catch him at local races hanging out, from time to time. I hoped to someday get to his level. A few years ago, TJ called me up to pick up the SRAM NRS car and drive it to work the Charlotte race, and I thought, "I've finally made it!" The problem is, TJ won't slow down, so he unknowingly keeps pushing me to level up...
What was your most memorable moment or experience while working as a mechanic?
I've got a few really memorable moments, both race-related. The first was my first USPRO race in Philly, circa 2005. The whole experience was surreal; getting beer and burger hand-ups on Manayunk Wall, the crowds, tearing around town in our team's Mini Cooper. It was great. Our best finisher that day was Geoff Kabush, in like 22nd position or something. That wasn't the memorable part. I got back to where the team was staged after the race and told the team's soigneur that I did my first out-the-window repair! One of our riders got a plastic bag from a spectator caught in his rear derailleur, and I had to go out the window over his bike to fix it. The fun part was the physical feat of making that happen in the Mini Cooper. Ken Mills, our team director, had one foot on the clutch, one on the gas, one hand on the wheel, the other on my belt to keep me from falling out the window while I got the bag out of the drivetrain. The spectacle of he and I, the largest DS/Mechanic duo in the race, in that tiny Mini, was a sight to behold.
The second most memorable moment was also in Philly, back in 2013. After working the race many times with no major results from any of my riders, I landed a one-race gig with the Specialized/Lululemon women's team (Thanks, James!). It was such a crazy race. We had a crash on lap one, which two of our riders got tangled up in, then at the start/finish line at the top of Manayunk Wall, the race officials pulled us because our van was taller than the height allowed in the caravan. Luckily, Kristy Scrymgeour (DS) had a friend at the race who had a smaller car. Over the course of the next few minutes, we loaded all our gear from the van into the tiny sedan (something about tiny cars and Philly...), and continued on. We caught back up to the caravan over the course of the next lap. The girls blew themselves apart, worked so hard, and Evie Stevens launched on Manayunk Wall and got the win! It was the first time one of my bikes had won at Philly, and I was ecstatic!
You help us moderate a lot of Facebook discussions about “professionalism.” What have you taken away from these, and what do you think it means (or what do you think its impact will be) for the greater cycling industry?
I love the discussions about professionalism surrounding our chosen line of work. If we want our careers as professional bicycle mechanics to be taken seriously, we have to maintain a higher standard for ourselves. There are so many different styles/genres of cycling, it's hard to make a "cookie cutter" template that works for everyone's market. In the shop I work in (a Trek Concept Store), it's tucked in shirts, salespeople greeting you at the door (or in the parking lot, if we see you have a bike that needs attention), and a very customer-friendly environment. If we were a BMX-specific shop, you would probably lose all street cred if you were as well-kept and tucked in as we are. Professionalism can take on many different faces. The thing that ties them all together is consistency with customer service and quality of the work coming out of the shop. If we take a look at mechanics on the race circuit, it's the same. It's all about putting in the hard work, taking your work seriously, not cutting corners, and being religious about busting your butt and putting out the best work you can. I think, as a whole, what the PBMA is doing a fantastic job of raising the bar for mechanics and helping the cause. Better exposure of our profession and leveling everyone up to a new standard is awesome. I'm grateful for the work of the PBMA and look forward to helping promote the organization and our profession in any way possible.
And finally (because we always ask this), what is your favorite tool?
My favorite tool is my Abbey Bike Works Crombie/Whip-It combo. I got one a few years back and had my name/personal branding etched onto it. Those tools are an awesome addition to any toolbox. Got rid of a few heavier tools in my box, which helped a lot when it was time to fly.
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#MOTW is all about mechanics supporting fellow mechanics, and Josh is a perfect example of this in action. We encourage everyone reading this at home to follow Josh’s example, connect with and mentor up-and-coming mechanics, and join the conversation by nominating YOUR favorite mechanic today!
Ric Hjertberg is a founding member of the PBMA and a current Board Member.
On what he does now:
After trying most categories of bicycle industry work, I’m back near where I began: a small, independent company focused on wheel building. All is summarized by my web site, wheelfanatyk.com. I live in a dream location, discuss my favorite subject with enthusiastic builders, and sell cool tools from companies as small as mine. Every year I’ve spent in the industry contributes to the satisfaction I enjoy these days. It doesn’t get better.
On why he loves bicycles:
A childhood in suburban California combined with an independent streak, met times of social change and environmentalism. No other work lets me live as fully, a scene of enlightened, generous folk who aim to have fun while changing the world. The longer I live, the more I learn this is very rare. For me, there’s no where else.
Why he's part of the PBMA:
From year one it was obvious mechanics have a huge, under appreciated role. We need to collaborate and advance this profession. The surprise is how long it’s taken, the good news how fast it is advancing.
On the future of bicycles:
2 wheel vehicles with minimal, or exclusively human, power are one of our greatest opportunities. The possibilities are unlimited. We seem evolved to utilize and enjoy this mobility. It’s here to stay but our landscape, technology, and customer is changing incredibly fast. The one constant, besides Newtonian physics, is the role of mechanics. On this we can depend!
Jude Gerace is the owner of Sugar Wheel Works in Portland Oregon.
"We hand build bicycle wheels to the highest standards allowable."
How did you get started in the world of bicycles?
I got started in cycling because I was intrigued by getting from place to place by my own power--this was when I was 19. I loved being active. I also wanted to go on grand adventures off the beaten path--to be "in the middle of nowhere" and to get there on my own. That risk was really appealing to me. The next natural step was to learn how to work on my bike. I remember the first time a mechanic took me behind the counter to show me how my bike worked--it sparked my imagination of what I could do!
What challenges did you see when forming Epic Wheel Works?
I don't really like to talk about the Epic>Sugar transition. It really sucked. Imagine emptying all your pockets to start a small closet shop and then you learn you accidentally chose a name that is loosely affiliated with a bike. It was a really hard lesson to learn and the first time I realized that to be a business owner, wheel builder, or anything meaningful in this world that I would have to learn to be resilient. The biggest lesson I learned, however, was the responsibility that comes along with signing my name to something.
Beyond that, ignorance of how hard it would be was incredibly valuable. If I had to start it all over again at this age, I don't know that I could work 80-90 hour work weeks on end. It's exhausting--and it made me super grumpy. But I think that's true of anyone starting any shop or small business. But with wheel building, I've always known that there's a burden of education associated with it. What I mean is that if I told people I own a bike shop, people wouldn't raise their eyebrows. Nearly every week a tourist comes into the shop and asks "Can you survive doing this?" So I guess I get to question my sanity every week. But I like being a little insane--I think it makes me interesting. In high school I wasn't voted "Best athlete" or anything flattering. I was voted "Quirkiest". But I live a really interesting life and because I'm willing to work hard for what I believe in and what my highest ideals are, I get to do something I love and something that keeps me interested and present in life.
Speaking simply from your perspective what makes for a good wheel builder? Is it a skill, a personality, a mindset or perhaps its something on a different philosophical plane?
That's a great question. In my opinion, to be a good wheel builder you have to be willing to want each and every wheel to be "Perfect" every. single. time. To build a business off of wheel building you have to be willing to get curious about everything--even aspects of wheel building that aren't interesting. Then you have to find a way to relate that tech information to each rider. Then for bonus points, you have to be willing to guide the vision that someone brings you even if you wouldn't necessarily do it that way. So yeah, you have to be a perfectionist who can relate to world around you.
Who / how did you learn to be one of the foremost current generation wheel builders?
Am I? I still think of myself as hustling to make it all work and look good! I care so much about what I do--I take it personally when I've failed a customer (which doesn't happen often but it still happens). I learn from those failures so that we as a shop are better. I really love what I do and I'm still so thirsty to learn more, to innovate, and to make sustainability a foremost goal of our industry. I'm just getting started. I've only been doing this for 8 years...can you imagine what I might be able to do with 8 more years?!!
You’ve got a small staff at Sugar… what makes a good co-worker in your shop environment?
Someone who has a healthy amount of respect for what they're doing and who holds themselves to a high standard. I also appreciate someone who can, at the end of the day, leave their work at work. I carry my work with me 24/7 and I really thrive off the fresh energy that my co-workers bring to the shop. I also love that they ride.
We want to inspire people to be involved in cycling and mechanics. What words would you give someone looking from the outside in?
I don't have anything inspiring to say. I don't know how to inspire people with words. I just think you have to believe, even just a little, that you can do it. I hope that my work, my team, and the integrity of the company I've built are more inspiring than inspirational pithy sayings. I hope that when people hear the story of Sugar or come and visit my shop they leave thinking they are capable of so much more than they thought they were. And as much as I despise pithy sayings, don't think I don't have an entire catalogue of them to cheer me up on the really hard days.
Everyone has that one drawer with their special tools in it. What’s in yours?
Scribes of different sizes, a small screwdriver, a measuring tape, banjo picks (for sound amplification), rubber bands, four bottle openers, keys (to i don't know what), pens, scrap paper, and a collection of stickers. Oh I just remembered what the keys are--mail box and spare keys for the shop (which isn't helpful since they're inside the shop).
What does the word Professional mean to you?
It means showing up every day and offering consistent, high quality work that strives for being the best in one's industry. It is a belief that one (I) embody the highest standard possible. And that one is humble so as not to let their ego get in the way of doing good work and connecting people to that work.
You can checkout Sugar Wheel Works on the web, or Instagram and on Twitter @Sugarwheelworks
Interview by Jenny Kallista
With so many great women in this industry, it's not too hard to find someone who inspires with their passion, wit, and charm. I had the great fortune to work with Sara Jarrell at a shop in Asheville for a couple years around 2010-2012, and we've become great friends since. Sara and I always manage to make some time for each other over the years and continue building our friendship with plenty of laughter and stead-fast support for one another. Sara has plenty of passion for cycling and is one of those people who makes things happen. I was able to catch up with her to get a little formal interview on where she's at in the industry and some of her takes on what we're seeing with women on bikes.
What is your title now at SRAM, and how did it come about?
I am the Women's Program Coordinator, and it came about due to the fact that I've been involved with women like Lindsey Richter, Rebecca Rusch, and Leigh Donovan in various cycling camps, clinics, and events over the last few years. It was a natural progression to bring some of these events in-house to better support the programs for women that were already going on. It's all about promoting women on bikes!
How many women-specific events have you participated in in the last few years, and what is the single most important thing you take away from them?
Wow, well, a lot! I'd say about 6 or 7 events every year for the last several, with quite a few international events.
I'd say the most important thing I get from these events is the community-building that I feel happens each time. I see all these women get so excited to be around other women at various levels of experience and skill, and everyone is so helpful, encouraging one another, and just having a really great time. I get super inspired when I see a newer rider work out some daunting parts of a trail and see how thrilling it is for them.
Do you see the market for women's cycling growing significantly around you?
I do. There's still a lot of room for growth to be made. There are all these new women's specific manufacturers, programs, and clinics that are addressing the long overlooked segment of the market. When you think about it, this means 50% of the market is basically available for growth!
Is the future of women's cycling looking especially bright in any particular field?
It all seems bright from my perspective!
How long have you been working on bicycles? How long professionally?
I guess 14 years, now professionally.
How did you learn?
A friend I had growing up started to show me how to work on stuff, including building wheels… this was after a childhood of being on bikes all the time. From what I learned from my friend, I had the confidence to apply at a bike shop in California sight unseen, I had never even visited California at that point. I started on the sales floor, but then started to work my way towards the service department. After that, I returned back to my home state of North Carolina and got a job at the shop I got my first bike from as a kid in my home town of Sylva. The shop opened a second location in Asheville, and I moved there to help open the shop and was the service manager for several years. I was offered a gig with the Paralympic Cycling team as the team mechanic, putting me in Colorado Springs, which then led to a job at SRAM.
Did you have a female mechanic ever mentor you?
YOU, Jenny! (laughter). Well, as you know I worked with Jenny Skorcz (formerly head instructor at BBI) with the Giant women's council many years ago, and I learned a lot from her.
Have you found there to be much in the way of negative reactions to your position?
Yes, but I have been able to work through them… it was mostly from customers, but nothing too bad.
If so, how do you overcome these types of occurrences?
Having the support of my co-workers has always been helpful when working through any negative reactions I have faced by being a woman in the cycling industry. Lots of patients and treating people with respect no matter what kind of attitude or negativity they showed me was also a strategy I used and it generally worked out.
Do you have the opportunity to help other women learn how to work on bikes?
Yes! I've been able to do that in shops, at our SRAM Technical University, and at many of the women’s specific clinic I have attended.
Do you hope to stay in the bicycle industry? If not, what do you plan on doing?
I do, as long as I can make a positive difference!
Who are you, what is it you do?
I'm Nhatt Nichols, I work at ReCyclery (Port Townsend WA), I'm a programs director there.
How long have you been working on bicycles?
When I was 18 I got a job in a cafe in Seattle that required me to ride a bike to the farmer's Market to help get produce. I wasn't even sure if I knew how to ride a bike, and I really didn't want to do it. Within a month I'd fallen in love with that bike and was taking bike repair classes at BikeWorks. That was 17 years ago.
How long professionally?
My first bike shop job was at Oxford Cycle Workshop in Oxford, UK. That was about 12 years ago.
How did you learn?
After taking those repair classes at BikeWorks, I really felt like I was on my own. I had some help from the mechanics around me, but I always felt like I really had to learn by doing or actively harassing the other mechanics around me.
Did you have a female mechanic ever mentor you?
It was a female friend who was the instructor at BikeWorks, way back when I first started. Since then I've not had a more experienced mentor, although the amazing Mel Atwood was a mechanic at Brixton Cycles before I was and has always been a fantastic role model.
Have you found there to be much in the way of negative reactions to your position? If so, how do you overcome these types of occurrences?
I can never get over how obvious it is that some customers would rather speak to nearly anyone else. When I lived in London it was really bad, I once had a woman yell at me to get her a man from the back! But now that I've moved out to the country it's a less common occurrence, though a lot of the retired men in this community like to tell me they've never met a 'girl mechanic' before.
The only way I've found to overcome this without losing my mind is to try to treat everyone evenly, and to work hard to be as good of a mechanic as I can be. Hopefully my example will teach customers that gender isn't a good way to determine who is a good mechanic.
Do you have the opportunity to help other women learn how to work on bikes?
I do! I'm the programs director at The ReCyclery in Port Townsend Washington. I teach women how to fix their own bikes during our Community Shop Days, and I also teach a Bike Repair 101 class, and that is almost all women. I also run an apprenticeship program here that is 50% female, and one of my apprentices just landed her first job as a shop mechanic at a local bike shop.
My real passion is that I coach the middle school mountain bike team, The Ratfish. We have three girls on the team this year, and all of them have made it onto a podium at least once. One of them, Charley, even built the bike that she races on up from spare parts at the shop, so she's getting this great experience as both a rider and as a mechanic that just isn't available to everyone. These girls have been such an awesome example to their peers that I already have a bunch of girls who want to start riding with the team next year!
Do you hope to stay in the bicycle industry? If not, what do you plan on doing?
Yes and no. I'm an artist and I'm ready to transition to doing that more full time. That being said, I'm still going to coach the mountain bike team in both riding and fixing bikes, and I could see myself taking mountain bike advocacy on as a part time job. I love being able to show the next generation of girls what they can accomplish.
Written by Sarah Lamb and translated en français by Jenny Kallista.
“Mechanic of the Week” has been my pet project at PBMA since its inception. One of the highlights of every week for me is getting to know our new MOTW, and seeing how happily surprised they are to be featured by us. I love our diverse and inclusive community, but it’s no secret that we’ve had very few women nominated for MOTW. So when someone introduced me to Denise Belzil of St-Denis de Brompton, Quebec earlier this month, I was compelled to get to know her better. And, oh my goodness… this woman is a rock star! I am in awe of her talent, courage, and generosity. On behalf of the PBMA, I’m proud to present my conversation with Denise as our first-ever bilingual interview.
Comment avez-vous été impliqué dans le vélo et/ou à vélo mécanicien?
How did you get involved in cycling or bicycle mechanics?
Comment j’ai été impliqué. Je suis née à Montréal j’ai toujours voyagé à vélo pour aller à l’école, travaillé et loisir sortir etc. Et j’aime encore voyager à vélo la liberté. Il faut donc l’entretenir. Jeune je me suis acheté un vélo avec une manette rotative Shimano 3 vitesses. J’ai un samedi démonté mon vélo j’avais 12 ou 13 ans. Par la suite j’ai développé un intérêt à réparer mes vélos.
J’ai travaillé dans des boutiques spécialisées à Montréal Cycle Coppi, Cycle Peel les 2 boutiques qui étaient les plus réputés en 1981 /82/83. Je me suis faite une réputation et par la suite quelqu’un de la fédération cycliste Québécoise m’a suggéré de faire application à l’Association Canadienne de Cycliste il cherchait un mécanicien pour l’équipe féminine Canadienne. J’ai appliqué et j’ai eu un emploi comme soigneur ( j’ai une formation en réadaptation physique). L’année suivante j’étais mécanicienne pour l’équipe Canadienne féminine pour Le Tour du Texas en 89 tour de France 89 et Championnat du Monde la même année à Chambéry. Par la suite j’ai toujours continué à travailler d’une entreprise à l’autre.(Revue Vélo MAG (chroniqueuse technique 2 ans) formation, j’ai monté une usine d’assemblage de vélo aux États Unis à Plattsburgh, NY pour la compagnie Nevada, etc. Et ainsi de suite. Après j’ai fondé Techno Cycle durant 23 ans. J’ai formé environ 300 à 500 personnes par année. De toute catégorie hommes, femmes, enfant. Professionnel boutiques et employé d’usine comme chez Devinci. (vélo Devinci et Bixie)
Il y a de la place pour nous, j’ai été patiente j’ai même travaillé avec Bill Woodel au Championnat du monde de Vélo de Montagne à Bromont. J’ai rencontré beaucoup de mécaniciens qui ont toujours respecté mon travail et on a collaboré et échangé nos trucs et expérience. Il faut travaillé en équipe échangé notre expérience c’est ainsi que l’on devient plus expérimenté.
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I was born in Montreal and have always ridden a bike to go to school, to go to work, to socialize, etc. I love the freedom of cycling. Therefore, it is important to maintain it. When I was young, I bought a bike with a Shimano 3-speed hub. One Saturday when I was about 12 or 13, I took my whole bike apart. After that, I developed an interest in repairing my bicycles. I worked at some reputable bike shops in Montreal in the early 80's, including Cycle Coppi and Cycle Peel. I made myself a reputation and from that it was suggested to me (by someone from the Quebec Cycling Federation) to apply at the Canadian Cycling Association…. there was a women's team that was looking for a mechanic. I applied and became the soigneur (I'm trained in physical therapy). The following year I was the mechanic for a Canadian women's team during the Tour of Texas in '89, Tour de France '89, and and the World Championships that year as well in Chambery. After that I was always traveling to one event or another. I was the technical writer for the magazine Velo Mag 2 years, I set up the bicycle factory for the brand Nevada in the US (Plattsburgh, NY). After that I started Techno Cycle (23 years ago, a technical school) and have trained between 300-500 people per year, men women, kids, as well as professional technicians at companies like DeVinci and Bixie.
There is a place for us [women], I was patient and even worked alongside Bill Woodul at the World Mountain Bike Championships in Bromont. I met lots of mechanics who were always very respectful of my work and we would collaborate with our work and share bits of information and experience. It's important to work with a team to share experiences, as that is how one gets better.
Qu’est ce qui me pousse à exceller en tant que l’une des rares femmes ….
What motivates you to excel as one of the few female mechanics in our industry?
J’aime toujours réparer les vélos et j’aime les outils. À chaque fois que je trouve de nouveaux outils j’en achète pour effectuer un travail plus rapidement et plus délicatement. Dernièrement j’ai utilisé l’outil UNIOR 1625/2 pour retirer les roulements scellés d’un boîtier de pédalier. Le tout sans effort et sans marteau. De solutionner un problème mécanique d’un client. Aussi avec tous les nouveaux outils qui existent sur le marché, ça nous facilitent le travail pour les femmes. On a moins besoin de forcer.
Mais je suis toujours surprise de voir que peut de mécaniciens ne soient pas à l’écoute des demandes de la clientèle cycliste surtout féminine.
Lorsque j’ai eu Techno Cycle 23 ans, j’ai adoré enseigné aux consommateurs, aux mécaniciens et de partagé mes trucs et connaissances avec les participants. Et de voir 15 ans plus tard que certain sont venu suivre des cours et à présent ils sont mécaniciens ou travaille dans le milieu.
Qu’est ce qui me pousse encore voici la réponse ultime.
J’ai signé un contrat 2016 avec Unior Tools pour la réédition de mes 2 livres de mécaniques avec les outils Uniors qui seront traduit en plusieurs langues. (Français, Anglais, Espagnol, Chinois etc). Ça je suis fière, quand je pense qu’une compagnie Européenne a reconnue mon travail pour le propagé à travers le monde.
Voici les 3 titres de la première version :
Mécanique Vélo : Ajustement des systèmes de vitesses et de freins
Mécanique Vélo : les roulements : moyeux, jeux de pédalier et jeux de direction
Bicycle Mechanics: Hubs, Bottom Bracket Sets and Headsets
Il y aura cette année de nouvelle version avec Unior Tools.
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I have always loved tools. Every time I find new tools I buy them to help make my work more efficient and precise. Recently I used the Unior tool 1652/2 to remove cartridge bearings from a bottom bracket, and it took no effort and no hammer. No need to use force… it solved the problem for the customer. Lots of new tools exist now that make work so much easier since less force is needed.
It still surprises, me, though, to see that women cyclists are not very well listened to by mechanics.
Since I began teaching at Techno Cycle 23 years ago to consumers and mechanics, sharing my knowledge with those participants, I would see 15 years later some of those same people employed in shops.
What pushes me still… here is the ultimate answer. I signed a contract last year with Unior Tools to reissue my 2 books of bicycle mechanics. They will be translated into several languages (French, English, Spanish, Chinese etc). I am proud, when I think that a European company has recognized my work and it will be spread throughout the world.
Here are the 3 titles of the first version:
Bicycle Mechanics: Adjustment of Gear and Brake Systems
ISBN 978-2- 9803036-3- 03
Bicycle Mechanics: Bearings: Hubs, Cranksets and Headsets
ISBN 978-2- 9803036-1- 6
Bicycle Mechanics: Hubs, Bottom Brackets and Headsets
ISBN 978-2- 9803036-2- 3
There will be new versions this year with Unior Tools.
Qu’est ce que a été mon moment le plus mémorable ou expérience en tant que mécanicienne?
What was your most memorable moment or experience while working as a mechanic?
Mécanicienne au Tour de France féminin en 1989 . Et la première fois que j’ai vue un vélo avec un système indexé en 1982 et la première manette rotative de SRAM en 1988 sur le bout du guidon de route.
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Being the mechanic for the Women's Tour de France in 1989. And also the first time I saw an indexed shift system in 1982, and seeing the first twist shifter from SRAM on the end of a road bar.
Mon conseil aux femmes mécaniciennes…
Do you have any advice for women or girls who aspire to become professional bicycle mechanics?
Toujours avoir en tête que le vélo sera en meilleure condition une fois que vous aurez terminé le travail même pour un vélo neuf. Un vélo neuf peut avoir des composantes incompatibles. De ne jamais abandonné et de lire les instructions pour l’utilisation des outils et pour les pièces. Les catalogues de SRAM, Campy et Shimamo, Surterland’s Handbook (toutes les versions) et tous les autres ont des infos techniques pour solutionner des incompatibilités. Se procuré des outils ils nous facilitent la tâche.
Si vous avez un client un peu inquiet à se faire servir par vous ou une femme, soit que vous l’ignorez ou vous lui dite qu’il manque une bonne occasion de se faire servir de façon professionnelle. Ou, soit que vous lui posez une question technique pour lui faire réaliser que vous avez connaissances et compétences. D’échangé et partagé avec les autres mécaniciennes /mécaniciens. Connaître sa base et les principes de mécanique de ne pas avoir peur de poser des questions.
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Always keep in mind the bike will always be in better condition when you finish with your work, even on new bikes. Don't forget to read instructions for how to use tools or install parts. Literature from SRAM, Campy, Shimano, Sutherland's Handbook (all versions), and all others have the information needed to solve incompatibility issues. Good tools make your work easier.
If you have a customer a little worried about being served by you or a woman, ignore him or tell him that he is missing a good opportunity to be served by a professional. Or ask him a technical question to make him realize that you have knowledge and skills. Share and share with other mechanics. Understand the basics and principles of mechanics and never be afraid to ask questions.
Et enfin quel est mon outil préféré?
And finally (because we always ask this), what is your favorite tool?
Ma clé hexagonale de 5 mm la plus utile j’en ai plusieurs. Une en L, une avec clé en Y (4/5/6) et plusieurs autres. Two year ago I bougth the Hammer from Abbey Tool the Team issue Titanium. I enjoy this hammer I used a lot. Un outil que j’ai eu 1989 c’est l’outil TL_RD11 pour redressir les pattes de dérailleur. J’ai solutionné beaucoup de problème au début des systèmes indéxés.
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The 5mm hex wrench because I use it the most. One L, a Y (4,5,6), and others. Two years ago I bought a Team Issue Abbey Ti hammer. I enjoy this hammer and use it a lot. I have a tool from 1989 the Shimano TL RD11 Derailleur Hanger alignment tool. This tool solved a lot of early indexed system problems.
Félicitations à Denise, et merci d'être une source d'inspiration pour moi et pour la mécanique féminine partout. Pour notres amis qui lisent chez eux, si vous souhaitez voir d'autres mécaniciens féminins forts présentés par PBMA et entré pour un voyage à Interbike cette année, prenez un moment pour les nommer aujourd'hui!
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Congratulations to Denise, and thank you for being a source of inspiration to me and to women mechanics everywhere. For our friends reading this at home, if you’d like to see other strong female mechanics featured by PBMA and entered to win a trip to Interbike with us this year, take a moment to nominate them today!
Who are you?
What is it you do?
My SRAM business card says ‘Technical Ambassador’, really, creating solutions when there are problems would be more accurate.
Tell us how did you get started in the cycling industry?
My beginnings in the cycling industry is directly attributable to my father. My father was an avid cyclist. My childhood was spent moving from one military/government installation to the next… think eight schools over the course of my twelve years of primary and secondary education. The one constant was cycling. My father ensured that every member of our family was properly kitted out with the best bicycle. He loved the gear, from having to ride the latest road bike available from Schwinn down to his Avocet cycling shoes. He had great tools and could repair any problem with the bike.
Can you tell us about your career pathway from where you started to what you are doing now?
My professional career began while attending the University of Cincinnati. Glenn Wolf, longtime owner of Campus Cycles in Cincinnati, Ohio, employed my roommate Kurt, and tolerated me hanging around the bike shop absorbing everything I could. My team mates on the varsity crew team had embraced mountain biking as a form cross training as well as the fact that it was just plain fun to shred around campus and the hiking trails near the university. I bought a 1991 Gary Fisher Super Caliber equipped with Suntour XC Pro, an 1 ¼” headset, and a cartridge bearing bottom bracket… that mountain bike changed my life.
Ultimately it fell into disrepair, I literally rode it until every component wore out; I didn’t know any better. When the fall quarter began in 1993, my roommate Kurt had just come back from a summer MTB road trip of the U.S. west coast. He scheduled in stops at Barnett’s and UBI for formal bicycle mechanic training. In awe at the training he had received I knew what I had to do. In 1995 I did a similar pilgrimage to hone my mechanical skills. I trained under the watchful eye of Calvin Jones at BBI (now Park Tool) where I had enrolled in the long program (nearly 40 days at that time). I had additional opportunities with the Answer/Manitou MTB team, Gary Fisher regional teams before landing at Cannondale Bicycles I 1998. I worked as a contract mechanic before switching to full time in 2006. As most industry folks are aware, after Cannondale was purchased by Dorrell Industries the majority the work force were laid off, including me in March of 2012. With a generous severance package in hand I proceeded to take the rest of the year off (except for a working a few races with NRS). After looking around for jobs in the industry, my good friend and former C-Dale colleague Doug Dalton as well as Mike Risenlieter (then at SRAM) said that I should work at SRAM. I started at SRAM in December of 2012.
SRAM is a big company… a global company. How does your role in education fit into the global outlook on providing education to mechanics?
Oddly enough, as I respond to this question SRAM has just hired a Global Training Manager to ensure alignment across all education efforts globally. This will be a difficult role, but we have high hopes. For me, my team oversees and provides education in North and South America, Australia, and South Africa.
If you had to list 3 things (skills or traits or qualities) a mechanic should have what would they be?
1) Attention to detail
2) Pride in one’s work
What is your favorite tool and is this tool essential to mechanics or to Troy Laffey?
I must say, I have a real affinity for Knipex 10” smooth jaw pliers. Every mechanic should have a set, maybe two. Ultimately what matters is this: a professional mechanic has good tools and knows how to use them.
That being said, I am a compulsive tool hoarder and I have enough tools to accommodate us all for the apocalypse.
What do you think is going to be important within the cycling industry in 5 years?
Bicycles are available from more channels than ever now. Bike shops, big box stores, mobile repair trucks, online retailers, direct to consumer options, eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, and more. Getting mad about this doesn’t help, and the internet isn’t going away either (be honest, you’d be pissed if it did). So what can an IBD do differently? Service. We all know the “go to” shop for service in our respective zones. Those savvy in all aspects of service will be the survivors. That is the hard truth. Don’t take my word for it, take a good look at the number of service only shops opening up, the number of mobile repair franchises hitting the road, and the number of third party suspension service centers opening, nearly one monthly.
Service is the future. Get trained, get certified, do whatever it takes to be the very best at what you do. Be a mechanic, not an assembler.
Why did you join the PBMA?
I believe in the power of bicycles.
I believe in being a professional.
I believe in being the absolute best mechanic I can be.
I believe I can always learn more.
The PBMA aligns with all of my beliefs. Be it through training, networking, mentoring, humanitarian efforts, or as a resource, the PBMA is an avenue to ensure that new/existing mechanics have the opportunity to be the best mechanic they can be.
My advice to other mechanics, new and tenured… Set the ego aside and challenge yourself to learn new things. Don’t ever be the mechanic that says, “I’ve been doing this for ‘XX’ number of years, I don’t need any training.”
Scott Schmitt, arguably the most accomplished extreme skier ever, once said to me when I was up in Montana, “There are no experts, if you’re an expert, you’re probably dead.” That’s good advice, you can always be better at what you do.
You recently (in the scope of relative time) put your feet on the ground after how many years of living out of a hotel or on the road? What was that like?
I spent the better part of a decade and a half without a permanent address. It just didn’t make sense. I rented an aircraft-hanger for my trucks and personal effects, but never really had a residence. When I initially started at SRAM I was on the road full time. Since then I have reeled it in to just 200+ days a year on the road. I even bought a house in Colorado near the RockShox R&D center to call home (although truth be told, I currently haven’t been there in 6 weeks).
It’s an adjustment. Now in my 40’s, I’m enjoying all the things that most people do in their twenties… I love doing yardwork! Mowing the lawn, landscaping, pruning trees, you name it. I remodeled the house and built a deck too. I also have time to work on my trucks now! I can report that the UNIMOG has some exciting upgrades happening now.
For those curios how that much travel translates in to numbers, it looks like this:
Nights in Marriott chain hotels: 3,600+
Nights in Hilton chain hotels: 1,200+
Flights on Delta Airlines: 700+
Plus to many to name other brand hotels, airlines, motel, couches, floors, and nights in the back of the team rig.
Countries visited: Nearly 50!
Those are pretty depressing numbers as I reflect back on it. The bright side, however, is that during that period in 2012 when I was unemployed, I took my family, and my girlfriend’s family, to Costa Rica entirely on point/miles. Turns out trading in 3 million hotel points and a few hundred thousand airline miles will send you and your family down south for a real good time!
We know that creature comforts are important to keeping a level head. What are you creature comforts while you travel?
2) Access to WiFi / LTE
3) A Wholefoods nearby
4) Jerry Garcia in my ears
You can follow Troy - Twitter: @Bikesdestroy, Instagram: @troy.laffey, Facebook: Nope
Some more about PBMA President - Elect Jeff Rowe, he's quite humble, but when you're wrong he isn't afraid to say so. If you're headed to the NAHBS in SLC next week, look for Jeff at the PBMA booth.
In his own words:
I oversee logistics for Focus Bicycles, including planning, import, brokerage, warehousing, distribution, warranty and tech support. I have overseen Marketing as well off-and-on since 2009.
With some challenges to working as an American in London in 1987, Bicycle Messenger was by far the most attractive available job. It didn't kill me - it made me stronger. Learning how to ride all day led to learning to ride fixed and racing track and later road. This is how it all got started for me
I've been around the industry in North America for 16 years. I have always thought that Professional Mechanics were undervalued, and listening to Brett Flemming speaking at QBP set me on a path to generally raise standards in the shops that I worked and to show that added value to our customers. It starts with careful service writing and billing and leads to better pay for Professional Mechanics.
I'm watching the same dynamics that everyone is, but I don't believe that the quality service of a Professional Bicycle Mechanic will fall from fashion or die with some moribund distribution and sales models.
This is an exciting time in our industry.
Our ongoing series of interviews continues this month with Matt Bracken.
So I am sure that a lot of folks who will read this interview have heard your name. You’ve been around a while. How was it that Matty B arrived into the cycling world?
I fell in love with Cycling when I was young. I am the youngest of 12 children (10 survivors) and cycling was a way to get around and enjoy the freedoms that came with it. I can’t think of a time I wasn’t riding my bike in the woods or with my dog Cindy back in the 70’s. I fell in love with traditional lugged Italian road racing frames about the time the movie Breaking Away came out. I was on my b.m.x. Hanging at the pizza parlor playing pinball (yes, the Who’s Tommy had an effect on everyone at that time and pinball was king) and a few dudes rode up on these shiny 10 speeds with Italian parts that were all shiny (Campagnolo) and that was that. I saved and saved my money to buy my first road bike…
You went to the OTC way back in '88? You took a class about being a race mechanic. Would you say this was a pivotal moment in your working career as a bicycle mechanic?
I was a student back in 1988. I remember it was super cold and snowy at the OTC that year. This is long before the OTC many of the students who have attended in the past 15 years know of. It was not sexy and the facilities were not what we all have enjoyed now. The work area for cycling was small and dark. I came because I dreamed of a life on the road traveling Europe, speaking French and working on bikes.
Can you tell us a little bit about your experiences shortly after your trip to the OTC, where did you end up?
Come summer of 1988 I was called upon by Shimano USA to help at a criterium in front off the ellipse of the White House in Washington, DC. Can you imagine that? A national Calendar criterium right out in front of the White House… I volunteered and found myself on back of the motorcycle to do wheel changes if necessary off the moto. Greg Lemond and many others were racing that day. I never had the pleasure of working for the US National Team.
You also were part of a neutral support program… Mavic right?
Yes, I was part of the Mavic Neutral program from 1990-1993. It was an amazing experience that brought me around the country and world that I am grateful to this day. The French ran a great program and drilled into me that my job was to look after the safety of the riders first and everything else second. They also were sticklers in being prepared for anything and everything. They also taught the importance of family and friendship while out on the road. A big smile and can do attitude opened a lot of doors. During my time at Mavic I stayed in hotels a fraction of the time and spent a good deal of my time staying with friends or in host housing. We did not have cell phones, we carried quarters, phone cards and a little black book. It was an amazing experience.
Indy Fab… Can you tell us how your skills as a bicycle mechanic transferred to building and developing frames?
Being a good mechanic and understanding the importance of math and how it relates to the mechanical process of diagnosing then developing a plan of action to improve or fix came in daily during my time at Merlin Metalworks (1993-1999) and Indy Fab (1999-2008). Understanding materials and fit were indispensable in helping cyclists of all walks of life find happiness on a bikes I designed.
Looking back at Merlin and I.F. I can confidently say I have designed over 5,000 unique bikes. Did I screw up a few, yes, BIG TIME. But those big mistakes only fueled me to learn more and be better. It was an honor to work with so many great people within IF, it’s dealer base, magazines and others to make that brand take off during that era.
Lets jump forward to now and Pedros. The road and path to recover a brand couldn’t of been easy. Can you recall a time or two where something you learned as a mechanic really applied to real life business struggles or development?
Mechanics like to fix and make things run smoothly so with little maintenance and attention those machines run smooth and are quiet. Business is no different. Back in 2011 I lost my job with Pedro’s along with my two business partners Jay Seiter (our engineer/product manager) and Jim Hale (head of Sales). We heard all the rumors. We heard people cheering our demise and others hoping we could make it work. None of that bothered us, it only made us work for success.
Few people know of or understand the complexity of running an operation that sells to over 120 countries around the world and truly understanding good chemistry when it comes to bike care products like lubes, polish, grease, bike wash. After 8.5 years I think we’ve all earned a Master’s degree or two in business.
The # 1 secret is understanding when you work for yourself when mistakes happen you own your own problems. There is nowhere to hide and no one to blame. I own my own problems and for that matter my own successes. My motivation is to do a good job and not find myself without a job and way to support my family and the family of mechanics around the country and world who support our brand and what Pedro’s means to them individually. What have I learned? First, you have to be a great listener to succeed in business and life. Less talking and more listening….. Secondly, it is important to thank and support all the people who helped you along the way.
Give back often when possible…
When is the world going to be able to purchase a Bracken? You surely haven’t lost the passion to build frames.
You are correct. I miss the hell out of designing and making bikes. I’d love to have a Bracken signature series with some other young builder or eventually hang my own shingle and do it once my two daughters are 14 and 16. They love bikes and it is my responsibility as their papa to teach them the importance of math and design so they can be successful in life. We are surrounded by math and taking the time to understand numbers and their significance only underline the passion it brings to cycling and other experiences. I want them to continue to be outdoor people. Not stuck in some Social media black hole/time suck.
You must have a piece of advice or two for aspiring mechanics, frame builders and the industries future talent. Please share some thoughts
Volunteer if necessary and ask for nothing in return…Listen…Learn
Don’t talk SHIT about anything you work on or other peoples choices in bikes, equipment, friends, etc. Show you are professional and don’t waste time by spending it on social media waxing on about your mechanical talents.
If you are that good they will find you or hear of you without social media. Take a frame class at any of the US schools who offer that classes. Work for an established builder for years, not months and learn the skills to become a great builder. Companies don’t hire for skill, they hire for attitude. Bring a good attitude to everything you do and the skill will come with time.
Time… Take your time, be patient. I personally am inching up 30 years within the cycling industry. I am finally feeling like I am getting somewhere. Not sure where that it, but I can tell you it’s been a great time along the journey. Lastly, f**k SELFIES. Turn the camera around and take pics of the place and people you have spent your time with improving you life.
You will find out spending your time taking care others will end up being the greatest reward you will ever be granted!
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.
This page is a collective of articles relavant to consumers, enthusiasts and the whole of the cycling industry in general.