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.
Kevin Oliveira’s path as a Professional Bicycle Mechanic began at Montclair Bikery in NJ, has looped the globe a few times, and now finds him in that storied outpost of North Americans in pro cycling, Girona, Spain.
Bikery owner David Adornato was amenable to Oliveira taking weekends to work races, knowing the kind of value it added to his shop, as well as realizing that it may help retain a good mechanic. Pitting for the Goguen dynasty (as RACE CF in 2013) immersed Oliveira in the ways of cyclocross race support and he supported a Junior National Champion, Peter Goguen, at Boulder that year. The team also took Kev to Tour de l’Abitibi, giving him his first real road stage race experience.
Like many, it was not until Oliveira had some solid experience that he attended the USA Cycling Bill Woodul Clinic in Colorado Springs to attain a Race Mechanics License. There, he met Andy Stone. Stone would give Oliveira a shot with Novo Nordisk Pro Continental team, the break of a lifetime. That gig moved Oliveira to Atlanta, inasmuch as a race mechanic lives anywhere.
Two years with Novo Nordisk lead to the Head Mechanic spot at Jelly Belly Pro Cycling and a move to California. Lachlan Morton’s Tour of Utah win was Oliveira’s biggest to date, and he can be seen, iPhone camera out the window, in the famous photo where officials allowed the team car to follow Morton onto the finishing straight in Park City.
Oliveira credits Stone and Ian Sherburne, of BMC, for driving home the value of attention to detail.
As for the uncertainty of a career in this line of work, Oliveira relishes the challenges. He has established Oliveira Velo Support to keep him busy with Service Course and Trailer consultations and installations, as well as private client support during racing’s down time.
Likewise for all of the travel, Oliveira has this advice, “The Power of Language...always bend a little bit out of your comfort zone, try the local language, study it before you go, the internet is your friend for this, learn some local slang just to try and fit in and show you try. Then keep at it and you’ll get it, man.”
That’s also at the center of the “Yo CHILL” lifestyle that Kevin Oliveira espouses and teaches. It is rarely about relaxing, but always about making sense, interpreting accurately and processing calmly.
2019 will see Oliveira working from Rally Cycling’s new Service Course in Girona, which he designed and outfitted with help from Jose Sousa for custom frame racking.
Find Kev at a race next season – maybe he has a little something for you.
images ©DistractionManagement and ©Veloimages
Sometimes real life gets in the way of goals. We had intended to post some type of regular blog focused about life on the road. The problem is when you're on the road there isn't much time to peck out something meaningful and interesting. We resort to Twitter and Instagram for those quick flashes of what's going on.
I read the PBMA Facebook page and comment here and there. I check in on the Forum and see it's not as well used as intended. We built it because people asked for it. Some of those people don't even use it!
We put out a newsletter that has a lot of information about what's going on with the PBMA as well as some things that could help to bolster your business. It's discouraging to read that someone thinks we are doing all these top secret things... Some things are meant to be kept secret due to the sensitive nature of their development. Other things are openly discussed in the newsletters which you can go back and read if you've deleted those emails or marked them as spam.
What's been going on is about 50,000 miles of air travel in the first 6 months of the year (and thats only accounting for my travel). A mixture of meetings with important partners, working on valuable relationships for the PBMA and mechanics. Top that off with my desire to be able to feed and house myself I've worked a handful of races with a few more yet to come!
If you're on the fence about Interbike, I'd encourage you to come. Maybe it'll be the last time ever that you go to Vegas, maybe you've never been... what I know is that the PBMA has a lot to talk about including certification, training and education.
We've put a lot of time and effort into bringing a bunch of manufacturers together in three different parts of the country (again something that many asked for). We have spent countless hours working with partners to develop a logical certification system that accounts for prior knowledge. We've spent way too much time in an aluminum tube flying all over!
If you're wondering what the PBMA is doing, ask. Posting it on Facebook is a way to ask but probably won't get you an answer with any official element attached to it. There are almost 9,000 people in that group all with an opinion and idea. Our role is to look at the averages and strive to find something of value within that can suit and help all. Email us, find us at Interbike, or pop a letter in the mail. Facebook is convenient, I won't argue, if you're seeking a direct answer from the PBMA it's the worst. Email us or find us in person at the next event you'll attend.
The PBMA isn't hiding or conducing business in secret. We published our 2016 P&L which nobody else does. We have attended almost every cycling industry event that has occurred so far this year. If you follow our social media or Facebook business page it would be very easy for you to see, understand and know whom we spoke to and where we wend. We are here to be seen and talk with you. All 9 Board Members are here working hard on your behalf for a brighter, better and more profitable future.
We will see you next week at Interbike!
PBMA President James Stanfill is well respected on the race scene and this month he worked a couple of races... here's what he has to say.
Things always begin as a question. "Hey we are looking for a mechanic for X." It's a call, text or email I get on a weekly basis. The PBMA is keeping me pretty busy but I always enjoy supporting athletes.
As usual the call came in, this time for the Amy D. Foundation and instead of connecting them with a mechanic I said I would be honored to be a part of their team for the Redlands Bicycle Classic. The team was incredible, we had no expectations other than to give these athletes a professional experience in a Pro-Am race. Well by the end of the weekend they owned the top two spots in the best Amateur classification and the 15 year old wonderkid on junior gearing scored 2nd in the criterium, being bested only by a solo breakaway rider...
Redlands has been around for 33 years they say. Myself like a few others have been to this "small" Inland Empire town year after year for perhaps more years than we care to remember. What's familiar in Redlands is the local love for the Classic. Residents opening their homes to host teams, filling the sides of the streets to cheer the racers on.
The favorite spots to grab a bite like El Burrito and the usual "union" meeting on Friday at The Royal Falconer. Redlands is a race worth going to and well worth supporting with whatever resource you offer.
Lucky for the PBMA the team needed a vehicle moved back to Colorado. This offered me a couple days of windshield time. Between Redlands and Golden are a couple of important stops like Vegas, Moab and Grand Junction. Vegas perhaps not so much but a place to sleep... plenty of days yet to be spend there in September for Interbike. In Moab I was able to make the hour detour to visit PBMA member shop Poison Spider Bicycles, a shop I'd personally not been to in somewhere around 10 years.
Grand Junction was the next overnight with a morning visit to DT Swiss who are doing some amazing things in a small facility off the beaten path. Most don't know but this facility serves all of the Americas for aftermarket and warranty needs. They also handbuld somewhere around 30,000 wheels a year and produce much of the spoke product sold in their region... all right there in Colorado. One of the most interesting things for me about their facility is that for most assembly in the US bicycle companies that spec their wheels... DT Swiss is producing and delivering that product from this Colorado facility... think of brands like Pivot, Yeti and others.
Since as noted I am always asked for help or to assist in connecting teams to help... while at Redlands I was asked if I could go to a race in Gatineau (Ottawa). I said yes. So home for 4 days and on a plane again (60 airports now this year).
Gatineau is great if you like Poutine... going into Canada always offers some unique and interesting challenges. Think it's hard to get into the US... Well Canada is harder. Luckily this customs crossing was seamless unlike the 2 hour delay and questioning last year entering into Calgary Alberta.
Gatineau is distinctively French, the language, roads, menus and way of life. On my quest for things needed I popped into a little bicycle shop in Hull. I wanted tubular glue, the shop owner said "nobody is asking for this for like 10 years", he then proceeded to show me a collection of NOS never seen the light of day tubular rims. I want to buy them all when I go back at the end of June - please let me know if you want some!
The racing took place almost entirely in the Parc de la Gatineau which is just beautiful. I was working for the Sho-Air Twenty20 team and had 4 athletes. My function was all things as it was me as the entirety of the staff.
We had fun, three raced the TT with 5th, 7th and 10th places and all raced the road race. The Canadian National Team had a strong group and their play was almost derailed when their sprinters rear derailleur literally blew up.
There she stood on the left side of the road trying to cross a field of riders and a caravan of cars. Understanding how support works, I let her cross. Her car came about and made the bike change and her team waited. Nobody attacked when they probably could of changed the entire outcome of the race being this whole incident happened at the base of the climb.
Oh well, that stuff happens. For myself as a mechanic my goal is to never get out of the car. Mission success, driving and jumping is not for the faint of hear nor the untalented. I've had to change a bike in a TT while driving... like most things, when you're in the actual doing of it - you give it very little thought leaving you to reflect or watch it on TV.
Life on the road is fun... no doubt. That said, it's always good to be home!
Guest writer Michael Kubancsek
A mechanic with far more experience than I, someone I look up to, once said (I believe in an Instagram caption), “The best thing to do, when you've done everything, is to remind yourself why you do it to begin with.”
Luckily, as a collegiate cycling team mechanic, that’s the easiest part of the gig. We travel a lot, race days are long, logistics are often a major headache, and there are too many moving parts to count (70+ athletes – five disciplines – overlapping schedules – pros through brand new racers). But… we have a bigger goal than just winning bike races. There’s intrinsic value in development, watching students graduate and move into the world, and most importantly, the value of TEAM with a collegiate program is far beyond anything else I’ve ever seen in the sport.
But this blog post isn’t supposed to be about why I love what I do. It’s about one of the toughest parts of being a race mechanic… life on the road. And life on the road is all about how you manage it. I’m no expert but I’ve learned some tricks.
Average race day for collegiate road season? Starts around 5am. Team time trials at 8am. Road races starting around 10am and running all day. Then re-set for crit day on Sunday and do it all again. We’ve got seven different categories of riders in both genders, we’ve got the most possible variety of equipment, and there’s always a new challenge. But I wouldn’t trade it for a shop job… or a 9-to-5…. Or really anything.
Being on the road a lot teaches you to be prepared. I might be over-packed, but my background in the Scouts drilled into my head that it’s “better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” And as recently noted in with the interview with traveling legend Troy Laffey, you must have your creature comforts lined up. Mine are Holiday Inn Express cinnamon rolls, a supply of quality coffee, and good music for the long driving hours. And the relationships can’t be taken for granted, not just with the athletes and colleagues, but with officials and the other members of the road show that you inevitably run into every weekend. Special shout out to the official a few weekends ago who gave me a bunch of (light-hearted) grief for bringing a chair to the crit pit … six hours of racing is a long time to stand.
Bike races are fun, but so are the peripheral stories that accompany the travel. I’ll never, ever forget barreling down I-80 in central (desolate) Iowa and discovering the truck has no brakes. Or the hotel in Wyoming that used dial-up to run my card at check-in. Or the host house that had multiple animals roaming the grounds and home.
I may not have logged the miles and hotel nights that some of my pro team peers have, but I have seen some beautiful places and witnessed some excellent racing… which is what gets all our adrenaline up at the right time to make for a rewarding race day. I’ve been on the staff for a number of team national championships, at velodromes, road race venues, cyclocross parks, and BMX tracks. I’ve been pushed and learned a lot… and I hope that never stops.
this blog post submitted from the road… the author currently en route from Indy to Grand Junction, Colorado for Collegiate Road Nationals
Follow along with MK’s adventures with @MarianCycling on Instagram @MKubancsek.
Working as an events mechanic is a blast. In my job for DT Swiss, I get to travel to festivals, races, tours, gravel grinders, etc, all over the U.S. (plus a couple of events in Canada). Once I show up in my Sprinter van, I get busy demoing our wheels and fixing broken stuff so people can keep on shredding the gnar (or asphalt). It's so awesome to work outdoors, helping nice people and being an ambassador for a great brand — I wouldn't trade it for the world. However, the flip side to road life is that, at times, there is the Monkey in Space phenomenon.
Last month, not only did I get to return to Earth, but I got to touch down in Biel, Switzerland, at the DT Swiss magical motherland where wheel dreams come true.
I knew I was in for an authentic European adventure when I spotted these dudes in the Frankfurt Flughafen (see, I even learned the German word for airport on this trip).
From there, I few to Zurich and hopped on a train to Biel. It was absolutely freezing and the clouds never lifted, denying me the stunning view of the lake and mountains that I was told was just beyond the fog. But that's okay, it's something to look forward to next time (which I hope happens during better weather for riding). Here's a photo of the building that they obviously took in the summertime.
The lobby has some fun displays for people to ogle... and who doesn't like a nice nipple collection?
In case you didn't know, the very original company that eventually became DT Swiss began in the 1600s, drawing wire for things like chainmail. The company as we know it today began in 1994, making bicycle wheel spokes — then expanding to hubs, nipples, wheels, rims, shocks and suspension forks (yes, really!).
Now, DT Swiss has subsidiaries in the USA, France, Germany, Poland and Taiwan. I got to meet folks from almost every office during my visit (here you can see the two gents from the German office, Thomas and Jan). Due to a travel snafu with one of my coworkers (hence I'll offer this Public Service Announcement: don't try to fly outside the U.S. if your passport has six months or less before it expires), I had to quickly prepare to give his presentation during the International Marketing Meeting. It detailed our sponsorship of Whistler Mountain and the Crankworx event, which I managed to deliver to a roomful of strangers without too much sweating or "ummm"-ing. That said, I certainly won't expect any public speaking requests to come my way anytime soon.
Next I joined a group of mechanics in the Service Center for technical training. I was the only American (and female) in a room full of folks from all over the globe. The training was delivered in English, to my relief, and then we all got our hands on various jobs, like replacing a spoke in the new DICUT hubs.
Luckily, the Swiss love to take frequent breaks, where everyone mobs the coffee machine and enjoys a fresh croissant. I'll definitely miss that when I'm driving in the boonies and can't even find a damn Starbucks.
During one of the evenings, a bunch of us drove to nearby Grenchen to check out the velodrome. I was a bit lost with all the announcing done in Swiss-German (not the same as "high" German, in case you were wondering), but it was still a lot of fun to watch.
Finally, I got one afternoon to poke around Zurich before flying home to Colorado, where I felt compelled to take some sort of Henri Cartier-Bresson inspired street photo before hustling off to the Flughafen.
I have to say, I was really pleased to meet so many of my international coworkers. Prior to this trip, I had only met one of our Swiss owners, Frank Böchmann, who slaughtered us at Go-Kart racing after Interbike last year. Speaking of which, don't waste time having high hopes while racing a guy who cut his teeth driving on the Autobahn.
In the end, I learned a ton from our global meetings, topped up my technical knowledge, and really got a feel for the Swiss approach to making well-designed, quality products. Speaking of which, Biel is a hotbed for watchmaking. The DT office is surrounded by factories for Rolex, Omega, Swatch, etc. I narrowly escaped coming home with a new watch... you can guess which one I could have afforded.
Now that I'm back in the States, I am off to Frostbike and then the Sedona Mountain Bike Festival. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you out on the road!
- Marty C
Life on the Road is a new monthly feature from the PBMA. As implied this is a tale of happenings from outside the normal 9 to 5 shop job. Life on the road will feature events, places and time from around the country and sometimes the world; photos and stories as told by those who experienced them.
The cycling industry is full of opportunities. Working on the road sounds glamorous and many are surprised to find out it oftentimes is not. Long days, long travel and exhaustive work aren't for the faint of heart. At many events, be it expos, demos or races you find a familiar cast of characters akin to a traveling circus at times. The rewards from being on the road come in many forms from friendship to food!
The road can be fun, seeing new places, experiencing worldly cuisine and making new friends. It also has its challenges such as being away from your family or not seeing "home" for weeks or months on end. Trust me when I tell you there is something very special about being in your place and not a hotel. The road challenges you as an individual, it challenges your will. Surviving equals growing as a person.
Believe it or not, I spent 300 nights in a hotel one year. I have reward points, frequent flyer miles and I've been to somewhere around 22 countries and more cities than I can actually remember. Its fun to talk about and people can never believe it, however it's an odd feeling when you're on the road and half way through dinner you realize you've eaten at this restaurant before. That feeling turned into a happy memory because the food was amazing both times!
Life on the Road is going to highlight the ups and downs of travel. A real life view of what happens when your workbench is mobile, be it in a van or out of a tool box. Life on the Road is going to capture the essence of the traveling mechanic. We hope it will inspire you and provide a realistic view of what its like in the wild.
We look forward to offering you insights from Marty Caivano, James Stanfill and surprise guest writers over the next few months. First up in February will be a story from Marty including her visit to the DT Swiss "Mother Ship" so be sure to check back in or subscribe.
This intro to Life on the Road was written by James Stanfill and you can check out his 2017 travel map by clicking here
This page is a collective of articles relavant to consumers, enthusiasts and the whole of the cycling industry in general.