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.
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