#mechanicmonday honors Catherine Thompson
It’s Mechanic Monday again, and we are excited to introduce you to this week’s honoree, Catherine Thompson of Cambridge, UK!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with PBMA’s Mechanic Monday series, this is where we feature one mechanic each week who is chosen randomly from the pool of nominations that we receive. Mechanic Monday is all about mechanics supporting fellow mechanics, and we are proud to partner with Abbey Bike Tools, Cycling Industry News, and People for Bikes to share these great features with you.
Catherine Thompson is the Head Mechanic at Outspoken Cycle, a Cambridge-based shop that not only garners robust service and courier business, but also specializes in bicycle training and community outreach across the United Kingdom. Catherine was one of our earliest nominees for Mechanic Monday this year, but business is going so well for her at the shop that we only recently caught up with her for an interview. We are pleased to share some of our conversation with you today, in Catherine’s own words!
PBMA: How did you become involved in cycling and/or cycling mechanics?
CT: I've always been into bikes, but mostly for getting around as opposed to riding for sport. My Mum couldn't drive, so we did absolutely everything by bike – shopping, school, whatever! Then I started out as a cycle courier (on cargo bikes) about eight years ago. Basically I wanted a physical job that got me outside and it fitted the bill. I'd always been interested in the mechanical side of cycling though, and over time more opportunities came up to get my hands on the bikes and the tools. Plus there was a load of good guys to learn from. A little later, I got the chance to get my qualifications and jumped at it. It's all just spiraled from there. Years later I still love being in the workshop!
PBMA: Do you have a favourite moment or story from your time in the cycling industry?
CT: I guess one of my favourite jobs ever is turning into and annual event. We have a regular customer – a woman in her mid-60s. Every year she does a two-week cycle tour on her son’s 15-year-old Marin. She's a super chic looking lady who is absolutely tiny. She comes in just before her ride for a full service on the Marin and to get a refresher on some basic bike maintenance skills, including what to do if her chain snaps and how to fix a puncture. With the smallest wrists and hands you can imagine she powers her way through removing and re-fitting a brand new Schwalbe Marathon – absolutely insisting she gets no help. When she goes on her tour, her only contact is to post maps home to her family to let them know she's getting on okay. At the end of the ride, she always checks in with us to let us know the ride went well and the bike performed. What a legend!
PBMA: What motivation or advice would you give to other women who aspire to be professionals (mechanics or otherwise) in our industry?
CT: That's a hard one! It is a very male-dominated space and it can feel hard to fit in and work out how to belong. But the main bits of advice would be - get experience wherever you can. Dive in and get your hands dirty. There are a few great projects working to get women in the industry - but if you can't access them just look at the opportunities locally. Skill yourself up with courses where possible and tinker with your bikes as much as you can. Look at apprenticeships and options like that to get into a trade position. Second is to have confidence – confidence in your knowledge and your skill. You can be made to feel less valued or less knowledgeable at times, but the only way to combat that is to be confident and be skilled. Don't doubt yourself.
PBMA: Everyone’s favourite question – What is your favorite tool?
CT: Oh man – I love all sorts of tools for all sorts of different jobs! I do love the Park Tool PW-4 pedal spanner, because it's got great heft for those pedals that are really jammed on and super comfortable to use. I also love the Birzman 1/2" ratchet set. I love to recommend these to home mechanics!
That’s all for this week! Thank you for following along with our series and sharing our support for our fellow mechanics. We’ll be back next week with a new feature. In the meantime, click here to learn more about our 2018 Mechanic Monday series, and here to learn more about how to nominate your favorite mechanic!
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