It’s our last Monday of the 2016-2017 Mechanic of the Week season, and we’re excited to introduce you to Cassandra Faustini, of The Devil’s Gear in New Haven, Connecticut! Cassandra is an up-and-coming mechanic extraordinaire, and she was one of QBP’s “Women’s Bicycle Mechanic Scholarship” recipients for 2017.
We were fortunate enough to chat with Cassandra recently about her experiences in cycling and her work at Devil’s Gear. On behalf of the PBMA and Abbey Bike tools, we hope you enjoy our conversation with her as much as we did!
* * * * *
How did you become involved in cycling and/or cycling mechanics?
I became involved in cycling in as a student in New York City. I lived in the Bronx, worked in Brooklyn, and went to school in Queens. It became clear that I would never be on time if I relied on the subway, and I began cycle commuting. After a few years of getting around the city by bike, I began working as a bike messenger. While working as a messenger, I learned how to fix a flat and adjust a brake--basic maintenance that helped me get back on the road more quickly and keep wear-and-tear from completely eating up my paycheck.
After working as a messenger for a while, I got a job at an NYC bike shop. While I had worked in bike shops for several years, I was always in sales. In NYC bike shops, there is a big divide between the sales and service departments; I always wanted to learn more about working on bikes, it was not until I moved to CT and began working at the Devil's Gear that I was given the opportunity to do so.
It was not until I received the QBP Women's Scholarship to attend UBI in Ashland, OR, that I learned more advanced repair skills. I was definitely one of the least experienced mechanics there, but the opportunity to learn from the instructors as well as some of the more experienced female mechanics was incredible. I'm still building up my skillset, but the Women's Scholarship definitely gave me a solid foundation to build on that I would not have had otherwise.
What motivates you to excel as one of the few female mechanics in our industry?
I'm motivated because I want to show other women that you CAN work on your own bikes. Learning how to do basic maintenance on your own bike is empowering. Not only are you able to make your bikes last longer, you gain the confidence to ride longer and further when you know you won't get stuck in the middle of nowhere with a broken bike.
I'm not naturally a technically-minded person. My brain does not naturally bend like this. You don't need to be a STEM major to do bike mechanics--you just need practice. I'm not a good mechanic--not yet. I'm just determined and like learning new things. That's really all you need if you want to start fixing bikes!
Do you have any advice for women or girls who aspire to become professional bicycle mechanics?
Keep asking questions! Don't be afraid to make mistakes. If you try a few times to do something and can't get it right, ask for help--but not until you've exhausted the limits of your own knowledge. In general, I think society doesn't encourage girls and women to get out of their comfort zones enough; many women I've spoke to about either riding a bike or wrenching on a bike are too intimidated to take the first step because they're afraid of failure. Mistakes are a part of learning; if you give yourself permission to fail, you can learn more quickly.
Follow a few bike blogs or join a bike mechanic's group on Facebook that you trust for updates and information about new product, as well as reviews of products. This is a great way to learn about new tech so you're prepared to work on it when it arrives in your shop, beyond all the marketing buzzwords. You can also learn about common failures, warranty issues, and the "quirks" of certain components from the Facebook groups, as well as connect with other mechanics.
I also watch a lot of service videos from component manufacturers to learn about their product. Sometimes it takes a few views to make sense of what I'm seeing, but it's very helpful for learning about specific components or generations of a gruppo.
What was your favorite moment or experience from your QBP scholarship, or your favorite from Devil’s Gear?
Just one moment? Impossible! There were so many amazing moments in Ashland. Probably the thing that has stuck with me most the QBP scholarship was the sense of solidarity and inspiration I got from being around other women who were passionate about cycling from all over the country. Everyone had a different experience within the industry and had different approaches to growing women's cycling. It definitely gave me a lot of perspective about how to make a small city like New Haven bike-friendly.
We have a lot of opportunities to do repair events in less-privileged parts of the city, and I'm looking forward to building up my skillset enough to represent the shop at these events. I love working here; we have a really great team and share so many inside jokes. I think I like it best when someone drops ball bearings, and we refer to it as the barbarians getting out. It never fails to make me laugh.
Okay, so we always ask this, but… what’s your favorite tool?
* * * * *
One final note: Mechanic of the Week will be taking a break from now until after Interbike 2017, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone forever! Check out our website and vote for your favorite MOTW to be our Mechanic of the Year! The MOTW who receives the most individual votes (yes, we can tell if you vote more than once) will win a trip to Interbike courtesy of the PBMA, and a special prize package from Abbey Bike Tools!
This page is a collective of articles relavant to consumers, enthusiasts and the whole of the cycling industry in general.