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
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