Becoming a Bicycle Mechanic

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by Rosco, Mar 10, 2003.

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  1. Rosco

    Rosco Guest

    I'm looking to become a bicycle mechanic. I have ridden for a number of years and done minor work on
    my bike (changing headsets, replacing chains, etc) and am graduating college in 2 months or so an
    would like to become a bike mechanic. Does anyone have good advice on how to do so? The only advice
    I've been told thusfar is to become an apprentice mechanic. This is fine by me, I'll be in Seattle
    for the summer and back in Minneapolis/St. Paul after that. Along those further lines if anyone has
    any recommendations of where in particular to look for apprentice positions I would love to know.

    thanks, Rosco
     
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  2. Critic

    Critic Guest

    "Rosco" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > I'm looking to become a bicycle mechanic. I have ridden for a number of years and done minor work
    > on my bike (changing headsets, replacing chains, etc) and am graduating college in 2 months or so
    > an would like to become a bike mechanic. Does anyone have good advice on how to do so? The only
    > advice I've been told thusfar is to become an apprentice mechanic. This is fine by me, I'll be in
    > Seattle for the summer and back in Minneapolis/St. Paul after that. Along those further lines if
    > anyone has any recommendations of where in particular to look for apprentice positions I would
    > love to know.
    >
    >
    > thanks, Rosco

    You are graduating from college in two months and you wish to become a bike mechanic???
     
  3. The only college degree program that translates well into the bike mechanic trade is
    basket-weaving. It is the rough equivalent to wheelbuilding. After spending 4 years getting a
    college degree, I would expect my kid to at least try to get a job within the degree discipline. If
    that is totally impossible, the bike business is a fine low-paying alternative. I don't know, but a
    shop mechanic does not appear to have the same income potential as does a traditional professional
    career. If you can own the business and still do some mechanical work for special customers, that
    is alright I guess.

    Bruce

    "Critic" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    >
    > "Rosco" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > > I'm looking to become a bicycle mechanic. I have ridden for a number of years and done minor
    > > work on my bike (changing headsets, replacing chains, etc) and am graduating college in 2 months
    > > or so an would like to become a bike mechanic. Does anyone have good advice on how to do so? The
    > > only advice I've been told thusfar is to become an apprentice mechanic. This is fine by me, I'll
    > > be in Seattle for the summer and back in Minneapolis/St. Paul after that. Along those further
    > > lines if anyone has any recommendations of where in particular to look for apprentice positions
    > > I would love to know.
    > >
    > >
    > > thanks, Rosco
    >
    > You are graduating from college in two months and you wish to become a
    bike
    > mechanic???
     
  4. cram-<< and am graduating college in 2 months or so an would like to become a bike mechanic.

    Bring your sense of humor and be prepared to be paid not much...

    << Does anyone have good advice on how to do so?

    Complete one of the bike wrench courses(Barnetts or UBI), but don't expect them to tell ya much, but
    it may get you into a 'door'. Get a job building bikes at a bike shop-listen/learn...

    Peter Chisholm Vecchio's Bicicletteria 1833 Pearl St. Boulder, CO, 80302
    (303)440-3535 http://www.vecchios.com "Ruote convenzionali costruite eccezionalmente bene"
     
  5. Rosco

    Rosco Guest

    Yep. With a degree in Math.
     
  6. Doc

    Doc Guest

    Rosco,I can't say you :``you are crazy if you want to become a bicycle mechanic,because i am a
    bicycle mechanic! To become apprentice can be a good idea:look for a little shop maybe they have
    more time to coach you. The pay is not great sure, but you can have discount on purchases at the
    shop where you work,and you will be able to do all repair on your bike and maybe yours friends call
    you at your home on week-end to do some works on theirs bikes this will increase a little bit your
    income. If you want the biggest income dont go in bicycle mechanic, go in medecine.If you love bikes
    :go in bicycle mechanic. Little message to all bicycle mechanic:Why not a syndicate of bicycle
    mechanic??? Doc "Rosco" <[email protected]> a écrit dans le message de news:
    [email protected]
    > I'm looking to become a bicycle mechanic. I have ridden for a number of years and done minor work
    > on my bike (changing headsets, replacing chains, etc) and am graduating college in 2 months or so
    > an would like to become a bike mechanic. Does anyone have good advice on how to do so? The only
    > advice I've been told thusfar is to become an apprentice mechanic. This is fine by me, I'll be in
    > Seattle for the summer and back in Minneapolis/St. Paul after that. Along those further lines if
    > anyone has any recommendations of where in particular to look for apprentice positions I would
    > love to know.
    >
    >
    > thanks, Rosco
     
  7. [email protected] (Rosco) wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...

    > I'm looking to become a bicycle mechanic. I have ridden for a number of years and done minor work
    > on my bike (changing headsets, replacing chains, etc) and am graduating college in 2 months or so
    > an would like to become a bike mechanic. Does anyone have good advice on how to do so? The only
    > advice I've been told thusfar is to become an apprentice mechanic. This is fine by me, I'll be in
    > Seattle for the summer and back in Minneapolis/St. Paul after that. Along those further lines if
    > anyone has any recommendations of where in particular to look for apprentice positions I would
    > love to know.

    I worked my way most of the way through college as a bike mechanic. It sure beat fast food and temp
    jobs. I had some great times working in bike shops and racing bicycles in the '80's. If you really
    want to be a bike mechanic more power to you!

    Keep in mind that you will not make a lot of money working in bike shops. You will also meet a lot
    of nice and interesting people but bike shops are retail shops and you will have to deal with the
    occasional bike shop customer who is not so nice. You will meet all types working retail.

    You don't mention what your degree will be in. Does being a bicycle mechanic fit into your carreer
    path somehow? do you just want to wrench a few years as a life experience before getting a "real"
    job? or are you simply following your bliss becoming a bicycle mechanic? You need to think about
    what your motivation and expectations are for any carreer choice.

    As far as literally becoming a bicycle mechanic the usual route is to start on the bottom at a bike
    shop cleaning the bathroom and sweeping the floor and over time the more experienced mechanics will
    take you aside and show you how to do things (usually to your own bike before they turn you loose on
    customers bikes). Eventaully you will pick it all up and know how to do everything. If you want to
    avoid starting at the bottom you might consider taking a course at the Barnett Bicycle Institute or
    the United Bicycle Institute. In addition to bicycle mechanics these institutes also teach how to
    run a shop and even frame building. I have no direct experience with either though some of the
    people I know who have went did enjoy it.

    Whatever you do, best of luck in your endeavors! Bruce
    --
    Bruce Jackson - Sr. Systems Programmer - DMSP, A M/A/R/C Group Company
     
  8. Mike S.

    Mike S. Guest

    "Rosco" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > I'm looking to become a bicycle mechanic. I have ridden for a number of years and done minor work
    > on my bike (changing headsets, replacing chains, etc) and am graduating college in 2 months or so
    > an would like to become a bike mechanic. Does anyone have good advice on how to do so? The only
    > advice I've been told thusfar is to become an apprentice mechanic. This is fine by me, I'll be in
    > Seattle for the summer and back in Minneapolis/St. Paul after that. Along those further lines if
    > anyone has any recommendations of where in particular to look for apprentice positions I would
    > love to know.
    >
    >
    > thanks, Rosco

    I had a burning desire to work in one of the local shops in the town where I went to college. Never
    could break in: no experience, no job, no job, no experience... By the time I graduated from
    school, several years later, I decided that until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life,
    I'd find a job in a shop. While PBS isn't a true "LBS," when I worked for them, it was better than
    it seems to be now.

    I learned that unless you own the shop, you're not going to make much. Even if you DO own the shop,
    you're not going to make much. Some of the best times of my life were the 4 years I worked in that
    shop. Met a lot of great people, learned a bunch of stuff that still helps me to this day: customer
    relations, "mechanicing," and the art of wheeling and dealing to get the parts that you really want.

    I ended up in the financial business from the contacts I made at the shop. Working in a shop may not
    seem like the background to get into Mortgages and Financial Planning until you look at what you
    learn doing it. If you go into working at a shop as the be all end all of your career, forget it. If
    you go in to learn all you can about the bike business, business in general, networking, and use the
    shop time to make contacts in the business you eventually want to be in, then it is a good step.

    Go for it, but keep your eye on the long term goal at the same time.

    Mike
     
  9. [email protected] (Rosco) wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
    > Yep. With a degree in Math.

    Well good for you. I graduated 15 years ago with an engineering degree and have been a design
    engineer ever since. I enjoy the work and it pays well. I can respect someone who gives up a good
    income to do what he enjoys.

    But to play devil's advocate, the years it takes to get established as a bike mechanic could also be
    used to establish yourself with your math degree.

    I guess I'm suggesting that you should be sure of your desire to be a bike mechanic.

    Tom

    ((( --- "Ultra-conservative thought" is an oxymoron --- )))
     
  10. Thomas Reynolds <[email protected]> wrote:
    : But to play devil's advocate, the years it takes to get established as a bike mechanic could also
    : be used to establish yourself with your math degree.

    if a math degree is anything like my physics degree (and it probably is) what he'll most likely be
    doing is establishing himself outside of math. i graduated in the last recession (early 90s) and
    most of my fellow physicists (and math majors for that matter, i knew a lot) were delivering pizzas,
    working at SA and mcdonalds, working for next-to-nothing with computers (heh, me -- worked out well)
    or going to graduate school.

    unless you want to be an actuarian. yum!

    right now would be a phenomenal time to goto graduate school.

    hell, this wouldn't be a bad time to be a bike mechanic. 'cept for one thing: i can't imagine
    they're doing particuliarly well, either.
    --
    david reuteler [email protected]
     
  11. Consider that you may have a difficult time getting a job as a bicycle mechanic because, after all,
    you've spent the last x number of years earning a degree that normally heads down an entirely
    different career path, and there may feel you're likely to bolt the second a job in your field comes
    along. Most shops have experienced this at one time or another.

    An alternative might be to look for part-time work in the bike biz, which is something many people
    with other careers do. They get their feet wet in the bike biz and find out if it's truly what
    they're looking for, while at the same time exploring their degreed field. And they're less likely
    to be eyed with skepticism that they're going to drop out quickly as well.

    What is your degree in, by the way? It's always possible there could be something that could keep
    your feet in both doors.

    One final note- If you'd heard that one of the fringe benefits is meeting a lot of great people, and
    that a great many bike shop employees have met their life partner through their shop's customer
    base, it's true. But that primarily applies to sales people, not mechanics (since salespeople
    generally have more exposure to customers).

    Ah, just thought of a door into both worlds. If you have mechanical skills and are fairly
    personable, you could be a salesperson who also writes up repair tickets. Most salespeople have
    little skill at diagnosing bike problems and writing up a proper repair tag.

    --Mike-- Chain Reaction Bicycles http://www.ChainReaction.com

    "Rosco" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > I'm looking to become a bicycle mechanic. I have ridden for a number of years and done minor work
    > on my bike (changing headsets, replacing chains, etc) and am graduating college in 2 months or so
    > an would like to become a bike mechanic. Does anyone have good advice on how to do so? The only
    > advice I've been told thusfar is to become an apprentice mechanic. This is fine by me, I'll be in
    > Seattle for the summer and back in Minneapolis/St. Paul after that. Along those further lines if
    > anyone has any recommendations of where in particular to look for apprentice positions I would
    > love to know.
    >
    >
    > thanks, Rosco
     
  12. A Muzi

    A Muzi Guest

  13. Russell

    Russell Guest

    Graduating from college? You're overqualified! :)

    Most people that want to start wrenching start as an assembler. The owner/manager/service manager or
    head technician will want to assess your mechanical aptitude, probably either by testing you with a
    simple assembly, or hiring you on a probationary basis. You'll need a high tolerance for repetitous
    work, and have good attention to detail. You'll also need to work efficiently...sometimes the job of
    building bikes, especially at a busy shop, can be quite intense. Heck, I need at least 30 bikes
    built this week myself...now that winter is over, customers are coming in in droves, and while I
    stocked up during the slow months, the bikes are going out now at an alarming rate!

    To become a mechanic, you'll need all the above skills, plus a strong aptitude for problem solving.
    You need to know how _all_ the various components of a bike work, and how to easily diagnose why
    they don't. Organizational skill is a plus...sometimes you'll need to juggle a few projects all at
    once. You will need good communications skills too, because you will be speaking to customers about
    their bikes.

    Lastly, as everyone else has already pointed out, don't expect to be paid much. As highly skilled as
    a bike mechanic needs to be, especially nowadays when bikes are getting ridiculously complicated, a
    bike is still a "toy" to most people, so the labor rates reflect that, which in turn affects the
    paycheck you'll get.

    Russell
     
  14. Doc-<< Little message to all bicycle mechanic:Why not a syndicate of bicycle mechanic???

    Why indeed, why not a BSE(ASE-Auto Servioce Excellence)-Bicycle Service Excellence type
    certification, but most bike shops, with one foot in the grave, cut service before sales..and even
    when flying along, don't pay very well..

    There are a lot of things that the bike industry could learn from the car industry-like
    facotry stores...

    Peter Chisholm Vecchio's Bicicletteria 1833 Pearl St. Boulder, CO, 80302
    (303)440-3535 http://www.vecchios.com "Ruote convenzionali costruite eccezionalmente bene"
     
  15. [email protected] (Russell) wrote in message
    news:<[email protected]>...

    > Graduating from college? You're overqualified! :)

    Then again if he has an English degree it might not be a bad gig. I don't mean to be hard on English
    majors but I worked with a few working in bike shops in grad school still trying to find something
    to do with their education. History can be a tough major to find a gig with if you don't want to
    teach. I know one bike shop owner who got a history degree who went to law school and became a
    lawyer then years later got out of law and opened another bike shop.

    > Most people that want to start wrenching start as an assembler. The owner/manager/service manager
    > or head technician will want to assess your mechanical aptitude, probably either by testing you
    > with a simple assembly, or hiring you on a probationary basis.

    We had a good system. We had new mechanics unbox the bikes, put them in the stand, grease everything
    that needs to be greased, etc. and get as far as they can. On the other side an experienced mechanic
    would finish the assembly and adjustments. When the experienced mechanic finished his bike he'd turn
    the stand and finish up the bike the new mechanic was working on. This freed the experienced
    mechanics of some of the tedium of assembling bikes and got the new mechanics working in close
    proximity to the experienced ones to learn through osmosis.

    > You'll also need to work efficiently...sometimes the job of building bikes, especially at a busy
    > shop, can be quite intense. Heck, I need at least 30 bikes built this week myself...now that
    > winter is over, customers are coming in in droves, and while I stocked up during the slow months,
    > the bikes are going out now at an alarming rate!

    I have to admit that I was always bored to tears assembling bikes. I had a lot more fun on tough
    repairs where I had to use my knowledge and problem solving skills. Of course building up pro frames
    from scratch was always fun but these often required a certain amount of problem solving to get
    everything working right.

    > To become a mechanic, you'll need all the above skills, plus a strong aptitude for problem
    > solving. You need to know how _all_ the various components of a bike work, and how to easily
    > diagnose why they don't. Organizational skill is a plus...sometimes you'll need to juggle a few
    > projects all at once. You will need good communications skills too, because you will be speaking
    > to customers about their bikes.

    Every job should teach you something. I've seen some pretty bad businessmen in the bike industry. It
    is amazing how resistant some people are to education. Working in a small business (like bike shops)
    lets you touch every aspect of business: marketing, salesmanship, personel management, advertising,
    paying taxes, etc. When you work in a larger business you are usually more specialized; you may
    learn a lot about one particular area of business but you won't touch all aspects like you do when
    you manage a small business.

    > Lastly, as everyone else has already pointed out, don't expect to be paid much. As highly skilled
    > as a bike mechanic needs to be, especially nowadays when bikes are getting ridiculously
    > complicated, a bike is still a "toy" to most people, so the labor rates reflect that, which in
    > turn affects the paycheck you'll get.

    The labor rates do vary a lot. One shop I worked at near a university hardly broke even on repairs;
    we almost saw it as a service to support the rest of the business. We simply couldn't charge college
    students enough to make any real money with repairs and we had to compete with a retired guy a few
    blocks away who ran a bike shop out of his garage. Luckily the rent was low and we didn't need to
    sell that much stuff to keep the doors open. Another shop I worked at in an affluent area made most
    of their money on repairs. We charged a lot but we also provided pick-up and delivery service which
    was a conveninece a lot of people were willing to pay for.

    ObBikeShopStory: A customer is upgrading some parts on his bike. The salesman writing the ticket
    puts down the price of the parts and tells the customer how much it would cost to install each part.
    The customer is getting irate because he seems to think that the price of the parts is high enough
    that the labor should be included. He asks about another part and blurts out, "and I suppose you are
    going to charge me to install that too!" The salesman asks the customer, "Sir, do you work for
    free?" The customer replies that he is a professional and his time is worth something unlike the
    bums and kids who work in bike shops. The salesman threw the guy out of the store after that.

    ride with the wind.... Bruce
    --
    Bruce Jackson - Sr. Systems Programmer - DMSP, A M/A/R/C Group Company
     
  16. David Reuteler <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:<[email protected]>...
    > Thomas Reynolds <[email protected]> wrote:
    > : But to play devil's advocate, the years it takes to get established as a bike mechanic could
    > : also be used to establish yourself with your math degree.
    >
    > if a math degree is anything like my physics degree (and it probably is) what he'll most likely be
    > doing is establishing himself outside of math. i graduated in the last recession (early 90s) and
    > most of my fellow physicists (and math majors for that matter, i knew a lot) were delivering
    > pizzas, working at SA and mcdonalds, working for next-to-nothing with computers (heh, me -- worked
    > out well) or going to graduate school.
    >

    Interesting. When I was in college I worked as a technician for a company that designed antennas.
    Almost all of the engineers that I worked for had physics degrees.

    At my current job we have 70 or so engineers, a few of which have math degrees, mostly doing
    crypo work.

    Tom
     
  17. Pooh

    Pooh Guest

    I'll chime here. St. Olaf College in Minnesota huh? Math? Well the economy must be really slow. I
    should say, my business is hurting.

    Here's my recommendation. You would want to be knowledgeable in many disciplines, and a good place
    to start may be from the master of bicycling himself. I'd recommend reading the book by John
    Forester, Effective Cycling. That would help to clear up some of the goofy myths about bicycles and
    to provide a grounding. That's knowledge, and you can supplement that with other readings from your
    library, Barnetts, Zinn, etc.

    Experience: Why not donate time at bike club repair clinics. I volunteer a bunch of time at the
    Major Taylor Cycling Club in East Palo Alto, and in a short amount of time, you see all sorts of
    terrible bike conditions and repair jobs that need to be done in an extremely short period of time.
    So get the knowledge, then apply it. And leads into the next item.

    Talent: Interacting with other people, explaining things, listening, repeating back, and thinking on
    your feet, sincerety, and honesty, are some critical skills in life, not just employment or getting
    a job. Numerous books from the master, Dale Carnegie come to mind, and further help your endeavors.
    Volunteering your time at these repair clinics help you to develop these skills, and later you can
    reflect and evaluate your actions.

    Put these three together, and you might be able to get an entry level postion in a bike shop.
    There's many ways to look at this, and perhaps there is some "value add" that you can provide the
    shop in addition to being just a bike mechanic. Maybe you can figure out other things services they
    could provide and project revenue and gross profit margins. Now that's value add, that you can apply
    your math degree to.

    Do you know what I mean?

    Wynn

    [email protected] (Thomas Reynolds) wrote in message
    news:<[email protected]>...
    > [email protected] (Rosco) wrote in message news:<[email protected]>...
    > > Yep. With a degree in Math.
    >
    > Well good for you. I graduated 15 years ago with an engineering degree and have been a design
    > engineer ever since. I enjoy the work and it pays well. I can respect someone who gives up a good
    > income to do what he enjoys.
    >
    > But to play devil's advocate, the years it takes to get established as a bike mechanic could also
    > be used to establish yourself with your math degree.
    >
    > I guess I'm suggesting that you should be sure of your desire to be a bike mechanic.
    >
    > Tom
    >
    > ((( --- "Ultra-conservative thought" is an oxymoron --- )))
     
  18. Doc

    Doc Guest

    There are a lot of things that the bike industry could learn from the car
    > industry . Yes lot of things. Maybe when the bike will not be consider
    like a toy but like a transport vehicule, we will get a better pay. "Qui si parla Campagnolo"
    <[email protected]> a écrit dans le message de news: [email protected]
    > Doc-<< Little message to all bicycle mechanic:Why not a syndicate of bicycle mechanic???
    >
    > Why indeed, why not a BSE(ASE-Auto Servioce Excellence)-Bicycle Service Excellence type
    > certification, but most bike shops, with one foot in the
    grave,
    > cut service before sales..and even when flying along, don't pay very
    well..
    >
    > There are a lot of things that the bike industry could learn from the car industry-like facotry
    > stores...
    >
    > Peter Chisholm Vecchio's Bicicletteria 1833 Pearl St. Boulder, CO, 80302
    > (303)440-3535 http://www.vecchios.com "Ruote convenzionali costruite eccezionalmente bene"
     
  19. John Black

    John Black Guest

    David, I am curious about what you did go into with your physics degree. It sounds like it is
    computer related. What specifically?

    -John

    David Reuteler <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:<[email protected]>...
    > Thomas Reynolds <[email protected]> wrote:
    > : But to play devil's advocate, the years it takes to get established as a bike mechanic could
    > : also be used to establish yourself with your math degree.
    >
    > if a math degree is anything like my physics degree (and it probably is) what he'll most likely be
    > doing is establishing himself outside of math. i graduated in the last recession (early 90s) and
    > most of my fellow physicists (and math majors for that matter, i knew a lot) were delivering
    > pizzas, working at SA and mcdonalds, working for next-to-nothing with computers (heh, me -- worked
    > out well) or going to graduate school.
    >
    > unless you want to be an actuarian. yum!
    >
    > right now would be a phenomenal time to goto graduate school.
    >
    > hell, this wouldn't be a bad time to be a bike mechanic. 'cept for one thing: i can't imagine
    > they're doing particuliarly well, either.
     
  20. [email protected] (Qui si parla Campagnolo) wrote in message
    news:<[email protected]>...

    > Bruce-<< Eventually you will pick it all up and know how to do everything.

    > At least until next week anyway, when you won't know anything, when a new gizmo comes out.

    True, then again at a certain point in your career as a bike mechanic you get good at figuring new
    stuff out. If nobody knows how how to fix the latest gizmo than you might as well try to figure it
    out yourself; or worst case read the directions.

    When I was in the bike biz Campy was on most real racing bikes and nothing in the Campy grouppos had
    changed much in the last decade. At the tail end of my work as a mechanic Look pedals and Shimano
    Dura Ace with SIS were just hitting the scene. We did have a few hassles: the Campy shifters of the
    era with plastic friction elements wouldn't stay in gear; you could either scrounge an old pair of
    Campy shifters with metal friction elements or substitute a pair of Stronglight/Galli/Mavic
    "retrofriction" shifters. Shimano 600 and SunTour Power shifters weren't bad either if you didn't
    mind mixing European and Japaneese parts. We still had cyclists who rode DynaDrive pedals in spite
    of the frightening frequency that they failed. Luckily by this point our distributor was shipping us
    two pair of DD pedals for every pair we returned under waranty.

    With the exception of knowing about brifters and mountain bike suspension forks I feel like I could
    jump right back into being a bike mechanic like I never stopped. I doubt I could even make my
    mortgage payment on what I could make as a bike mechanic though. I've toyed with the idea of opening
    a bike shop when I retire from the rat race though. It would be cool to get back into a bike shop
    after all those years.

    ride with the wind... Bruce
    --
    Bruce Jackson - Sr. Systems Programmer - DMSP, A M/A/R/C Group company
     
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