Right now, I’m on a plane from Phoenix to Salt Lake City, mentally getting ready to work at the 2012 Tour of Utah, once again with Carmichael Training Systems. To the everyday mechanic or bike nut, it may not seem like a lot of preparation would be necessary, but a lot of logistics are involved in an event like this for a freelance race mechanic, like myself.
First, the bikes. Over the course of the week, I’ll work on some really high-quality racing bikes, just like team mechanics do. Unfortunately, I’m at a bit of a disadvantage, because all the equipment I work on is different. Each rider has different wheels, pedals, drivetrain, power meter, shoes, etc. No one bike is the same, and as their mechanic for the week, I have to know the in’s & out’s of every component of every bike. This also requires that, in some cases, I have special component-specific tools on hand, which means I have to know what I’m working with a few weeks ahead of time. CTS is good about getting a list of clients’ equipment, so I can be prepared.
In the event there is something I run into that I need to have to return a bike to proper working order, I may have to make a bike shop run. Before the event, I usually find the two closest, high end bike shops to the race hotel and record their contact info, so I don’t have to chase it down if I’m crunched for time.
Second… travel. Where most team mechanics have a truck and trailer, loaded with the things they need for the Tour, I’ve got to travel with my gear. Because of airline restrictions, there are weight and size limits to what you can bring on airplanes, without getting charged ungodly baggage fees. I have to take my own personal luggage, my tools, and my repair stand. I keep my toolbox around 45-50 pounds, which means my essential tool choices are critical. Today, I got lucky and avoided a $125 fee by gate-checking my repair stand, which I’ve never done before. Luckily, for me, the Feedback Sports Pro-Elite repair stand looks a bit like a camera tripod, which saved me some flack from TSA.
Lastly, finding the prime parking spot. There are always really great spots around the hotels for team trucks and trailers. The best spots have very close water and electrical hookups, and since I don’t have a trailer, and most of the bigger teams have beaten me to the hotel by a day and a half, most of the spots are taken. I’ve been networking my way around the hotel to see if I can sneak in and borrow some water and power when they’re not busy this week.
It’s good to have connections, and to make friends in this industry. The professional race mechanic arena is very small. These guys are highly skilled, overworked, caffeine-fueled road warriors… and are all really good folks. You’ve got to make friends, because if you do somebody wrong, it’ll come back to bite you, for sure. I’ll get everything figured out. Adapt and overcome, as we used to say in the Marines… but it definitely helps to have folks that will help you out in a pinch.
More photos and updates to come as the week progresses. Tomorrow, bike builds and race preparations are on the schedule. Adios!