Passing It On

Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with several mechanics, some who are aspiring to either jump into the race mechanic scene, and others who plan on opening their own shops in the near future.  We have had discussions about goals, dreams, plans, ideas, and aspirations for the future, as well as how I got started in the industry, as a race mechanic, and how I landed where I am right now.

I consider it a privilege and honor to talk to these up-and-comers, and appreciate the fact that they value my opinion as someone who has gone before them in the bicycle mechanic arena.  I don’t consider it a burden to pass on information or spend time with any of these guys and gals, because I was there once, myself.  If there hadn’t been other mechanics who had followed the same path and passed the knowledge and experience on to me, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now.  I can’t name them all, but a few of the influential mechanics and bike folks in my life are:

  • John Duncan – John was the owner of the first bike shop I worked at, WheelSport Bicycles in Anderson, SC.  After begging for a job for a long time, John finally gave me a shot.  I had already been working on my own bikes for a few years, but he gave me the entrance into the industry that I had been longing for.  John schooled me on repairs, especially fine-tuning derailleurs.  One of the tidbits of advice that John told me, that sticks with me is, “Tune every bike like MY kids are going to be riding them.”
  • Merlyn Townley – As the back of his business card says, Merlyn “gets things done.”  One of the most experienced mechanics I’ve ever met, Merlyn has been around the world and back, wrenching on bikes all along the way.  Merlyn was one of my instructors at the Bill Woodul Mechanics’ Clinic in 2005.  He instructed classes on cyclocross race support and wheel changes.  His tips and advice in that clinic stayed with me, especially his compliments on my attempts at pushing riders back into a race.  I pride myself in a good push… and Merlyn taught me that.  He is one of only a handful of Category 1 mechanics in the United States, something I still aspire to be.  We’ve become friends over the years, and chat often regarding work we’re doing.  Good to have him on my side.  Visit Merlyn’s business here.
  • TJ Grove – TJ is a rock-star mechanic, and also one of my former instructors at the USAC Mechanic’s Clinic.  His resume is a mile long, including work at several Olympics, World Championships, and multiple WorldTour teams, just to scratch the surface.  It’s always good to see him at the races, because of his amazing demeanor, even under pressure.  He’s one of the hardest working mechanics in the business, and I observe him in action, every chance I get, in order to soak up a new tip, trick, or shortcut that I can use in my own work.
  • Calvin Jones – Anyone who has used a blue, Park tool in the past 20 years, can most likely thank Calvin for the development of it.  Calvin is the head mechanic/tool guru at Park Tool, and also an instructor at the Bill Woodul Clinic.  He’s a very likable character, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of everything that has to do with bicycles.  To obtain some of Calvin’s knowledge for yourself, visit his blog.

Like I said, these are just a few of the great mechanics that have helped me along in my career.  They’ve given a little bit of themselves and their vast knowledge and experience to mechanics who want to follow in their footsteps.  Now that I’ve got over a dozen years in the industry, including several years as a race mechanic, I feel indebted to these men, and many others, for their help along the way.  It’s my pleasure to offer advice, help, or any input to those who are looking to get a start in the business.

Thanks, to those who I’ve been speaking with about the business.  Feel free to contact me any time.  You keep me motivated to wrench, write, and create.

2 Comments

  1. Greetings sir!
    Your words are inspiring. I feel like I am in the same place as when you started at your first job for the industry. I would love to someday become a top mechanic and wrench around the world. I am thinking of enrolling for a mechanics license this summer.
    Any suggestions, pointers or any information to help me I would apreciate it. I want to be part of the industry. It’s what I love.

    1. Christian,

      It’s been a while since I did a blog post, but I wanted to follow up with you and see how your plans to become a bike mechanic were going. Give me a shout back and let me know, either here or at my personal e-mail, probikewrench@gmail.com.

      Happy trails.

      -Josh

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