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  1. #1
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    Becoming a bike mechanic

    I'm looking for advice on becoming a bike mechanic. What do bike mechanics make to start out? What do they make after a few years experience? Does a certification, like the Park Tools class, help get a job or higher wage? Any information on getting into that line of work would be appreciated.

  2. #2
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Location. Location. Location. If your looking to get rich - forget it. We are among the least paid and most overworked professionals in the country and many others. If you love bicycles and Ramen Noodles - go for it!

    I suggest looking into the United Bicycle Institute (UBI) in Ashland, Oregon. I graduated there in 1984. Had a great time. And wound up with job offers in my mailbox.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  3. #3
    my brain hurts! fosmith's Avatar
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    depends on where you are, but they'll probably start you building bikes, and doing grunt work first for not much more than minimum wage until you can prove you can work quickly and effectively. upper end of the scale for a "mechanic" is 13-15 per hour. but you gotta know your shaith.

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    Taboo question: I was recently laid off and am now collecting unemployment. I have always wanted to become a bicycle mechanic as a side job but if I take a job I'll lose my unemployment benefits. So the question is: Do you think I could walk into a bicycle dealer on the side as an apprentice and even though being paid next to nothing ask that I be paid 'on the side'?

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    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    The bike shops I've dealt with say "no experience needed - will train" on their applications. Trained bicycle mechanics are far and few between. Mostly what they get are kids with pliers in their dad's garage. So your offer of being an 'apprentice' really wouldn't be necessary. Regards getting an "under-the-table" position, this is possible some places. But it's illegal - so you'd have to take your chances. No one will refer you to a shop - bike or mule-skinner - that welcomes undocumented workers.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  6. #6
    Senior Member bigvegan's Avatar
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    Man. $13-15k is $26-30k/yr assuming a 40hr week.

    Sounds like the better plan, (unless you're single, love bikes more than anything else, and live in an area with a low cost of living) is to start as a home/ebay part seller / wheelbuilder in your spare time, and keep the day job until you've got the $ to start your own shop.

  7. #7
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    Courtesi, watch out for that "on the side" pay. Employers love to do it and at the end of the year their accountants want your social security number so they can do a 1099 as if you were an independant contractor. You will owe all the tax and a double pay on the Social Security tax. It's a good way to come out way behind. bk

  8. #8
    Senior Member liquefied's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigvegan View Post
    Man. $13-15k is $26-30k/yr assuming a 40hr week.

    Sounds like the better plan, (unless you're single, love bikes more than anything else, and live in an area with a low cost of living) is to start as a home/ebay part seller / wheelbuilder in your spare time, and keep the day job until you've got the $ to start your own shop.
    Yeah start your own shop so you can make $26-30k/yr at 80 hours a week.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by bkaapcke View Post
    Courtesi, watch out for that "on the side" pay. Employers love to do it and at the end of the year their accountants want your social security number so they can do a 1099 as if you were an independant contractor. You will owe all the tax and a double pay on the Social Security tax. It's a good way to come out way behind. bk
    They might try...of course, you could always point out that they will almost certainly fail the "employee vs. contractor" test as defined by the IRS. They're not allowed to just choose whether to treat you as a contractor or employee - otherwise, every employer would treat every employee as a contractor. In general, if they set your hours, you work at their place, you get paid by the hour (as opposed to getting paid for specific work), and they supply the tools, you're an employee.

    So let 'em choose between filing back withholding and all that paperwork, or maybe conveniently forget all about you. I'm not a tax attorney, and I certainly don't advocate tax fraud, but I'd fight any employer that tried to arbitrarily decide I'm a contractor.

  10. #10
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    I worked as a bike mechanic while I was in college. This was from 1978 through 1984. I loved the work, but the pay was bad. At the end of my wrenching career, I was making $6 an hour, which is probably equivalent to the $15/hour quoted above.

    I went to college for computer science and I have an illustrious career in IT now (sarcasm). It pays more than $50 an hour, so I'm better off this way. And I am an amateur bike mechanic. I pick up bikes at police auctions, fix them up, and give them away. This way, I have the satisfaction of fixing bikes with none of the hassles, and I'm not poor, which is nice. The word "amateur" means "for the love of it" and I do love fixing bikes and improving them.

    Another problem with working in the bike industry, besides the pay, is that I love to ride, and the demand for work is greatest during the season when people like to ride. That's the peril of making your hobby into your living. Just because you love something doesn't mean it's the best choice as a career. I'm also an amateur musician. I love making music, and I'm just about at a professional level. My first major in college was music, and I realized that that career wasn't right for me.

  11. #11
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    I thought wheel building would be a great retired guys business venture until I watched an "over the bars" accident. A mud patch flipped his front wheel sideways and over he went. He instinctively reached back for the handlebars. Wrong move, leaving him leading with his head. Landed, in mud, on his eye. Oooh, ugly. Serious confusion due to head injuries.

    All this got me to thinking about, you guessed it, products liability. Nope, I don't need to be building any wheels as a retirement business. Sure, the above scenario doesn't involve a wheel problem, but any front wheel failure will involve going over the bars, Not for me, I have a weak stomach. bk

  12. #12
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigvegan View Post
    Man. $13-15k is $26-30k/yr assuming a 40hr week.

    Sounds like the better plan, (unless you're single, love bikes more than anything else, and live in an area with a low cost of living) is to start as a home/ebay part seller / wheelbuilder in your spare time, and keep the day job until you've got the $ to start your own shop.
    +1 That is your best bet. Expecting a shop to pay you under the table is asking them to break the law. Start picking up bikes, fix them up, sell them, then repeat.

  13. #13
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    Bike wrenching is something you do for yourself and maybe friends. You might even get tired of doing it for friends. Any dough that comes into a shop will always get picked off by some other expense, including owner take home. No future in it. Put your learning energy into something that has more upside potential. Otherwise you will have to start over with something else in a few years, anyway. bk

  14. #14
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bkaapcke View Post
    Bike wrenching is something you do for yourself and maybe friends. You might even get tired of doing it for friends. Any dough that comes into a shop will always get picked off by some other expense, including owner take home. No future in it. Put your learning energy into something that has more upside potential. Otherwise you will have to start over with something else in a few years, anyway. bk
    I think the point has been made that if you're going into the job with expectations of glamor and fortune - you are barking up the wrong tree. Other than that, I see no reason to try to discourage the OP.

    Follow your dreams!
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  15. #15
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    I worked in a couple different shops in HS and college. Twenty years later I bought a vintage Park stand and a bunch of Park hand tools and started in on my kids' bikes. All good. Today, the last thing I want to do is work on someone else's crummy bike. But I still hit the police auctions and troll Craigslist to the wee hours looking for interesting bikes. Career? Absolutely not. But it's lot more useful of a hobby than collecting model trains.

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