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  1. #1
    Impending head trauma.
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    What does it take to be a bicycle mechanic?

    I want to apply for a position I saw today on a local job listing, but have no shop experience.

    I'm an automotive mechanic by trade, and I've done enough research to be able to overhaul my bicycles, as well as maintain them properly, but I was just wondering if I could get an outline of skills necessary for the job.

    A kind of Q&A where you shoot terms and procedures at me and I reply with what I know would help, like studying for a test.

    Mostly I'm just leary of messing up a customer bike because I'm unfamiliar with specialty items, any experience from actual mechanics would help this thread greatly.

    Thanks for any help,
    -Jon
    Oh my, I ride my bicycle to places I need to go, without dealing with congested traffic or that 40hr nine-to-five work week!

    I must have a touch of the downs.

  2. #2
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    To get my job, I went to the interview and the manager had me assemble a boxed bike. This, however, is not enough to be a completly able mechanic.

    Skills:
    1. Deal with rusty, corroded bottom brackets that have years of neglect (and lots of other fastners that have the same
    2. Deal with tuning up Wal-Mart bikes and having the owners of said bikes expect a miracle
    3. Be able to look at a freewheel and determine which of the ba-jillion freewheel tools you need to remove it
    4. In the winter, be the only one in the shop working
    5. True, tension, dish wheels
    6. Repack a hub
    7. Know how to use all of the specialty tools
    8. Adjust every type of derailleur
    9. Replace cables, housing, shifters, bar-tape, brake pads, handle bars, chains, BB's of all types, cassettes, seats, seat posts, forks, headsets, cones, axles, and be able to install all types of accessories.

    There is some things I left out for otehrs to comment on. It is a fun job though, and a good way to work on many different types of bikes.

  3. #3
    Impending head trauma.
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    That essentially exactly how it is working for any car repair place, right down to the customers expecting you to polish a turd to perfection for the lowest price possible.

    What are the 'specialty tools' per say?

    How do I dish wheels?

    I can true them, and I know how to tension spokes, but what should the tension be for spokes of various materials?

    I'm sure I can google all of this but I figured that having it in a thread might help someone else looking for the same answers.

    Thanks
    Oh my, I ride my bicycle to places I need to go, without dealing with congested traffic or that 40hr nine-to-five work week!

    I must have a touch of the downs.

  4. #4
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Working as an auto-mechanic will likely be a step-up in hiring you. Not all, but many places have only minimally skilled people to employ regards bike-shops. Where I am, you usually encounter buck-toothed kids who'd be more at home in dad's garage with a pair of pliers.

    Good luck!
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  5. #5
    cab horn
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    Entry level mechanic positions consists of building bikes out of boxes. If the shop employs mechanics who actually know what they're doing then you'll soon get into basic repairs and you'll be taught more stuff.

    You won't be put onto customer bikes immediately, not without supervision and not for anything more than basic anyways. Show a good work ethic, be willing to learn. That's pretty much all it takes. The rest can be learnt from reading manuals like Barnetts and Sutherlands and the rest by doing. You might want to consider that the pay for such a job is probably extremely crap compared to what you'd make as an auto mechanic.
    Mes compaingnons cui j'amoie et cui j'aim,... Me di, chanson.

  6. #6
    Recumbent tricyclist nkuvu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Death Fork View Post
    What are the 'specialty tools' per say?
    I'm not a bicycle mechanic, nor do I play one on TV. But you could run over to Park Tools and see what they have to offer. Park is a pretty popular bike tool company, so I'd suspect that they'll carry just about everything you'd need.

  7. #7
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    So would a decent bike-shop. If all they have are pliers - feet's do your stuff!
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  8. #8
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by operator View Post
    Entry level mechanic positions consists of building bikes out of boxes. If the shop employs mechanics who actually know what they're doing then you'll soon get into basic repairs and you'll be taught more stuff.
    That's pretty much how I got my start. Actually, I was hanging around the local shop so much that they got tired of me and put me to work. Eventually I learned wheel building and frame alignment on old Schwinns and soaked up a lot more by osmosis. Working in a shop that serviced everything from Free Spirits to Cinellis helped, too.
    Jeff Wills

    All my bikes.

  9. #9
    Я люблю суп abarth's Avatar
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    A brain, work fast, a brain, patient with customers, a brain, sense of humor.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Sangetsu's Avatar
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    What do you need to be a bicycle mechanic? Not much at all, bicycles are simple enough contraptions, and anyone with a hint of mechanical ability should have no trouble picking up the trade.

    But, no one leaves being an auto mechanic to work on bicycles; normally the opposite occurs. As an entry-level bike mechanic, you'll probably spend a lot of time on your feet assembling low-end kids bikes, and eventually mid-level commuter bikes. It's not difficult work, and I myself enjoyed doing it; the only thing I didn't like about being a bike mechanic was the abysmally low pay, which is roughly fast-food restaurant level.

    What is the current pay level for auto mechanics in your area? When I was a mechanic I earned a percentage of the hourly rate ($50 an hour at the time, of which $25 an hour was my share). As the hours for a certain job are at a fixed rate, if you could finish the job more quickly, you could do an extra job, or even two in the same allotted time. It was possible to make $75 an hour during busy weeks/months.

    Bike mechanics earn an hourly rate, and a low one at that. Both of the shops I worked for were struggling financially, and I was often paid in bikes or parts (if at all). Not a bad deal when you are living at home with your parents, but not so good if you have your own bills to pay.

  11. #11
    tcs
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    "When man first set woman on two wheels with a pair of pedals, did he know, I wonder, that he had rent the veil of the harem in twain? A woman on a bicycle has all the world before her where to choose; she can go where she will, no man hindering." The Typewriter Girl, 1899.

    "Every so often a bird gets up and flies some place it's drawn to. I don't suppose it could tell you why, but it does it anyway." Ian Hibell, 1934-2008

  12. #12
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    A cheap place to live......
    Everything should be as simple as possible...But not more so.---Albert Einstein

  13. #13
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    Oh, and ,at lest where I'm at, it requires being okay with drinking on the clock

  14. #14
    It's ALL base... DScott's Avatar
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    Every bike mechanic needs a girlfriend with a steady job and low self-esteem.


    Oh wait! That's what every bike racer needs. Sorry.

  15. #15
    VoodooChile zoste's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sangetsu View Post

    ...Bike mechanics earn an hourly rate, and a low one at that. Both of the shops I worked for were struggling financially, and I was often paid in bikes or parts (if at all). Not a bad deal when you are living at home with your parents, but not so good if you have your own bills to pay.

    Quote Originally Posted by Panthers007 View Post

    ...Where I am, you usually encounter buck-toothed kids who'd be more at home in dad's garage with a pair of pliers.

    Good luck!
    Coincidence?

    Hmmmmm...I think not...
    Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand

  16. #16
    Senior Member JustChuck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panthers007 View Post
    Working as an auto-mechanic will likely be a step-up in hiring you. Not all, but many places have only minimally skilled people to employ regards bike-shops. Where I am, you usually encounter buck-toothed kids who'd be more at home in dad's garage with a pair of pliers.

    Good luck!

    And the bikeshop staff often encounter bigoted jerkoffs with a dental fetish.

    I was a heavy equiment mechanic when I decided I wanted to work on something less likely to cause ma a lethal injury while working on it at 10pm in the rain the day before a contract deadline.

    Sangetsu siad you don't need much because bikes are simple. Are they simple? Yep, so simple that the same damn stupid questions keep getting asked over and over in the busiest forum at bikeforums. Take the front derailleur adjustment. Based on the mechanics forum it is a near impossible task to get one to work right. That is incorrect but it does take practice and the ability to see what is going on and make the proper change to get the desired result, in less than ten minutes, every time. Lots of people can build wheels, but a mechanic should be able to do it, right on the first try, in an hour, and have the wheel stay round and true when ridden(Not that you would need to know how to build a wheel to work in the repair shop, but the lead mechanic should be able to.

    Being able to diagnose quickly is also key because in a bike shop, there is (usually) no service writer, you will write up your repairs.

    And the biggest hurdle going from auto mechanic to bike mechanic is learning how to shift gears, constantly. Not only will you fix bikes but you will sell bikes, build bikes, write up orders, fit and sell clothing and shoes, play twenty questions to figure out the correct tube for someone, do the count, fit helmets on screaming children that do not want a helmet placed on them, deal with people that beleive because they had a flat repaired three months ago you should now fix their broken chain under "warranty", explain to people with no mechanical skill, over the phone, how to install a set of training wheels(or a car rack, replace a tube, install a handlebar/brakecable/shiftcable,etc), waste time on estimates that will NEVER become repairs, explain why the price of the bike is irrelevant to the cost of the repair, listen to people say it is stupid to own more than one bike(or a bike costing more than $300), remove a thousand broken ball needles from pump heads( supposed to be a free service apparantly), clean the toilet, install counters/slatwall/drywall/fixtures. It goes on.

    On a given day, during a tuneup(hour job) you may have to stop talk about bikes, fit a guy for shoes(Who will then not buy them because he saw a better price on line and just needed the correct sizing), run the register a couple of times, install a kickstand, replace a tube, answer the phone a half dozen times, and install a trunk rack. If you can jump back and forth with out getting annoyed and/or forgetting where you are on the repair, then you should do fine.
    Last edited by JustChuck; 03-11-09 at 06:47 PM.

  17. #17
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    I rest my case.

    It's all location, location, location!

    <like many people-to-people jobs, having a sense of humor is paramount>
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  18. #18
    I suck, but you're worse
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    Dude, if you are a car mechanic you can make a transition to bike easily. I recommend taking a bike completely apart and cleaning and regreasing it and reassembling it. Then you will know what it takes to be a mechanic. Obviously there are lots of little things that will come up as you gain experience, but if you are mechanically inclined you can work on bikes. It will take a few months to REALLY know your way around a bike, but it is nothing like the complexities of a combustion engine, it is child's play by comparison.

  19. #19
    Senior Member JustChuck's Avatar
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    An IC engine is very simple. Now an entire car can be complex. Then you need to deal with multiple systems and how they interface each other.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Sangetsu's Avatar
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    Yes, spend thousands of dollars to attend a bike mechanic school so you can "learn" to make $8 an hour? How many bike mechanics here actually went to a technical school to learn their trade? 1 or 2?

    Becoming a bike mechanic now is no different than it was 40 years ago. You start by playing with your dad's tools when you are 9 or 10, taking your bike apart (if the nuts and bolts aren't too tight), and then getting your dad to help you put it back together.

    By the time you are 13, you can make all the adjustments, and replace a tire or tube yourself. This is generally all the skill necessary for an entry-level bike mechanic.

    When you are 15 or 16, you begin working part-time in a local bike shop, where your formal education begins. Within a year you put together any bike, and do more skillful work, such as minor wheel truing.

    If you are a normal kid, after a year or of working in a bike shop, you buy a car, and move on to bigger and better things. If you are an abnormal bike geek, you will continue tinkering with bikes, and become a highly skilled bike mechanic, making as much as $12 an hour.

    If you are one of the rarest of the rare, you might even work for a pro team, or one of those one-of-a-kind bicycle factories which still produce bicycles in America, and where you might actually make decent money.

    But, after all is said and done, money is only part of the equation. The most important thing is to do what makes you happy.

  21. #21
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    Seriously... auto repair is incredibly more complex than bike repair. I'm talking orders of magnitude higher. Why would you want to leave auto repair besides the fact that it sucks? It can't be for more money?

    Quote Originally Posted by JustChuck View Post
    An IC engine is very simple. Now an entire car can be complex. Then you need to deal with multiple systems and how they interface each other.
    The concept of it is simple. The application of the idea, well there you have the rub.

  22. #22
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    IMHO, bike mechanics are often brought out onto the sales floor to act in a sales capacity for the business they are working for. Just about every place I know that employs bike mechanics sells them as well, and there are many places that only fix cars. I'd say that a bike mechanic is much more "on the front line" when dealing with the general public then a car mechanic is. In other words, if you hate dealing with the general public, stick with cars, the pay is probably better as well.

  23. #23
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    a ton of patience (or some good weed), a good bike repair stand and park tools, and forget about your $25/hour labor hours, the only way I've ever made money is building up road and track bikes from scratch and selling them on craigslist, seriously, you don't wanna work for a shop unless you want to be a professional rider

  24. #24
    Impending head trauma.
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    With regard to me leaving being an Auto Mechanic to become a Bike Mechanic, currently my license is suspended indefinitely, and no shop wants to hire a tech with a suspended license due to liability.

    I know I could jump in and throw bicycles together no problem, I really wanted some listings on idiosyncrasies between makes and models, honestly I firmly believe I am already a better mechanic than most of the LBS employ around here.

    They're all filled with hipster kids who thought it would be a cool thing to make dirt money and 'fix' bikes all day.

    Except Kyle's Bike Shop. If you're an O-town local Kyle's is where it's at.
    Oh my, I ride my bicycle to places I need to go, without dealing with congested traffic or that 40hr nine-to-five work week!

    I must have a touch of the downs.

  25. #25
    cab horn
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    Quote Originally Posted by Death Fork View Post
    With regard to me leaving being an Auto Mechanic to become a Bike Mechanic, currently my license is suspended indefinitely, and no shop wants to hire a tech with a suspended license due to liability.
    I was going to make some jokes as to the reason why your license is in a wicked sounding status but I decided not to. Anyways you don't need to know differences between makes and model. Your first job is going to be aseembling low-end bikes. You will learn there, or you won't.

    Reading through barnetts/sutherlands and having done repairs on your own bike would be a huge step up as well - you have the theoretical knowledge without ever touching a bike (mind you it's good as a reference, some of their procedures are completely hack/wrong). Ex: Types of bb's and thread direction etc. So you don't say try to run a right handed tap through the right side of an english bb frame.

    If you care anything at all about bikes, you'd find yourself keeping up on some of the latest tech anyways. With experience wrenching and seeing what works, what doesn't and what's hype - you're also either going to be a really wicked sales person or you will suck worse than
    Mes compaingnons cui j'amoie et cui j'aim,... Me di, chanson.

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