If you have no professional experience, what's the best way in?
If you have no professional experience, what's the best way in?
You don't need professional experience to be a bicycle mechanic. From my observations, you don't need much experience with anything. Just go into any shop and ask for a job. If you're 16 and have never seen a bicycle before, you've got the best chance of getting in.
If you have a bicycle co-op near you. Go volunteer your time there and become a permanent fixture. Get to know all of the mechanics and leaders of the co-op. Make certain that you are always neat and clean. Always be polite with everyone while there "on-the-job". Read all that you can about bicycles. Know their history, their various styles, and their construction. Know about the big five manufacturers and their history. Make at least one feature about bicycle mechanics, your specialty. For example, if it's brakes, learn all about brakes, cantis, V-brakes, disc brakes, center pulls, dual pivots, single pivot-U's, coasters, etc..Of these, make certain that the latest type (that would be disc brakes, today), is the one you know most about. That will mean that, you will be on the cutting edge of the new know-how. You'll be the go-to guy when that problem comes up and you'll be in demand. Most of the older guys will be reluctant to learn new stuff. But not you, you'll always be on top of the new stuff, because that's how you'll keep your "edge". Make certain that you know all about gears and gear ratios. Make certain that you know all about derailleurs, their differences, and how they all function.
Make certain that you know all about shifters and how they work.
Get a beater bike. Strip it and build it up. Do this repeatedly at the Co-op, using their components, until you can practically do it blind-folded. Experiment, by dismantling the headset and try different combinations. Learn how to remove a chain and then install a new one. Of course, one of the first things to learn, is how to change a flat. Try doing it without any tools if you can. Watch many bicycle repair, adjustment, and installation videos from the INTERNET'S Video Search mode box.
Most bicycle Co-ops have a means by which aspiring bicycle mechanics can enter into the field.
Thanks for the input. I'm definitely not 16 anymore, however.
I'd like to think I know a fair bit about bicycles, I just have no professional experience. The co-op sounds like a good idea--I'll have to see if there's one around here.
As far as experience, I've swapped derailleurs, chains, tires, cranksets, chainrings, bottom brackets, shifters, brakes, etc. I've worked on old steelies from the 70's and 80's(cold set a couple frames), single speeds, mountain bikes, and internal gearhub bikes. My weak areas would be wheel building and frame painting/refinishing.
But I doubt you'd do much frame painting/refinishing. Those are jobs for people who know what they are doing in that regard. No way I'd ever take a bicycle to any bicycle mechanic for that.
Eh, who needs money?
I suggest waiting until January/February and then touching base with your local shops to ask if they need an assembler for the upcoming season. This is the lowest rung on the ladder at most bike shops. You're not expected to build wheels or know the arcane minutae of weird French 10-speeds from the '70s, you just have to be able to assemble and tune current-generation bikes. From there, if you show any sort of aptitude, you're likely to be assigned some repair jobs, as well as accessorizing new bikes that got sold, and as a backup sales guy.
And down the slippery slope you go It's not a field I'd suggest going into, but that's your call.
I thought I had remembered your explaining mechanical things to people before....
Why don't you know that you're already a bicycle mechanic?
All you need to do is apply somewhere!...Hey! Go to a Co-op. Volunteer, hang-out, and get to know all of the folks, as I suggested before. That will be a good place to showcase your mechanical skills and talents. If, need be, brush up on your math skills and gear ratios.
Focus on getting along with everyone, making friendly associates, and group cooperation. Getting along with everyone will be key. Let them see how friendly, personable, and knowledgeable you are. After a period of time (say like six months), you should feel confident about asking one of the head mechanics of note and perhaps one of the directors, to each write you a letter of recommendation. They will then draw upon what good things they've personally observed about you and commit these things to print. You will then use these letters as leverage for bicycle mechanic employment. Always be on your relaxed P's and Q's at the co-op...
I think I'd like to have my own bicycle shop one day. I really admire Sheldon Brown and all that he contributed to the knowledgebase of bicycle mechanics. If I could have a small shop and make my own contributions, I believe it would be very satisfying.
you can already do anything that a mechanic (not manager or head mechanic) can be expected to know how to do. everything else you can google and learn on the fly.
It takes years to become a competent mechanic and by competent I mean that one does not have to look up everything and if you are going to work on the fly you better know what you are doing backwards and forwards.
You can make mistakes on your own bikes and it only costs you... in a shop it costs the shop, the customer, and too many on the fly mistakes will cost a person their job.
i've been a mechanic of many things longer than i have not been. including bicycles. and motorcycles. and automobiles. and boats. and heavy equipment. it's not some mystical cult that only those who have dedicated their lives to memorizing the specs of an italian bottom bracket can be members of. anyone with a decent mechanical intuition and slight attention to detail can become a bicycle mechanic. guess what the guys working on cars/ airplanes/ tanks/ nuclear reactors do? LOOK AT A MANUAL! gasp! it's not a sign of incompetence.
of course you have to know basic things. every now and then you get some nutjob reverse threaded reverse drive freewheel off a motorized bike that has no indentations to fit a removal tool in, and you have to take to the internet. only the internet tells you what you originally thought: there really isn't a nondestructive way to get the thing off. little things like that that pop up maybe once every other year.
in my opinion,no matter you are a skill worker or just a seller,the knowledge about the line you need to aware,so that you can do your good job.are you finding job now and want to enter the bike line.
I've yet to find a satisfactory mechanic in a bicycle shop.
Anyone can just step into a shop environment with no experience ... and call themselves a bicycle mechanic ... and do the usual lousy job on people's bicycles I've come to expect of bicycle shops.
Selling a skill is a good idea. My LBS has said they'll hire anyone if they can build a good wheel. Get a truing stand and practice away!
Haha, where to start... chronic exposure to carcinogens, seasonal hiring/layoffs, half the LBSes I've worked in have gone under (and not because of me!), working with people who aren't reliable teammates, low pay generally, skimpy or non-existent benefits/retirement... wow, what a future. I'll be lucky if I just die quickly and affordably someday.Why would you say not to get into it?
It'll be a monkey on your back. I'm serious. At least if you just work there, you can lay it all down at the end of the day and go home. If you want to do it, take a long, hard, non-idealistic look at the overhead and margins, hiring/retaining/laying-off workers as the season waxes and wanes, hiring a bookkeeper, tax paperwork, all that ugly stuff under the hood.I think I'd like to have my own bicycle shop one day.
Anyway ... if you want to get a job as a rare good (or at least satisfactory) bicycle mechanic ... take a course or two.
One of the shops in Winnipeg offers this course, which would be a good place to start:
I wanted to take it back in 2004, but it just didn't work out, and I regret that. If I had a chance to take something like that again, I would ... not so I could work in a shop, but so that I could do more of my own repairs. However, for you, a course like this would give you a good overview and good basis from which you could build.
I've been thinking of taking one particular wheel building course
What can happen sometimes is that mechanics will know a couple things they can try to solve a particular problem, and if those things don't work, they shrug their shoulders and give up. But there may be several other solutions they could try if they knew about them.
Courses might also give you a little more finesse with your mechanical skills. Could you currently repair a tricky problem on a $5000 bicycle in front of the customer ... without giving them a heart attack?
Check out this site for some courses which might be in your area (Park Tool):
And the book is apparently a good one too.
Or try this one (Barnett Bicycle Institute):
And there are others.
Yeah, I agree. I'll probably start with a course in wheel building, though. One day if I do open my own shop, I'd like to specialize in wheel building, touring bikes, single speed bikes, mountain bikes, freeride/dh bikes, and unicycles. I figure there are already enough shops out there that cater to road cyclists. But I do agree, I should learn about every area.