Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: South of Madison
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The bike shop thing started as a summer job mainly, but even during the school year I would manage the shop for one night a week. Through high school I always wanted a job at a bike shop, but could never get one. In college I always opted for jobs better suited to build towards a career. When I started teaching, I decided I would give it a shot to get a job, so I called around and said, "Hi, I have no shop experience, but I want a job as a low level mechanic and I want to work my way up. I know very little about how bikes work, but I have a master's in mechanical engineering, so I'm pretty mechanically-minded and I can work things out quickly. I currently teach high school, so I am good at dealing with people if you need me to work the sales floor." It was in the Twin Cities, so I tried at tons of shops. Lots weren't interested b/c they didn't want to train someone, but plenty were. I hit it off with the owner of a very mom and pop shop that had lots of people working there who were like me (adults who were professionally something else, but they liked bikes), so that is where I worked.
It was never about the money - I can't really complain about what I got paid as a teacher and I lived comfortably off that, and I can guarantee that I lost money at the bike shop (spent more than I made), but I now have an impressive stable between me and my wife, and the knowledge of how to work on them.
It was seriously one of the best things I ever did. I learned tons about bikes. I started with basic assembly, then went on to tune ups, repairs, and assembly of higher end bikes. However, my sales numbers were good enough (I guess) that I got scheduled more and more for the sales floor. I preferred learning how to work on them, but it is also really satisfying helping people find the right bike to get them riding more.
Again, to bring it back to the thread at hand, one of the best things about teaching is that the school is a great resource for projects. The shop dept sandblasted my stuff for free as long as I was OK with kids doing it for experience. Like I said before, I had a student of mine make decals as a project for another shop class. I borrowed a power supply from the physics dept for the anodizing, and I used NaOH from the chem dept for the anodizing. The chem teacher even mixed the right concentration for me.
Good luck Bliorg - I am sure they have probable mentioned this in school, but something like 40% of new teachers burn out in the first three years. I am one of that 40%. I found that finding the right mix of passion and detachment is tricky. I taught physics, math and computer science during my career, and I also found there was a huge difference between elective courses kids wanted to be in (physics and CS) and required "cattle" courses (algebra, geometry). You are in the same fortunate position I was in, where if you get tired of it, you can opt out and probably find yourself a private sector job without too much trouble. Again, good luck!