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Good mechanics...

Old 01-22-21, 07:43 PM
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justinschulz9
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Good mechanics...

like 9/10s of you guys have a pretty firm grip on your bike mechanics. in your words what are the best qualities of a bicycle mechanic.
what "mechanics" does your mechanic need to have in order to obtain your trust?
And where can someone learn to be a really good mechanic? (please dont only say the internet lol)
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Old 01-22-21, 07:48 PM
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Where can someone learn to be a really good mechanic? At a local bike shop or coop and most places are busy and hiring so as long as you have good basic mechanical aptitude and the desire to learn it should be relatively easy to find an entry level position to get you started.
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Old 01-22-21, 07:58 PM
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If you're going to work on other's bikes then perhaps the first good quality to have is to listen well and know how to pull out of people the information you need without their loosing face when dealing with the "pro". Andy
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Old 01-22-21, 08:25 PM
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Best qualities in a mechanic? A masters degree in mechanical engineering, and several years of floor-level experience in manufacturing/fabrication. Bike shop experience may not even be necessary, as competency starts with a firm grasp of the fundamentals. A professional engineer will have a deep understanding of materials, statics and dynamics, lubrication, corrosion, finite element analysis, CNC fabrication, CAD/CAM etc. that you could not gain by working several lifetimes in a shop.


The best bike mechanic I ever came across had this combination of education/background, and despite having no specific bicycle experience, within 2 weeks of starting to work on bikes, he was able to do things that most professional mechanics could never figure out. Which included identifying flaws in brand new components, and fabricating improved custom replacement parts.


The sorry bicycle industry cannot afford this type of person, particularly at the retail level, so 'competent' is probably as good as you can expect.


Worst bike mechanics? The barely-literate bike flippers that clutter up Craigslist with dangerous dysfunctional crap that they 'fixed' or 'tuned'. I've ran into many of these folks, and despite perhaps decades of experience in 'working on bikes', they don't have a clue.
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Old 01-22-21, 08:39 PM
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What I look for is someone who knows their stuff. Who can say OK I can fix that and actually fix it when presented with a major problem that most people would shy away from. I also love to see the passion. The best way to learn is by doing and that is best done working in a shop with some of the old heads in the back. You can learn a lot of useful stuff on the internet, Calvin Jones is a professional super knowledgable mechanic that I would gladly have in my shop all day every day if I could (but matching his salary, benefits and ownership in Park would be tough to beat) but actually doing it with someone watching over you and teaching you and you just soaking in knowledge will help immensely. Heck sometimes just the absorbing of information is handier.

However keep in a mind a lot of shops are probably going to have some younger kids and maybe some of them are good at their jobs and know their stuff, I had a kid I put as head tech because we had a bit of a power vacuum and I needed someone who had been there a while and he had and honestly he surprised the crap out of me. There was a lot he didn't know but a lot more he did and was able to take on the task quite well under immense pressure from myself and the person above me and the person above him. Plus he had big shoes to fill and I was proud as punch with him. So sometimes these kids can surprise you and well sometimes they are still kids and until bicycles become less toys and more actual serious tools we will probably still be getting a lot of kids and some will go on to get nice long grey beards and be crotchety but will wrench circles around most anyone and some will get weeded out. They will get their cool bike and then move on to something else.

To me a mechanic doesn't need to provide a show they need to be able to get their work done in a timely and professional manner and have a good set of tools.
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Old 01-22-21, 08:46 PM
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there are easy concepts like changing a tire or truing a wheel...
but what about tough concepts. where do most of you guys get the hands on experience for say a hydraulic brake job? or adjusting bluetooth shifters?
it would be nice if those grey beards were around more often for us younger guys learning deep in our passions.
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Old 01-22-21, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by justinschulz9 View Post
there are easy concepts like changing a tire or truing a wheel...
but what about tough concepts. where do most of you guys get the hands on experience for say a hydraulic brake job? or adjusting bluetooth shifters?
it would be nice if those grey beards were around more often for us younger guys learning deep in our passions.
Actually bleeding a hydro brake wasn't so bad, granted I had watched other people do it before but I did watch Park Tool's video when I had to do it myself. Being that I didn't have any hydro bikes till now I never really needed the skill. For eTap probably I don't know it is that hard. It is actually kind of less mechanic stuff and more computer stuff. Though a lot is still adjusting high and low limits which is kinda the exact same for a cable actuated derailleur.
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Old 01-22-21, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by justinschulz9 View Post
like 9/10s of you guys have a pretty firm grip on your bike mechanics. in your words what are the best qualities of a bicycle mechanic.
what "mechanics" does your mechanic need to have in order to obtain your trust?
Paying attention to how things work is probably the best quality of a good mechanic. Having a good memory helps.

And where can someone learn to be a really good mechanic? (please dont only say the internet lol)
I learned mostly by just doing. I read things early on...I started when Bicycling Magazine printed out a lot of how to articles...but much of what I learned was just by doing and doing and doing. Repetition is key.

So is a little bit of fearlessness. Dont be afraid to make mistakes. Be very afraid to not learn from mistakes, however. As a scientist, I learned long ago that long ago that I learn more from mistakes than I learn from success. I tell my mechanic students that the difference between a newbie and a master mechanic is the cost of parts that have been ruined.

A good place to get lots of repetition is at your local co-op, if you have one. I was a very good mechanic before I started volunteering at mine...the mechanics used to ask me questions about bike repair...but Ive gotten even better after about 10 years of volunteering and having worked on around 15,000 bicycles. I can work on as many as 30 bikes in a typical Saturday shift. Working on that many bikes at a time requires quick analysis of the problem and a whole lot of knowledge of how to fix the problems. I also have to tell the customer how to fix the problem...they are supposed to do their own work. And there are at least 5 other people in the shop needing my help as well as a couple of volunteers.

It also helps to realize that 99% of bicycle problems are related to derailer cables. Once you realize that and figure out how to fix those problems, mechanic work gets a whole lot easier. Youd be surprised how easy it is to look like a magician.

I, by the way, would make a really crappy paid mechanic. I get things fixed so fast that I would make zero dollars for an employer based on an hourly rate. Im more like an emergency room mechanic...I treat em and street em!

If you dont have a local co-op, think about starting one.
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Old 01-22-21, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by justinschulz9 View Post
like 9/10s of you guys have a pretty firm grip on your bike mechanics. in your words what are the best qualities of a bicycle mechanic.
what "mechanics" does your mechanic need to have in order to obtain your trust?
And where can someone learn to be a really good mechanic? (please dont only say the internet lol)
HERE?
I think you are very generous.
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Old 01-22-21, 09:27 PM
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Originally Posted by justinschulz9 View Post
there are easy concepts like changing a tire or truing a wheel...
but what about tough concepts. where do most of you guys get the hands on experience for say a hydraulic brake job? or adjusting bluetooth shifters?
it would be nice if those grey beards were around more often for us younger guys learning deep in our passions.
Except many of us gray beards don't have as much experience with electronics and hydraulics as the younger wrenches do. I can say a lot about 1970s Raleighs but little about 2020's stuff Andy
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Old 01-22-21, 09:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
Except many of us gray beards don't have as much experience with electronics and hydraulics as the younger wrenches do. I can say a lot about 1970s Raleighs but little about 2020's stuff Andy
Yep. Thankfully almost all of the bikes that come to my co-op are pre electronic shifting. Ive only seen one in my shop and he wasnt there for anything to do with the electronics...thankfully.
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Old 01-23-21, 07:38 AM
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While not a bike mechanic I ran a maintenance organization with 260 pieces of mobile equipment from a few laboratory bikes to Cat D10 dozers and can tell you what I saw in our top mechanics, interpersonal skills, loves problem solving, takes initiative, detail oriented and diligent. These were the mechanics everyone wanted on their job.
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Old 01-23-21, 08:01 AM
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In my few years working in a bike shop, the best qualities I developed were diagnostic skills, and communication. A mechanic has to be able to find what's really needed on any bike and find the best way to address those issues. That comes with experience in the shop in ways that no amount of reading can get you.
Then the mechanic has to be able to communicate that to the most skeptical and least technically saavy customers.

I once had a customer come in with a nice mtb that was in BAD shape. The Fox fork had a big hole in the lowers. When I called him to tell him he needed a new fork in addition to a bunch of other stuff, he replied, "what part is the fork?" I learned to never assume that the customer knows anything about their equipment after that.

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Old 01-23-21, 08:13 AM
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In your words what are the best qualities of a bicycle mechanic?

A strong mechanical aptitude and then bicycle specific experience.

I can't emphasize mechanical aptitude enough. The best bicycle mechanics have this and are able to quickly excel in many other areas of mechanics.

I've hired and quickly trained many mechanics with zero experience in my print/mailing shop based primarily on their mechanical aptitude. These same people would also quickly become proficient bike mechanics if they chose to. So hands down, mechanical aptitude is number 1.
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Old 01-23-21, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by justinschulz9 View Post
like 9/10s of you guys have a pretty firm grip on your bike mechanics. in your words what are the best qualities of a bicycle mechanic.
what "mechanics" does your mechanic need to have in order to obtain your trust?
And where can someone learn to be a really good mechanic? (please dont only say the internet lol)
Here? I would say less than 5%...maybe as low as 1%.
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Old 01-23-21, 10:09 AM
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I think there are some differences between a good home mechanic and a pro. You can be one without being the other, and with no loss of honor, like being a good cook without being a chef.

At home, you're not going to see 10000 bikes in your lifetime, but you have a chance to learn good general mechanical and troubleshooting skills around the house. Learn to repair anything that breaks. Learn to dive into a technology that's unknown to you. I repaired my home furnace yesterday. Learn to research problems on the web.

You guys who haven't worked on hydraulics and electronics... come on. You'd figure it out in a jiffy, because troubleshooting and "learning how to learn" are in your blood by now.

Practice preventive maintenance. Like a doctor, a pro mechanic has to make a quick assessment based on just what they see in front of them, and what the customer has told them. When it's your own bikes, you are constantly evaluating and observing their behavior while you ride. You can learn to notice problems creeping up and fix it before it actually breaks. You can also learn how your riding habits affect the reliability of your bikes. You will enjoy cycling more if every little problem doesn't eat up 2 hours taking your bike back and forth to the shop.

This is a little blog article that explains the benefits of preventive maintenance:

https://jessitron.com/2021/01/18/whe...keep-it-small/
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Old 01-23-21, 10:16 AM
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I see a mechanic not having come across electronic shifting yet. this is rare and only on expensive bikes. but i don't see how a mechanic hasn't come across hydraulic brakes yet. Almost every new bike has them now except some entry level bikes that may have cable brakes.
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Old 01-23-21, 10:34 AM
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"A man's got to know his limitations"

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Old 01-23-21, 11:23 AM
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I don't know if I could ever quantify an answer that would be anywhere close to what causes me to say good mechanic or bad mechanic.

Variables include but are not limited to what type work I'm wanting done on my bike, how thick my wallet is at that time, previous experience with that mechanic or shop. How well they talk, which might just include interesting stories and other conversation even if the mechanic skills are slightly lacking. Maybe even which side of the bed I got out of and the color of the sky that day.
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Old 01-23-21, 01:05 PM
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Being able to understand the issue in a holistic way. A lot of problems are interconnected in a way that focusing on the apparent one may not achieve satisfactory success. etail
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Old 01-23-21, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave Mayer View Post
Best qualities in a mechanic? A masters degree in mechanical engineering, and several years of floor-level experience in manufacturing/fabrication. Bike shop experience may not even be necessary, as competency starts with a firm grasp of the fundamentals. A professional engineer will have a deep understanding of materials, statics and dynamics, lubrication, corrosion, finite element analysis, CNC fabrication, CAD/CAM etc. that you could not gain by working several lifetimes in a shop.


The best bike mechanic I ever came across had this combination of education/background, and despite having no specific bicycle experience, within 2 weeks of starting to work on bikes, he was able to do things that most professional mechanics could never figure out. Which included identifying flaws in brand new components, and fabricating improved custom replacement parts.


The sorry bicycle industry cannot afford this type of person, particularly at the retail level, so 'competent' is probably as good as you can expect.


Worst bike mechanics? The barely-literate bike flippers that clutter up Craigslist with dangerous dysfunctional crap that they 'fixed' or 'tuned'. I've ran into many of these folks, and despite perhaps decades of experience in 'working on bikes', they don't have a clue.
why would a guy with all those qualifications work in a bike shop?
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Old 01-23-21, 06:10 PM
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Originally Posted by justinschulz9 View Post
what are the best qualities of a bicycle mechanic?
Experience, common sense, patience, intuition.

what "mechanics" does your mechanic need to have in order to obtain your trust?
Empathic listening with understanding. Propose solutions before acting. Discuss alternatives.

And where can someone learn to be a really good mechanic?
Buy a bike, fully rebuild and refurbish it with period correct components, and sell it. Buy another and another. Keep doing it for a few years.
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Old 01-24-21, 01:34 AM
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Originally Posted by justinschulz9 View Post
like 9/10s of you guys have a pretty firm grip on your bike mechanics. in your words what are the best qualities of a bicycle mechanic.
what "mechanics" does your mechanic need to have in order to obtain your trust?
And where can someone learn to be a really good mechanic? (please dont only say the internet lol)
Working in a bike-shop isn't about fixing bikes, it's about making the customers happy.
Sure: for most people, you need to be reasonably competent at fixing bikes, and do a reasonably good job. But that's just one side of the story.

Being able to listen (to the customers) and pay attention to (mechanical) details helps.
But "people skills" in general help a lot (if you deal with customers, like most mechanics inevitably do).

Some 2 years ago, a question on this forum inspired me to write "Bicycle mechanics job my thoughts".
It pretty much sums up my thoughts & experience on the question then asked, and is related to this one.
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Old 01-24-21, 09:44 AM
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I have a rich employment history...Nuclear power plants, mgr, top tier restaurant, gas jockey, vacuum, insurance sales, gov’ment work; Registry of Deeds, auto service mgr, liquor store, route owner/driver, UPS driver, till the back had enough...started doing paper routes, lawns, including our own, probably from 12 yrs on...I was paying rent and buying a lot of my own clothes very early on, even did house cleaning as I grew out the paper routes; had two...lots of other fill in jobs...I now do Pest Control, only...there is not a day that I don’t pull from my whole life work experience...you have to know how to open...you have to know how to close...you have to know how to engender trust and confidence soon into the first encounter!
You have to start early!
Life is one big negotiation!
Then you better know how to fix the bicycle!
Or, your mechanic/partner better up to his game, too.
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Old 01-24-21, 10:51 AM
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In the simplest terms to me, what makes a great bike mechanic is sufficient experience and be very "mechanically-inclined" to know how to fix something even if the mechanic hasn't fixed that particular bike or part. That kind of intuitive mechanical know-how is either innate in a person or it isn't.

Over the years I knew a number of bike mechanics that were "taught" how to fix bikes but weren't really all that mechanically inclined. That's ok for routine repairs but it got a little tiresome when they would come to me and ask how to do something that they hadn't done before. Yes, I think of myself as mechanically-inclined. It started when I was five years old I started taking everything apart and put if back together. My bike, our lawnmower, later my car and it morphed after that to computers and electronics.

Now, you might be asking yourself if you don't think that you're mechanically-inclined, "Ok so am I doomed?". NO!!! Start taking your things apart, memorizing or taking photos along the way and then put it back together again. Then do it again and again. Then read, download manufacturer parts diagrams and go for it!

The OP said forget the Internet. Wrong! YouTube is an invaluable resource for bike repairs and upgrades. Park tool's videos are particularly good.

I agree with Bike Gremlin's post before mine on people skills. The greatest bike mechanic in the world can still drive a customer away if they don't know how to interact with people, please the customer or LISTEN to the customer.

So what did I do with all of that know-how I learned over the years? I work for a major bank in their cyber security defense team.


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Last edited by drlogik; 01-24-21 at 10:58 AM.
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