Matt is New Here
This post is written by Matt from Just Riding Along. While you’ve been hearing him for years on Just Riding Along, this is his first written post on the Mountain Bike Radio blog. You can contact Matt at Matt@Mountainbikeradio.com for any questions, comments, or ideas for future posts.
What Would You Do?
What is your bike mechanic worth?
Picture this: It’s 5:53pm on a Friday. You roll into the shop with bike parts in both hands and a distraught look on your face. The mechanic pushes up their sleeves, stays late, and gets you sorted. Why? Because you explained that tomorrow is the ride you have been planning for two months with your friends who are in town. Who can you count on? Can you put a price on that type of service?
Or…how about this scenario: You finally decide to dust off that 12-year old bike in the basement and get it fixed up so your nephew, who is staying with you for the summer, can actually ride it. But, you realize quickly that several small parts have vanished. Who do you go to?
Have you ever try googling “that piece that goes in the brake handle the black piece snaps into” to find that part that you later learn is called a brake barrel adjuster? Amazon.com can’t sell you something you don’t know what it is called. Where do you go and who do you ask?
What is your bike mechanic worth when payday comes? Well, according to Salary.com, about $22,000 a year. That is roughly the same as a line cook. Do you think the person whipping up gravies from a pre-planned recipe at the local diner is worth the same as the person who is problem solving and fixing your cutting edge bicycle?
Dale Earnhardt Jr’s Car
Let me give a little more backstory on bicycles so we are all on the same page: If you were to drive to the local Chevrolet dealership with a dump truck full of $100 bills and an AmEx Black Card and asked to buy a replica of Dale Jr’s Sprint Car the salesperson would look at you and laugh. They would want to sell you a commemorative edition Camaro.
Dale Jr doesn’t win races in a Camaro you can buy. If you go to the local bike shop you can buy a replica of what the professionals are racing. There is a rule in the governing body of professional road racing that all equipment must be offered to the general public.
If you wanted to get an exact replica of Taylor Phinney’s BMC race bike, you simple go to your local BMC dealer with roughly $12,000 and it is a done deal. You would likely tweak a few things depending on your preferences and riding style, but you can ride what the professionals ride. To put this into perspective, a NASCAR car is around $125,000 and MotoGP motorcycles are around $2 million. I get it, bikes aren’t the same, but in our industry you can buy the best.
So as a bike mechanic, I am expected to know the ins and outs of the cutting edge of bicycle technology, while simultaneously being an expert about everything made in the last 40 years. I need to be be knowledgeable about how hydraulic braking systems function, the firmware updates needed for electronic drivetrains and power measuring devices, and suspension setup and service intervals while still knowing that Schwinn used their own version of a 26 x 1 ⅜’’ tire.
I Know What I Know
I know what I know and know what I don’t. I play my strong hand and do my homework when I have to. In the bike industry, we question what came first: the dirtbag bike shop guy or despicable pay in the bike industry. I no longer care which came first. My focus is on the present and what I can do to positively impact the shop I work for.
I can have a positive impact in many ways, but my main goal is to contribute to becoming a better team with my colleagues by organizing and teaching. If I can share some knowledge with my colleagues and they reciprocate, we all become experts at something and can learn when we don’t know something. The result is that we collectively become more valuable.
Become more valuable to customers will force the industry to shift towards a more sustainable reciprocation for its employees. I am not asking for income that lets me have E-tap and Di2 on all of my bikes, but I do want to be able to buy a nice used car and ride newish Ultegra. If we continue down the current path of low wages, customers and the industry may end up at a time when no one can tell you the difference between Schwinn and non-Schwinn 26 x 1 ⅜’’ tires and can’t work on your new electronic shifting 12 speed superbike.
If I am expected to be an expert and a professional and follow through on those expectations, I want to be reimbursed for those expectations and follow through. Don’t you feel that in your own work? While I understand that a bike mechanic isn’t the equivalent of a NASCAR head mechanic or a mechanic of race development for MotoGP, someone working on your special ride should be worth a little more than what a line cooks earns making gravy.
Thanks for reading,