Thursday, May 29, 2008

The PRO Mechanic

So you want to be a PRO mechanic?

Afterall, someone's got to do it.

Boy, how do I even start telling of the wondrous things they do?

Like a woman is behind a successful man, mechanics complement the riders with their talents.

You NEED the energy to go, whenever, wherever. "Problem on his bike? No problem. Where? Middle of the peleton? 12% gradient? No problem, give me the job."

When riders sleep, you prepare their equipment, wash their bikes, grease its bearings, lube the chain.

You know torque specs like they were on the back of your fingers. You inspect sprocket wear and remember everyone's favorite saddle height. Not a millimeter more, not a millimeter less.

Like the rider is fond of the bike, the bike is your baby too. You put it to function, gave it that white handlebar tape, put the shine on the chain and the gloss on the top tube.

You adorned her with cables and cut it to perfect length and saw that the brakes kissed the rim perfectly.

The words "straight", "length" and "centered" are not just some vague terms in an installation manual anymore. You deal with them every damn minute.

When the rider is ready for office, you are at their beck and call.

"Oh you don't like that saddle sir? No problem."

"Monsieur, special stem just for you. Here."

"Oh, too lightweight bike? F**k UCI. No problem, lets stuff some lead balls here. No, here will be better I think. More aero, no?"

You see, you need the creativity to CREATE. Your rider is your master, and you please him for the 100 mile arduous journey ahead with your tools, your head, your hand and your penchant to make shit work.

Yes, you make shit work while the rider makes shit happen. That, he will do during the race, and his legs will do the talking.

But if he fails, he will look at you and so will the team. The newspapers will spot you, a whole nation may be upset. Can you take the risk? Can you make shit work or will you put your reputation on the line?

At a time when commercial shelves have not seen a new arrangement, you create for your rider. Your handiwork is there for all to see in Huang's relentless Cyclingnews photos. You may be more at home with zip ties and duck tape than anything else, but it must work. It will awe some, it might be ridiculed, it might make the next big idea for a cycling component. What do you know?!

If you think only riders need fitness, you are WRONG my friend. Take a look at the picture below.

You must be ready to make shit happen, whenever, wherever. Fitness is important, yoga and core strengthening is the name of the game. Too much of a belly? BIG problem, sir! You're not going to fit through that car window. Better retire.

At 0mph, or 50 mph, you must be ready to get the tools out and make minute revolutions to his dérailleur barrel adjuster.

"Transponder sticking out! Aaargh, he's slowing. Quick, he's too unaero. Fix it!". Forget yourself for a moment and bring the real James Bond out.

"Rider down! Rider down!! Pedro, run get him!!!"

Can you run? Okay, good. Can you push him as he jumps into the saddle? No, not flat. I'm talking uphill. Like UPHILL, UPMOUNTAIN, not the puny crap roads you have in the States. Show me your triceps. Ah, its okay, but more work needed! Hit the weights, Pedro!

The office of the rider is on his bike. You go to your office, the team truck, to prepare his office, think about that!

No office means big holiday for everyone and everything is a waste. Catch the next flight back to headquarters.

Holidays during the pro season = BAD BAD BAD.

When in the truck, coffee can be your friend. Carry some cheesy music from the 70's and some Mozart too. All will serve you well.

Proper communication is absolutely essential. You can be the liason between a multinational bicycle corporation and your team. You can be the only one who understands the rider's language. Who knows...

You must listen to your rider and give him his heart's desire. Leave your subjectivities, likes and dislikes at home. Respect what they like, be at home with their eccentricities.

"What did he say he needs more on his bike?" Did you listen?

Not all riders are the same. One can be nice and zero work. Another will be so problematic that he will give you hell.

You must take hell with a smile on the face and an Allen key in hand. Ready for the challenge?

How about - Can you speak to that other mechanic from Iceland? Maybe the word for "help" might be a nice idea. Something like that you know...

Miscommunication can cause lots of bad things. Look below, need I say more?

The team entrusts you with its inventory. Only you must know where each thing is. You must be organized and have something for tidiness. This is not your high school days. Serious business here, my friend.

"Did you loose a cleat screw? No problem, here, I can find you one." This is the sort of reply that your rider expects, not : "Oh you know, you go climb that baby, haha, you'll be fine I'll search and give it you in like two days."

You must be ready to leave your mechanic role and be a friend in need, brother, mentor whatever you want to call it. Here comes your rider with a broken collarbone. Stage race, didn't make it. What will you tell him?

When the team van is raided, or that doctor is busted, you must be ready to fight for team integrity. You worked hard to prepare the bike for a rider who rides naturally. You didn't see pharmaceuticals. "No, not here officer!"

You see, this may be a funny/stupid/false/very true intro to a hard job, but in the end, mechanics are those special people behind the riders we know. Hardly in the press or the sports channel, these men of tool and grease help make the backbone of every successful team.

Riders are on camera, mechanics may be in team buses sitting humbly, cheering the "hard men of the road" on.

But they make shit work.

You bet.

* * *


Anonymous said...

Haha...wicked funny dude. Great post.

Ron said...

Thank you. They deserve it, in the recent past I have not seen anything much written on mechanics and what their life may be like.

Rickie - Totally automated and 1000's employed don't seem to go together, but I'll take your word for it! :)

Badger said...

Where do you sign up... sir??