National Bike to Work Week starts today! Coincidentally, I spotted Samantha, a bike tech from Spokes Etc., when I brought my bike in for service. I thought cool, a female bike tech in a dominantly male trade! I reached out to her by phone to request an interview, and she said yes.
I encourage all of you Gals on the Go to follow your passions like Sam!
Q: How long have you been a bicycle service tech?
A: About four years; I mostly do it in the summer when they need part-time workers. I started working as a bike tech part-time when I was in college.
Q: At what point did you repair a bike, and decide I enjoy this, I want to learn more and become a bike tech?
A: I was a mountain bike camp counselor and loved being able to solve maintenance issues then and there to get people back on their bikes to complete the trail. Also, I grew up building and fixing things with my dad, so I was familiar with tools and thought it would be cool to learn even more about fixing bikes. I found it less intimidating to start working on a bike rather than a car or motorcycle.
Q: What is your favorite thing about being a bike tech?
A: Problem-solving and help others. Plus, discounts on awesome bikes and gear!
Q: As a female tech, do you feel like you have had to work harder to prove yourself?
A: Not so much. At times I have felt that I want to prove I can do anything a guy can do, but there comes a point when I accept I may not have the same experience, and some bolts aren’t worth fighting with if you have someone else who can do it with more ease (if you don’t have someone else, just find a longer lever). Many times it comes down to technique, not strength. When I feel defeated about a repair, I usually learn a new way to do it for next time so that I will be able to do it on my own. Personally, as long as it doesn’t happen often and I feel like I gave it my best shot, I find it’s OK and typically ideal to ask for help.
Q: What is the most challenging repair you have had to do? How long did it take you to complete?
A: I mostly build new bikes, fix small maintenance issues, or install new gear on bikes. The most challenging bike repair I have done (which wasn’t so challenging) was replacing a grip shifter on an old Fuji Sundance that I bought used online. It took me about two hours to complete. The most challenging repair I have done in general was on my car. I replaced the brake pads on my front wheels, which was challenging in many ways and took me close to about eight hours to do.
Q: What is your favorite tool to use? Why?
A: There is a tool called the fourth hand. It allows you to grab and pull cables without using your hands. It’s useful because your hands get greasy and slippery, and it becomes hard to get a tight pull on the cable to get it to the right tension. Not only is it hard to pull the cable tight with greasy hands, but I have had the cable slice my fingers before from trying to pull it tight (Talk about a cringy paper cut!).
Blogger’s Note: A fourth hand is the name of a specialized bicycle tool for manipulating brake and derailleur cables. The fourth hand allows a mechanic to keep the cable in place while they adjust the tension.
Q: Do you have a favorite or least favorite type or brand of bike to work on?
A: Not particularly. If it’s a bike, I enjoy working on it. No brand is my least favorite. But, my least favorite type of bike to work on is an inexpensive bike because chances are that everything breaks and it was not correctly assembled from the start. You end up going down rabbit holes never fully satisfied with the end product. My bike is always my favorite! But there are parts of it that can be a pain to work on, like internal cable routing because the cables can get stuck in the frame, and all you can do is hope that eventually it pops out if you wiggle it the right way.
Q: What bicycle do you currently ride?
A: Trek Remedy 9.7 (2018)
Q: What is your dream bike to own and ride? Why?
A: Hmm, that a toughy. My dream is to have a bike for every situation. My wish list includes a downhill bike, full-suspension mountain bike, hardtail trail bike, road bike, gravel bike, fat tire bike, e-road bike, an e-mountain bike.
Haha, but for a single dream bike right now, it would be either a Specialized/YETI/Santa Cruz/Trek, Bass boat blue and teal paint with disc breaks, a dropper seat post, 160mm in the back, and 170mm travel in the front with suspension lock out and dampening, carbon rims. I want a bike that I can take anywhere, and it never limits me. The rider should always be the limiting factor, not the bike. Something like my Remedy! But with a different paint job and a few upgraded components.
Q: What advice would you share with girls/women interested in learning how to fix bicycles on where to start?
A: Start small and work your way up; when in doubt, jump right in! Try adjusting comfort items like the seat height and rotation of the levelers on the handlebars first, then work your way to more advanced repairs like replacing tubes/tires and so on. Also, buy an older bike. Things will need fixing/maintenance, and you can learn to fix them as you go.