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Behind the Scenes – Spotlight on Bike Mechanics – DCM Photography

As an avid cyclist (road, MTB, cyclo-cross) and member of a cycling team here in Austin, you can imagine that I know lots of folks in the business. And I do…but, over the years I have found that the people in the bike shop that often know the most about the products sold with hands on experience are the Bike Mechanics. This was a super fun project and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting these guys and seeing what they do on a daily basis. This one-time blog highlights these guys and how awesome they all are and what an integral part they play in the Austin cycling community. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed doing this project.Without further ado, let’s meet these fine people:

Gordon Yang – Castle Hill Cycles

In the beginning – I would say that I’ve grown up on a bike.  My folks gave me a picture of me at about the age of five riding a family friend’s ladies’ Schwinn Varsity with the step-through frame so that I could stand on the pedals.  I remember getting a bmx bike when I was a little older to ride around the neighborhood to my friend’s house.  I started working in a bike shop during my summers off from high school.  I not only worked the bike shop job in the evenings to get the discounts on bike parts, but I worked at a lab at Baylor College of Medicine as a lab tech (read: errand boy) to gain some experience in a science field and make more money for bike stuff.  The near-daily bike riding led to a purchase of a mid-level hardtail from the shop the summer before I left for college at the University of Texas – Austin.

Racing days – When at UT, I used my bike exclusively as transportation.  An acquaintance saw me zipping around on the bike and suggested that I attend a meeting of the UT Cycling Club.  This acquaintance talked to me about the upcoming race season and suggested that I go to Rocky Hill Ranch and race the beginner cross-country race with him.  I showed up for the race but he decided not to race, so I raced with his number.  I ended up winning the race by a sizeable margin.  Thinking that this was a fluke, I entered another beginner race later on in the season and won that race as well.  Now it was time to get serious.  I submitted my upgrade to sport class and upgraded my bike with new parts, installing them myself with the very few tools that I had acquired over the years.  I remember a Taiwanese chain whip and a Park Tool FR-5 to change out the heavy all-steel cassette to one with an aluminum cog carrier.  My first sport race surprisingly garnered me a first place in the omnium at the Chihuahuan Desert Challenge in Lajitas, TX.  I remembered the wins at Kerrville and Warda and lamented the weather-related DNF in the San Antonio race that year.  At the end of the season, I gained enough points overall to win the Texas State Championship in 1999.  The only thing to do from there was to move up to the expert class.  Racing the expert/pro combined class was a wake-up call to the difficulty and endurance required.  I didn’t win my first expert race.  Far from it actually – I got top 20.  Disheartened, this led to me entering fewer and fewer xc races and working on more and more racer’s bikes.  I tried different disciplines of racing – road and downhill – and found that road required even more endurance than cross country, and downhill was a little easier but far more dangerous.   

Mechanic-in-training – Even with the difficulties in racing, my love for bikes never stopped.  I kept buying more bikes.  I still own all of the bikes that I have ever purchased, except one.  I wanted to know more about them.  Suspension front and rear, hydraulic disc brakes, exotic frame materials – the new products kept coming.  The more bikes I had, the more opportunity I had to try the new whiz-bang gizmos.  And the parts manufacturers knew that they were going to need people to service their parts.  I had the opportunity to see some of the biggest names all in the same place when I attended the USA Cycling Bill Woodul Race Mechanics clinic.  The clinic was more of an elite conference held at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.  We stayed on the campus for a couple days and were able to tour the OTC facility and visit the 7-Eleven Velordrome down the street.  You had to have your hand scanned in order to access the cafeteria for dinner!  I remember Shimano, Mavic, Park Tool, and FSA were there to discuss racing rules and how they affect mechanic strategies during races, collaboration with other mechanics, and time-saving techniques relating to bike mechanics.  The Park Tool Tech Summit was a similar multi-day event that I had attended, which included representatives from Campagnolo, Fox Racing Shox, Mavic, Shimano, SRAM.  This would allow me to continue to expand my mechanical knowledge and hone my mechanical ability.  In more recent years, individual companies have developed their own programs in which I have participated – Campagnolo Pro Shop, Shimano T.E.C., SRAM Technical University.

Daily life – Currently, I work at Castle Hill Cycles as the Service Manager.  I take care of everything service related, as well as a bunch of other behind the scenes duties.  If you get me a broken Campy 10 speed shifter, I can rebuild it in about 30 minutes; the 11 speed stuff doesn’t require internal parts replacement.  Ask me something about Shimano product, and I can almost always work on it and probably give you the part number off the top of my head.  I mainly perform road bike service, but I am well-versed in mountain bike tech also.  I still ride, but not anything that requires excessive effort: Greenbelt rides, downhill at the ski resorts, enduro-type events, quick road bike jaunts to nearby towns such as San Marcos or Johnson City, with pub crawls being my favorite.  I’ll submit my race registration every once in a while – it makes me keep my USAC license current.  You can check out Lonestar Gravity, a DH team that my friends and I have created based in Austin.  We’re older now, but that doesn’t mean that I’m slower than you!  Every so often, you can find me volunteering at the Austin Yellow Bike Project helping sort parts.  It’s cool seeing all of the old stuff that’s been re-purposed and recycled through there. Sometimes I’ll find an old XT shifter that will make me stop and reminisce about mountain biking in the late-90s.  I like playing pool.  I can play you one-handed opposite-handed if you like.  I’d say that I was pretty good at pool.  The American Poolplayers Association has sent me an invitation to the APA Amateur National Championships.  I’ll go on group rides around town here and there – TNSR, Bike Austin, Full Moon Ride.  One thing that I always enjoy is rolling around Austin on a bike.

Dustin Bright – Austin Tri-Cyclist

I got my first bike at 4 years old. It was a super sweet Ninja Turtle 12″ BMX. I snapped the seat in half jumping it off a 2×4 propped up with a brick. Donatello is my favorite turtle.

I grew up with Tristan Uhl, his family ran Rocky Hill Ranch at the time, out in Smithville. Being hooligans on bikes just made sense. If it had wheels, I’d figure out a way to ride it and eventually hurt myself, whether it was a skateboard, scooter, or a trash can strapped to a dolly.
Around age 13 I got into riding Observed Trials. My cousin introduced me to Hans Rey on the ol’ interwebz and I was hooked. I saved up for a Monty Mod trails bike and my shins are still scared of platform pedals! I think that’s where my tech skills really started to form…learning to pedal-kick was probably one of the most difficult things I have ever learned on a bike and I’ve always prided myself on my bike handling since.
Well when you ride bikes, stuff breaks. You learn to fix that stuff, because you’re a broke teenager. I’d say that’s when I started wrenching. Fast forward to 20, I was in the middle of college, but wasn’t quite feeling it and considered maybe doing something on my own. I drove up to Rifle, Colorado to meet with a man named Koichi Yamaguchi. I had signed up for a 2 week frame building crash course with an old Asian man in his backyard. It was surreal. This guy has built track frames for Olympians and there I was learning his craft in his backyard shed. This remains one of the most memorable times in my life. I still have, and ride the frame, I built there. It’s a turquoise fixie with a bottle opener gusset welded into the main triangle. Found the bottle opener at a thrift store down the street from his house. I was like, “Koichi, can we put this in the bike somehow?”  We found a way.
I’ve always loved cars and motorcycles and I’m currently in the process of semi-restoring a 1972′ Datsun 240z. It has been my dream car since high school and I finally got my hands on one. My goal is to build the loudest, rattiest, most obnoxious Datsun in Austin and I think its really coming together, judging by the reactions of the folks I encounter near our Westlake location.
Joshua Gordon – Bicycle Sport Shop (Downtown)

Started riding BMX regularly in 1993, and since then I just couldn’t let it go. I do like to shred some MTB as well!
I’ve been working in bike shops as a service mechanic for roughly ten years. I started working at Bicycle Sport Shop seven years ago and it has been a great learning experience for me. You think you know it all until you work here! I’ve had the great opportunity to be able to learn from some of the greats such as Tim Keating, Clay Kimsey, Todd Downs, and Kris Elkinton. Can’t thank those guys enough.
Since I started working at BSS, I’ve moved through many positions getting me where I currently am as Assistant Service Manager and have been for almost three years.
My specialties would be mostly Suspension diagnostics and service. I’m FOX certified and love servicing suspension. I like that it is a bit more involved and more in depth than your standard bike tune. I am not afraid to overhaul a Campy shifter or tackle a wheel build either.

Jerod Walz – Fast Folks Cyclery & Cafe

I always think about the little kid in the surf shop who sells Johnny Utah his first board in Point Blank (“I hope you stick with it, surfing’s the source man.”) in regards to being a bike mechanic. It is my favorite job ever besides working in a record store. And I suppose both of those jobs have a certain similarity. You get to spend your time talking about things you are passionate about with other passionate individuals. Sharing cycling with someone who’s never experienced it like you have is a lot like introducing someone to your favorite record. You so desperately want them to hear all the amazing things you found in it and are excited to see what they find in it themselves. From the convenience and freedom of commuting, to more technical riding, be it on or off road, there’s a seemingly bottomless well-spring of good times and interesting people to be found in cycling.

Most recently I’ve been captivated by the bike polo community. I have been playing and traveling with the sport since December of 2009, and am consistently amazed by the level of talent and bike skill within the community. The sport is everything all at once, its graceful and full of flow, and in the very next instance brutal and exciting. The people who play the sport are universally some of the kindest and caring people I’ve had the pleasure to ride with. Every major city you travel to has a club who’re ready to play polo, and open their home to you.  Feed you, let you sleep on their floor, see their city and what makes it work, then play some more polo. Each club is unique, but the camaraderie between individuals who play the game is internationally the same. I would not be the mechanic I am today, or the cyclist I am, without having been introduced to to bike polo.
Simply put, I love bikes, and I love sharing that with others. I hope I always have the chance to have a voice in the on going conversation that is cycling.

James Ballentine – Jack & Adams

I started working in bike shops in 1990 when I was 12, although it was pretty under the table till I was 15. I started racing mountain bikes in 1991 and bmx in 1992. I was pretty successful in racing both and won 12 national races before turning pro in 1999.

I began working with USA Triathlon as a mechanic for Team USA in 2004. I have been the mechanic at 15 world championships since then. I started working with the US Paratriathlon team in 2013. I am now the only mechanic for the US Paratriathlon team and hopefully will continue through the 2016 Paralympics.

I began working with State Wheels in 2010 as the wheel builder and I have built every set of State Wheels so far. Last year I went to a frame building school and learned how to build steel frames. I have slowly been collecting the equipment to build frames on my own and I am getting fairly close to being able to start building them at home. I have been at Jack and Adams since 2007 and am currently the service manager in addition to being one of the buyers.

I met Angie in 2002 and we married a year later. We had our daughter, Terra, in 2006.

 

Timothy Keating – Bikehaus Austin

My passion for cycling really comes down to loving working with my hands, solving problems, and making people smile. I do love working with amazing tools and creating some of my own along the way. I have been called an extreme organizer, and a little bit of a retro grouch. Maybe just a grouch, really. 😉

My history starts back in Denton, Texas where I first fell in love with mountain biking. As I rode my bike more and more, it started needing tuning and new parts. As much as I loved going to the bike shop I also wanted to figure out how to do all of the work myself. It turns out it was really fun and I had a knack for it! After a few years at REI in Dallas and Bluebonnet Bicycles in Lewisville i made the move down to Austin. I started at BSS in 2003 and worked my way up to Head Mechanic by the time I left in 2014. I am currently The Mechanical Services Manager at Bikeahus in East Austin. I hope to continue my pursuit of  working in this industry that I love, and making people Happy. The Bikehaus motto is actually: Happiness on Two Wheels!

Blake Cutherell – Cycleast

The very first time I rode a bicycle without anyone’s help I didn’t know how to stop and just laid it down to come to a halt. All of my most vivid memories on a bike are right before I’m about to go down. I’m pretty spectacular at wiping out on a bike and not getting hurt. Amongst certain close friends, I’m kind of known for it. I’ve always fallen a lot but every time I get a bike up to speed that’s never what I think about, it’s always about that ride.
My story in cycling hasn’t ever really felt unique. I started cycling in college to save money and to be independent. I rode extra because I had friends who enjoyed it. I like how quickly plans can be made and changed on a bike.
Part of saving money is learning how to work on your bike. Tubes, chains, cables, basic shifting knowledge. I was mostly self taught until I met Russell who provided me with a huge foundation and has offered guidance as I’ve grown as a mechanic. I’ve always appreciated how generous he was with his knowledge. I’ve made some of my best friends by seeing in others what I felt in myself when I wanted to know more. I love the spark in peoples eyes when you take the extra few seconds to show them what is wrong, why it’s wrong, and how it can be fixed. People want to know more about their bikes, they love their bike like you love yours, they just don’t know they’re totally capable of it.
Been helping put together a race team and club called PHENOM that focuses on being inviting and selfless. We have a good sized race team put together and great sponsors lined up. It’s still young but kits will be in soon and everything will be official.
This has been my first year of racing and I’m not stopping anytime soon. I’ve done my first crit, over 20 driveway series races, my first road race, cyclocross race, and time trial all within the last 12 months. I love it.

 

Tristan Uhl – Austin Tri-Cyclist

I grew up racing bikes so out of necessity, and to keep my dad away from my machines, I learned the basics of bicycle maintenance.

I got my first shop job working part-time at Rising Phenix, a bike shop/kayak rental place in Bastrop, Texas. I worked there for a year and a half, mostly fixing bikes bought at the local Walmart and washing nasty kayaks.
In 2010 I got a job working for Austin Tri Cyclist under the tutelage of two great mechanics (Brad Wimberly and Austin Howell) and the rest is history.
I’ve worked at Austin Tri for over four years now and I’ve developed into a fairly well rounded mechanic. I wouldn’t say I specialize in any certain type of bikes but we are a triathlon shop so I definitely get to work my fair share of Tri and TT bikes.
Bikes are my passion and when I’m not at work fixing bikes, I’m out on the streets or riding the trails on my own.

Hunter Braasch – Division 1 Bicycles

  • I love a challenge, The more outlandish a project is the more I obsess over it.
  • I have no problem raising a hammer or a drill to carbon! Some times it takes balls to get a job done right.
  • I love fabrication! A file and a Hacksaw are in my top 5 list of most used tools.
  • Building wheels is a strong suit of mine. 
  • I will work on anything, I could give a shit if its worth $30,000 or $25. At the end of the day what sets a good mechanics apart from a great mechanic is the ability to adapt and relate to the situation at hand. We have to be able to set aside our personal ideas and convictions in order to fully understand and help the needs of our customers.
  • My favorite part of cycling is the utilitarian side. The idea that bikes are a valid and usefull part of daily life. I lost my license for 6 months my second year in college, I got too many speeding tickets in a 1 year period. That forced a daily commute to the bike shop I was working for. After 6 months my commute became a necessary part of my routine, I needed it. 3.5 years and 33 miles a day later I had proven to myself that life with out a car is entirely possible. 

Barnett’s Bicycle Institute Certified Master Mechanic
United Bicycle Institute Certified Mechanic
DT Swiss Certified Wheel Builder
Licensed USA Cycling Race Mechanic
Been In Bike Shops for 12 years + 

 

 

 Brad Wimberly – Bikealot

I started working at a bicycle shop when I was 15 years old. At the time I rode 20″ bikes 7 days a week in the Houston area. We would ride downtown, skateparks and whatever jumps we could access. I have worked with all types of bikes at different shops over the past 20 years. Here in Austin I spent nearly 10 years as the head wrench at ATC. It was great to work with so many wonderful people who loved to ride and took their bicycle’s performance seriously. They cared that I cared about doing my best job on their bikes. ATC helped me settle into Austin but I always had an itch to do more. I think that was largely due to the fact that TT bikes are my least favorite bikes. They are designed for speed and competition over maneuverability and fun. I opened my own shop called ‘Bikealot”. There I can focus on bikes that I love most like mtb, cyclocross and commuters. I love helping people with their bikes or helping them find the right bike. I think many riders would agree that we love and need to ride. Often the people we love also need us to go ride. Have you ever had someone who cares about you say, “I think you would feel better if you went for a ride”?

As a bicycle mechanic I get to be a part of this crucial riding experience. This deepens the interaction with customers and often turns them into friends. A great ride can be the best part of your day. I get to help that ride go smoother through fixing bicycles. I am thankful for that and will continue to wrench.

I would like to add there a a whole lot of great people here in the Austin bike industry. I and I am happy that the people of their  shops have them! I can personally attest to great things from the owners of Austin Bikes, Jack and Adams, Austin Tri-Cyclist, Tsunami, The Peddler, Cycle Progression and Ozone. All of these people have been helpful to me at one point or another during the past 10 years. Dave from Tsunami even gave me a big neon “Open” sign. The guys over at Performance, along with most of the shops listed above have sent me business during the past two years. I have referred customers to other new shops like Cycle East and Division 1. I have always thought all of the local shop people played really nice. Have I just gotten lucky all these years?

George Schmitz – ATX Bikes

DCM_1243I started doing triathlons when I was 16, and that drove me to want to work at a bike shop when I started college. The ever-changing atmosphere and athlete-minded focus kept the work motivating. Prior to triathlon I grew up swimming competitively and mountain biking for fun so getting to work in the field that began as a hobby.

 

 Emil – Cycle Progression

 Ben Cross – Mellow Johnny’s

 Satoshi – Austinbikes

“Experts call it “congruency,” that rare and wondrous state that occurs when your beliefs and your actions line up perfectly, and net out in a vocation or avocation that you truly love.”
– Mike Rowe

 Brendan Sharpe – Nelo’s

Brendan Sharpe began working on bikes in 2004 in Seattle, Washington.  Initially, he began teaching himself and acquiring basic tools as a bike messenger; but he truly began to develop skills and techniques as a mechanic after he quit the courier business and got a job wrenching in a small shop in Ballard.  After kicking a two year rock climbing addiction, he began racing on the track as well as local crits and road races with friends, truly shifting his focus to the bicycle.

After moving to Austin, TX in late 2007, he met Nelo Breda and began working for the well known and respected Brazilian shop owner.  It was though his association with Nelo that Brendan was able to travel to Medellin, Colombia in 2010 for the Panamerican Road and Track Cycling Championships as an assistant mechanic for the Brazilian National teams.  In 2011, Brendan was similarly gifted an opportunity to travel to Copenhagen to help the Brazilians, this time as their head mechanic at the UCI Road Cycling World Championships.

In his spare time, Brendan can be found riding his bike on roads in and around Austin, making chairs and other furniture in his garage, banging his head at metal shows, and enjoying some of the fine local craft beers that central Texas has to offer.

 Luke – Bicycle Sport Shop (Braker Ln)

 Finley Hunt – The Peddler Bike Shop

 Kris – Ozone Bikes

 Waterloo Cycles

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