Our pro mechanics have been busy! Vince Gee of Aevolo is currently at the team’s headquarters building their new bikes for the 2018 road season and prior leaving home to get back to work sent in this note about getting ready to hit the road and what he’s walking in to at work…
I’m a tinkerer. Sometimes that is good and sometimes that is bad. I think my good days far outweigh my bad days successfully tinkering with things. My wife and I Just moved to Boston last January (her) and last April (me) and our neighbor who owns the business complex next door has been great. He has gifted us a used/old gas powered leaf blower and a gas powered snow blower. Both needed some simple TLC and neither ran. Neither item I had ever dealt with before. But they sounded simple to fix so I attacked them and was successful. As our winter hit with some solid temp drops (sub 20F) our heater seemed to malfunction. With a little help from the manual I was able to diagnose one item. Unfortunately I was unable to order the replacement part as I was not “certified” to install it. They would not sell it to a non-licensed repair person. Bummer as it was a simple $30 part install. There was another factor that I couldn’t diagnose nor install. But felt pretty good diagnosing the first item.
I’ll have to put the household tinkering on pause for now. Today I fly to Colorado to build team bikes for our Aevolo Professional Cycling team. Today is the start of my 24th season as a professional team mechanic. I’m just as excited to get things going as I was in February 1995 when I was driving to Milwaukee to work with the Saturn Professional Cycling team. Our team is a U23 team thus all of our riders are under the age of 23. This my second season with the team and 2017 was our inaugural season so it will be fun to see how our team grows. As our team grows, so do our partners. Our bike supplier for example has basically doubled the frame quantity of our previous supplier. Thus there is more equipment for me to manage. I started in a bike shop in 1977 so I have used quite a variety of tools. I’ve recently got my hands on some Unior Bicycle tools (and non bicycle specific tools also). Tinkering with my own bike prior to today, it was a joy to handle well made tools. Tools I know I can trust to do the best possible job for our Aevolo buys. Here’s to wonderful 2018 season.
At the same time our Operations Manager Chris Kreidl got back into the trenches at the USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships working for his old team, Maxxis-Shimano. Chris also was asked to be a judge at the Mechanic’s National Championship, a tongue-in-cheek event pitting cyclocross race mechanics against each other in feats of beer drinking and tire changing all while raising money to send junior cyclists to the upcoming World Championships.
Just when I thought I was done with standing in a field for a living, there I was in Reno, standing in a field. The weekend went relatively smoothly with only a couple minor issues. The riders on the team have largely been self sufficient this year, traveling with their bikes themselves to the races without a full time mechanic, and as such the bikes needed some TLC when I got there. In my past life as a full time team mechanic I’d have been a little upset that we were bringing bikes that needed work to a race, but this time I was actually excited as it afforded me a chance to really get to know the new Pro Kit and to use some of our tools that I hadn’t been able to yet.
The part of working for a racing team that very few people outside of the sport ever think about is how all the flashy tents and bikes get from race to race. Riders will sometimes fly with bikes, but everything else from the tents, pressure washers, chairs, tables, etc. all get driven from one race to the next by hard working team mechanics. After a quick 3 day drive from the team’s warehouse in Asheville, NC to the race in Reno, NV I began setting up our paddock space and prepping bikes for our two riders that would be showing up Friday afternoon. Some quick adjustments with our T-handles and some brake rotor straightening and the bikes were good enough for the riders to get on and spin their legs out. I’d do a more thorough inspection the next day, Saturday.
An early wake up and a long breakfast got me to the park at around 9am and I got to work straightening derailleur hangers, changing chains, replacing worn bar tape, and checking cassette lock rings. By the time the athletes got to the venue I was mostly ready and all I had left was to glue some new tubulars since the trailer was short a few wheels. Ordinarily I’d be hesitant to send out a tire that had been glued the day before but the combination oft he decent weather, dry desert air, and really great mating surface between the team’s rims and tires meant I thought it would be OK. Plus, the tires getting glued were to be last-resort backups as they weren’t the tread pattern the riders were starting on, but were all that the team had left to stick on.
Sunday was race day and the day was going great until about halfway through the women’s race when our rider Crystal Anthony flatted. She had been riding a great race until that point, easily maintaining 5th on course. By the time she got to the pit to take her spare bike she’d slipped down to 10th. It was still early, and there would be plenty of time to claw back at least a few spaces. Disaster struck again two laps later when she flatted again in the same place. This time she lost even more ground falling back to somewhere around 20th. I was devastated for her.
In the men’s race Travis Livermon rode a strong race picking off riders that went too hard too soon and finished inside the top 10 after catching a few guys on the last lap.
It’s now 6:45AM Monday and I’m getting ready to hit the road back to Asheville to return the team’s equipment and catch a flight back to our Unior office. I met a lot of great mechanics out here in addition to those that I’ve known for a long time and it seems that everyone I talk to about Unior Tools is really excited to see the brand grow it’s presence in the US, and that makes me excited to be working here. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to use our tools in a race setting I’m convinced more than ever that we’re making the best bike tools on the planet.
Thanks for reading!