While I did a ton of mountain bike riding while employed at Advantage Cyclery, I did have to work once in awhile!
My first year of work at Advantage Cyclery was a year full of learning, making new friends, and tons of lifestyle changes. I went from constantly hanging out with my boss from the jewelry store days in suits and ties to hanging out with bike freaks in t-shirts and Chuck Taylors. It was quite a shock to the system. I was introduced to a whole new level of folks. Folks that didn't do jewelry stores but rode bikes like crazy.
These folks would all have a huge influence over my life in the following years. However; I have to tip my cycling cap first to my boss from those days, Tom. He was a character, no doubt, but he was also well versed in basic mechanics and had a sharp memory for details. He seemed to take a liking to me, well......we were close to the same age, so I suppose that helped. Anyway, Tom made me feel like I could do things and was patient enough to teach me the ins and outs of basic bike shop work. Not only that, but he wasn't afraid to let me fail, and then kindly and humorously show me the right little trick to get the job done not only right, but quickly.
One of my favorite things I learned from Tom was how to build wheels for bicycles. I remember him telling me that I had to learn that skill, or I couldn't be called a bike mechanic. I was pretty intimidated by the thought of doing the task, but Tom had a way of making it seem easier. He started me out by swapping rims over using the same spokes and hubs. That was a good way to get my feet wet in the ways of wheel builds. Then he sat down and showed me the Wheelsmith spoke calculator and how to measure up the hubs and rims. Finally, he had so many parts lying around that it was no problem finding a wheel build for me to do. I took my time, and boy, did it take a long time! A few days as I recall!
Well, funny thing was that I ended up really enjoying the process, and of course, I sped up a bit to where I could get a set of wheels done on one shift no problem. Tom took the time to show me that and so many other things that I still am super grateful for. Things like tune ups, brake set ups, and adjusting bearings all had little tricks that Tom showed me. Plus, I read through a Barnett's manual and had Troy, who was the head mechanic, walk me through all the lessons he had taken at the mechanics school. By mid-summer, I was a fully functional part of the team there. It was such a big change that the year of 1994 went by really fast for me.
But in the end it always was about building wheels, and I built a lot of them back then. Mostly for myself, but also for customers. I still build most all of my own wheels and everytime I do, I think about Tom. Thanks dude!
Next week: More about the day to day at Advantage Cyclery........