The Role of the Team Mechanic, part 1

Author: Chris Kreidl

The first step in becoming a race mechanic is attending the annual Bill Woodul1 clinic at USA Cycling. It’s a multi-day event consisting of classroom and “field” work culminating in a pass/fail exam, and only upon completing the clinic and passing that exam can one receive their USA Cycling Mechanics License.

Going into the clinic it’s assumed that one already knows how to work on a bike. In fact, there was a requirement when I went that anyone attending had a minimum of two years worth of shop experience. What the clinic teaches is not how to work on bikes2, but how to operate within the environment of a race or a racing team.

So, what I hope to do in this and subsequent articles, is to explain what it is that I do in my role as team mechanic and why it’s important to the team.

Asset management

A professional cycling team has a lot of equipment. There’s no way to sugar coat it. I’m currently responsible for roughly 50 bikes and an equivalent number of sets of wheels, and I’m working for a relatively small team as far as pro teams go. On my last team I had approximately 140 pairs of wheels and roughly 75 bikes.

I knew where every single wheel and bike was.

It’s all dependent on the team and their contracts with their sponsors, but often once an equipment sponsor decides to support a team the equipment becomes team property. As most teams are trying to do as much as they can with a limited amount of money, the sale of old equipment could possibly be the thing that generates the money required to send a team to one more race. As such it becomes incredibly important to be able to keep track of team assets so as to not lose anything that could potentially be sold later on.

Most importantly, knowing what’s available and where it is becomes crucial when a team is racing split schedules. I know what I need equipment-wise at a crit vs. a stage race, and if I have 6 guys racing a crit on the west coast and 8 doing a stage race on the east coast, I need to easily and quickly figure out how I can make sure the right equipment is available for them to race on.

Every person has their own ways of keeping track of things and I’m not going to say that my system is the best way to do it. For that matter, the system I’m using this year is different than what I did last year, for reasons I’ll get into in a bit. The key is to find a system that works for you and to stick with it. It’s easy to go through the work of getting everything inventoried and then to not update it as things get shuffled around over the course of the season. Unfortunately, if that happens the information is useless.

In 2012 I bought an industrial strength label maker and simply assigned a number to each wheel and bike, and kept a spreadsheet with the ID number, what the asset was, and where it was.

Location ID number Description Notes
sold 47 32c rr 2nd garage sale
pescadero 48 rzr92 fr
pescadero 51 rzr92 fr
pescadero 52 disc
pescadero 60 sol rr
sold 61 sol rr
pescadero 64 at fr
menlo park 66 at fr
pescadero 69 at rr
pescadero 72 32t fr
sold 73 32c fr 2nd garage sale
sold 74 32c rr sold individually
sold 75 32c fr sold w/look 585
sold 76 32c rr sold w/look 585

This year I’m doing something similar, but the way I’m numbering each wheel is different. Instead of simply going from 1-whatever, I’m prefixing the number with the model year and numbering per model instead of as a lot. It’s still an experiment and I may switch back to what I was doing last year, but it’s working for now.The system worked well enough for me at the time, and as the season wore on I started adding more and more info to the “notes” column. In particular, what I wanted to know was the condition of the wheel. I’d shoot for two seasons3 of use from each wheel before we’d try to sell it, so I began adding the model year to that column so I’d know at a glance if a wheel could be rotated out of use.

 


[2] When I went we did have a class on tubular gluing, and I believe there are now classes that also cover things such as powermeters and suspension maintenance for the MTB side of things.

[3] The wheels were always structurally fine to race beyond that, but often by that point there was enough cosmetic damage to clear them out to make room for new wheels coming in the next season.

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