No two bicycle workshops are quite the same. Some are pristine, super-organized spaces run with a firm hand: everything has a place and everything is in its place. Others look like utter carnage, yet the resident mechanic seems to know where everything lives (he may be the only one who does, however). Some workshops are run as tight as a passport control in an airport, with no unwanted bodies allowed. Others are the friendly heart of a bike shop and a social hub where copious cups of tea and coffee are consumed and the world on and off the bike put right on a daily basis.
Ideally one should aim to have the best of both worlds, making sure that the workshop is a welcoming but organized space with easily accessible tools and clear floors and workbenches. Having defined areas for each type of job is sensible.
To avoid the environmental hazards that solvents create, ecologically sensitive methods for cleaning components should be adopted wherever possible. New parts washer technology by companies such as RoZone — where carefully chosen bacteria eat the oily deposits — mean we are seeing an end to horribly smelly methods of cleaning and waste management. In addition, the copious numbers of cassettes and chains that an average bike shop or professional race team dumps every year should ideally be separated and recycled. It may seem like a lot of hassle, but it is good practice, and if everyone does his bit, it can and will make a difference.
Professional teams are always on the move, and these days all teams have a mobile workshop in a separate truck. It will contain all the tools they have at the team HQ, with basic power tools and some bench tools also usually included. Not to mention parts washers, jet washers, and all the related cleaning gear.
Wheels and tires are usually the main topic of conversation and debate around the truck. The choice of tires for races is as much up to the mechanic as it is the individual rider.
In the workshop, compressors have taken over the duties when it comes to inflation, and at the races they are essential. Before the compressor, young apprentice mechanics were brought along to races specifically to pump up the tires. Even with a track pump, inflating 50-plus tires to the correct pressure every day builds strong arms. So now a compressor does the hard part, and the disconnecting hiss of a pump hose is a well-recognized sound in the race pits.
Wheels should hang on dedicated hooks, ideally plastic-coated ones to avoid damage. Bikes should also be stored carefully to ensure that no harm comes to their paintwork and anodized finishes. Space is always at a premium — the more you have the more you use — so being organized will always pay dividends.
The hanging tool board is the true sign of a busy workshop, as finding the right tool in a toolbox can be a little time-consuming. Peg boards with removable hooks are a great idea, as are toolboxes with metal-lined drawers. Over the years we have had the pleasure of visiting many prestigious workshops around the world, and this chapter is a homage to these magical places.
Bike Mechanic is an all-access pass to cycling’s back stage: the team truck, the service course, and the workshop. Through gritty photographs and striking interviews, Bike Mechanic explores the daily lives of the bicycle technicians who keep the pro peloton rolling, no matter the weather, no matter the hour. Bike Mechanic gets you inside the action that most never see, while providing bike tuning tips and time-tested procedures that will make you a better wrench.