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Video: Calvin Jones talks Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association with President James Stanfill

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The bicycle industry is rapidly changing, but one thing remains constant – the need for skilled mechanics. But unlike other industries like auto mechanics, there isn’t really an all-encompassing certification program for bicycle mechanics in the United States. That’s part of the what the Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association hopes to accomplish. The big picture includes improving working conditions, wages, getting more mechanics involved, and working with industry partners to develop a certification program that will improve the state of the profession. To get an idea of what the PBMA is and where it’s going, Park Tool’s Calvin Jones sat down with PBMA President James Stanfill to cover the basics…

For more information on the PBMA or to join, check out the link below.

probma.org

parktool.com

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Dave
Dave
6 years ago

Improved training and certification has to be a good thing but the “improved working conditions and wages” is going to be a lot more difficult to implement. Most bike shops are small, one owner operations that live a marginal existence. Equating them to an auto dealership is absurd. Even the big chains like Performance are tiny compared to an auto dealer.

But wait...
But wait...
6 years ago
Reply to  Dave

Maybe equating bicycle dealerships to auto dealerships is absurd, but comparing the two is worth looking into. Just because financially the two industries are clearly at different levels doesn’t mean we can’t learn something by looking at how the auto industry operates and certifies it’s mechanics.

boom
boom
6 years ago

ProBMA has their heart in the right place, but they have a long way to go in having a great plan to implement and change

bart
bart
6 years ago

You don’t need to equate them to a dealership – look at the local one or two bay garage in neighborhoods. Overhead is also much higher in the auto industry – this can work. I for one am excited to see this progress.

bart
bart
6 years ago
Reply to  bart

Wasn’t that long ago the Motorcycle world went through the same thing.

Joe Meldrum
Joe Meldrum
6 years ago

As longtime bike mechanic I like the idea – legitimizing the bike mechanics work – but I also feel like this is just another cost burden for me. I don’t really see any push from the customer to have there mechanic “certified”, I don’t see many shop owner paying substantially more for a “certified” mechanic, so I ask the question, what is in it for me? I’ve always tried to stay up-to-date on new technology and “professionalize” myself; I’ve attended the Park Tool Tech Summit, I’ve completed the Bill Woodul Race Mechanics Program, and I’ve attended numerious other manufacturer specific tech events. I’ve learned many valuable things from these events but they all get to be very expensive after a while. If my employer already pays me 18/hour (an above average wage), how much more of an increase in wages should I expect if I was to be a member of the PBMA?

I really want to like the idea I just don’t want to jump through another hoop and another expense just to get paid the same.

Dirty Sanchez
Dirty Sanchez
6 years ago
Reply to  Joe Meldrum

I don’t think it would be a big hoop to jump through. I also think many owners wouldn’t be completely against this. The 2 biggest issues I see are getting the general public to recognize it’s a skill ( $70 for a tune up? I only paid $x amount for it) and on the same premise people with a car that won’t run are kind of up against it. It’s hard to take your car somewhere else when it won’t run. There’s always one floundering guy in town that will fix a bike for close to free because he’s broke. He drives a shitty truck, but he’s ” a cool guy” because he doesn’t aspire to much.

Seraph
Seraph
6 years ago

I’ve always said that bike mechanics need to unionize.

bbb
bbb
6 years ago

Formal qualifications are a joke and the only people likely to benefit are businesses selling courses and nice looking certificates. Courses don’t really cover anything more than you wouldn’t find out online. The rest is experience, passion, enthusiasm, technical mind and staying up to date with current tech.

As for salaries… the problem is that overwhelming majority of bikes are relatively cheap in context of labour charges, overheas and amount of time required to service them and dealing with their owners. The only places that a mechanic would make half decent money is high end IBDs where customers own relatively expensive bikes worth servicing. You know, the ones who just tell you to do what’s necessary instead of hanging on the phone for half an hour discussing whether their bike is servicing , asking to get it done on the cheap, changing mind several times while analyzing various options, insisting on providing their own (often wrong) spare small parts (to save money) etc…

CheezeIt
CheezeIt
6 years ago

There is no clear reason why PBMA goals are important for the individual or shop. There are many questions to be answered but it’s a good start. How will long time mechanics be certified? Can you take a test? Do you have to attend a “bike college”? Many professions have codes of conduct which need to be included in being a bicycle mechanic. Also can you still be an angry judgemental person and be certified? Eventually customers will want certified mechanics and ask for them but not for years down the road.

Wendigo
Wendigo
6 years ago

Fixing a bike is easy compared to fixing a car. A few youtube videos, a few Allen keys and your are set!

dabee1106
dabee1106
6 years ago
Reply to  Wendigo

Is that whey car mechanics come to my shop saying they don’t understand how to fix their bike?

J
J
6 years ago
Reply to  Wendigo

Yup. This is the fundamental issue. Generally, most bikes just aren’t that hard to work on for a reasonably mechanically inclined person (although the stupidity of people never ceases to amaze). The reason wages are low is a direct relationship to the difficulty of the job. The opportunity for a higher wage employee is when you start talking suspension service, wheels, or overly complicated TT/Tri/Aero bike designs and the like…. ironically what mechanics spend a majority of their time bitching about. As bikes get more advanced, so the bicycle mechanic job gets elevated, however, this will only ever live at the high-end. I will do my best to continue to make bike designs exceedingly complicated, you’re welcome James.

h
h
6 years ago

Cars don’t require ‘tuning’ like bikes do. Its just part doesn’t work, bolt on new part. There was a ton of stuff in the way to get to said part so it took me a long time, so theres your huge bill. The on board diagnostics and all the electronics in cars are why cars are more complicated than bikes. They require hugely expensive tools that bikes do not require. I have car mechanics who bring their bikes to me because of the ‘tuning’ aspect of a nicer bike that just takes a lot of experience to acquire. However, I know these guys own in excess of $50k of car tools. They have insurance policies on their tools and bring them with them to whatever shop or dealer they work at. The diagnostic tools dealers use are too expensive for most mechanics to own on their own, unless they are going to spend their career dealing with a single brand. Bikes aren’t that way. They are not complicated enough or diverse enough to require tons of specific expensive tools. And if they were, everyone on here would whine about how brand x came up with a different bottom bracket that wasn’t the same as the 8 standards already in existence. People with cheap bikes don’t care about the fine tuning, they just want it to shift and stop. A youtube video could teach most how to make this happen with tools they already have from ikea. Maybe they’ll come and have a shop install a bottom bracket because they don’t have the tool the same way I have auto shops do only the stuff I can’t do on my car.

Frippolini
Frippolini
6 years ago

I fail to see how there can be a demand from the customers for a certified mechanic. What difference will it be for a customer to have his bike fixed by a “certified” vs a “normal uncertified” mechanic?
Looking at the topic from a bike shop – why pay the higher salary for a certified mechanic, when there is no demand or premium for this?

There are only two reasons that I see that the certification issue could make sense:
1. If the bike manufacturers would require, because of warranty reasons, that their bikes be shop assembled by certified mechanics; but the kind of training for such certification would be very basic (use a torque wrench, don’t over tighten the headset on the carbon fork steered, etc.).
2. If there would be a demand from the professional teams that their bike mechanics, or head mechanic, would be certified; or if there would be a UCI requirement that team mechanics must be certified.

Gary
Gary
1 year ago

Are study materials available? What if one has been riding for years (road) doing my own mech but am not fully versed with all bikes and would like to become more versed in order to gain more experience to work at a shop or start my own small mech service?

This test reminds me of when I was in the military taking advancement test. One had to know the full spectrum including ship and shore, but can be difficult if you are not exposed to all facets.

Finding some answers difficult to answer on test 1 (80%). Are the answers subjective or are they always the same no matter who you ask?

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