The first in a series, 'The Wrenching Life' interviews the professional mechanics who form the backbone of the World Cup Downhill Tour. The importance of these men and women cannot be overstated. They are the first to arrive and the last to leave. They are the mentors, saviors and supporters behind every professional cyclist and in some cases, the great Satans who, through oversight or miscalculation, rob an eminent victory from the athlete in their trust. No professional mountain bike racer, however, can stand on the podium without a nod to the mechanic who prepared the bike, re-checked every spoke and fastener, walked the course in practice, and shared the final trip up the chair lift. These are their stories - of the wrenching life.
How long have you been a pro mechanic?
Seven years. I started off in bike shops, like a lot of other mechanics, then after about six or seven years of that, I got bored of it and moved to Morzine in the French Alps. There I met Nathan Rankin (Kiwi racer) and I started working with him for some World Cup races in 2007. It kind of just rolled on from there. I worked with the New Zealand national team, the Santa Cruz Syndicate, Kenda Morewood, Playbiker/Lapierre and now, Devinci Global Racing. What's a typical race day like for you?
Race day is slightly more relaxed than qualifying day. Quali' day is easily the most stressful day in the weekend, due to the small time gap between the end of practice and the quali' runs. There is the stress of race day being the most important day, but generally, all the hard work is already done and it’s a case of staying on top of everything - paying attention to the smaller details on the bike - so that everything is perfect come race time. However, it always seems that I find new unexpected problems when checking the bike just before race run.
Steve Smith's Devinci Wilson looks and runs like brand new every time he rolls
out for a race run. That is job-one for Nigel Reeve - the hook-and-loop padding
on the e-thirteen guide to silence the chain is extra credit.
Do you have a favorite tool? Why is it your number one? It must be a proud moment to see one of your riders podium. Do they ever share the wealth when that happens?
Beta 951 T handle Allen and Torx wrenches - simply the nicest Allen wrenches in the world and they are something you’re always using. Also, it shows you how important it is to have quality tools. You’ll never complain about spending $40 on a single allen wrench after using one of these. On a race weekend, what task do you dread the most?
Anything to do with trainers Can you share with us a weird setup tidbit that one of your riders prefers?
Nathan Rennie always insisted on an extra half psi in his tires for race runs. It wasn’t until years later that he told me he was just doing it to f**k with me!
There is an unwritten rule for riders to tip the mechanic a percentage of their winnings. What is the least reliable component you have to deal with in World Cup Competition?
There has been a few - but we’re not supposed to discus that. How fast can you build a wheel?
Fast enough. Our job is all about doing things in a ridiculously short space of time
Reeve's operating room includes $40 T-handle Allen wrenches and an axle
from a Hadley rear hub that he uses for a punch.
Every mechanic has a home-made tool. What is your custom contribution to your tool box?
A Hadley 12-millimeter axle - best bashing tool I’ve ever had. If your sponsor demanded that you change tool brands, what is the one tool that they would have to pry from your cold, dead fingers?
Just my entire toolbox. If you truly have a passion for your work, there is no way you could be satisfied using tools from only one brand. Have bikes and components become so reliable that your job is significantly easier than it was five years earlier?
No. The emphasis of the work has merely shifted
focus to other things to improve performance. The workload never changes. Tell us about an emergency situation that had you wrenching and running full speed at a most critical moment during an event.
I had 45 minutes to do a frame swap before the World Champs race run. I had it done with five minutes to spare and our rider won. Good day at the office. How does a Pro Mechanic deal with an injury, like bandaged fingers or a broken arm?
The phrase; “Harden the f**k up” comes to mind.
Where is your favorite stop on the World Cup circuit?
|I had 45 minutes to do a frame swap before the World Champs race run. I had it done with five minutes to spare and our rider won. Good day at the office.|
Val di Sole - Cafe Dolce Amaro has the best cappuccinos, served by pretty Italian girls. Do you get much time to ride your own bike, or is it all business once race season starts?
Every year I tell myself its gonna happen, but it never does. What music would we find if we looked on your iPod?
Drum-n-bass for race day. Loads of random stuff for the long drives in between. How often do you change out Stevie's drivetrain components during the season? What parts do you change out every race?
New chains and cables a couple of times a weekend - things like cassettes go for a while, though. Some racers destroy a lot of hardware. Is it frustrating to see your hard work undone?
Only if there are no results to show for it. It is fine if they are justifying it with good results every week. If you had the choice to be either a top World Cup rider or a top World Cup mechanic, which would you rather be?
On race day, definitely a mechanic. On the other days, I think being a rider could be better.