The Wrenching Life: Nigel Reeve

Oct 3, 2013
by Richard Cunningham  

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.


Mechanic Devinci Global Racing


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?

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!


It must be a proud moment to see one of your riders podium. Do they ever share the wealth when that happens?

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.

Nigel

bigquotesI 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.


Where is your favorite stop on the World Cup circuit?

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.





85 Comments

  • + 88
 This is great to see. So much respect for all the mechanics out there!
  • + 7
 Did Boxxer World Champs happen this year?
  • + 5
 Pinkbike, please... please do more stories like this. I love every "behind the scenes" story on World Cups you guys have ever done.
  • + 41
 "There is an unwritten rule for riders to tip the mechanic a percentage of their winnings." Glad to see these guys being recognized. Would love to observe someone like that at work just to learn a thing or two.
  • + 11
 "A certain percentage of all our revenue goes to the children."

"Really? What percentage?"

"Zero.

What? Zero is a percent."
  • + 33
 Thanks for the all the hard work and many hours keeping Stevie's bike top drawer. It's much appreciated.
  • + 30
 A frame swap under 45 minutes is sick Smile
  • - 29
flag hardyk (Oct 3, 2013 at 6:45) (Below Threshold)
 in 5 minutes.
  • + 6
 "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."

So that's technically 40mins not 5mins.
  • + 8
 oh i read this wrong sorry
  • + 4
 I thought it was 5min as well, my eyes widen at first then had to reread it just to make sure. No harm done =]
  • + 15
 I cant even change a tube that fast lol
  • - 1
 That is quick, but if you think about it can be done. The front end of a modern DH bike makes things way easier, as the crown/stem/bar assembly can stay together, and if you're smooth you can leave the front brake on the fork, pop off the rear brake and rear der with the housing still attached, and remove the entire unit as one. So from there the crank/bb/guide area is probably the most time consuming, but if the alignment was already accurate then you can just plug n play the same washer/spacer setup. Pound out/repress a headset, re install the front end, run the rear brake and rear der, presto its time to slap some hoops in there and run it through the gears. Top wrenches should be able to pull this kind of thing off.
  • + 7
 i agree hypermoto, but everytime i switched frame in my life (happened 2 times) there was always something wrong that required more time than it should. But i guess pro bikes are always top notch and easy to work with.
  • + 6
 Yup...fast is one thing, accurate and fast is another deal entirely
  • + 25
 Bhahahahahaha

"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!"

Yep, i can see rennie doing that..
  • + 19
 Stevie's mom would include you in their family dinner for keeping her son safe and fast.
  • + 21
 More of these please!
  • + 7
 Would love to see more form all of the different behind-the-scenes people that make WC events happen.
  • + 2
 This was such an awesome article. A couple of my favorite articles are from the mechanics perspective. Loved this PB
  • + 5
 ditto - as probably 95% of PB does all their own wrenching its educational and inspiring. He probably just sold some of those nice Beta wrenches.
  • + 2
 More pictures of their race tool box setups would be cool too. Might have to get me a set of those wrenches they look damn good.
  • + 11
 My dad has been a professional bike mechanic now for 22 years. I can't even emphasize the amount of appreciation I have for him in regard to the amount of work he puts into my bikes and how much he has taught me! Mechanics are the foundation to the biking community.
  • + 10
 Nigel is a top bloke he serviced my World cups in Morzine last year (they must of had 1 kg of sand in the bottom of the stanchions) and he got them going perfectly again, a great mechanic and i was pleasantly surprised when I got my bill as well!thnaks again Nigel
  • + 10
 respect to all the spanners on the WC circuit - those guys work their a$$es off.
  • + 3
 seriously. i'm stoked they're showcasing the wrenches. they work hard and are always behind the scenes making shit happen. props to them.
  • + 8
 Some people dont realize exactly how much pressure pro mechs are under, i did it for one season in 2007 and it was unbelievable.
  • + 9
 "New chains and cables a couple of times a weekend"
Wow! I hope they do recycle all this Smile
  • + 1
 y do they do this ? do they snap or ?
  • + 1
 I don't get this either? I mean a DH bike puts little stres son the chain compared to XC, And I find it hard to see why you even need to change a chain on an xc bike that often... Maybe it just saves cleaning the damn thing! And cables, seriously, what about cables?! I have been running the same cables for 2 years, just changed them and noticed almost no difference!
  • + 3
 I thought about this too and the best idea I could come up with is "take no chances". If they have a kink in them, change them and don't lose the chance of a podium. This is the world cup after all. Can anyone who has wrenched professionally tell us?
  • + 1
 I manage to snap the inner gear cables once every month or two and that's only riding on weekends... If they didn't swap them out a couple times i'm sure they'd snap at least 1...
  • + 3
 a fresh set of cables (or rather one single der. cable) and a new chain means that the bike is always as fresh as possible. its not about stuff wearing out it is about it always being perfect, for sure the chain will last many rides to come and the cable wont snap for the the rest of the season. but there is no way to tell that durring a practice run the chain didnt hit a rock and bend or fail in some way that may make it break durring the race run. and a fresh cable will always feel better, always.
  • + 1
 agreed, but you no a month old cable feels the same as a new as long as it has not been jet washed. und lukez wtf are you doing? iv only ever snapped 2 cables in 20 years dh and endure. you must have hardcore fingers!!
  • + 2
 they just snap... i change gears quite a lot but they just snap and i don't know why.
  • + 1
 awesome Smile
  • + 8
 This is an article that is 'needed' and can we please get more!! When is the Gabe Fox "I told ya he was gonna do it' interview? Great read.
  • + 7
 Sometimes I dream that a world cup mechanic could full service my bike. Then I wake up.
  • + 13
 That could be a cool competition prize.
  • + 8
 Martin Hoyle, Sam Dale's mechanic and previously Josh Bryceland's has set up his own shop just down the road from me. So when he's not driving the Madison Saracen van to the world cups he always does stuff on my bike. Its pretty sweet!
  • + 3
 Yeah I always see Martin at TBC in Poole too - top guy and super quick work which is always top drawer
  • + 7
 45 minutes for a frame swap ! jesus , if I tried doing that in 45 mins there would not be thread unstripped!
  • + 1
 no kidding right. it takes me 45 minutes just to knock the crown race on, cut a steerer, install the bb, and set up the chain device. i guess with new frames there's less prep time too. E.g. no facing/chasing the shell/headtube, integrated headsets, i.s. chain device mounts, direct mount everything...
  • + 1
 The best thing is he did everything in 45 minutes! Maybe I would be able to swap things in 45 min but I'm pretty sure I would not be able to do tune everything and let rider to race in World Championship Smile
  • + 1
 Don't get me wrong it's super impressive, but the connotation I got from that was that everything is already sized, cut, etc. In that case, a swap would just be moving all the parts over and making sure the tension is right, brakes set properly, and everything is tight. Still impressive, but definitely not on the same level as 45 minutes to size everything up, too.
  • + 1
 @AVann6 I think that any WC competitor must be prepared for variety of circumstances so they just have to have prepared extra set of cables. Nevertheless I still think that doing that job in 45min and letting rider out there is GODDAMM mpresive.
  • + 7
 Think this series is gonna be a great insight of the behind the scene guys
  • + 4
 I'm a mechanic and i would love to get on his level amd have the chance to learn and get to work along side a guy like him. Awsome to see something about mechanics though put a smile on my face
  • + 6
 Harden the F%^K up!



YES
  • + 4
 That's the MAN who can teach you few things about nuts and bolts Smile I really do believe that World Cup mechanics are the best ones regardless of whether the XC or DH.
  • + 1
 I wanna see a video of a "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." situation. Redbull DO THIS. Interview the mechanic while he's wrenching in a "no pressure" situation and edit that footage into the mechanic-under-pressure rebuild "race-run"! Add this to the the series. But prolly not as none of these guys want to give away their secrets. (although you did just show us that Stevie runs the loops side of velcro in his chainguide, so we could see a demo of that installation). Submitted to the board for consideration.
  • + 5
 More mechanic interviews!! Such good insight.
  • + 3
 "There has been a few - but we’re not supposed to discus that."

WHAT ARE THE FEW?!?!
  • + 1
 deleted
  • + 0
 Great article and nice to see competition from another point of view!!!!!


I can not comprehend how Val di Sole won't be one of the next season stops even though it's one of the athletes favourite ( as well as mechanic apparently
"Where is your favorite stop on the World Cup circuit?
Val di Sole - Cafe Dolce Amaro has the best cappuccinos, served by pretty Italian girls.")

On the contrary we still have Leogang and Pietermaritzburg which don't seem to be much appreciated

Just my personal opinion
  • + 3
 Great article & subject - Looking forward to the rest in the series. Thanks PB
  • + 4
 Great article! Thanks RC! Wish Nigel was a bit more talkative.
  • + 2
 I generally keep food away from my tools when servicing my bike. I guess Nigel likes his ice cream near his wrenches.
  • + 1
 Ummmmmm the beer was missing from the tool table. Its not legit unless a beer is on the tool bench. I am assuming he was taking a sip while the picture was being shot.
  • + 2
 thanks for posting this! i was just thinking the other day what its like to be a world cup mechanic
  • + 1
 Hey RC. I'm currently doing a study on cycling folklore, specifically on mechanics. Do you mind if I use these interviews in my study?
  • + 1
 Nige is a top bloke. Met him a couple of times in manzine, nice dude. Does a phenomenal job on the wrenches, n is a master with suspension. Well done on the season mate!
  • + 1
 Stoked to see this. As a university student working part time as a bike mechanic, it's awesome to get a glimpse what the professional side of it is like.
  • + 1
 I love reading articles that involve the mechanics. I dont think people realise that the mechanics have a huge part to play in the results which the riders get.
  • + 3
 Awsome one!
  • + 1
 Great questions...great answers a bit not revealing all.....which is expected.!
  • + 1
 I work at the local bike shop and its my dream to be a WC mechanic. This article makes me proud of my job.
  • + 1
 Respect To All Race Mechanics! In my opinion would be the most fun and most challenging job!
  • + 2
 Great questions RC... and yes MOAR palease!
  • + 1
 how it's different a front and rear suspension due to the common people setup?
  • + 1
 Mucho respect for someone with so much passion. I would do anything to just watch and learn from him.. ANYTHING.
  • + 1
 Anyone know what brand the hexs are?
  • + 2
 beta 951 T handle $40 each .. 3rd question from the top
  • + 4
 Don't skim read, it's in there Wink
  • + 3
 How did I miss that?! Cheers chaps
  • + 1
 I would love to try these out. At 180 or so a set, very expensive but they look soo nice! Thanks for the Inside tip on tools!!
  • + 1
 The most crucial sizes are 4, 5, 6, 8 mm which comes out to $74. Not too bad if you wrench for a living or even on the side.
  • + 2
 Great Interview RC !
  • + 2
 Great article!
  • + 1
 Cant wait to read on Schumilak & Monkey! Salute
  • + 2
 MORE. OF. THESE!!!!!!!!!
  • + 2
 Nice one
  • + 1
 whats with the jocky wheel on the back axle?
good idea though,,
  • + 5
 Must be to keep the chain tidy and off the axle when the rear wheel is off.

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