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Interview: 5 World Cup Mechanics Talk About Stressful Fixes, Favorite Tools, & More

Mar 24, 2023 at 12:20
by Matt Beer  
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Mechanics have it tough. Pro-level mechanics have it even worse. They're usually the last ones to leave the pits and the first to return in the morning. Their hours stretch out the working day but there's no time to rest in the middle. They have to be on the tools at a moment's notice during practice and could be faced with needing to make an emergency fix right before their rider's start time. Or maybe they're living it up doing what they love.

In their eyes, they get to wrench on the latest bikes and hang with the the world's top riders. They're all part of a traveling circus, hopping from race to race on airplanes or long stints of highway driving. Living out of a suitcase for weeks on end, they bounce in and out of hotels, and up and down mountains across continents.

We chatted with five mechanics that have seated more tires than you can count to find out what their favorite tools are, the bikes they ride at home, and their wildest fixes of all time.





Ben Arnott

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What team/rider(s) do you currently wrench for?


This year I have taken a break from the circuit to focus on my business, Alba Distribution. However, I am helping Kasper Wooley from the YT Mob with his bike tuning and maintenance when he is in Squamish, where we both live.

How long have you been a personal mechanic?


I was on the race circuit for 10 years, starting off on Trek World Racing with Greg Williamson before graduating to Head Mechanic on that team and then for the YT Mob and later the Canyon CLLCTV. The riders I've worked for over the years are: Ruaridh Cunningham, Greg Williamson, Laurie Greenland, Justin Leov, George Brannigan, Neko Mulally, Brook Macdonald, Angel Suarez, Dave Trummer, Jack Moir

What does your schedule look like for the year? And over the course of a race weekend?


Most years, the weeks away ranged from 10-16 weeks, spread out over the summer. Rarely a trip would be longer than 4 weeks.

DH Race Schedule - Depending on whether the race was a double (XC and DH) or a single (DH only), we would arrive in the team truck on a Tuesday or Wednesday. The first order of business was usually to set the tent up, weather and pit readiness dependent. Usually, the next job would be to go for a ride, as we'd often have driven for days at a time, chugging along at 90km/h. The bikes would be stripped, prepped, suspension serviced, and generally made ready for the first day of practice.

Practice day was the most hectic, with the riders doing somewhere between 4-8 runs with the bike needing to be checked each time, often with changes being made. Qualification day consisted of a few practice runs in the morning (1-2) then a full bike prep and clean for the race run. Getting the timing right and making sure everything was ready in plenty of time for getting the athlete to the start hut was key. After this, the bike was prepped again for race day practice (usually just one run unless the rider was puzzling), then prepped again for the race run. After this, the bike was quickly cleaned, dried and put in the truck before the tent was ripped down prior to team dinner and possibly even a couple of shandies with everyone after a hard week!

For enduro, the schedule is more spread out and there is more emphasis on making sure the bike can last days of riding and racing. It's more like setting up your own bike to make sure it lasts an extended period of time, compared to DH where it only has to last a couple of runs. Enduro also brings the added stress and joy of riding practice with the athletes (not a requirement by any means but most top riders request it). I say stress and joy because there were plenty of 'best job ever' moments, mixed with terrifying sections of riding. Trust me, no matter how good you think you are on a bike, riding a slippery section of an EWS track with a 30lb backpack in front of Sam Hill and Richie Rude is a memorable experience. Once the racing kicks off for enduro, it is a bit more relaxing than DH as depending on the race, there isn't much we can do to help the athletes.

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What bike(s) do you ride?


For the last four years, I've had a Geometron G1 - if it weren't for those guys pushing the envelope, we'd still be riding short-reach bikes with slack seat tubes and short rear ends. It's been interesting to watch the big brands slowly and carefully end up with the geo that these guys were pushing half a decade ago.

In the last year a lot of the big brands have finally caught up and this year I got a Santa Cruz Nomad. The reach is a bit shorter, but the head angle, seat angle and longer rear end are all there from the previous bike. The VPP is getting long in the tooth but it works well on this bike, especially with the Ochain. It's a beautifully finished thing with a lot of nice features. I've got it built with EXT suspension which, biases aside, is the best-performing suspension on the market currently, especially if you don't have access to race tuning. It's got Formula Cura 4 brakes, which are totally underrated and the best blend of cost and performance available.

I'm running SRAM AXS gears and probably will until Shimano comes out with something better. I've been trying out Revel carbon rims to see if their claims of better flexibility are true. They are better than most others I've tried but I'm not fully convinced with them (or any carbon rims) so I have some DT EX471s that I'm building up to do some back to back testing.

I'm also working on another frame project and hope to get a small production run built at some point this year, watch this space.

How often do you get to ride?


While working on the World Cup, I would try to ride every day, usually before breakfast. There was almost always time in the day to ride. I've always been a firm believer that spending the time to go for a ride makes the rest of the work day more efficient, so it isn't time wasted as such. Luckily I managed to avoid injuries the whole time apart from once in Croatia where I broke my collarbone and scapula in a freak crash the day after the race. The timing wasn't terrible, but it still required us to find somewhere to park the truck until I was healed up and able to drive it out of there again (luckily there was a big gap after that race). This culminated in John Hall driving the truck under my instruction along sketchy little island roads to a spot that a local had helped us find. Not my best day ever but thanks to Martin Whitely for taking it so well!

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Do you have a favorite tool or bike part?


Favorite tool during the TRP days was the Hayes pad gap setter; it was impossible to get those early brakes set up drag-free without it. Other than that it would be my Facom T-handles, 10 years and still going strong!

Favorite bike part from the racing circuit would be the Shimano Saint groupset. We were one of the first teams to have the new groupset in 2013 on TWR and it's still the same groupset available today! Has anyone ever broken those cranks?

On my own bike, my favourite part of the moment has to be the AXS dropper. The action is better than anything else I've tried, by a long shot. If only they could get a bit more travel and get the battery hidden somewhere, it would be perfect.

What's your least favorite part to work on?


Brakes are the most fickle thing to get feeling right and I was always unsure whether pads/rotors were bedded in enough for a full speed practice/race run which led me to always have lots of paired bedded-in rotors and pads available, sealed in bags, at all times. I'd say brakes are one of the only subjective things on a bike when it comes to feel - there isn't a right or wrong way.

What's the most troublesome or stressful fix you've ever dealt with?


In 2015, Greg Williamson, Laurie Greenland, and I attended a BDS in Wales with TWR. Since it was a BDS, we did not have the big truck for spares. On the last practice run, Greg kicked up a huge rock, causing his frame to be damaged beyond repair. We didn't have spare frames with us. After much deliberation, we decided to have the lads take one practice run, while I swapped the opposite rider's suspension, wheels, bar/stem, and cranks onto the chassis before the next run. As Laurie was a Junior and Greg an Elite, there was just enough time to do this between seeding runs and race runs, but it was a pretty hectic day!

What's the best part of the job?


It's hard to put my finger on one best part of the job. Adventuring through a new country to get to a venue, turning up and going for a ride with friends on the circuit was pretty hard to beat.

What is one tip or trick that you could pass on to home mechanics?


If you want to get better, there's no substitute for learning the correct method to do something than practicing. It's not rocket science but there is a huge difference between someone who can carry out repairs satisfactorily and an excellent mechanic. It's all about feel, confidence and repeatability. Those things can be learned!




Lewis Kirkwood

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photo: Andy Vathis

What team/rider(s) do you currently wrench for?


I currently work with Lucas Cruz and Gracey Hemstreet on the Norco Factory Team.

How long have you been a personal mechanic?


I did my first World Cup season in 2019 making 2023 my 5th season. Before that I had worked in bike shops since 2011.

What does your schedule look like for the year? And over the course of a race weekend?


This year I'll be going to all the DH World Cups, World Champs, Canadian National champs, Crankworx Whistler, and a few team camps spread across the year. It amounts to somewhere in the region of 17 weeks on the road.

A race week usually involves driving/flying to the next venue, lasting somewhere between 2 hours and 2 days. The first day on site we will usually spend a day putting the pits up and then get wired into rebuilding the race bikes. Everything comes off, cleaned/greased/inspected/replaced as required before being put back together. The following morning is usually track walk which we do as a team, followed by finishing touches on race bikes, race plates etc in the pits.

The first practice day can be a long one; last year Gracey and/or Lucas could be on track from before 9am until 5pm and my job is primarily to check over the bike after every run, fix anything they break and keep things consistent unless we need to make a change. Qualifying and race day are somewhat similar with the addition of carting a bike, trainer, spare wheels, tools, and other paraphernalia to the top of the track for race runs as required. It's pretty common to be on the tools for 12 hours of the day, but it's a sweet gig so it passes quickly.

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What bike(s) do you ride?


I recently moved from Innerleithen to Squamish and in the process, I cut down from six bikes to two; my Norco Range and Norco Search XR steel. The Range is built up with a full SRAM XO1 AXS drivetrain and seatpost, Deity finishing kit, Maxxis DoubleDown or DH tires, and CushCore inserts. On the Search, I run a dynamo front hub for lighting, a double chainset for closer ratios, and 47c tires with double CushCore. They're both built for dependable trucking', I know I'll fold in half before my bike does.

How often do you get to ride?


This is pretty variable on the road, but as a standout, we had some really good times riding down from the pits in Andorra to our accommodation every day of the race week there last season.

Do you have a favorite tool or bike part?


Too hard to pick one, though my toolbox is full of Knipex and PB Swiss and I don't regret a penny I parted with that stuff. As for my favorite bike part, I've never given it thought but I'll go with the 2023 RockShox suspension on my Range, it definitely helps offset my lack of skill.

What's your least favorite part to work on?


I'm aware this is a cliche answer but truthfully the product we run on the team is all genuinely sweet to work on, no complaints from me.

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What's the most troublesome or stressful fix you've ever dealt with?


Last year at Mont Sainte Anne, Lucas' frame sustained some crash damage (the sort of which would have written off any frame) during his final practice run. I discovered it under an hour before we were due to leave for his race run. After some initial mild panic on my part, Lucas and I rolled out of the pits with his race bike sporting a brand new front triangle 40 minutes later. All credit to Lucas, he sent it to his career best in the Elite category at the time. Legend!

What's the best part of the job?


It's tough to pick just one part... the combination of traveling the world working on bikes covered in all the best equipment, often with like-minded individuals tied together by the shared experiences bike racing brings. Tuning bikes up is cool but the biggest variable will always be the human on it, so when I feel like I am in tune with the rider too and we start taking things on more holistically... that is hard to beat.

What is one tip or trick that you could pass on to home mechanics?


Set your pressures every ride. Boring but simple and effective!




Nick Lester
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Photos: Ross Bell

What team/rider(s) do you currently wrench for?


Currently, I work as the lead mechanic/team manager for the Muc-Off Young Guns, a UK development team taking young riders through the UK national series and to the World Cups as Juniors. Previously I was at Commencal 100% as a mechanic for Mille Johnset and Greg Williamson.

How long have you been a personal mechanic?


2022 was my first full season as a personal mechanic for a team, before that I did help as a mechanic and race engineer for Luke Williamson at Les Gets in 2021.

What does your schedule look like for the year? And over the course of a race weekend?


For 2023 I will be at all the World Cups with our 2 Junior riders, Lucas Craik and Luca Thurlow, and also as many UK National races supporting our other 3 riders, Max Lewis, Heather Wilson and Louis Pearn.

A race weekend would be nonstop from the moment arriving at the venue until we pack down to go to the next one. We arrive at the venue on Tuesday (assuming race day is a Saturday) and find our pit space, possibly start getting the pits built if the organizers allow. Wednesday is bike prep, full strip down, servicing, replacing parts, changing tires, getting suspension ready for servicing, and then I join the riders for track walk, which is super important to try and do because it gives context to the feedback you get from the riders after runs. Then back to the pits to get the suspension back on the bike, possibly tire change after discussions from talk walk, check the settings, install any data acquisition systems, and do a bolt check and spoke tensions.

Thursday's riding starts, so another quick bolt check (stops any second guessing of myself) and pressure check before the rider starts to practice. After practice, get the bike clean, stripped down again, and everything gets checked over, cleaned, lubed and rebuilt ready for qualifying. The same applies on Friday morning, bolt and pressure check before practice, then after practise, clean bike, re-grease and check over, bolt and pressure and then up the hill for warmups with the rider before they drop in for their qualifying run, then back to the pits to clean the bike, strip down again…check over, new chain and tires…rebuild etc ready for race day.

Race day morning is the same, bolt and pressure check before practice, then the clean and inspection before going up for race run. After each race run, clean the bike off, make any obvious repairs and fixes, and get the bike as fresh as possible before tearing the pits down, packing everything away and heading off to the next one to do it all over again.

What bike(s) do you ride?


At the moment I have a Commencal Supreme V4.4 which has been used as a development bike for testing some theories behind chassis dynamics and stability. Usually has a data acquisition system on it of some description as well as some other internal trickery in the suspension (EXT Arma Shock and Manitou Dorado fork). I’ll also have a Mondraker Summum MX RR for development and testing purposes for the Muc-Off Young Guns team. I have a road bike too with curly bars…but that’s all I know about it

How often do you get to ride?


I can usually get in 2-3 rides a week, but if I’m testing stuff (which I try to do as much as possible) then it can be 4-5 times a week. Mostly at my local bike park on one specific track, which can sound a bit monotonous, but I do enjoy testing things out so it’s a lot better than it sounds.

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Do you have a favorite tool or bike part?


Favorite tool is probably my Knipex cutters, there’s something incredibly satisfying about using a really good pair of cutters, especially with the number of cable ties I use too.

My favorite bike part is probably the wheels…not so much building them (although it’s pretty therapeutic) but the scope for tuning and the amount of variables that can be played with mean there’s often something pretty interesting to get geeky about.

What's your least favorite part to work on?


This would also have to be wheels - usually because when they do need to be repaired, there isn’t a lot of time to get them sorted. I’m decent with a nipple key not the quickest at building wheels, and having to rebuild in a race weekend is my least favorite repair.

What's the most troublesome or stressful fix you've ever dealt with?


I feel like wheels are getting a bashing from me now….but a cracked rim about 30 minutes before having to leave the pits to go up to the top of the hill before race runs meant swapping out the wheel for the spare wheel (which is normally in a wheel bag to go up with), but then also having to change the tire over on the spare wheel too, as well then having to give the bike a very quick clean, bolt and pressure check then jumping on the chair lift certainly made me make the most of the ride to the top of the hill.

What's the best part of the job?


Working with some of the best riders in the world, on some pretty special bikes with a good team of people really does make it one of the best jobs in the world. You get to travel, see some amazing places, meet great people and be part of the best sport in the world….I can’t imagine anything better than that.

What is one tip or trick that you could pass on to home mechanics?


Make sure you have the best tools and the right tools for the job! You’ll end up making any job a lot harder, more time consuming, frustrating, and probably more expensive than it needs to be by using cheap tools or the wrong tools. It’s a false economy….and try to take your time too.




Adam Trotter

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What team/rider(s) do you currently wrench for?


I work with Canyon CLLCTV Enduro Team as Jesse Melamed's mechanic as well as the Canadian XC and CX National Team.

How long have you been a personal mechanic?


On the scene since 2008 with various riders and teams. Spent the last 5 years primarily with Andréane Lanthier Nadeau (ALN) on Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro Team.

What does your schedule look like for the year? And over the course of a race weekend?


January: Sram/RockShox Testing Camp with Jesse in Arizona
February: CX World Champs with National Team, Canyon Team Camp in Nice, France
March: EWS Tazmania
April: Pan American XC Champs, Brazil
May/June: EWS Europe
July: Crankworx/Enduro Nationals
August: Glasgow Super Worlds XC and DH
September: EWS and Paris Olympic Test Event
October: Pan Am Games XC, Chile

For EWS, we typically arrive a week before the race. It's a chill first few days building bikes and riding, shuttling, groceries and getting settled. Pit set-up is usually Tuesday/Wednesday so we will move into the pits then. Wednesday/Thursday we drop suspension to get serviced, during that time I strip the bike down to the frame and give it the full service: bleed brakes, check bearings, and new parts as needed. We run a race wheel and practice wheel system so I'll often use this time to build a fresh set of race-only wheels that I'll install for a lap or two later in the week to break them in, then install again once it's time for final tire choices and marking decals. Once the race is done we pack up and either head to the next race or head home.

For XC this year I won't be at any World Cups, just Worlds, Pan Am Champs, Pan Am Games and the Olympic Test Event in Paris. Catherine Pendrel is on our National Team so she's obviously super experienced. We run a pretty minimal setup for XC trips, like no tent or anything. Rental vans and everything I need I pack with me and typically work out of the hotel with the other mechanic(s). We hang out for training and I'll be in the pit for Short Track and the XC. Lots of carrying and washing.

We run a National Team project for Cyclocross Worlds every year and I like it because you're involved in the race a lot with all the bike changes and bike washing. Plus if you can handle a freezing cold muddy weekend in some Belgian farmer's field, a little rain at a July EWS isn't that big a deal.

What bike(s) do you ride?


Currently on a Canyon Spectral. I make it a point to ride what Jesse rides. It's a lot of new components for both of us this season coming from Fox/Shimano to Sram/RockShox so it's key for me to have those same bikes and components at home to play with.

How often do you get to ride?


This year I hope to ride more when at the races. I do most of my riding in the wet rainy off-season here on the Shore.

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Do you have a favorite tool or bike part?


Does an AirTag count? Like most mechanics in the pits, my toolbox is full of fancy tools; Beta hex keys, Knipex pliers, Abbey stuff, etc. My favorite though, and the one that's been in my toolbox since 2009, is a little bearing remover/press that I assembled myself. It's made of a vintage Shimano Saint rotor tool, a cassette tool, some random shock hardware, and washers and bearing caps from a 2008 Cove Shocker. You can't bring all your fancy bearing tools from home so this little guy comes through regularly.

Also, a recent addition to my toolbox (shoutout to Matt Opperman) is a nice horse hair paintbrush. A race bike not only has to perform but it also has to be clean and ready for a bike check photoshoot at any time. I often joke that my job is just to carry things and wash things, but the brush is my final step in a pre-race check as it gets the last bit of dirt out from tricky places.

Favorite part is anything SRAM AXS. It makes bike builds and frame swaps so much easier!

What's your least favorite part to work on?


Chasing down that annoying creak, wherever it is!

What's the most troublesome or stressful fix you've ever dealt with?


I've been in the XC pits for lots of wheel changes, cutting fenders off because the mud is too thick, taping people's feet to the pedals after a shoe buckle breaks, and even in Enduro we get some pit time so I've changed full brakes, banged dents back into place with the time crunch of a liaison looming. What's important as a mechanic is not to freak out and be calm even if on the inside you're freaking out. If you're calm, the rider is calm.

What's the best part of the job?


I just love bike racing. I enjoy the process of prepping a bike to compete, getting that race plate on it and handing it over to the athlete knowing that the bike is 100% ready. Traveling to races and some of the days are for sure a grind but what also makes it worthwhile are the people I travel with and the friends I have on the circuit on other teams. All the other mechanics especially are always willing to help each other no matter what team you're on.

What is one tip or trick that you could pass on to home mechanics?


I have some PTSD from blowing tubeless tires off in the early days so sometimes to get that final bit of bead to seat I'll stick the wheel with the unseated tire part in a door jamb, between the edge of the door and frame and just close the door a bit on it. Then I just lean the wheel to the side and pop that bead into place.




Jon Stout

Photo Nathan Hughes

What team/rider(s) do you currently wrench for?


I work with Joe Breeden from Intense Factory Racing (IFR).

How long have you been a personal mechanic?


I worked with Mick Hannah for eight years and am now on my second year with Joe. So, I’m on my 10th year!

What does your schedule look like for the year? And over the course of a race weekend?


My schedule for the season is starting to look pretty busy. I’ll go to all the Downhill World Cups which start in June. I’m just getting settled back at home after testing in Portugal through the end of February. Next, there's testing at Fort William and a national downhill race (World Cup test event) in Lourdes mid-April, as well as other UK national races and the odd test session with Joe.

As for a race weekend that normally involves a day of travel, a day of pit set up and bike work, track walk day which also normally includes bike work and some bike set up, practice day, qualifying day, race day with pack up afterwards and then travel home the following day.

What bike(s) do you ride?


I ride an intense Tazer E-bike. These things are awesome! Especially for getting up the Scottish boggy climbs in winter. I also have an Intense Primer trail bike, although I’m currently waiting for the new Tracer 279 and can’t wait to get on it. I’m also keen to get an Intense DH bike soon.

How often do you get to ride?


I normally ride a couple of times a week. I try to get at least one ride a week when away at a race for work. That can vary depending on what trails are close by if any, what bike is available and where the accommodation's proximity to trails. If there are good trails within riding distance from the pits you’ll usually see me up there at some point. I’ll also go to as many SDA races (Scottish Downhill) as I can depending on my schedule. Last year I managed to race all of them which was cool.

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Do you have a favorite tool or bike part?


My favourite tool has to be my Knipex pliers. They are so versatile for a mechanic trying to travel light. It saves taking any spanners and can be used to grip many things similar to how you would with a vice but without chewing them up. Like shock hardware for example. I’ve even used them to press in frame bearings.

I’m also a big fan of these Intense tire levers that I’ve had for about fifteen years now. The less angled ends are super useful for levering tires on without damaging the rim tape and I’ve never really come across any other levers like it.

As for my favourite bike part, that’s an unusual one. I do like building wheels. We don't get to do that very often anymore since E13 DH wheels have become near indestructible. It’s like the novelty of building wheels wore off but then came back!

What's your least favorite part to work on?


My least favourite part would have to be anything internally routed on an ebike. If you know you know.

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What's the most troublesome or stressful fix you've ever dealt with?


It's hard to call that one as I don’t really get that stressed at races. When we have the full pit set up everything is so organized and there is plenty space for everyone to work. From there you can only really do what you can with whatever situation arises.

One situation that does come to mind was when I was working with Polygon and we had a prototype link on the old Polygon DH bikes which included a metal insert glued into the carbon frame. It was the middle of practice day in Lousa 2020 and I remember thinking it had been a while since Mick had been down. Eventually I could see him at the other end of the pit walking his bike back. As he walked into the pit I noticed the metal insert had pulled out of the frame and destroyed many parts in the process. That was likely the fastest frame swap I’ll ever have to do!

What's the best part of the job?


It’s all pretty good to be fair. Even on my 10th year I love getting to travel multiple times a year, working with top level athletes, and helping awesome brands develop their products to be the best. Not to mention all the good times with the team!

What is one tip or trick that you could pass on to home mechanics?


Wear black jeans. They don’t get dirty!




Author Info:
mattbeer avatar

Member since Mar 16, 2001
380 articles

135 Comments
  • 335 2
 This is the content I'm here for!!
  • 47 0
 Yep, a good read that. That story about frame-swapping between Laurie and Greg W is nuts!
  • 14 0
 Yeah, this is good stuff, humble guys who work for a living, great to hear that they all try t ride as much as possible. I could see doing that work, but some of the pressure would be hard to hear.
  • 25 0
 @thingswelike: Think of the great stories some mechanics could tell if they didn't have to worry about bad mouthing bike or component sponsors or a racer. For example, I read that bulldog had a fox 40 damper in his Marzocchi fork. An interview where they kept them anonymous might produce some great stories!
  • 11 0
 @kcy4130: there’s SOOOOO many little things the pros do that people don’t realize
I once was hanging and riding with Minnaar at Northstar and learned back when he was on rockshock, all those guys were running coil conversions in their Boxxer WCs because the air sucked at the time. But they had to market the top of the line stuff so it was basically a team model disguised as a WC model.
Small stuff but cool stuff to know!
  • 4 5
 Sorry, wanted to upvote your comment and hit the wrong button. Frown 100% with you!
  • 2 0
 @stormracing: Years ago (2004 I think) when the WC Boxxers came out I really wanted white lowers on my bike so rang TF Tuned to order them. Tim would not sell me airs, but he did a custom set of coils with white WC lower off the air forks. My bike looked Pro as anything, sadly my riding never matched but I loved it!
  • 7 0
 suddenly shopping cart has 3 more knipexs.. cut me a break
  • 2 0
 @thingswelike: stress level spiked just reading the words...haha
  • 1 0
 @kcy4130: now, a bomber fork has probably still the same thing since the merger.
  • 87 3
 They should have got @mikelevy to do the interviews, they could have called the article "Mike and the Mechanics"...
  • 48 0
 dirty mike and the boys
  • 3 0
 Mad Mike and the Macho Men
  • 10 0
 @taskmgr: How you fellas doin'? We about to have us a little screw party in this Mini over here if you wanna join us.
  • 6 0
 I wonder how many got the reference (I wouldn't either if it wasn't for my Mam!)
  • 10 1
 why this comment didn't get more upvotes is beyond me....this is a great topical joke and I will forever be upset that this article wasn't called that.. shame on you Pinkbike. Be better!
  • 1 0
 @dover1: We might be ahem a little mature than some of the other PB commentators!
  • 2 0
 @dover1: There is a Time & A Place for a comment like that. OP needs to be looking Over My Shoulder.
  • 1 0
 @korev: We might have a few more living years under our belts, but these kids will still have heard by word of mouth.
  • 47 0
 Good ol’ Knipex
  • 4 0
 I got them in three sizes, these are awesome!
  • 2 0
 Simply the Best
  • 4 0
 I hope you don't forget to pronounce the "K"

LOL
  • 5 0
 Knipex pliers, Wera screwdrivers and PB Swiss hex keys (can also be Beta, Facom or Wera) are always safe bets with these articles.
  • 3 0
 @vhdh666: you're saying they aren't knee-pecks?!!
  • 2 0
 @Mac1987: precies, zo is 't
  • 36 2
 Must remember to pack a door frame in my travel toolkit
  • 3 0
 You re gonna need a bigger toolbox
  • 1 0
 That was miraculous
  • 5 0
 I would like to see a video about the door trick. i'm not sure if I got it right but definetely have to try. And I bet that our white doors are going to have black tire marks.
  • 29 1
 Enjoyed this article, Thanks Matt. As a pro team wrench from 93'-2004' I recall what nightmare the mid 90's were for a mechanic as we were on the front lines of really terrible prototype braking systems, drivetrain systems, suspension frame designs, shocks, etc.....now a days everything is pretty sorted. We did not have knipex back then either haha.
But as I read this, many things remain unchanged (fave tools being t-handles, etc).

Article on pro team mechanic wages could be interesting, I'd love to know the "then vs now" salaries.
  • 5 0
 Stikman! Ha the stories you have of the '90's mtb things would freak out most mechanics I'm sure.

I was not much of a racer going to the early NORBAs and found myself always wondering the pits watching the mechanics like you, Monk (Rip), Buck and Daubert. Coming from bike shops to the race circuit in 2000 working with Buck and Specialized to going to Gary Fisher/Trek, various national/Olympics/Worlds teams and now in the Enduro world recently with Rocky Mountain and now Yeti, I would not trade any of it for another job.

I am always amazed by the wealth of knowledge I have learned from past and current mechanics to do my job. Buck, Monk, Trotter and especially Ray Waxham are some my best mentors. Beers(Buck/Trotter), Mountain Dew (Monk) and lemonade (Ray) cheers to you!

Nice article Matt/PB !
  • 2 0
 @mattomoto: I did not know you were still doing some work on Enduro scene, awesome! And yes as you said a lot of rubbish prototype bikes, parts, tires, special cleats on shoes, heat moldable grips, you name it-90's era did a lot of the flushing out all the crap so that 2005 and later could at least ride pretty safe stuff hahahaha. The goal in the mid 90's as a mechanic wasn't to get your athlete pumped up to win, the goal was to get them down the mountain without the bike falling apart. I still can't believe I did not get a sponsorship from JB weld, as much as we used! hahaha.
  • 21 3
 "The VPP is getting long in the tooth but it works well on this bike, especially with the Ochain"


someone finally admitting SC's suspension platform has gnarly pedal kick. lol.

I rode the first megatower two days before it's official release, and ended the ride after one run, becuase the pedal kick was borderline dangerous.
  • 3 2
 Without even noticing the kickback explicitly, I hated the Megatower and the Bronson. IMO most of Santa Cruz's longer travel bikes need some way of having lower anti-squat values. Haven't tried a V10 but I hear it has much less chain growth. But, on the 5010s and Hightowers, the VPP feels great. I'm guessing the lower travel meaning less kickback keeps them manageable. I tried a friends Megatower recently, and instead of O-Chain he just threw on a very cheap low-engagement rear hub. Did the trick, the bike rode like the bruiser I wanted without beating up my feet.
  • 3 0
 I rock an Ochain on my tallboy. Gamechanger and it feels incredible!
  • 2 1
 @stormracing: with your 530 POE hub ? just busting your balls.. but I really think we run in circles.... high engagement hubs, pedal efficiency, then ochain !.. high pivot. this is the way.
  • 18 0
 This is a strange Ad for Knipex pliers lol
  • 2 0
 long read hey?
  • 1 0
 The whole world cup and any article covering mechanics seems to be a giant Knipex add. I've joined the advertisement team myself when wrenching on my bikes.
  • 12 0
 Adam Trotter's tip about using a door jamb to force the last part of a tire bead on a rim is genius... current wheels don't have that problem but will remember it in the future.
  • 4 0
 yep. I locked that one into the memory immediately after reading it. lol

using knipex as a bearing press is one I have been doing for awhile! it's so fast and easy it almost makes you feel guilty about charging $100 for a full frame bearing replacement.....almost.
  • 2 0
 Quinney actually described that trick once while he was still working at GMBN.
  • 2 0
 @barp: but then you gotta watch GMBN.
  • 1 0
 @RonSauce: They have their moments.
  • 11 0
 My favorite tool is my old school blue Park Y wrench... a 4/5/6 covers a lot of ground on a bike or in a shop, it's a short tool so it's easy to spin a bolt down and hard to over torque if you're careless, but it's ergonomic enough you can get something that isn't too torque sensitive good and tight. I've had the same one since I started working in a shop in 2003. Still has my little paint mark on it so I could go find it on the sales floor when one of the sales guys would steal it to adjust a seat height for a customer.
  • 3 0
 I like the Abbey 4-way tool. Not quite as ergonomic as a Y but the added T25 makes it much more useful if you're going to grab a single tool for a couple of adjustments.
  • 3 0
 Both my least favorite style of wrenches because they are cumbersome and unable to get into the tight spots, then you are looking for another wrench. No excuse for those to be on a professional work bench. I agree they are bad for torque sensitivity.
  • 13 0
 i misread that as "stressful fixies" and was hoping for terrible fixed gear builds. i feel let down af but thats on me.
  • 8 0
 Everyone knows about the Knipex pliars at this point, but my new favorite tool is the Wera Joker adjustable spanner. they come in various sizes and each covers 3-5 millimeters of adjustability. for example I have 7-10mil, 10-14 and 15-21. they work in the same way Knipex pliars do(get tighter the harder you turn them) but are spring loaded to auto adjust. absolutely could never do with out them now!

www.kctool.com/wera-020110-joker-6004-self-setting-wrench-set-1-4-pieces/?gclid=Cj0KCQjww4-hBhCtARIsAC9gR3YDNfDns9658PyjD4aXXpT4uPHRDAaLrnargivP3u-A-FNxFDrW7WsaAkRrEALw_wcB
  • 6 0
 Oh great. Another tool that I didn't know existed that I now *need*. Thanks for that $165 size hole in my wallet (Eventually, not today.).

Lucky for me, I've actually got pretty good at guessing fastener sizes by looking. It's almost always one of the two or three combination wrenches/sockets that I grab, and often the first one I try. What trips me up is when it's something other than bikes or cars/motos and it ends up being an imperial size.
  • 1 2
 Snap on flank drive plus combination wrench’s for the win money well spent compared to anything adjustable IMO.
  • 2 0
 @drifter: the idea is that it saves space and money. Snap-On flank drive plus combination wrenches in every size imaginable (the size that fits an air can doesn't come as standard in any kit I know of) doesn't save either. Great kit, but for different things.
  • 7 1
 Awesome article and echos my world most weekends these days. Funnily enough this weekend is Rheola with a few big names like Charlie Hatton and Jordan Williams racing, but I'm there supporting and spannering a 14 years olds race bikes. We have 2 GT Fury Teams to maintain, check, get through practice and onto Sundays racing. Thing is, I'm just one of dozens and dozens of dad mechanics doing it weekend after weekend.
Keep an eye out for the blokes trying to fix bikes in the rain and say hello if you see us each weekend.

The lad races as weeksy08 on Instagram and is part of the Katy Curd Coaching development team with Privateer Bikes (bit of a plug for the team lol)
  • 7 0
 "We don't get to do that very often anymore since E13 DH wheels have become near indestructible"

Lol, give this guy an academy award!
  • 4 0
 What a dream. Pro MTB racing programs seem REALLY hard to break into - I can only deduce they promote internally from their factory or laterally transfer from other teams rather than hire externally. Even the bike industry as a whole seems like a tough one to enter for a newbie without industry experience or connections
  • 9 3
 I like to change the headset bearings, because the cables running trough the headset... Said no mechanic ever!
  • 5 0
 Matt, if this was your idea, thanks a million! I hope we will see more of this kind of an insight. The previous was also a great read
  • 4 1
 make it a series. best read in a while.
  • 5 0
 "Currently on a Canyon Spectral. I make it a point to ride what Jesse rides." This is interesting and makes total sense to me now, but I've never given it a thought before.
  • 1 0
 Is Jesse riding a Spectral or a Strive?
  • 1 0
 @the00: I would have thought Strive but the article has me thinking otherwise.
  • 2 0
 @the00: Spectral 160R/160F

youtu.be/uT9_HLBleZQ
  • 5 0
 and cheers to all the "simple" mechanics that keep us running
  • 7 2
 bike shop mechanics have to deal with pro problems with non pro cyclist!!
  • 3 2
 Kind of. A bike shop mechanic might have the bike for 2 days and it not be an issue. They usually have more time to wait for parts or figure it out if theres an issue. Pro mechanics might have 45 minutes before a race run to swap a broken frame with no room for error and no room for extra time. They cant call the customer and say that they ran into a problem and its gonna take an extra day cause the customer is about to compete in a world cup dh race
  • 13 0
 @Minimax: on the flip side, pro mechanics work on the same stuff day in and day out. They get to know the subtle nuances of their parts and refine their processes. Bike shop mechanics, especially at higher end, higher volume shops, end up with a much wider breadth of knowledge, with totally different types of bikes, spanning 30+ years, in various states of disrepair.
  • 3 0
 @atestisthis: Very true. No pro mechanic has to work on a random old rusty POS
  • 3 0
 @atestisthis: Also, they just replace parts. Nobody has time to waste on used parts that don't work the way they should. That's a huge difference.
  • 2 1
 Don't understand the attraction to T handle wrenches over a ball headed L wrench. Nobody mentioned the spinner wrenches and I'm not surprised. I thought I might like a spinner T25 for rotors and tried one for awhile but the wera impact screwdriver style T25 is still my favorite. But for some jobs the Vessel long torx wrenches with the shorty ball end are nice to have for angled work. Another tool I recommend is the Wise Allen extension handle for stuck 8mm crank bolts(SRAM). Would have liked to seen more pictures of tool cases but good content.
  • 4 0
 Allen extension handle? Have you heard of a pipe? And for rotor bolts, a screwdriver handle is rather torturous. Just use a drill to break free/remove/reinstall then finish by hand, torque wrench if needed.
  • 4 0
 Don't understand the attraction to T handle wrenches over a ball headed L wrench.

down-sides of L-headed ball-wrench:
1) you need to be very careful tightening bolts with the ball - switch to the shorter side
2) the L-end is basically a thick gripan is not usable for 5mm brake caliper bolts
  • 2 7
flag DoubleCrownAddict (Mar 29, 2023 at 12:59) (Below Threshold)
 @emptybe-er: I prefer to use the right tool for the job that is less likely to damage my expensive wrenches. I don't find the Wera screwdriver handle torturous at all, I love the feel of it in my hand. I doubt many professional mechanics use drills much unless they are assembling mass produced bikes.

@vhdh666
1. You don't need to be careful, cause of course you are gonna switch to the short side for torque. Works ideal.
2. The t handle wrenches won't work for SRAM brakes either, a shorty L wrench is required.
  • 1 0
 @DoubleCrownAddict: Oh pfft. A soft pipe or even galvanized pipe won’t damage a wrench, probably not even your expensive ones.
  • 3 0
 @DoubleCrownAddict: Yes I said soft pipe. Damnit
  • 2 1
 @emptybe-er: It's not just about preventing damage to the wench, also allows for better angles which is needed in some situations. Have you even seen the tool I'm talking about? Has great reviews and many mechanics consider it invaluable. Also excellent Japanese quality, I think Wise are better than PBswiss. Don't be so dismissive about something you aren't even familiar with.

www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B004OCQMUC/ref=cm_cr_arp_mb_bdcrb_top?ie=UTF8

Also, the amazing torx stubby Ball end L set I mentioned earlier that every mechanic should have is made by PowerBuilt, not Vessel. Only $20 right now on jbtool I think.
  • 1 0
 @DoubleCrownAddict: I shall continue to use a pipe. I mean maybe if I was busting seized stuff regularly but in the last 25 yrs of wrenching a pipe has worked great. If you want an angle and real leverage, use a swivel head socket wrench and a pipe. It’s pretty simple, and not something that happens regularly enough to get all worked up about imo.
  • 1 0
 @emptybe-er: p-handle is the way to go. The spinning collar on the t-handles is nice one time out of 100, but especially on the smaller wrenches it gets in my way more often than it helps. Even though I keep a set of ball ends handy, I always feel like a ball end allen is a bit of a hack.
  • 1 4
 @emptybe-er: Nope, you still don't understand the capability of the Wise extension handle if you think a swivel head socket can do the same thing. Keep hacking away, hacker. Stop getting worked up about things you clearly have no understanding of.
  • 2 0
 @DoubleCrownAddict: I’ll ignore the name calling because you’re kind of a punk. You originally mentioned the tool for breaking free crank fixing bolts.
I think it’s common knowledge that nobody needs anything other than a random 12-16” pipe and a wrench for that. Like ever. An old cheap worn out steel 1” seatpost.
But feel free to bust out your life-changing triple bell end multi angle leverage bar, I think it’s cool that you ignore the giggles.
  • 1 0
 @emptybe-er: I use an old handlebar. Works every time. That "extension handle" looks suspiciously like a pipe to me Razz I'm struggling to think of a scenario where they keyed hex interfaces would actually make difference (on a bike anyway). Some people like having that specific tool for every... little... task. Personally I think it's akin to those stuffy old restaurants with different sized forks for each course but whatever floats someone's boat I guess.
  • 1 0
 @bkm303: oh no a handlebar? no!
  • 1 1
 @emptybe-er: Damn you are slow and apparently incapable of doing any research on your own. The extension handle can work on angles a swivel head is completely incapable of, and your pipe would be worthless for.

Keep on hacking hacker, Wal Mart is always looking for assemblers who use power drills to work on bikes.
  • 1 0
 Any suggestion on which foam/which panel with pockets to use in a toolbox like that?
I’ve a Pelican style plastic case with all my stuff. I have ordered some kind of precut foam (with grid shape) but it’s too light to hold the heavy tools properly so at the minute I just drop everything like that inside.
I would like to find something I could cut with a cutter even if the finish is not professional , no heavy machining involved
Thanks !
  • 2 0
 Kaizen foam with the pelican 1519 lid organizer has worked well for me.
  • 1 0
 @mattbeer: did Ben Arnott give you any pro tips on how to prevent the Cura 4 brakes from rubbing? I recently got a pair and I love the feel, the power and the modulation. But boy do they sit close to the disks! I read you are reviewing the Cura 4, very curious to see what you have to share about them.
  • 2 0
 DMed you.
  • 4 0
 Knipex plier. World cup certified
  • 2 0
 It's like the "80% of dentists endorse this tooth paste" nonsense, except here it's actually true.
  • 1 1
 @Mac1987: It depends if they spend their own money or not
  • 2 0
 @korev: I've seen no mechanics sponsored by Knipex. Why would they buy otherwise with their own money?
  • 1 0
 @Mac1987: Knipex’ sales guys tend to be very good, and they usually make sure to have a representative anywhere there is the slightest chance of any mechanics being present, so I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there actually is some form of sponsoring going on.
  • 1 0
 @FuzzyL: Might be, but the pliers wrenches mentioned here have proven to be very popular regardless, just by word of mouth. It wouldn't surprise me if they became ubiquitous without any sales rep deals.
  • 3 0
 Ben "puts away the tool immediately after using" Arnott
What a legend with impeccable work ethic!
  • 1 0
 I have those same tire levers, same length of time as well, probably. They should have come with the Intense tires back in the day! Those things were a fight. Best levers ever though!
  • 1 0
 Does anybody know if the Lock on grip hardware can be purchased so that slide on grips can be converted to lock on?

or Renthal make the kevlar full waffle grip with full moto flange as a lock on.
  • 2 0
 Lock ons have a plastic sleeve inside that interfaces with the aluminum lock ring, but slide ons are just rubber and that's what make them better: more padding for a given diameter. You can lock them in place by spraying paint (clear coat ideally) inside just before installing.
  • 2 0
 @AndrewHornor: Yeah mate, I've been using brake cleaner and tie wire. My grip of choice is the Renthal Kevlar full flange moto grip and have to buy two sets to get the two smaller diameter clutch side gips for the mtb. Having a few mtb I don't want to buy double the sets of grip for each, and If I could make a lock on set I could swap grips on bikes quickly.
  • 2 0
 @AntN: oh yeah that'd be nice! Good luck with your quest - there's gotta be something out there. Maybe inner flanged grips from ODI or Sensus, and add on a pair of Loam Lab counterpunch?
  • 2 0
 @AntN: Carefully cut the sleeve out of a worn pair of lock ons and create your dream grips, totally do-able I reckon.
  • 1 0
 @watchtower: that's the plan now, unfortunately the only lock on that I've worn out are Oury and the bit the wore our was the lock on/sleave join with developed clunky play....
  • 3 0
 Setting a tire bead that wont go by pinching it in the door is really smart
  • 2 0
 Lol, great article but I can't help but laugh. "We interview five professional mechanics". First question: What team do you wrench for? Answer: Oh I don't do that anymore.
  • 4 0
 I liked this article!
  • 2 0
 Can we get these organized by question? Very difficult to compare answers to one specific question in this format.
  • 2 0
 Well, I am now convinced that I need to buy Knipex pliers (I hardly ever work on my bike)
  • 2 0
 "There's no substitute for learning the correct method to do something than practicing"

Amen
  • 3 0
 There's no substitute for proofreading, PB editors.
  • 3 0
 Hell yeah black jeans
  • 3 0
 Top article ! Love this
  • 2 0
 i was hoping to see John Hall in here, love seeing his setup!
  • 1 0
 anyone know what tool box Lewis Kirkwood is using? maybe he mentioned and i skimmed over that part.....
  • 2 0
 It is a B W International box. I have just "moved" into one after 23 years using various different cases from Chicago Case, Husky and some tool rolls on the circuit. Well made boxes and tool pallets.
  • 1 0
 Thoroughly enjoyed this one, love hearing about this side of racing, thanks Matt!
  • 1 0
 I must know what that monogrammed crimp stamp is! I've been searching for something like that for ages with no success.
  • 2 0
 I've heard those come from jeweler tool makers. Here's another type: henryaevers.com/jewelers
  • 2 0
 I believe what you want are ring marking pliers: microstampcorp.com/portfolio-item/ring-marking-pliers
  • 1 0
 I know Ben has been helping Neko with his frameworks project. Maybe that is the small production batch he hinted at?
  • 3 0
 Loved this article
  • 2 0
 More special tool articles please!
  • 1 0
 Yeah AT!!!! See you have 1 day off in June so I've penciled you in for the Triple... ;-)
  • 2 1
 More excellent content, thank you
  • 1 0
 Anyone know what that tiny scissors (?) in the top left of Stout's kit is?
  • 2 0
 thats a spoke key. made by Unior I think
  • 2 0
 so good!
  • 2 0
 Very nice article.
  • 1 1
 man this was a good read!!! thank guys, from riders to mechanics, to PB coverage. awesome stuff!
  • 1 0
 This is a great article!!! Keep 'em coming!
  • 1 0
 Black jeans. By far the most underrated tip in this article.
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