Using the Right Resources for the Job

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An argument can be made that our entire industry erupted out of a frenzy of innovation and ingenuity originating deep in the workrooms of bicycle shops across America as the 19th century ended and the 20th began. So, the significant parallels that exist between both worlds shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise. This became even more apparent the other night during dinner with our son, an “endurance athlete.”

Endurance sports are all about personal bests and shattering your preconceived notions about the limits of both your mind and body. And, while we can debate the sanity of signing up for even the shortest endurance event, we can all agree it takes more than just desire to succeed.

It takes discipline, drive, preparation and some really good equipment, and by really good I don’t necessarily mean expensive equipment. An expensive “tri-bike” never won an Iron Man by itself any more than the most powerful and sophisticated scan tool ever diagnosed a difficult drivability problem without a competent and qualified technician interpreting the data.

But, there is a lot to be said for the role care and maintenance, awareness and training, can play in getting the most out of whatever equipment you have. There is a lot to be said about the role “productive maintenance” can play in ensuring whatever tools and equipment you have available are working at peak efficiency, and that’s where both worlds intersect.

Our son just got a new bike: 16 pounds of high-tech sophistication and manufacturing wonder, equipped with hydraulic brakes and an electronic shift mechanism. Like most sophisticated technologies, proper use requires sensitivity, awareness and a high degree of skill. But, there are no machines—no matter how well engineered, no matter how precisely manufactured—that can outperform the level of quality or degree of care that constitutes the maintenance it has received.

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And, while a less sophisticated machine might require lower levels of skill and ability, it’s reasonable to assume a more sophisticated machine created almost exclusively for competition demands that both the rider and the mechanic charged with its care are both technically competent and extremely sensitive. Even the smallest deviation from spec can have a profound impact on performance.

The relationship between the rider and his or her mechanic is critical. The rider must be aware enough to clearly communicate any change in the bicycle’s performance, no matter how slight. The bicycle mechanic must take that information, interpret it and make the changes required to increase efficiency, minimize wear and maximize performance. The parallels to the auto industry are obvious. And, they became even more apparent as the conversation progressed.

Our son brought the bike in for its initial setup. It’s a fairly complex process and there is little room for tolerance when things go wrong and problems are not addressed quickly and completely. Sound at all familiar?

Our son experienced that level of disappointment with “his” first shop. The new bike was not fitted properly. Worse, components critical to the safe operation of the bicycle, components like brake pads, were installed incorrectly. Why?

In this particular instance, the answer was the age and experience level of the mechanics employed by the shop. Were they “C” techs, forced to work on machinery clearly beyond their knowledge, skill and/or ability? Possibly. Were they “B” techs, when the work clearly required the attention and care of an “A” tech? More than likely.

Whatever it was, it wasn’t enough. The bike failed and had to be “towed” back to the shop one time too many and as you might imagine, the search for a new service provider was on, despite the bond that existed between our son and the original shop.

As a service provider, I implored him to call the owner and share his concerns, even if he had no intention of ever returning.

Realistically, he would be providing the owner an invaluable service, regardless of how uncomfortable it might be received because no one can fix what they don’t know is broken.

It doesn’t take much to derail a service experience and lose a customer forever. All it takes is having the wrong tech address the wrong problem. All it takes is a lack of experience and/or inadequate training.

But, really, the easiest way to lose a client is bad management—a critical lack of awareness that allows the wrong people to attempt something they are unprepared to do and then to allow it to occur without supervision or oversight. 

A bicycle mechanic’s primary responsibility is to ensure the bicycle fits the rider for maximum efficiency. A business owner’s primary responsibility is to ensure that every asset is being utilized as completely as possible and that includes every technician in the shop. 

Mitch Schneider is a fourth-generation auto repair professional and the owner of Schneider’s Auto Repair in Simi Valley, Calif. He is an industry educator, author, seminar facilitator, and blogger at Contact him at

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