I’ve recently made the move to what most people would regard as a more grown up job. Sure, my hands stay cleaner; no perma-grit under the nails; no explanations to wife’s friends excusing grubby fingers. I’m probably not far enough away from it to really take stock of how retiring from being a full time bike mechanic will affect my mindset, but after only a week here are some things I miss.
My wedding band always clicked on frames when I was lifting bikes into the work stand, or steadying them to check a bearing. It’s one of those things that I had to get used to when I started wearing this ring. Now I’ll just fiddle with it all the time and probably lose it. That’s a strike against the new job.
There’s the immensely satisfying feeling of working with your hands and understanding the workings and problems of physical systems: no one ought go through life without encountering it. It’s a feeling I’ve had on a daily basis for a very long time, and though other forms of satisfaction in work will replace it, none are quite the same. I’ll probably start building a Rube Goldberg machine.
As surly as a great many bike mechanics are, the good ones really are in it for the riders. Sure, everyone starts out so they can fix their own bike, but when you hit a certain level of mechanic and start talking to them, you realize that seeing a rider and machine that work perfectly together is the most satisfying part of their job. Nothing is better than watching a bike you’ve dialed in hit that finish line, or hearing the word “perfect” after a test ride. Not that you see or hear it every time. It’s the random reward schedule that keeps us coming back I suppose.
Most of all I’ve loved working with other good mechanics. Bikes are mysterious creatures sometimes. You can sit back and stare at a problem for a long time, sometimes forever, without the answer coming to you. A lot of mechanics are touchy and secretive about the skills they’ve worked so hard to develop, but I’ve had the privilege to work with some other mechanics with serious chops and credential over the years. Being able to holler “consult” when something isn’t going my way is probably the best part of the job. It’s how we all get better at what we do. Or did. Sigh.
I give it three years max before I’m back in it…