• Jason Middleton

Why Choose a "Home" Mechanic?

Twenty-six years ago, almost exactly, I scored my first job working on bikes. I had bought my first “real” bike just a year previously, a Univega Alpina and the first upgrade I splashed out on was a pair of Rockshox Mag21 forks, followed by a set of new-fangled v-brakes, they were both a revelation. The point being, I fitted those parts my

self and started the eternal cycle of upgrades and repairs. By the time I stepped into my first Industry role, using my military trained engineering background, I was on my second or even third frame and my collection was outgrowing the size of my shed.

Being able to work on bikes all day, was akin to being a kid in a sweet shop. I was put in charge of the Press/Demo fleet of 12 bikes and my job was to ensure they were riding sweetly whenever they were sent out. As you can imagine, when they came back they were usually in a state, covered in Lord knows what, wheels hardly ever straight, and all assorted manner of nastiness.

I soon showed my worth and had the “team” bikes added to my quota, followed by a move into a more permanent position. However, like all good things, it had to come to an end. The company lost the importer rights for that particular brand and my job became redundant.

My next role was as a spanner jockey in a very busy city centre bike store and, honestly, I hated it. The stark difference from ensuring bikes were immaculate and rode sweetly to “you have 30 minutes to get this bike done because there are twenty more waiting”, was stark. If bikes came in dirty, they went out dirty. The job was to get them working adequately, but time was money. I gained a qualification, but the role ground me down and I soon sought work elsewhere.

However, it seems that “once a bike mechanic, always a bike mechanic”, and even though my day job had nothing to do with bikes, every week there’d be jobs to do for friends, friends of friends and club riders. My little outhouse workshop constantly had rims hanging up, ready to be laced onto hubs and was usually full of other people’s bikes waiting to be repaired.

I found myself constantly reading new articles as innovative products hit the market, collecting strange and exotic new tools. I landed a role as a CNC factory manager and quickly hooked some contracts producing parts for a well-known suspension company and I was still fixing bikes after work.

Then in 2014 I decided that I would go back into the bike industry and Midtech was born as a mobile bike mechanic service, however, I also decided I was going back to university to study my other great love – literature. Reading for a degree though, is a full-time endeavour, so, by the final year of my B.A., I was turning down so much work that I mothballed the business. The year studying for my master’s degree was intense, reading 3 or 4 books a week as well as researching for a twenty-thousand-word dissertation left little time for riding let alone repairing.

In 2020 however, after all my studies were done (phew), a friend mentioned that a local bike shop needed an experienced mechanic, part time. A phone call, a meeting and suddenly I’m back in the Industry and Midtech Cycle Services rose like a phoenix from the ashes, just with much less drama.

I continue to sub-contract to a bike shop; I also now work from home and the point of this long(ish) and somewhat rambling post is to highlight why you shouldn’t be afraid to choose a home mechanic. I, like most home mechanics, do it for the love of the sport, I offer customer service which the bike shop can’t because I want you to come back. If something is not right, I will remedy it and will follow up with after service. Of course, any mechanic setting up from home should get at least public liability insurance, I carry the same as most bike shops (and more than some).

Most bike shops make the bulk of their money selling bikes and parts, the servicing is something they are expected to provide and, in general, it doesn’t make them a whole lot of money. Most home mechanics are selling their experience, expertise, knowledge and most importantly, passion. If they’re any good, you, the customer, will return, time after time.

In the U.S. the Home Bike Mechanic is a burgeoning industry, yet in the U.K., the same industry is not viewed in the same light even though, I personally know of at least three ex-shop mechanics who have set up from home simply because the shop environment is not for them.

So, the next time you need a repair or service doing, why not look for the home mechanic? A good place to find registered mechanics is on the government’s Fix Your Bike scheme’s pages as all mechanics listed on there must prove they have insurance and ability, though there will be good mechanics not registered there too.

While this post may seem to be self-aggrandisement and promotion (which it is), it is also to highlight the fact that, not all good cycle mechanics work in bike shops and, not all bike shops have good mechanics.

You can view my website here.

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