Other than being mechanically inclined, how's does one get a job as a bike mechanic?
Is it a job where you start off at the bottom as a basic maintenance guy, or can you go to bike repair classes and apply for a job?
I took the oath of poverty (pay is low) after working on cars for a few years in 1995. I had owned my own mountain bike for several years and could do at least basic maintenance. I had an aquatence that I played hockey with that owned a bike shop. So I started talking to him about a job and he hired me. At first, I did sales and basic repairs such as flat tires. He showed me how to assemble bikes and after about a month or two I was doing new bike assembly. Over time I started doing more repairs and about a year later I learned to build wheels. I decided to go to college but continued to work in shops through college and even a couple years after (jobs were scarce after 9/11).
If your willing to be a grunt and earn your place, its a fun job if your ok with being poor (financially at least). Its the only job I have been allowed to drink beer at!
There are so many ways that people get into bike shop jobs of any kind. A lot of it is knowing someone in a shop who knows you and the qualities you can bring to a shop. Other places where demand is high and employees come and go, just an application might get you in the door. To be a real diagnostic and repair mechanic, you've either learned from much personal experience or through a good training program. Our shop is rather weird, as the owner is in his 40's, with much personal technical experience...all self taught. The main full time employee is a retired military guy in his late 40's who's a wizard on bike maintenance, repair, and diagnosis...all self taught. I'm a late 50's retired guy from a whole other type of career who always had a part time job as a mechanic at a motorcycle shop or bike shop to pay for my bad habits...LOL!...all self taught. There is also a younger fireman who works part time, and he's developing his mechanical learning curve with time. There are two other young full time employees who do most of the sales, inventory, and all other aspects of the bike shop, and there's one other young part time guy who assists in that area. The 3 of us with the most mechanical knowledge are diehard, addicted riders. We like to ride. We like to work on and modify stuff. We like to try new stuff. There is enthusiasm and passion with riding and the gear. I think it takes that to be more than just a mechanic who would just as soon be working on a lawnmower or chainsaw as a bike. If you have that and get just a little bit of knowledge with a bike and its components, you can usually get your foot in the door of most bike shops. Like mtnbiker said, it's not a profession for making big money. It seems to attract high school/college people, retired people who still love the sport, or people who just love biking so much that they are willing to soldier on with a relative low salary. There are exceptions in some shops at some locations, but I'd bet the higher salaries are going to be for people who have a lot of experience and/or who are just brilliant, mechanical types in very big and busy shops.
Yeah, be ready for low low pay. It can be a great job though. I was 15 when i got my start, working in my small town local bike shop. I was there for four years and learned the basis of everything I now know. That experience got me my jobs at the three other shops I've worked at since. I've done both sales and service over the years, pay has always been similarly poor, but I love the bike industry and I'm just not sure I could be happy doing much else. I've grown up in this business and it's in my blood.
If you have no experience it can be hard to get a start, but be persistent. Most of the people we hired were either experienced or just good customers who were around so much that we finally just offered them a job. It helps if they know who you are and like you because being able to get along with coworkers in the shop is a huge thing.
Because bike shops do most of their business on the weekends, its pretty easy to start by working part time one or both weekend days. Most shops I worked for had part timers come in on the weekend that otherwise had full time jobs elsewhere.
I started out working part time as a mechanic. Being an auto mechanic full time, work load was very light and I needed something to suppliment my income. One of the other mechanics put up an add here on MTBR. I replied. Went in with application and had an interview on the spot.
They asked me one question.
Do you know how to build bikes? I replied, "I just finished building a full suspension bike up from a frame only". They asked me when I could start.
The store manager liked how I did so well, she offered me a full time position. I didn't accept right away because we never discussed money. But one day she gave me a figure, and the next day the dealership I worked for was closing its doors. No brainer on my part. I did take a pay cut, but I'm glad I did.
I've been a service manager for over 10 years and can tell you what you can do to get a job with someone like me. Luckily no one has come in and told you to go to Barnetts or UBI. Those are fine institutions for becoming a better mechanic, but work best for folks that have spent a couple years in shop already.
Go to the shops you like and get to know them and develop some personal relationships. Go on shop rides if at all possible. They're more likely to hire someone they like over someone that has some mechanical skills. Be willing to work seasonally at minimum wage, or just above. Be willing to work weird hours and build nothing but low-end bikes for your first season. If you've built the relationships and are willing to undergo the items I mentioned ask for a job. If everything seems like a fit you'll be on your way to a career.
You could also do the old standby of just dropping resumes off at all the shops in the area and hoping for the best. By the way just to give you an idea of the low salary, don't expect to break $10/hr for a few years and don't expect to ever make more than $14-$15, unless you're really, REALLY good and management material.
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