If you work on bikes for a living, do you call yourself a mechanic or a tech (technician)? This is a question I've pondered for quite a while. I think I first heard the term "tech" used by the warranty guy at a bike company where I was working. I recall stopping and thinking the term was strange. "Well, has your bike tech check this or that? Can your tech try this?" Bike tech, eh? Hmmm. I'm not sure I like that term. Maybe it's appropriate in this modern era where a laptop might be used to diagnose shifting problems or reprogram a slow derailleur. The term "technician" sounds fancy like you might have gone to school and earned a degree to tech on bikes.
I'm a bike mechanic. Been so for 25 years. So, Mister Smarty Pants, what then is the difference between a bike mechanic and a bike tech? The way I see it, not a lot. However, the minor difference is enough that I want to be a mechanic. I see a tech as going by the book. Performing tasks by rote. Replacing rather than repairing. That last bit is at the core of what makes a mechanic a mechanic. Repairing. Seeing a problem and fixing it. Taking the time to repair a $20 part rather than installing a new part that, for all intents and purposes, would take much less time to replace than repair and, in effect, put more money in the coffers.
Then there's also that "challenge" thing. You know, you're presented with what looks like a basket case of a bike that the owner wants repaired. There might be sentimental attachment to the bike or the owner really just wants the bike fixed instead of spending what might be an equal amount on a new-to-them bike because then what to do with the basket case? Toss it? I see this scenario quite a bit. I know that a lot of shops won't spend the time necessary to revive an old, neglected bike. They'll steer the owner over to the new bike section. I don't follow this approach - most of the time. There was one time a bike was brought to me that needed virtually every part replaced. In that case, I declined the work and sent the owner to the Re-Cyclery.
I've been thinking about this for quite a while, but it was the repair yesterday of an old Nishiki road bike with 105 down tube shifters that made me think more about what it means to be a mechanic instead of a tech. This bike had a chain that was rusted solid and a freewheel that wouldn't freewheel and tires that were as crusty as week old toast. The hubs were a bit rough, but overall, the bike was in good shape - and the owner loved her bike. I gave her an estimate and got the go ahead.
First order of business was removing the rusted chain which took breaking it apart in two separate locations. I did not try to salvage the chain, but the freewheel was on my radar. The freewheel in question was an old Shimano 600EX 6-speed model. These are pretty good freewheels. I've use quite a lot of them on bikes over the years. There is an outer threaded dust cover over the outer race. Both of these are removed with a pin spanner and are left-hand threaded. Removing these two pieces exposed the bearings. Lots of tiny bearings. My goal was freeing the frozen freewheel quickly by flushing it with some WD-40 and if this didn't work, then it was new freewheel time. A couple of shots of WD-40 and the freewheel was freewheeling. I continued to flush it while adjusting the hubs (they felt great after a quick bearing adjustment). After the freewheel was flushed and spinning smoothly, I dripped some Phil Tenacious Oil over the bearings along with a little light grease for the bearings and buttoned it back up. I let it sit overnight so any excess oil would drip out. Next morning it was like new again.
So, what did we learn? A frozen freewheel can be easily repaired and by repairing it and I didn't have to throw it away (actually, freewheels can be recycled at Resource Revival). Mechanic or tech? What do you think?
(What's playing: KWMR Swimming Upstream)