Today marks the first instalment of 2018’s Mechanic Monday Series, a weekly profile of an outstanding mechanic in the bicycle business, as chosen by those in the trade.
Produced in collaboration with the Professional Bicycle Mechanic’s Association, PeopleForBikes and Abbey Bike Tools, the Mechanic Monday series will eventually culminate in one lucky participant receiving an all expenses paid trip to the 2019 North American Handmade Bicycle Show, plus an exclusive prize package from Abbey Bike Tools and a year’s subscription the print edition of CyclingIndustry.News.
Wherever you are in the world, you can nominate a mechanic worthy of a profile. Simply head here.
We kick off with Bre Rue, a mechanic at West End Bikes and former shop owner from Portland. Having set up her own shop at just 22 years old, as well as worked as the Lead Mechanic for the Ironman Championships in Hawaii, Bre’s story will serve as inspiration to anyone moving through the ranks in the cycle trade.
PBMA: How did you become involved in cycling mechanics?
BR: I got into being a full time mechanic back in the summer of 1988. I had started racing my bike after coming from a running background and started hanging out at the local bike shops so I could pick up any tips and tricks I could. Fortunately, an older Italian guy named Tony got tired of me hanging around and put me to work. After the summer was over and I went back to school I was able to keep my job on the weekends. He took me under his very ornery wing and made sure that if I was going to take the time to learn how to work on bikes I was going to learn it the correct way.
I’ve always had a very inquisitive and mechanical predisposed mind. In my case it runs in the family as all of my brothers and sister on my dad’s side are hands on kind of people. I absolutely love bikes. I always have, even before I knew how to ride I was mesmerised by my older sisters bike and used to just play with it. She taught me how to ride my own bike at about four years old in the gravel driveway of our little farm on the outskirts of Corvallis, OR and I’ve been flying on two wheels ever since.
While gender may mean something to someone else I’ve always had the mindset that the job at hand is what’s most important and as long as it’s done correctly it doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman. Sure, I have had my fair share of men asking me if they could talk to the male mechanic, or the attempt at explaining something I should or should not be doing, usually incorrectly. But I found out long ago that sometimes it’s better to keep your ego in check and do your best to foster each and every relationship with your customers. They are the reason you have a job and you should treat them as you would like to be treated if you were in their shoes. The hard part I have found is getting the right mix of my feminine side and the stereotypical mechanic. When I’m not at work I’m pretty feminine. I like to dress up a bit, wear heels, makeup and when someone sees me not at the shop they are a bit shocked. When I’m at work though, I’ve found that it’s hard to be taken seriously if I look too dressed up. Plus, I feel that your mind shouldn’t be on trying to keep your nice clothes from getting dirty. You should be able to dive in at any second, in any situation and not have your attention diverted from the task at hand.
My motivation for doing what I do day in and out are the people and a job well done. I absolutely love being the one people refer too when their mechanic can’t fix something. It’s a feeling like no other when you can enable someone to be able to do something that brings them absolute joy.
PBMA: What advice would you give to women who are considering a career in the cycling industry?
BR: My advice to other women is to leave your fears behind. Study hard and work extra hard on things that give you problems. Suck up all the information you can get your greedy little hands on. Completely immerse yourself in your own little bike world and don’t let any of the negativity or naysayers dissuade you from doing what brings you joy. The only way to beat those kinds of people is to know your stuff. Be better, know more. Take yourself and your job seriously. Know that each and every one of you is making a difference to change the “good old boys club” that the bike industry has been.
PBMA: What is your favorite tool?
BR: Right now it has to be the EVT EZ Lift repair stand. I simply cannot imagine working on a bike without one anymore! Second to that would be my Silca Torque ratchet set. I use it 10 hours a day every day and it really brings me joy to use it.
That’s all for this week! Thank you for following along with our series and sharing our support for our fellow mechanics. We’ll be back next week with a new feature. In the meantime, click here to learn more about our 2018 Mechanic Monday series, and here to learn more about how to nominate your favorite mechanic!