Know a mechanic worthy of the limelight with a story to tell? Wherever you are in the world, you can nominate a mechanic worthy of a future profile. Simply head here.
Xu is the owner and mechanic-in-chief at Tender Loving Cycles in Los Angeles. The PBMA team has interviewed her before, but never in a “mechanic of the week” context; so when her friends, family, and loyal customers sent a pile of nominations for Mechanic Monday, we just couldn’t resist chatting with Deb again about bikes, business ownership, and everything in-between. Here is some of what she had to say, in her own words:
PBMA: How did you become involved in cycling and/or cycling mechanics?
DX: At first it was just building and upgrading bikes for my friends and family at a bicycle co-op. Slowly, people started to offer me money for the bikes I built. Then one day, I headed into a local bike shop for a very rare part, and was offered a position. [After that,] I started working at the service center of this super Elite Specialized dealership. I was working there with five other guys. At first, I was only allowed to build cheap new bikes, and then do tune-ups for non-carbon bikes. That lasted for a really long time until one day I just grabbed an expensive bike and started working on it. There was some opposition, but I just firmly told them I was ready.
I feel like my career took a turn there because it was from then on that I finally gained the respect as a mechanic from my fellow mechanics and customers. I slowly gained a group of loyal customers and my love of mechanics and bike fitting grows daily even now.
PBMA: Do you have a favorite moment or story from your time in the cycling industry?
DX: I have one that is pretty awesome. It was when Shimano barely came out with 11 speed shifters. I was working with 15+ other male mechanics for an event. Some of them work for big cycling companies, some work for high-end shops, and some I don’t know how they got there. There was this owner of this really big chain of bike stores in California. At the event, he pulled out a pair of 11-speed Shimano road shifters for a rider with 10-speed components and told his subordinates to install it.
I said flat out that it wouldn’t work. Everyone laughed at me and some mechanic of 20+ years started working on it. A couple of hours later, the shifting still couldn’t be dialed in. I called Brian St. Amant, who was still working at Shimano then, and got the confirmation that it wouldn’t work. And obviously, they then believed it. I got a few job offers at the end of the day.
PBMA: What advice would you give to girls or women who aspire to be professional bicycle mechanics?
DX: Laugh at the fools that look down upon you or try to bully or harass you. Learn from those who are willing to teach and make them your mentors and friends. Be patient, be humble, be meticulous, and don’t give up.
PBMA: What is your favorite tool?
DX: I am [still a really big fan of] my Grease Monkey Gorilla Grip Gloves. The Park AWS-50 3-Way Hex 50th Anniversary set too. Then there’s me Abbey Crombie set, the dead blow hammer I bought a long time ago and forgot its brand, and any bearing tools from Wheels Manufacturing.