Women's participation in cycling is booming, which is brilliant. More women are finding that a life on two wheels opens up new worlds to explore, friends to make and addictions to satisfy. Although, you wouldn't have such a passion for the sport unless you have the perfect mechanical companion to chaperone you to happiness, and that's where bike mechanics come into play.
Who of us are quick to pawn our bikes off on a friend or partner when there's trouble? Admittedly, I used to as well and you're not alone. Perhaps you're afraid to tinker in case you make things worse, or maybe it's because you haven't the faintest idea what's making that creaking sound. Whatever the reason, you're missing out a whole other world of cycling that will only further your bicycle bond.
Towards the end of last year, I embarked on a journey of mechanical enlightenment as I had become fed up of relying on other people to fix my bike woes, and not to mention the costs I had to pay for a shop to set things straight. That journey led me to Cytech Training which is known for being an "internationally recognised training and accreditation scheme for bicycle technicians". I took part in a two-day entry level course to learn the basics of bicycle care, which you can read about in detail here.
Knowing this was just the tip of the iceberg and with my cat-like curiosity, I headed back to the Cytech training centre earlier this year to earn a full mechanic's qualification by undertaking Cytech Level 2. With a new skill set under my belt, I've learnt a great deal about not only bikes, but myself, and here are some undeniable reasons why you too should get greasy and up close and personal with your bike...
Learning is fun
It goes without saying that bike mechanics need to be learnt and I don't know about you, but I love to learn new things. I found the same sense of pride and awesomeness learning how to build a bike as I did when conquering a cycling fear or obstacle that's been haunting me.
Don't be THAT person
We all suffer from mechanical issues whilst out riding with friends. It happens! However, you don't want to be that friend who has problems shifting gears or changing an inner tube and has to rely on others to help them out all the time. By knowing a thing or two about bike mechanics, it will not only benefit you if you fall victim to a mechanical failure but you can also help others too.
Get into bed with your bike
You'll never feel closer to your bike then when you're stripping it down to its bare components and understanding how it all pieces back together. You know how your bike rides on a good day so it's important to understand what makes it works so well so that it'll be easier to diagnose problems when they arise.
If you've put your bike together or have given it a good service, you're likely to pick up on problems and issues fairly early on. You'll notice the slightest change in feel, vibration and even notice the quietest of ticks which are when the bike is telling you it's not okay. By diagnosing these issues early and seeing to them, you can prevent further damage which could cost you a lot more in time and money.
You can help others
Who doesn't like to help others? Imparting knowledge is a real pleasure because not only are you helping someone out, but providing them with the skills to help themselves in the future.
Excuse for buying shiny things (that you know how to use)
I admit, I was very excited to get my own tool set and what made it more exciting was that I knew how to use each piece with confidence. Although you'll probably never need a full shop-grade workshop in your home, there are plenty of brands like Park Tool who offer great bundles and starter kits to see you on the right path.
Confidence is really what you're getting out from learning about bike mechanics, that, and a strong sense of pride because now, YOU CAN DO IT. With your new found sense of all things bicycle, you'll not only feel confident to fix a majority of your bike problems, but you'll truly gain a greater respect for this incredible machine that you love so much.
The proof is in the pudding with Stephanie Mark
Whilst I was on my two-week Cytech Level 2 course, I was stoked to see another girl was joining me. Stephanie Mark works at Nottingham BikeWorks which is an incredible non-profit community project that restores old and broken bikes so that they can be rolled back out into the local community.
Stephanie's day-to-day job involves working on bikes from all years, disciplines and level of "broken-ness". So, although she'd learnt a great deal on the job, Stephanie decided to gain her bicycle mechanics qualification to further improve her skills, knowledge, and help to lead workshops in the future.
A few months on, I caught up with Stephanie to see how she was getting on and how her Cytech qualification had helped her...
"Going back to work [after Cytech training] was great as I had a better understanding of how to spot faults in bikes and how to fix them. Since I qualified, I have noticed that when a senior mechanic checks my work, there are much fewer things that I've missed which in itself makes me feel a lot more confident - although, over the past few months there have been very few times when I've missed something! I've found that when talking to customers, it's always easier when you have the same, or greater knowledge, on the subject they are asking about."
Cytech level 2 is pretty full-on and comprehensive. A student will learn everything about a bicycle and how to strip and assemble one with the exception of e-bikes and full suspension servicing - they're additional modules available at level 3. I asked Stephanie what her favourite job is to do on a bicycle nowadays:
"My favourite job to do is wheel building and truing wheels. Although, I would like to learn more about higher end road bikes including the leaver systems, internal cable routeing, and general servicing."
If you're feeling inspired to get your hands a little mucky, then there are plenty of varying bike mechanics courses around the country. Many bike shops host maintenance evenings and workshops, as do local cycling clubs.
However, if you're looking for something a little more comprehensive like a Cytech qualification, then head over to ATG Training who run the courses in the UK. You can also read my in-depth journey to confidence here for further insight into learning bike mechanics.
What are you waiting for?