The Mechanic You Want in Your Corner

The Mechanic You Want in Your Corner

12/20/2016

Andrea Smith, a former masters national cyclocross champion and the only female mechanic on the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour, shares how she keeps Team Colavita rolling—and the secret to gluing tubulars

By Caitlin Giddings

► I WAS ON THE TRACK TEAM at the University of Montana in Missoula, and I started riding trails for cross-training. Imme- diately I was like, “Wow, this is way more fun than running.”

► When I was 20, my bike was stolen. I didn’t have the money to replace it. I ran into a friend on campus who said, “There’s this fight coming up, and there’s prize money—you should train with me and enter it.” I entered the boxing match and won. The prize was $500, which helped me buy a Gary Fisher Joshua full-suspension mountain bike.

► I thought, I have this nice bike—I need to learn how to take care of it.I wandered into a bike shop and asked if they had any sort of clinic. The mechanic said, “If you bring in a latte Saturday morning I’ll spend a couple of hours with you.” We went over basic bike maintenance, like how to break a chain and put it back together again. I felt so empowered.

► After college I worked in the bike shop at an REI in Massachusetts. In 2010, after six years at REI, I got a job at Ride Studio Café, which had just opened in Lexington, Massa- chusetts. I built up a lot of Seven bikes and custom orders. At the time it was an unusual concept to have a bike shop in a café. People would come in and be kind of confused about what was going on.

► When I was hired by Team Colavita in 2015, I didn’t want there to be any doubt, like “Is she a good mechanic?” or “Oh, I’ve never had a woman work on my bike.” Not that they made me feel that way. I put a lot of pressure on myself.

► On any given day, the role of a team mechanic can be any- thing. It’s building the bikes, gluing all the tubulars, trans- porting the equipment to races, doing airport pickups. And making sure the team car has plenty of race-day snacks!

► When a mishap occurs or riders need last-minute changes to their bikes, things can become stressful. How I handle myself can make or break how the rider responds to the situation. I’ve always worked on remaining calm, and I think that’s helped me fix problems more efficiently.

► Minutes before the start of the 2016 Redlands stage race, I was sitting in the caravan, watching the live coverage. I noticed that one of our riders kept looking down at her bike and teammates were starting to wave over neu- tral support. I jumped out of the car, pulled the spare bike off the roof and rode it several blocks to the start line. It turned out the battery for the electronic shift- ing was dead. Luckily, we were able to make a bike change.

► Favorite fixes? I’ve worked on a lot of beach cruiser sin- glespeed hubs. You pull out the internals and get to look at what’s going on in there. It’s cool to see, “Yeah, the ball bearing is worn out, and I need to replace this piece, and it’s all going to go back together and work how it should.”

► I remember my first time working on a road bike. I’d never been on a road bike! I was like, “Is this how it’s supposed to shift?” Now, after 12 years work- ing on bikes, it’s nice to know, “Okay, this is my profession. I’m confident in my ability.”

Bicycling.com • January/February 2017