Wanted: Bicycle Mechanics

This week’s show looks at the chronic lack of bicycle mechanics with the Ninon Asuni of Bicycle Workshop. Ninon founded Bicycle Workshop nearly thirty years ago after deciding she’d had enough of working as a librarian. She’s now among Britain’s most highly regarded bicycle mechanics with a devoted following in London and the rest of the country. Sean Lally and Ian Perkins of Cycle Systems Academy talk about their mission to train a new generation of cycle mechanics and to reinvent the profession.

Plus more from Paul Fournel’s Need for the Bike. This week he talks about landscape and the bicyclist. If you buy the book online from Amazon using the link (left) Resonance gets some of the money. If you’d rather buy it from a shop, then choose the excellent Calder Bookshop in Waterloo. Music from The Vines, Half Man Half Biscuit and Harmonia.

Play on links below.

  • Bill G

    A very interesting show again, but one crib, no one mentioned earning power.
    How much can a trained bike mechanic expect to earn after say, three years?
    Is the bike industry like hair dressing where you need to own the business to do well financially?
    There is a lot more to life than money but it does pay the bills.
    If anyone in East London wants to learn how to maintain their own bike I can highly recommend the evening course run by Redbridge LCC:
    http://www.redbridgelcc.org.uk/
    It is run thru’ out the year and a snip at £40.

  • Jack

    Good point, Bill G. You’re right I should have asked directly about that.

    Maybe Sean or someone with knowledge in this area can weigh in with some ranges for bicycle mechanic pay scales?

  • http://www.cycle-systems-academy.co.uk Sean

    Pay for cycle mechanics goes from £40 per day at the bottom end through to the Sky team mechanic at £52K per anum.

    A head mechanic can expect to earn £20-£25K per anum. Yes, having your own business is the main way to go above this.

    I qualified with a City and Guilds VSQ level 2 in Cycle Maintenance and repair whenI went into the trade. This allowed me to go into jobs at bike shops at a higher rate than staff who had been in the trade for some time, but who were not qualified. My starting salary at a leading bike shop was £20K.

  • Jack

    Thanks, Sean! There’s also this 2008 trade survey on the subject:

    # The average wage for a mechanic remains less than £14,000.
    # However the number earning less than £10,000 has reduced.

  • http://www.thecyclingexperts.co.uk Mark – Association of Cycle Traders

    Great show.

    Wages for mechanics remain low. Ninon’s point about people not staying long is a key point and is very much related to low wages and the mindset that being a mechanic and working in a bike shop is really just a stop-gap before “getting a real job” or going to college / uni.

    Cytech is the cycle industry’s recognised training and accreditation scheme with over 500 shops accredited nationwide. Cytech courses are now also available to members of the public.

  • http://www.thecyclingexperts.co.uk Mark – Association of Cycle Traders

    Sorry, forgot to add that a new trade survey is being launched in the New Year and that will give us a more up to date insight into issues around bike mechanic shortages, including pay.

  • http://www.cycle-systems-academy.co.uk Sean

    yes, the survey results did seem pretty depressing! I can only assume the average is taking into account school age and 16-18 year old Saturady staff.

  • http://www.cycle-systems-academy.co.uk Sean

    can’t argue with cytech’s credentials, but if you see the raft of industry sponsors on our site, from Campagnolo to Hope to Specialized and many more, you’ll see the industry very much recognises our training also.

  • matt

    Slightly off topic but sort of related (pay and conditions), has anyone ever attempted to organise cycle couriers in a union?

  • Jack

    @matt: the LBMA was the most recent attempt to ‘organise’ bike messengers/couriers in London (since defunct, read more here). Buffalo Bill, a former LBMA chair, talked about it on the show a few years back.

    Listen again here: http://thebikeshow.net/23-may-show-giro-ditalia/
    (from about 8 minutes in)

    But it’s a difficult profession to organise into anything resembling. “Herding cats” as Bill put it in the interview.

  • http://www.yacf.co.uk vorsprung

    Here in the West Country there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of bike mechanics

    There is a good shop place in Exeter and a good place in Taunton

    Plus there are plenty of other one man bands who live on their reputation.

    Mind you I live far enough away from them that I do most of my bike fixing myself. The last time I used the shop in Taunton was to replace a rusted out headset

  • http://www.helcycles.blogspot.com/ Timo

    Very interesting show again. I work at the bike shop myself, and we have same problem here in Finland. Not enough skilled bike mechanics. And wages are low here also.

  • http://www.bikeyardeast.com therese

    celia and i also offer bicycle mechanics training, either bespoke one-to-one or in a one day workshop covering basic maintenance, perhaps a good way to start if interested and want to learn some basics (before an accredited course). our one day course is £60 and will be running each month in 2010. therese

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  • http://www.cyclefix.net Cycle Tech

    You can noe Find A Qualified Mobile Bicycle Mechanic In Your Area http://www.cyclefix.net
    See the list below of bicycle mechanics in your area and the brands they supply. Mobile bicycle repair services provide the necessary checks, repairs and maintenance to keep a bicycle in good working order.