Mechanic Maintenance

An injured or sick mechanic isn’t much help to a racing team or a busy shop. Mechanics spend countless hours performing preventative maintenance on bicycles and often forget about themselves. They should consider themselves an integral part of the equipment that keeps the wheels turning. This article will
address some of the problems mechanics experience and ways to prevent them from happening.

Shop and team mechanics spend long hours on their feet. Those long hours on concrete floors or uneven surfaces help contribute to sore backs and legs. To prevent pain invest in a pair of shoes that provide plenty of support. Avoid sport sandals and open-toe shoes since they don’t supply adequate support or protection. Replace or re-sole your shoes on a regular basis. They wear unevenly and the walking and standing platform will not be flat.

The surface you stand on can contribute to back problems. Shop mechanics should use a shock absorbent mat such as dry deck. Shop mats perform two functions, comfort and safety. Carpet type shop mats will absorb any spills of degreaser and lubricants. Team mechanics should look for a level area to work, avoiding slopes and rutted pavement or dirt.

All mechanics are guilty of bending over and kneeling to perform service on a bike. To promote good posture, the mechanic must work on the bike at the proper height. Look for a work stand that allows the bike to be rotated to a natural position of the tool and body.

Park Tools work stands allow for 360 degrees of rotation and some have adjustable height. The center of gravity will change once you start repositioning the bike. Choose a stand with a wide base to provide

Every mechanic’s day includes lifting. Remember to lift with your legs. If an item is too heavy or bulky, ask for help.

Team mechanics carry heavy items such as tool boxes and suitcases. If an item has wheels, roll it. If it can be put on wheels, spend the time to find a cart. Having a stash of team items to give bell-men and maids will make for an easier time finding wheels.

Sitting in a car is a large part of a Team mechanic’s day. Whether you are sitting in the back seat with wheels or driving a transfer, remove bulky items from your back pocket. This will allow you to sit flat instead of with one hip higher than the other.

Wrist and arm problems are common in many lines of work. The bicycle mechanic isn’t spared the pain associated with turning wrenches all day. Choosing the right tool for the job and using it correctly will help you work longer with less pain. Torque wrenches allow you to tighten a fastener to the proper tightness and avoid over twisting your wrist. Investing in anatomically correct tools will save you from discomfort down the road.

Athletes warm-up before working out, so should mechanics. Spend a few minutes each morning stretching your forearms. You can do this by rotating your wrist through its full range of motion.

Massaging your forearms and between your thumb and forefinger at day’s end will promote healing and comfort. If swelling in the wrist area develops, ice the area for 20 minutes after working. If the pain or swelling continues for longer than a week, consult with your doctor.

While working remove wrist watches and rings. This will prevent you from scratching the bikes and from snagging them on moving or sharp parts.

Mechanic’s hands are exposed to many skin-drying solutions such as lubricants and water. Applying moisturizer at regular intervals will prevent dry and cracked skin. Keeping nails short will reduce the risk of pulling them back.

Some things to remember when working outside include: Use sun block and wear a hat when shade is not available. Don’t forget to hydrate and eat. One good meal a day will do wonders for your morale and energy level. Many races require that you wear credentials. If wear them around your neck, place them
under your shirt. Better yet wear them on a belt loop; this will reduce the risk of it being caught in a rotating wheel.

All mechanics should wear eye protection when operating power tools or using striking instruments. Every bike shop should have Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on file for all chemicals used in the shop for employees to review. Prolonged exposure to many glues, degreasers and lubricants can be dangerous to all employees, not just mechanics.

Many people turn wrenches because they love bicycles and the sport. By following the suggestions listed above mechanics will find they can work longer with less pain. Caring for yourself is as important as lubing your chain after riding in the rain or inspecting expensive sew-ups for glass. Make preventative maintenance of a mechanic part of your daily routine so you can enjoy riding after work a little more.

This article was written by Dave Arnauckas for the November issue of Cycling USA. He was then a USA Cycling Team Mechanic.


Owner of Promechanics.com and long time professional race mechanic.