Doug Berner is the head-mechanic for Silber Pro Cycling. He’s the man that makes sure every little piece of equipment works. While the riders are home putting in hours of training, he’s putting in time to make sure all that hard work transfers flawlessly through the bikes come race day. In fact, though it’s still a month away, he’s already prepping for the Tour of Alberta. Below, in Doug’s own words, is some of what goes on behind the scene.
Most people think all the work a mechanic does is going on during the race, but really the majority is done in the weeks and days before a race even starts. So as the riders rest up before Tour of Alberta, the staff has a lot to do. As the Silber Pro Cycling Team Mechanic I have a personal motto, “be organized and do a little work all the time, rather than a lot of work all at one time.” I also have a rule: “Do not touch the mechanic’s tools.” With that said, while the riders train, here is what happens behind the scene to make the race day possible.
For me, organization is everything. My physical space is organized. I know where every spare part, spare bike and tool is. I know what every bike needs and what I need to work on. Everything is labeled and in it’s appropriate container. I can find anything from cables to brake pads to derailleurs–all can be found without too much digging around in the dark. I always put things back when I’m done. This will saves hours of wondering where I last put something. But really, the most important rule about being organized is…. Do Not Touch The Mechanics Tools.
My tools are how I make a living. They are organized in a tool case that stays in the trailer and a smaller bag I take in the car during a race. Each tool has a spot so I can always find it even when brain dead from lack of sleep. This is why it is common knowledge amongst seasoned riders and other staff not to touch a mechanic’s tools. They possess a certain mojo and sentimental value and if even one is borrowed without asking … That can turn me into a grump. If you watch a mechanic work out of his trailer, you’ll notice all the bikes are labeled with a rider’s name decal or spare bike decal. The bikes look all the same so the decal instantly tells me what bike I need to address for a rider’s needs or requests.
For example, a rider may mention his shifting was off or he wants two wraps of handlebar tape. Making note of this I can get to that job later. You also notice the bikes are organized on some sort of parking lot storage rack. This keeps the bikes from leaning on things and falling over but also keeps track of my work progress. I usually work left to right off the rack so even if I’m interrupted I don’t have to remember where I left off.
Throughout the season being organized is also important with inventory management, logistics, and sponsor relations. We try to anticipate equipment needs at the beginning of each season but there is always some item I may have to order again. More than 2 months out from Tour of Alberta, it’s important to anticipate what you need. For example at Silber we will need more handlebar tape, a few more tubular tires, and some more cassettes to replace some worn out ones. Why two months out? Connecting with our suppliers can take time so prior planning ensures they are able to ship product well in advance, and ensures we can be riding on our sponsor’s product.
Once I’m organized, it’s easier to get on with the work of maintaining a fleet of pro bikes. Its kind of like cleaning up a messy desk before doing your paper work. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s much better to do a little work all the time rather then have to rush through a mountain of bike prep the night before a race. Rushing usually leads to mistakes; which leads to bad consequences during the race.
Leading up to any race, one of the most important things to do is to make sure all the race wheels are race ready with great tires and great glue jobs. After each race some tires are flat from a previous race, or are close to wearing out. Getting our Vision race wheels and Zipp tubulars race ready requires stripping off old tires and then gluing them up again with fresh rubber.
Gluing tubulars is not a black magic art but you’ll tend to find every mechanic has their own specific process and sticks to it because it works (for them). For me, I consider each wheel a precise multi-step, 3-day process because of the layering and drying steps. It’s something I do not cheat on. Sometimes it’s hard to convince non-mechanics that this is really how much time I need leading up to a race for tire management alone.
The Tour of Alberta requires a bit more thought since there is a dirt stage. This will require a different kind of tire to handle the constant threats punctures. Therefore, for Alberta, I will be equipping enough of our race wheels with a “beefier” tire. Some of this extra wheel prep started during the last races in Vancouver, but most of it will be tackled in the 3-5 days prior to the race start.
In addition to tires, some other bike prep being done prior to the Tour of Alberta are things like new chains for all the bikes, new handlebar tape, and new cables and housing. Replacing the chains several times during the season is normal for reliable shifting and managing wear on the drive train. I don’t really track the mileage that much for chain replacement. Some riders seem to wear chains more than others so I have a process of asking riders for feedback and then every few races the bikes get new chains. New shift cables and housing is easier to tackle ahead of the race; rather than during the daily work ongoing at stage races. The attention to cables and housing really makes for nice shifting. It also makes my job easier down the road.
On top of a daily bike wash during the race, each bike will start with fresh handlebar tape. The bikes are our sponsors billboards. They are always on display. So whether they’re on top of the team car, leaning against the porta-potty, or being ridden in the break, I make sure the frames are polished with a shiny drive train, and fresh looking handlebar tape, each and every day.
Hopefully this gives you a brief idea of the stuff I will be thinking of prior to Tour of Alberta. If anyone wants to come by and ask a question or two, you should. The Argon18 bikes we ride are really nice. Even better, it’s a bike you can buy at your local bike shop, so come check them out.