Bill Woodul; the patron saint of American bicycle mechanics; was a teacher, mentor, entertainer, and gypsy. There seemed no limits to his impish humor and good will. He left a treasure of memories and lessons and would be pleased his annual Race Mechanics Clinic, begun in 1987, was running strong 27 years later.
What a treat for me to participate in nearly all of these clinics, held annually at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Over 800 mechanics have been introduced to bicycle race support and many now participate as teachers, lead their own support programs, and play important roles in the bike industry.
This year’s was a blast, blessed by sunny Colorado weather. 60 mechanics earned their licenses and joined the cadre that keeps bicycle racing safe, fun, and fair. Attendees were from 24 states and four countries. Especially rewarding to see three women students and one woman instructor, the charming and effective Marty Caivano. While women are chronically under represented among mechanics, previous graduates of the program have risen to the highest levels of the sport, worked directly with World Champions, and even started mechanics schools.
The UCI is finally launching initiatives to promote women’s competition. There is a newly formed Women’s Commission (with two American appointees) and the first-ever woman UCI VP, Australia’s Tracey Gaudry. She advocates a focus on increased participation, including mechanics. Other good news is Cape Epic’s recent announcement of equal prize money for men and women in the World’s richest MTB event (Mar 20-23, 2014).
My Clinic classes were introductions to carbon fiber and wheel fundamentals. This year nearly every student raised a hand when asked if he/she built wheels regularly. That’s strong evidence today’s mechanics, more and more, consider wheelbuilding a necessary core skill. It was also cool to see three attendees from the Seattle area.
I wasn’t surprised to hear many use Morizumi cutters and our tensiometers in their workshops. Perhaps most rewarding, besides meeting all these promising mechanics, is seeing the instructors. The faculty is only a few of the guru’s in this field but they pack centuries of wisdom and 100K’s of miles of experience. Nuthin’ they haven’t seen or done. Great stories, conversations, and reflections. Bill, himself, wrenched at races in 42 countries.
Check a few images of the five day session (11/13-11/17/13). First are classes, none more important than tubular gluing. For road racing, cemented tubular tires are still standard and race mechanics must be masters even though they rarely encounter them in bike shops.
Congratulations and thanks to graduates, teachers, organizers, and our hosts, the US Olympic Training Center. If you ever get the chance, this is an experience not to miss. Bill had a darned good idea and we’ve run with it.
This just in, a very informative piece by a 2013 graduate, Garrett Hein, in Bicycle Retailer. Thanks to Garrett and BR&IN!