I am a bike tech! I've been building bikes for close to ten years and been a tech for three Braking the Cycle tours. Bicycles and wrenching are my passion. For those unfamiliar with Braking the Cycle, it's a three-day, 275 mile tour to raise money for HIV/AIDS services. It's also a boot camp for mechanics, with literally three 24 hour days of intense wrenching and very little sleep. During BTC, three mechanics support well over 140 cyclists on bikes of widely varying styles and degrees of reliability. We get up earlier than the riders, and we go to bed later. We stand outdoor at pit stops in the pouring rain to true wheels with broken spokes. We figure out ways to repair parts, like downtube cable adjusters—that should never have failed in the first place—with zip ties until we can find a shop and get replacements. With less than fifteen miles to go, we stop on the course roadside and repair things like broken chains and derailleurs... All this so riders can reach their goal of pedaling every single mile of the route. Rarely is one repair finished before another is brought to us. Working as a tech on Braking the Cycle is what any mechanic would consider to be nothing less than a true "trial by fire."
When I read on Campagnolo's web site (Campy being another passion of mine) that they would be sending factory reps to the Park Tech Summit, I knew that I wanted to attend. A local shop owner, familiar with my wrenching, agreed to sponsor me. Thus it came to pass that, on January 12 & 13, 2009, I attended the first Park Tools Tech Summit for professional bicycle mechanics in Philly. The sold out event, with about 240 mechanics from up and down the Eastern Seaboard also boasted attendees from as far away as Alaska, Puerto Rico, Nova Scotia and the Czech Republic.
Going in, I had no idea of what to expect. Billed as a "hands-on" event, there was no indication of the level of involvement we would have in the sessions. I already knew that I was a pretty good mechanic, but I didn't know if I was good enough to hang in with what I considered to be the "Real Pros."
Registering by email, I had to choose six out of eight, three hour sessions offered. I decided to pass on the two involving suspension forks (Fox and RockShox), as I am predominantly a roadie. When I entered my first session, presented by Shimano, I saw about a dozen brand new carbon bikes in various sizes. Half of them were equipped with new Dura Ace 7900 mechanical group, and the other half with Di2, the new Dura Ace electronic group. Each table set up as a work station, featured an internally geared Nexus hub and a set of tools. Four or five Shimano reps, all with spotless Shimano shop shirts buzzed, circling our group as we discussed and disassembled the Nexus hub. Di2 might be the object of our roadie lust, but Nexus probably goes a lot further toward paying the shop bills. In retrospect, the spotless Shimano shirts probably reflected upon the fact that the Nexus hubs we used, were special grease-free training models, unlike the rest of the gear we worked on. The session wound down with a lecture on the new Dura Ace groups and a chance to fiddle with the bikes while in the workstands. I was a bit surprised that there was no mention of mountain bike components during the session.
The Campagnolo session which followed was far more hands-on. The mechanics in training were greeted by Park Tools portable workbenches, each equipped with an array of tools, a truing stand, a Eurus (or high-end Fulcrum) rear wheel, a drive-side Ultra-Torque crankarm and two Ergopower levers. We dismantled and reassembled both '09 and earlier versions of the Ergopower lever. The '09 lever does away with the infamous "G-spring" that necessitated occasional rebuilds. We then installed a new spoke, disassembled, and reassembled the hub on a Eurus wheel, removed and reinstalled the bearing on the UT crankarm. The new 11-speed chain is assembled with a longer than usual pin, which after full insertion, protrudes only to be broken off and peened by the several hundred dollar dedicated chain tool. The arrangement is mighty slick, but who can afford a couple of hundred bucks for a chain tool? In response to a question about chain lube, we were told that the grease used in chain manufacturing was superior to any after-market chain lube, and solvents should never be used to clean chains, as it can remove that grease. For what it's worth, the Campy rep (who had Elvis sideburns and would have looked at home in a rockabilly band) said he uses ProLink when he needs a chain lube.