An Equal Opportunity Offender


A Wrench's Manifesto

I’m a wrench.

Not literally, I wrench on bikes.

I’m blue collar, I don’t make a lot of money and there is little respect for what I do.

But I love what I do.

It’s days like today that are part of a reoccurring epiphany in my life. I have consistently taken less money so that I can have a job that I enjoy. It is my plan to be a starving journalist and wrench for the rest of my life. And that’s it. I do what I am and it makes me happy.

I came to work today knowing I would be the only one here. I got things going and grabbed a bike for service. And that’s when it hit me like a pedal wrench upside the head, that I love working on bikes. There is something magical about trueing a wheel, rebalancing the tension without thinking about it. To be able to complete a tune-up while taking phone calls, helping customers and eating lunch (yes, I consume a lot of grease), because I’ve done it so many times. It hit me.

I also love bikes. They are simple, efficient, perfect. In our fast changing world there are few things that exist that haven’t changed. The bicycle is one. Sure it has been refined, we use carbon now, but frankly it is the same safety bike that has been around for over a century. The concepts and principles are the same. It is a constant.
There exists this link between me and the bicycle whether it’s riding up mountain singletrack while the sun breaks through grey sky to backlit yellow leaves in 65 degrees or taking a bike and making it work with grease on my hands, I love every minute.

That’s life inspired.

That’s my revolution.


  1. ...and that's my reason to get up and go to work today.

    Thank you.

    1. It used to be that bike shops hired and trained skilled and semi-skilled craftsmen who built the bicycles mostly from scratch. But retail is no longer seen as a lifetime career by most owners and employees. People who own bicycle stores do not want to take the risk of training skilled mechanics and offering them lifetime employment and good wages. (This is not unique to my industry, as we all know.) The bike industry has complied with the desire to make bikes easier to build and sell by assembling them in mass quantities on an assembly line, usually in China. The work they do has vastly improved in the last decade, actually. Wheels, for example, are spoked tight by the automated wheel machines. They were really bad back in the 1980s.

      Because bikes are assembled in the factory, bike shops can just take them out of a box and in less than twenty minutes, sell them to you. But the mass assembling of bikes in factories is still done with poor practices; nuts, bolts, spokes, brakes and derailleurs are screwed on with no lubrication, control wires are installed similarly dry. They can corrode easily . They are stiff and soon wear out.

      I totally renovate these parts by hand. That is fairly simple and takes only a few minutes to take apart and reassemble. The most complicated renovation in my process is the overhaul of internal ball bearing assemblies. These parts are also factory-assembled with hardly any grease inside them. Hubs and other components that have ball bearings have to be dis-assembled and each of the parts must be visually inspected. I then re-build them. I can vastly improve them with cleaning and by replacing the ball bearings with much more precise ones.

      This is time consuming and it probably triples the cost of my assembly, but this process makes bikes run smoother and makes them totally resistant to wear. The rider will thus enjoy more riding time and the components will need almost no adjusting and repair. The owner will save enough over the life of the bike to pay for the bike.

      I thus can create what I consider to be a hand built craft piece out of each bike. I do make one of a kind custom bikes, but not many people can afford them. I would love to sell hundreds of custom bikes, but by re-buiIding every bike like it was a custom, I am able to, in effect, make hundreds of hand made bikes each year. It is a pleasure to work this way, actually. The skill required to do this work is lost if one does not do the work often, so I can keep my skills honed and be quicker than if I were only doing it once or twice a month. Employees at most other bike shops never get to make even one hand made bike. They mostly are underpaid and are often poorly motivated and most of them do not know what they are missing.

      The best thing about being a one person store is that I no longer have to work among a group of men with bad attitudes. Bike shops tend to be staffed by smokers and burnouts. I have not been around people like this for over 25 years.

      This is so much better for my passion for work. This business is then able to communicate a passion for quality to the customer. In businesses that are staffed by people who own and invest in the business, the customer will have a better experience. An owner operator such as myself can motivate customers to desire quality and hence spend more and see it as a much better investment.

      I believe that my shop is seen as a place that values fine arts and crafts and that I have a desire to connect to the historical traditions of folks who make fine craft products like, for example, jewelry, fine machines, clock works, pianos and furniture and other things that last for generations. I really believe that a hand made bike will similarly last for a hundred years or more.