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It's never too early...

A Mountain Bikers' Retirement Plan

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date May 1, 2019

The Rick

I've been frequently finding myself at the nexus of two seemingly unrelated but entirely complementary conversations:

1) Local bike shops have always been seasonal businesses and now, with stiff competition from the internet, great service (on the shop floor & wrenching) has never been more important.

2) Riders I know are retiring or being retired, and thinking about what they're going to do when they aren't riding bikes, maintaining trails, and ranting for hours about how much better everything used to be.

Whether it's working weekends on the sales floor four months a year, or turning wrenches part-time, working in the right bike shop can be an awesome gig. And it's a great chance to pass on experience and work ethic to the younger generation in exchange for their best avocado toast recipes. Not to mention blowing their craft-beer-only minds by waxing poetic about the delicious taste of Kootenay True Ale.*

*Coors Banquet, Lucky Lager, Pabst, etc - insert the local best beer on a budget preference.

Bike Mechanic Tools NSMB AndrewM (2).JPG

Fair warning; a tool addiction can suck up a mechanic's paycheck in no time. There's a reason Abbey Tools are the colour of (American) money.

Bike Mechanic Tools NSMB AndrewM (3).JPG

Plan for an actual retirement, or buy one of everything Wera sells? It's a tough call. And just when you have one of everything you need... BAM! New industry standard.

It's not a new idea. For years I dealt with a local guy named Rick Hutchison who worked a few days a week on the floor of his friend's shop in the summer and went South for much of the winter. He made a few bucks, taught the groms at the shop a lot, and disappeared when the fair-weather customers did. Riding, trail building, and working a couple days a week in one of my favourite shops is certainly my retirement dream.

As outrageously complicated as the top-end bikes are getting, there's still no rocket surgery going on. Not to mention that even in the highest end markets the average customer isn't buying a full carbon AXS machine and even then. Like any trade, it's all about the right tools, training, and attitude.

Seek & Employee LLV AndrewM

When not working part-time in the shop, I'd love to follow the example of true MTB legends like Vic Gioia on Burke and Peter Morin on Fromme who are still digging trail well into their 70s. Volunteer trail building won't pay the bills but it's massively appreciated. And there are paid gigs - like leading trail days here on the North Shore - in a few locations.

There are very few jobs where everyone interacting is commonly stoked. Buying, selling, fixing; people love bikes. Even part time shops are a bit crazy in the summer but the well run ones can generally turn that into energy that everyone can feed off of and heck, part time staff can always pass that buck up the ladder.

Interested in a fun and rewarding part-time job? The only requirements are a great attitude and love for bicycles. You were a heavy duty mechanic in a past life? Even better. If there's a shop you love to deal with, don't be afraid to start the conversation.

Comments

Fasta_Pasta
+4 Jitensha Kun IslandLife Ben Andrew Major
Scott Jamieson  - May 1, 2019, 4:57 a.m.

I worked for 4 years as a mechanic in college. Now 15 years later, I still seem to find myself back on the tools every few years when I'm in between job contracts, especially at Christmas time when all the kids bikes need assembling. Bike shops are important for communities, okay we all shop online, but hanging out in a workshop is such a pleasure.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Andy Eunson
Andrew Major  - May 1, 2019, 7:40 a.m.

It’s still a job, but I love the culture and camaraderie in great shops. 

There are lots of pressures, including pricing from the internet and local speculation-based property taxes, but you it’s also amazing how many riders go out of their to support their local shop when their shop supports them. Whether it’s adopting trails, sponsoring events, or just going the extra mile to keep them riding.

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Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - May 1, 2019, 6:32 a.m.

Ha! Something like this is a vague part of my retirement plan. Not for the period right after I retire, but a bit later on when road tripping and shredding starts to slow down. I did a stint in outdoor retail a while back and the only two things I didn't like were 1) the shitty pay and 2) corporate BS/managers. After a while I threatened to quit and they realized I was one of the few solid employees they had so they were a lot nicer to me and asked me to stay.

I can see being into another stretch at a gig like this in retirement. Although some extra $$ and discounts would be nice I won't need it to be fine so nobody can really be a dick to me. The money is not an issue and neither is seasonal or PT work.

The one thing that would stop me from doing this right after I retire is that I don't want to give up a office hour weekday gig just to have my weekends/holidays eaten up by an outdoor retail job. That's when my friends will be free to ride/hangout and the cost to benefit ratio is not worth it. But, that's when an outdoor retail business needs extra help.

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AndrewMajor
+2 AlanB Cr4w
Andrew Major  - May 1, 2019, 7:43 a.m.

The trails around here are too busy on the weekend anyways - when I’m an even more crotchety old man I look forward to early morning and weekday afternoon rides!

Kidding aside, when I was going to school I worked with a lady in her ~ late 60s named Darleen who had come back into the work force because retirement was making her old. It’s about having new conversations with new people.

Flexibility goes both ways for sure. I could happily cover a Fri/Sat or Sun/Mon and have the rest of the week to my devices.

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Vikb
+1 Andrew Major
Vik Banerjee  - May 1, 2019, 8:08 a.m.

"The trails around here are too busy on the weekend anyways"

I'm so glad I can't say that ^^^ about our local trails. I'm an early bird so I'm happy to start riding at 6am when the trailhead parking lot is empty. The only reason I do "primetime" weekend rides at all is that's when the folks I want to see and hangout with are free and awake. ;-)

The socializing aspect is one of the reasons I can see myself getting back into outdoor retail later on, but the key to a successful retirement [in my mind] is to retire to something as opposed to retire away from a job or be forced to stop working by health issues.

Even without MTBing I have a metric shit ton of things I am keenly interested in doing and if I never worked another hour in my life I would still be forced to pick a few things to get done from a huge bucket list.

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niels@nsmb.com
+2 Andrew Major Cam McRae
Niels  - May 1, 2019, 8:44 a.m.

Weekday rides are awesome and I consider myself a lucky bastard that I often have the entire mountain to myself. But even on weekends it's fairly easy to avoid the crowds on the Shore. Just choose your time and trails smartly. Don't tell this to anyone else but Seymour is often blissfully quiet on Sunday afternoons around ~3pm.

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cooperquinn
+1 Andrew Major
Cooper Quinn  - May 1, 2019, 10:45 a.m.

Monday evenings, too. Everyone smashed themselves on the weekends and takes it as a rest day.

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xy9ine
+1 Andrew Major
Perry Schebel  - May 1, 2019, 11:53 a.m.

i'm still always pleasantly surprised that, even on days when the parking is slammed, i seldom run into people on the more tech trails.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 1, 2019, 2:23 p.m.

Honestly, the only place I really notice it is a notable increase of traffic on No Quarter, but I still prefer the quiet of weekdays.

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cyclotoine
+1 Andrew Major
cyclotoine  - May 1, 2019, 8:01 a.m.

Ha, I worked in shops for about 5 years and miss it still 8 years later. It’s a bit early to be thinking this way but I have already thought about how when I retire I want to work in a shop. My partner says I should work one day a week now but I already don’t have enough time to ride and maintain our bikes between work and having a 1 year old.

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velocipedestrian
+1 Andrew Major
Velocipedestrian  - May 1, 2019, 5:07 p.m.

Greetings from the future!

I'm in exactly that situation + four years and one child. No sign of retirement, but the home workshop has improved since your time.

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andy-eunson
+1 Andrew Major
Andy Eunson  - May 1, 2019, 8:47 a.m.

I worked in a few shops when I was a young underemployed geologist. The pay was low but the shop discount was high and I had more fun doing that job and playing after work with those same people. Most fun I ever had. Partly because I was young and the job had low stress. I retired nearly three years ago now. I’ve never been a person that needed to be busy. I have dogs to walk and ride with. I have skis that need to be skied on and waxed. I do a fair bit of freelance trail maintenance where I walk the dogs and remove small blowdown and the like. I think about looking for work in a shop just for the human contact and to keep up with the new trinkets. I would consider a part time shop job for the fun but I wouldn’t do it for something to do with my time.

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AndrewMajor
+2 Heinous Andy Eunson
Andrew Major  - May 1, 2019, 9:22 a.m.

The Venn Diagram is going to be different for everyone - some folks main motivation will be a need for some top up income; others will want the social aspects - either way, I think the key takeaway is that there’s real opportunity for a win-win.

I think you’d have a lot of fun working a couple days a week in a shop for a few months a year.

Reply

nouseforaname
+1 Andrew Major
Nouseforaname  - May 1, 2019, 9:07 a.m.

Ah Rick H. I hope he's happy wherever he is.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 1, 2019, 9:24 a.m.

Haven’t seen him in years - used to enjoy his visits back when SWerx was garage based.

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xy9ine
+1 Andrew Major
Perry Schebel  - May 1, 2019, 12:31 p.m.

also: is that your tool collection, Andrew? *wideeyesemoji*

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 1, 2019, 2:21 p.m.

I wish!!! I can’t justify all the nice tools.

That’s a mix of Jeff’s and Graeme’s tools at Wheelthing.

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Endur-Bro
+1 Andrew Major
Endur-Bro  - May 1, 2019, 4:02 p.m.

What is that ratcheting Wera toolset in the foreground? 

I likely must need to add to my collection of tools scattered across a workbench in front of a toolbox.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Endur-Bro
Andrew Major  - May 1, 2019, 6:56 p.m.

I think almost every wrench at the Mechanic's Symposium that Jeff organized bought one of those Wera ratcheting-driver sets! My tiny mechanic suggested I pick one up but I managed to resist. 

Bruce Supply was set up there with a bunch of cool stuff from Wera and Knipex.

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AndrewMajor
+2 Shoreboy Timer
Andrew Major  - May 1, 2019, 7 p.m.

Here's the kit: Tool-Check PLUS

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shoreboy
+2 Endur-Bro Andrew Major
Shoreboy  - May 2, 2019, 2:33 p.m.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 2, 2019, 3:11 p.m.

Wow!

Endur-Bro
0
Endur-Bro  - May 2, 2019, 8:48 p.m.

Fuck you Shore(boy)sy!

skooks
+1 Andrew Major
Skooks  - May 1, 2019, 3:10 p.m.

On the other end of the age spectrum, bike shops offer one of the very few opportunities for a young person to develop technical skills*. For the right kid, this can be a learning opportunity for skills that will last a lifetime. If they are lucky, there will be an old guy/gal in the shop who doesn't mind passing on their hard-earned knowledge. I spent years working in a bike shop as a teenager, and some of the best times with my kid were spent in the garage after dinner working on our bikes. He now works full-time as a shop mechanic and is much better than me. I would definitely enjoy working a few days a week in a shop once I retire (which won't be that far off).

*The BC gov has just made amendments to the Employment Standards Act introduced Monday would raise the legal minimum working age from 12 to 16 for most jobs.

Reply

Reuben.Sandwich
+1 Andrew Major
Reuben.Sandwich  - May 2, 2019, 4:51 a.m.

My first job was building bikes for five bucks a pop cash in hand at Christmas time in the mid 90's. A buddy I met then said to me many years later "there's always work in a bike shop". Both he and I have fallen back on that a few times over the years... He is a bike rep, I'm an industrial electrician but we both see it as as fun sojourn between jobs/careers/relationships/countries. When I moved to 604 only to discover my Australian qualifications were not so useful, the LBS was the obvious choice. The pay sucked but the people are the pay off. Sure, there will always be a-holes to deal with but 99% of people in a good LBS (staff and customers...) are just stoked to be there!

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bart
+1 Andrew Major
bart  - May 2, 2019, 8:57 a.m.

*Pilsner

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 2, 2019, 3:15 p.m.

Hahahahaha. Not surprised.

Can you get True Ale in Cowgary? Alex of Marzocchi and now SWerx fame turned me on to it - cheapish & pretty good as long as it’s F’in’ cold.

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bart
0
bart  - May 13, 2019, 2:01 p.m.

I've never looked - Because Liquor and beer is privatized there isn't much we can't get our hands on..... we keep all our beer fridges VERY cold!  Thanks for the tip!

Reply

legbacon
+4 Jitensha Kun Mammal Niels Andrew Major
legbacon  - May 2, 2019, 10:10 a.m.

I retired almost 6 years ago and 1 year ago was offered a PT job at the LBS.  I plan on 2 1/2 days a week over the summer and still get 1 day over the winter.  I have learned new skills, relearned some old ones and kept my bike account flush.  Best of all when I talk bikes endlessly no one rolls their eyes or changes the subject.  I have a good boss and coworkers and always look forward to work now.  I am very thankful that the manager took a chance on me!

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 2, 2019, 3:15 p.m.

That’s the dream!

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Johnny-Laroux
+1 Andrew Major
JR  - May 3, 2019, 8:15 a.m.

I'm living this dream right now. I'm 56, and working as head wrench at a local shop. I worked over 30 years in a high stress corporate job, traveling constantly,  until one Friday night coming home from yet another business trip I realized that if Things didn't change I was going to have a breakdown. I've always been a bike geek, so I went to UBI in Portland to get "certified" , and have been doing what I love doing everyday for the past 3 years. Sure the money isn't the best, but the trade-off in happiness and mental well being is more than worth it. 

And yes, a tool addiction can be expensive!

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - May 3, 2019, 3:13 p.m.

Freakin’ Awesome. 

And at least you can justify the tool obsession. I don’t wrench for a living and still have a ridiculous collection.

Reply

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