Keeping you rolling! A day in the life of a Sports Tours International Mechanic
Sports Tours International has a team of expert mechanics on hand to help our clients out when they need it most. From a simple puncture repair, to a major breakdown; their job is get you back on the road as quickly as possible. We caught up with Roy Pearson, a skilled mechanic and veteran of dozens of Sports Tours International trips, to find out more about the work he does and some of the more unusual jobs he’s encountered!
BUT FIRST, A BIT MORE ABOUT ROY…
Roy built his experience servicing hundreds of bikes at Ribble Cycles and Dolan Bikes, building countless wheels at Hewitt Cycles, and survived Pro Cycling, without much sleep, at the Tour of Britain, when he worked for the United Healthcare Pro Cycling Team. As well as working as a mechanic, Roy is also one of our expert guides and has himself raced at an elite level. Not so long ago, he was in the same race as the Yates Brothers. So, when Simon Yates rode away from the entire GC, to the surprise of the world’s media, at the 2018 Giro, it was no surprise to Roy, who had seen Yates’ potential for himself during that race.
So, over to you Roy …
WHAT ARE THE PRE-RIDE CHECKS YOU CARRY OUT ON CUSTOMER BIKES?
On a general check, we make sure the wheels secure and true, and check that the skewers are tight.
After this, we will check that the handlebars and saddle are tight, and the brakes work and are aligned, before we carry out a quick run through of the gears, making any adjustments as required.
WHAT TOOLS DO YOU HAVE ON TOURS, AND CAN YOU CARRY OUT MOST JOBS?
Unfortunately, we can’t carry every tool that you would expect to find in a bike shop, and as such, we always recommend that our customers have their bikes fully serviced prior to their trip. This should hopefully catch any potential major issues.
In the van we carry allen keys, a torque wrench, pedal spanner, quick links, and chain extractor, along with grease, chain lube, degreaser and a selection of ring spanners – all the basic tools.
We can perform emergency wheel truing, but if a spoke snaps it can prove very difficult to find a replacement, as there are so many different wheels available. Bringing spare spokes with you on the trip is well worth considering.
One of the most common problems is bent or snapped rear mech hangers, generally because customers don’t remove them when packing for the flight. Damage can occur even in hard-shelled bike boxes, so I’d always recommend removing the hanger (wrap it in bubble wrap then tape it to the inside of the chain stay). Travelling with another hanger is good idea too. Also common, on multi-day trips, is creaking bikes after 2 or 3 days. This is caused by moisture in the bike’s headset bearing or bottom bracket bearings, usually due to them being dried out while in the hold of the plane, as the altitude evaporates the moisture. A quick strip and re-grease generally sorts this.
Bikes are becoming more and more complicated these days with wireless electronic, hydraulic disc brakes etc, and require specific tools. Therefore we always make sure that we know where the nearest bike shop is, just in case we can’t solve an issue ourselves.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST JOB YOU MANAGED TO PERFORM TO ENSURE A CUSTOMER COULD CONTINUE TO RIDE?
On the Haute Route Alps a few years ago, one of our customers crashed, and another rider landed on top of his bike, which fractured the rear carbon seat stay! Other damage included; a bent rear wheel and bent rear mech hanger. We were staying in Serre Chavalier, so I took the bike and customer to a bike shop in Briancon. The customer bought the parts and I repaired the bike outside the shop, just in case we needed anything else. It was a late dinner that night. I used duct tape to hold a brace on the carbon seat stay. My hack worked and our customer finished the Haute Route.
HAS THERE EVER BEEN SOMETHING YOU COULDN’T FIX?
Snapped rear hangers are the biggest problem. However, to date, we have always managed to source another bike. We either hire one from somewhere or, as a last resort ,we’ll lend our customers our own bikes. Myself, Darrel and Dave have all lent out our bikes and wheels in the past.
IS THERE A ROADSIDE HACK THAT YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I’ve saved a slash in a tire with an empty gel wrapper, and, on another occasion with a €5 note!
HOW FAST CAN YOU CHANGE A PUNCTURE AND WHAT’S YOUR SECRET TO A SPEEDY CHANGE?
There are some tyre and rim combinations that are a nightmare. Folding tyres are more supple and I can sometimes remove them without tyre levers. However, I never really rush an inner tube change as I only want to do it once. Rushing it can mean that you don’t find the offending piece of glass in the tyre, or you nick the new inner tube, which both mean you’re looking at a second change.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING FOR A PRO-TEAM? DID YOU GET ANY SLEEP?
Not much! Generally it was a case of waking up before the riders and going to bed after them too! They were certainly long days as once the bikes were sorted, we had to restock and wash the team cars. United Health was only a small team then, and the Tour of Britain was their first time racing in the UK. Rory Sutherland (now riding for Israel Startup Nation), Boy Van Poppel (now riding for Circus–Wanty Gobert) and Chris Jones (who retired at the end of the 2017 season) were all riders for them back then. I still speak with them now, when I bump into them on our Sports Tours International trips.
Here at Sports Tours International we have 45 years of experience in taking people around the world to participate in, and spectate at, the world’s best sporting events. We use all of this experience to go above and beyond to ensure you have a cycling trip you won’t forget. Remember – Our Experience Will Make Yours.
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In normal times, the Monday after the Tour of Flanders weekend we’d still be on a high from a brilliant weekend of riding and watching. But that’s not the case. The wait will make the fantastic local beer taste even better when we return to Flanders sportstoursinternational.co.u…… pic.twitter.com/P6O9CfRszX