Pros and Cons of Being a Bicycle Mechanic
As a bicycle mechanic or bicycle repairer, you'll have the opportunity to perform hands-on work assembling and fixing bicycles. Check out the below pros and cons to see if being a bicycle mechanic is a good fit for you.
|Pros of Being a Bicycle Mechanic|
|High school diploma can qualify you for most jobs*|
|Faster-than-average job growth (over 25% growth in employment from 2012-2022)**|
|Chance to work with your hands*|
|Opportunity to be creative and innovative with repairs*|
|Cons of Being a Bicycle Mechanic|
|Below-average salary (median annual salary of $26,370 in May 2014)**|
|Job can be stressful*|
|Constant need to interact with the public and meet the needs of others*|
|Without proper training, you may rely on trial and error for repair methods***|
Sources: *U.S. Department of Labor's O*Net Online, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ***Barnett Bicycle Institute.
Bicycle mechanics and repairers focus on making sure bicycles are working properly and come up with solutions when a bike breaks or needs new equipment. As a bike mechanic, you'll be in charge of installing new equipment, adjusting gears and aligning wheels. You may also be tasked with assembling new bikes from scratch or repairing ones that have broken parts. You'll also need to troubleshoot problems to figure out why a bicycle isn't working. It's common for bicycle mechanics to weld broken bike frames, fix axles and adjust bikes to fit a person's frame and build.
As part of the finishing touches, you can also paint bicycles once they have been fixed up. Bicycle mechanics can also be hired to help sell bicycles in a bike shop. This means you'll need to interact with the public, answer any questions they have about bicycle parts and products and have a good knowledge of bicycles and its functions. For the most part, bicycle repairers are hired to work at sporting goods and hobby stores. However, there are many who are employed at department stores or other types of specialty shops. You may also be able to work independently by running your own bike repair shop.
Career Growth and Salary Stats
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 25% growth in the number of bicycle repairers between 2012 and 2022. With an estimated 2,700 job openings during that decade, the BLS reports that this job growth rate is much faster than the average. In May 2014, the BLS stated that bicycle mechanics earned a median annual salary of about $26,000. This same year, the BLS reported that the top ten percent of these professionals earned about $37,260 or more.
Education isn't necessary to become a bicycle mechanic. The majority of repairers have a high school diploma, while the minority have either less than a high school diploma or some college experience. In some cases, colleges offer affordable, standalone courses in bicycle repair, which can also include access to repair shops. Some schools may offer courses that culminate in certification in topics like wheel building or suspension repair. However, since there aren't currently any national bike mechanic certifications, these credentials are school-specific and may not necessarily be recognized by employers.
In addition to experience and possible education, you will typically need a few key skills in order to become a bicycle mechanic. These can include problem-solving abilities, finger dexterity, customer service and deductive reasoning.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Many stores are hiring bicycle mechanics who can help customers address problems with their bikes and provide repairs and upgrades. Employers may prefer repair experience. Some companies are looking for job candidates who have specialized training in bicycle repair like suspension systems or gear repair. Check out these job openings posted in May 2012:
- A bicycle company in Massachusetts is hiring for a lead bicycle mechanic who can work on a range of bicycles. The job requires an understanding of various bike parts like hydraulic brakes and suspension.
- A private company in Ohio seeks a bicycle mechanic who can perform repairs, assemble bikes and sell them. The job requires a year of experience and the employer prefer formal bike mechanic training.
- A bicycle retailer in Utah is looking for a bicycle mechanic who can work with suspension systems and hydraulic systems, as well as sell service packages and bike parts. You'll need to be self-motivated and have past experience in retail and bicycle repair.
How to Get an Edge in the Field
In addition to taking part in formal training and certification programs to further your repair skills, you can join organizations like the National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) to get ahead in the field. These types of organizations will keep you in the loop on latest bicycle trends and models, which can help you inform customers about upcoming products. At the same time, you'll be able to take part in seminars and expos to learn about new strategies in how to work with the public and make your bicycle businesses more successful. There are also NBDA expos that allow you to network and meet other bicycle enthusiasts. During these types of expos and conferences, you'll have the opportunity to connect with fellow bike shop employees and learn about new job opportunities.
Alternative Career Path
Small Engine Mechanics
If you're interested in becoming a mechanic but you don't want to work with bicycles, then you could consider becoming a small engine mechanic. You'll still be able to work with your hands, but you'll inspect and service motorcycles, motorboats and other motorized equipment. Much like bicycle mechanics, you need a high school diploma and some job training to find work. The job outlook for small engine mechanics looks good with the BLS reporting a 21% growth from 2010-2020, which is considered a faster than average rate. In 2011, the BLS stated that small engine mechanics earned a median annual salary of about $30,000.
Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics
Another option is to become an automotive service technician and mechanic, which means you'll work with cars, trucks and other types of automobiles. The majority of these types of mechanics hold a high school diploma and some sort of formal training or certification. These types of mechanics and technicians work in a range of settings including auto repair shops and dealerships. According to the BLS, these mechanics were expected to see an average job growth of about 17% from 2010-2020. In 2011, the BLS stated that these professionals earned a median annual salary of about $36,000.