LONG BEACH, CA (BRAIN)—Park Tool is wrapping up its annual mechanics training program today in Long Beach, California, a new city added to its Tech Summit series this year.
With a turnout of 130, it was the smallest of the three Tech Summits in 2011. But the two-day, hands-on training event geared toward mechanics attracted staff from across mainland U.S., Hawaii, Canada and even one mechanic from Brisbane, Australia.
“Every year I take a little more away,” said Troy Szczurkowski, lead mechanic from River City Cycles in Brisbane, who has attended each year since the training was launched in 2009. “It’s worth the investment—a way for me to gain formal training.”
Szczurkowski, who paid for his way and coupled the training with some vacation days in the U.S., said many distributors hold product training in his country but much of it is sales-oriented and not technical.
Rick Smith, head mechanic of The Outdoorsman in Butte, Montana, has also come out to the Tech Summits for the past three years. “For guys like me who work at a small rural shop, it’s the only way to get recurrent training,” said Smith, a retired schoolteacher. “I come to these because brands like SRAM and Fox come out with new technologies. I can learn a lot of it on the Internet, but hands-on training, I can only get at events like this.
“If a customer comes in and needs a fork overhaul, rear shock seal replacements or brake bleeds, I can do that,” he added.
Being able to service suspension forks in a timely fashion is key for the shop, Smith said, as it caters to many customers who ride the Continental Divide and its business is so seasonal. The Outdoorsman closes its doors in the winter.
But the Tech Summit in Long Beach also drew many larger sporting goods and outdoor retailers. Sport Chalet sent staff from its Roseville and Chino Hills, California stores. Don Doescher of Scheels’ corporate offices flew out from North Dakota to attend for the first time and gauge whether it’s worth sending service staff to it in the future. Of the 23 Scheels stores, 20 have bike service departments, he said.
Counting participation from its earlier Summits in Philadelphia, which sold out, and Chicago, close to 500 lead mechanics, service managers and service techs paid $200 each to attend the Summits this year, according to Bill Armas, Park Tool’s director of marketing. The fee includes materials, instruction, breakfast and lunch.
Mechanics, who picked six out of eight sessions to attend, gave high marks to presentations from Nick DeLauder of Fox Racing Shox and Calvin Jones of Park Tool. “It’s nice to hear from someone who’s tried and true,” said Nate Trumble mechanic at Bicycle Trip in Santa Cruz, California, of Jones.
For participating brands, the Tech Summits are a neutral venue where they can reach a sizeable and targeted audience. “Interbike and here we hit the most mechanics,” said Chad Fetterhoff, multi-service tech rep for Shimano.
Many mechanics also take advantage of the opportunity to buy tools used during the training at a deep discount at the event’s conclusion. Armas said Park Tool shipped seven pallets of tools from city to city not counting the wheels, complete bikes, frames, shocks and component groups shipped by each brand.
Armas said he surveys participants after each event to decide ways to tweak the program to keep it relevant and fresh for returning mechanics. Though he wants to keep the training to two days and eight total classes, he said the cities for next year are yet to be determined. Armas said he’s looking into the possibility of taking the training program to a southeast or southwest city next year.
Photo: Michael Crowell of North of the Border bike shop in San Diego, California, helps girlfriend Lisa Jennings bleed a Shimano XTR brake.