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The PBMA: Where are they now?

Published February 17, 2023

Editor's note: In recent months BRAIN has asked around the industry about the status of the Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association. PBMA was formed in 2016 and was active for several years, but has been absent from some industry events in the last year. 

Former members of the group provided the following update.  

The PBMA – Where are they now?

You might be wondering what happened? The simple truth is life, work, and a lack of dedicated time and industry-wide support. There is no staff and never was, just a dedicated, strong-minded group of volunteers.

The PBMA was founded on a simple idea. Highlight the importance of the bicycle mechanic, call them a professional and talk about wages. It wasn’t meant to be a union and it wasn’t meant to be an action movement. It was meant to be an organization for individuals, shops, manufacturers, and brands to rally around.

None of us had ever started a non-profit before; it was basically the wild west. What we knew is that we had a good idea and a solid group to build a foundation. The foundational idea: To Promote, Develop and Advocate on behalf of the Professional Bicycle Mechanic©.

From day one, the phone was ringing. Bicycle Retailer and Industry News published a thing, which folks like former NBDA President Todd Grant noticed. The conversations with folks like Grant and Pat Hus from Interbike were always curiously interesting. The NBDA was requesting that when we built our bylaws (required to create a not-for-profit organization) we included some stipulation that would allow them to “absorb” us ... we didn't.

The PBMA Board, from the beginning, was composed of mechanics - be they self-employed, working in shops, owning their own shop or running their own industry business. From the start, we were criticized for being independent. James was personally told that he made bad choices by not accepting money from organizations that stipulated how, what and where the PBMA could be; it was a collective decision to remain independent. When you don’t take the bribe from one, you don’t get the money from any. Exclusivity and mal intentioned gatekeeping were not a goal for the PBMA, ever!

We heard you, the mechanics, asking for ways to differentiate yourself from the hack, how to stand out above your fellow mechanics. We thought, “how about a multi-tier industry-acceptable certification program?” Little did we know how greedy some of our profit-driven friends are. We brought a room of industry education leaders together in San Diego, we laid out the idea ... this could be a “level 1”, this could be a “level 2”, this could be what a master tech looks like.

To say the least, that meeting was a success; we left the day with blossoming ideas and further conversations scheduled. Shortly after though, the PBMA was pointedly eliminated from the conversation all together; apparently an organization whose goal was improvement for all without being driven by greed or profit was not the place for such a thing. We fought our way back into the conversation just to watch the greater idea die. As you know, we pushed on anyhow with our own program to certify mechanics and provide those that wanted a certificate the avenue to get one.

With little exception, any corporate money the PBMA received was given without a favor to be returned. We knew that mechanics needed training, we knew that manufacturers needed a pathway to do this. The PBMA Technical Workshops were born to serve a purpose and they did so. So successfully, in fact, that we were basically unable to do them anymore thanks to whispers and demands from what could only be viewed as a competitor in the education space. Many of the companies didn’t have a budget to participate in two different educational venues and for many it would be very hard to say no to the other entity that was asking.

All that said, without the support of so many shops, so many mechanics, and the people behind companies that recognized the need for trained mechanics, the PBMA would never have gotten to where it was. Without a place like CABDA, the PBMA would never have been able to see and interact with so many mechanics.

Personally, many of us have been slandered, attacked, and ridiculed. Just before COVID some Board Member changes occurred and then COVID struck. Without the opportunity to be in front of people and the uptick in business every Board Member was seeing, simply operating the PBMA’s day-to-day was a challenge. The PBMA is 100% volunteer run, dealing with multiple emails, trying to plan something, building a newsletter... all of those things require time and bandwidth - which was in short supply.

Last year, we took a look under the hood. The engine needed a rebuild. Without funds, time, or resources, we have parked the car for a bit while we gather the parts to come back with even more horsepower. If you can be patient, we are sure you’ll like what you see as the next iteration of the PBMA.

Thanks to all who have been there, and thanks to all who still believe in the mission. We will be back in some way, somehow.


Topics associated with this article: Retailer education, Advocacy/Non-profits

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