Becoming a certified bicycle mechanic was not planned. It occurred as a hobby grew into a passion and became an occupation over time.
I identify with all types of cyclists because I've been there. As a young married man, I borrowed a bicycle to commute the work. No, that was not the start of the passion. We could only afford one car. I would pedal to the various air bases I was assigned to.
Eventually, my wife and I purchased Schwinn 10-speeds. The logic mirrored why I borrowed a "commuter bicycle." As an airman with limited funds, cycling was one of the least-expensive forms of entertainment. Unlike eating out, going to movies etc., the bicycle purchase kept on giving. Adding air to the tires periodically was free. While the passion still wasn't raging, the seeds for the future were taking root.
It was only natural that when our children were born, we wanted to spend time with them. There are benefits to organized sports for kids but there is a drawback: the parents are on the sidelines, not getting exercise. As the original ADHD 'Ritalin Boy', I'm a lousy spectator.
We began by towing our son/daughter in a Cannondale Bugger that had child-restraint straps in it. As they grew, the distance cycled lengthened. When the kids became 14 and 11, my wife, Sheree, suggested we try bicycle touring. We started cautious - an overnight trip that was 40 miles each way. We liked the hours of talking with the kids as we pedaled. That summer, 1994, we embarked on a multi-day touring loop from Cathlamet, Wash., across to Astoria, Ore., and around the Long Beach Peninsula on the Washington coast. We had a great family experience but I was becoming aware that we were somewhat vulnerable. I knew basic bicycle maintenance - how to change tire flats, lube chains etc. but what about cables, derailleurs, hubs, headsets?
In 1997, the kids were intrigued by mountain bike racing. I went to watch but I did take my mountain bike along. Remember, I'm a lousy spectator. At the last moment, I decided instead of riding around to kill time while they raced in the woods. I might as well join them. A few months later Sheree would upgrade her stable of bikes so she could race too. I joke that that day was the beginning of 'perpetual poverty'. It seems like one never has enough bicycles or gear!
At age 50, in 1999, I decided to pedal from our house in Idaho to my brother's place in Wyoming - a distance of 800 miles. In some instances, towns were 50 miles apart and not all of them had bicycle shops. We joined Intermountain Orthopaedics Cycling/LRCC in Boise, Idaho. Occasionally someone's bicycle would break down during a ride.
As our number of bicycles grew along with the number of cycling events we were involved in, my professional path became obvious: go to bike school - the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, Ore. As a school counselor, I often would tell kids to follow their passion and make it into a career. At age 55 in 2004, I took my own advice and graduated from UBI as a certified bicycle mechanic. I returned to UBI in 2009 to obtain certification as an Advanced Wheel Builder and Suspension Technician.
Life is good when my day alternates between fixing bicycles and riding them. And a bonus: cyclists make great friends.