11 January 2016

Where Are The Most Skilled Bicycle Mechanics?

Someone once told me, only half in jest, that the best auto mechanics are in Cuba.  "After all," he explained, "anyone who can keep a car running when replacement parts haven't been made for it in fifty years must be very skilled--and creative".

I don't have any way of refuting his assertion, so I'll accept it.  Any mechanic, anywhere in the world, who can keep, say, an Edsel running is almost certainly better than most.

Perhaps a similar principle applies to bike mechanics.  It's really not that difficult to repair or maintain a well-maintained late-model machine that's been used mainly for recreational cycling.  On the other hand, people whose bikes are used for transportation or other utilitarian purposes are more likely to be riding older bikes.  Think of all of those English three-speeds and European city bikes people rode to work every day, and for an occasional weekend jaunt in the park, for decades.  To my knowledge, no one is making replacement parts for Sturmey-Archer three-speed hubs that were made in England or cottered cranksets.  Still, many such bikes are still in use in their home countries and all over the world.

Mechanics in places where the bike is still what one rides because gasoline and car ownership are expensive, I imagine, have developed some interesting work-arounds. Somehow I think mechanics' tricks are even better-developed in places where people depend on bikes, and are poor--say, India, where this photo was taken:

BARUIPUR, INDIA - JANUARY 13: Mechanic in the workshop repair the tire on a bicycle. The bicycle is in India, one of the main means of transport., Baruipur, West Bengal on January 13, 2009. Stock Photo - 10770208


  1. One of the best mechanics I ever encountered was a fellow who sold used bikes out of his garage. He was friendly, helpful and a fountain of knowledge, freely shared.
    Greatly enjoy your shared thoughts and adventures. Thank you for posting them. Jim

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Jim--I'm not surprised that he was such a good mechanic. He probably figured out some things--and came up with the sorts of creative solutions--that mechanics in poor and bike-dependent countries have been coming up with for decades.

    Thank you.