Pictured: Leigh. Not bad at fixing bikes (with Wilma who is)
We had a chat with Leigh Smith (Eco Republic New Mills chief denizen) to get the skilled mechanic’s perspective on electric cycling. Unmissable tips and shocking anecdotes ensue:
Juicy: Hi Leigh. How’re you?
Leigh: I’m fine, thanks.
Good! What exactly do you do around here? What’s your title?
Well, my official title at one point was Senior Sales Associate, but at some point the company director waved a Workshop Manager’s contract in my face. So I suppose I’m one of those. Right now I'm working towards becoming the Store Manager for what is the Juicy Bike Trade Showroom - quite a job balancing providing a good retail experience, imeadiate and remote support, managing work through the workshop and feeding into the design and manufacturing process. I'm not sure there's a job description that could cope - either for me or for anyone working here - we all do so many things!
Assuming you’re a Workshop Manager – what does that entail?
I’m basically in charge of the day-to-day running of the New Mill’s branch of Eco Republic. I make sure we’ve got stock, keep everything clean, safe and a pleasant place to be, the showroom is presentable and informative and that the workshop operates efficiently with a full stock of spares. And I’ll help out with builds and repairs, helping develop staff. I can also find myself out and about at Trade Shows or visiting key customers like the hire fleets we have dotted around.
For all of us at Juicy and Eco Republic our focus is to make sure that whenever a customer walks through our door we provide great service, which in my view is the advice and knowledge a customer may need to make an informed decision about the best electric bike for them. Often that's achieved simply by demonstrating bikes and giving test rides but I also need to keep an eye on the developing technology and what's available for any customer, to make sure I know what the whole market can provide. That, in itself can be a full time job, except it is exciting for me and that knowledge does feed into the design of our Juicy range, which is very satisfying. Then once a customer has chosen their new bike my job is to keep them on the road, enjoying cycling.
So what’re you working on today?
Batteries. Batteries everywhere.
Once a month, we charge every battery for about 30 minutes to top them off. They’re generally happier and healthier when you keep them in the top 80% of their maximum charge, so we follow a strict rota to keep ‘em fresh.
Plus, a few customers have brought their bikes in for service, so we had a bit of a natter. Plus, I had a nice chat with the man from Raleigh.
Nicer than the folks from Juicy?
Of course not, but close.
How long have you been working with bikes, electric or otherwise?
Wow. For about five or six years officially. But I’ve always ridden them, and the people who buy them have always been interesting to me. I’ve always been unashamedly nerdy about it as well – I love talking about the best parts and techniques. And it’s not just the selling and fixing. I also hearing about what people do with them.
While I’ve got you – If you could give electric bike riders just one piece of maintenance advice, what would it be?
This is an easy one. It’d be to remember to pump up your tyres. I can’t think of another single piece of advice that helps as much as nicely pumped-up tyres. If you keep your car tyres inflated, you’ll get good fuel economy. And it’s the same with an electric bike. Not to mention how saggy tyres increase your chance of getting a puncture, whether that’s from a thorn, or crushing your inner-tube between the tyre and the rim or however.
I’ll write that one down. So, bike mechanics. You’re all surly and off-putting, right?
Exactly. Leave us alone. *laughs*
No… every mechanic is ultimately there to get you back on your bike. I can’t speak for the whole trade but I love talking to customers. It gives me a chance to find out how people actually ride their bikes, and I genuinely get a warm fuzzy feeling from answering questions and solving problems. And here’s a trade secret for the readers: we mechanics don’t know everything. We’ll look at reference books, YouTube tutorials, manufacturer’s documents. A lot of this stuff… I’d say you don’t even need to be technically minded to put it into practice.
So how do I get preferential treatment from you as a mechanic?
Talk to me. And don’t expect things to happen necessarily immediately. Most mechanics are juggling five, ten, even 15 bikes at any one time.
What do you do in your spare time? You’re a renaissance man as I hear it.
*Laughs*. I wouldn’t go that far.
In my spare time I like riding bikes, walking the dog and skipping through meadows [ed. possible sarcasm.] I’m renovating a house, which is making me feel like Tom Hanks in The Money Pit. I’m also a qualified outdoor instructor who takes groups out climbing. If you’re ever in Eco, definitely ask me where to go on your e-bike.
What’s the worst repair you’ve ever had to do?
The king of difficult repairs is a bike with the pedals on the wrong sides. It’s just... bad news. It’s easily done because the reversed threading of the pedals is counterintuitive. But force the wrong one in on the wrong side and the whole thing will need rethreading, which is pretty huge job.
Another that springs to mind is when one customer disconnected all the electronics of an e-bike and soldered them back in the wrong place. It went bang.
What kind of a bang?
Pop, fizz, a bit of smoke, and most of the electronic parts frazzled.
I don’t mean to put anyone off taking ownership of their bike and getting to grips with repairs. If it’s the brakes and gears that need adjusting then by all means dive in. But if you’re in doubt about what needs doing, feel free to walk away. Book it in with your local bike shop, make good friends with the mechanic, take the bike in once or twice a year and bob’s your uncle.
Thanks Leigh. I’ll let you get back to it!