Stories of Commitment: Paige Stuart
Moab, Utah, USA
The ABSA Cape Epic is an eight-day mountain bike stage race touted as being the toughest in the world. Images of dust-covered athletes grimacing through long climbs in the heat with picturesque South African mountain backdrops come to mind. What fans often overlook are the people who swoop in once the athletes cross the finish line, grab their bikes and give them a clean, and work late into the night remedying the abuse the bikes just took.
No matter the race, bike mechanics play a crucial role in an athlete’s success or failure. It can be a stressful job when tasked with one athlete for one day or a weekend of racing. Now imagine wrenching for over a week of racing in challenging conditions. Now multiply that times four.
Paige Stuart is no stranger to the demands of being a professional bike mechanic. In 2014, she left her job as a soil scientist and started working as a mechanic at Chili Pepper Bike Shop in Moab, Utah full time. She’s now a full-time mechanic with Liv Racing. Still, being charged with supporting both of Liv’s professional women’s teams for Cape Epic (four riders total) was a challenge unlike anything she had experienced before.
“Cape Epic was a test for the athletes, but it was also really testing for all the bikes and their components,” said Paige. “The elements worked their way into every part of the bikes. In the short turnaround time before the next day’s race, the athletes would take care of their bodies and I would take care of getting the bikes back in shape.”
Paige could be found working on the athletes’ bikes with a headlamp until the early hours of the morning, just to wake up before the sun rose to escort the racers to the start line. But as long as there was coffee, there was a smile on her face.
“Coffee is my favorite food. It’s a type of bean, so it counts.”
Looking around at the team pits, whether you’re at Cape Epic or World Cups, it becomes pretty apparent that women mechanics are in the minority. In fact, only 8.6 percent of bike mechanics in the United States are women (according to Zippia.com). It’s something Paige has had to overcome throughout her career, and a statistic she’s committed to helping change.
We wanted to take a peek beyond the toolbox to learn more about Paige, how she came to be a bike mechanic, and explore some ideas about how to encourage more women to join the profession.