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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. 

Paige Stuart's toolbox

Liv: What are some words you live by? 

Paige: “Get busy living or get busy dying,” from Shawshank Redemption. I appreciate the sentiment that you always have a choice to stay stuck or make the most of what you have.

Liv: Which came first for you: riding bikes or working on bikes?

Paige: I have always had a bike in my life and working on them developed from trying to keep them in good working order. I love figuring out how things work and fixing them when they don’t function.  

Liv: How did your career as a pro mechanic begin?

Paige: I guess it really began when a pair of shop owners in Moab cold-called me to see if I wanted to work as a mechanic in their shop. They had heard a rumor that I liked to work on bikes and knew a few things. They were in urgent need of someone and so they reached out to me. I would like to credit the Bike Fiend for roping me into the business and turning my hobby into a profession. It was a formative year that surely has changed the course of my life.  

Liv: Did you have any mentors who helped you get where you are today?

Paige: After my time at the Bike Fiend, I went to work at Chile Pepper Bikes in Moab. During my time working as a mechanic at Chile Pepper Bikes, I have had so many great mentors and am still learning constantly from fellow mechanics. There is always something new to learn and everyone brings with them various experiences and pro tips. It is so dynamic with the ever-evolving technology that there is always something new to learn. Never a dull moment.  

Sara Jarrell with SRAM is a great advocate for women in the industry and really helped open doors for me to work as a pro-mechanic outside of the shop setting.  

Liz Walker, the Liv Racing Team Manager, is such a champion for bringing women into the world of bike racing. In the spirit of Liv Cycling and the mission to be more inclusive of women in the sport, she brought me on board with the Liv Factory Racing Team. She is such a boss! I feel like she mentors me in how to unapologetically claim space in a very male-dominated scene.

Paige Stuart working on bikes

Liv: When did you start working for Liv Racing? What does your job entail? 

Paige: I began working with Liv Racing on the UCI World Cup circuit in May of 2021. My main job description is to keep the bikes finely tuned for the athletes who are racing. If they don’t need to worry about the condition of their bike and can trust that it will function perfectly, then they can focus on their race. I work with the athletes to adjust things on their bikes and make changes as needed. I am usually there on the course throughout the race, helping with any mechanicals that may arise. Being there for the team during these big race weekends also means helping in any way needed. There are so many logistics that go into a successful race. The bikes are just a part of the picture. Being on the support crew is putting the team's needs first and doing any number of odd jobs on any given day to help the athletes and the brand show up in the best way possible.  

Liv: What is the best thing about working as a professional mechanic?

Paige: Mechanic work is a nice balance of physical and mental stimulation. You’re on your feet, using your hands, and problem-solving all the time. Fixing things for people is really rewarding and you also get to interact with so many people that share your hobby! 

Liv: What is the hardest thing about working as a professional mechanic?

Paige: As far as skilled trades go, “Bike Mechanic” is not a high-earning profession when compared to other trades. Once you accept that your wealth will come in other forms (like bikes, bike components, and quality of life from biking often), then it is a dream job!  

Liv: What are some of the barriers for women trying to enter this field?

Paige: This is such a deep discussion when you start breaking down the reasons why women are underrepresented in the profession. Women in skilled trades in general only make up 3% so this imbalance spans all the manual labor-based professions! I think cultural gender norms and an education system that stigmatizes “blue-collar” work is a barrier to women becoming bike mechanics or other skilled trade professionals. 

Liv: What do you think the industry can do to get more women working in bike shops?

Paige: I think women need to be invited in more! Liz Walker went out of her way to recruit women mechanics for the Liv athletes. More shops, brands, and teams should do the same. It can be so hard to even get a toe in the mechanic pit as a woman, especially if you lack experience. Young boys on the other hand get recruited to do odd jobs around the shop, despite their lack of experience and are then quickly mentored to do more and more advanced jobs. They become the future bike mechanics and maintain the status quo of male-dominated mechanic pits. I think more shops and brands need to have women-specific gatherings to promote cycling, but also encourage more women and girls to start using tools! As more young women embrace biking, perhaps more will end up working in the profession.

Liv: What are your tips for making bike shops friendlier to women, in general?

Paige: I feel like the more women working in a shop, the more welcoming it feels to women. Having bikes and gear that cater to the needs of women shows that we belong in your store. I think having posters and ads with women athletes getting rad instead of just men is also nice. Also: Women ride nights! Women demo days! Women maintenance clinics! Invite women in.

Liv: What advice would you give to other women looking to become bicycle mechanics?

Paige: If you love bikes and you are interested in repairing them, whether as a hobby for your personal bikes or as a professional in the industry, I recommend getting your hands dirty as often as possible! You can volunteer at community bike shops, sign up for clinics, tear your own bikes apart and put them back together. You can go straight to a shop and get a job in some capacity and hope to gradually work into a mechanic role by showing interest and jumping on opportunities to learn. If you are looking for a more structured and streamlined education though, there are a few schools now that will teach you the basics.   Often there will be scholarships for women available to encourage women to enroll. There may even be women-only classes. This is a quick way to get down the vocab and the basics and will help you get that foot in the pit at your local shop. At the very least, it will make you more confident working on your own bikes. You’ll gain a sense of what tools you will need and get a feel for how much you enjoy working on bikes! Shops are not the only place to work as a mechanic but I do feel like you get amazing on-the-job training when you are working on bikes of all types each day. It exposes you to such a great variety of repairs and different components. 

Here are some bike mechanic courses in the United States:

Paige Stuart working on bikes on race day

Paige's Top 3 Bike Maintenance Tips

  1. Wash your bike. Keeping dirt and grime out of moving parts keeps things from wearing out prematurely. It’s more enjoyable to work on a clean bike and it just looks good.
  2. Preventative maintenance keeps you from having trouble on the trail and accruing expensive repairs. Regular brake bleeds, spoke tension checks, bolt checks, suspension oil service, sealant checks, and replacing bearings when they wear out are just a few of the things you can do.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and attempt your own DIY repairs! There are so many great resources out there including the folks at your local bike shop. Your local bike shop can help you find the right parts and the right tools for your own adventures in bike repair. Be a regular there and develop a friendship with the mechanics. We love talking about your bikes with you.
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