What's Cool In Road Cycling

PEZ Talk: Garmin Mechanic Daimeon Shanks

It’s easy to focus just on the riders and their fabulous exploits, easy to focus on the directors and their sage, er, directing. We don’t often get the chance to talk to one of the guys that makes the machines run that make it all happen: the mechanic. Nathaniel Brewster recently caught up with a great one: Daimeon Shanks. Read on!

Contributed by Nathaniel Brewster

PEZ: So, first question: how did you get the gig with Garmin?
DS: I’ve been with Slipstream Sports since 2006 back when it was called TIAA-Cref. I was working for the US Track team and met JV at the Los Angeles World cup. I helped Mike Friedman out after he smashed up his bike in a madison exchange. Jonathan called me the next week and asked if I wanted to come do the inaugural Tour of California with ’em. Boom.

PEZ: Do you wrench both the domestic and European races?
DS: In the past I’ve done both (most notably the Giro d’Italia last year), but this year I’ve been in America only. The professional team will compete in only 3 races in the U.S. – Tour of CA, USPro, and Missouri, so I’ve spent most of the year with our u-23 team, Felt-Holowesko Partners. We did two races in Europe this spring, but most of my time has been spent buying beer for underage cyclists.

PEZ: How many mechanics on the team? And who’s the ‘boss’?
DS: 7 full time mechanics in Europe and me in the U.S. In Europe we have a Basque guy running the show who, although we’re an American team based in Spain, neither speaks English nor Spanish. I’m in charge of the U.S. operations, but as there’s only one of me it’s a bit of a dubious honor.

PEZ: Are you surly?
DS: Some riders make me surly. Guys who think that a bloated pay-check and a top 30 in a ProTour race gives them the right to treat other people like sh*t. Yeah, those guys are c$#@%.

PEZ: Are there any stylistic mechanical trademarks within the team (e.g. finishing tape, cable-tip crimps, skewer position…)?
DS: Baby blue electrical tape to finish the bars and mark the saddle height. We run the skewer pointing straight down – easy to open, easy to close and will never get knocked open in a race. I also have custom “Tuned by DaimoWrench” decals that I put on some of the guys’ home bikes, but the team won’t let me put ’em on the race bikes. They’re too good-looking I reckon.

PEZ: Do you own / have you worked on a tandem? And who would you like to ride one with?
DS: Ha, I actually just tuned up JV’s tandem that he rides with his kid, Charlie. I don’t own one personally, but if I did I’d like to take a spin with Tyler Farrar. But only if we got to wear matching v-neck sweaters.

PEZ: Spacers under the top-cap. Fashion suicide or a technical necessity?
DS: Dude, our bikes are so light already that I have to weigh them down with bits of chain to make ’em legal. Why not have the spacer to make it that little bit more safe and reliable? But only one 5mm spacer. Our euro mechanics cut the steerer tubes down so there’s no spacer and it cracks me.

PEZ: Biggest rival mechanic? Most admired?
DS: Don’t have a rival per se… maybe one of those guys that works on the space shuttle. I admire Vince Gee (of BMC and formerly US Postal) the most. That dude’s always smiling! I don’t know how he does it, sometimes I get so fed up I just want to strangle a squirrel with my bare hands.

PEZ: Footwear of choice?
DS: Chaco flip flops. Wearing rubber boots to wash bikes is a punch in the mechanic card. Too many punches and you become a soigneur.

MLR: Bike shops can be like French kitchens — hot, competitive, and demanding. What was your first shop experience like?
DS: Whaaaa? Bikes shops are full of laconic, underpaid, and generally stoned 20-somethings. I never found it hot, competitive, nor demanding. It just plain sucked most of the time. I worked in a shop while I was in college, and I’ll NEVER go back to working in one.

PEZ: Do you have an off season?
DS: Sort of. I work cyclocross in the winter, but I don’t get paid for it so, technically, that’s an off-season.

PEZ: The all-new Di2. Thoughts? Is electric really the standard of the future?
DS: Hells yeah. It’s friggin’ awesomer than you can even imagine. You’ll see some cool stuff out of Shimano next year to prove that it’s the way things are going. Wink, wink.

PEZ: Do you own a Campy peanut butter wrench?
DS: F$#@. Hipsters annoy the hell outta me. Ooooh good job, riding a fixed gear in traffic! What do they want, a medal for choosing the wrong tool for the job?? It’s like using telemark skis on the bunny hill. No one likes you. I have a French Mallard cassette tool for a key chain that doubles as a bottle opener. I AM the one that’s cool.

PEZ: Easiest rider to please? Most anal retentive?
DS: Hmmm. Ryder is pretty fanatical about his bikes, but I think when riders get to this level they’re all pretty exacting. Some are just nicer than others. Will Frischkorn has always been a true professional, never came to a race with a dirty bike and always said thank you after helping him out. Tommy D and Tyler are great guys, too. The u-23 riders are funny to work with, they all change their positions for each race. I had one guy ride for two days with a saddle that was 2cm too low ’cause he thought I’d be mad that the seatpost on his bike wasn’t long enough. I still laugh about that one.

PEZ: Do you feel guilty when a rider suffers an ill-fated mechanical?
DS: Oh yes, of course. That’s my credibility, no?

PEZ: Most used tool? Favorite tool?
DS: Answer to both: Pedro’s bottle opener.

PEZ: Peg board or tool chest?
DS: Neither. There’s not a single build or repair that can’t be done with my Pedro’s tool box and a little ingenuity. Any schlub can build a bike in a fully stocked bike shop with a whole afternoon to do it. That’s the difference between a race mechanic and a shop mechanic. I’ve had to glue tubulars in a hotel bathroom before. I’ve had to fix bikes on a roof rack while we’re still driving. Bikes really aren’t that complicated, you know? It’s all about being creative sometimes.

PEZ: Is there any rider who is particularly hard on his equipment?
DS: Brad Huff! That guy crashed every other race he did! But I still love him to death.

PEZ: Menchov’s mechanic had a moment of shining glory in the last kilometer of this year’s Giro. What’s your fantasy moment? Has it already happened?
DS: At the Tour of California this year I did a wheel change for Christian Vande Velde when he was in the break on the final day. Phil Liggett said on TV that it was the fastest wheel change he’d ever seen. That was pretty cool. That night Christian got me a beer and we watched Spaceballs in the RV.

About The Interviewer: Nathaniel lives, rides, and writes just outside of Boston. He has a thing for traditional drop bars, tall white socks, and Massachusetts chip-seal.

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