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Female bike mechanic gets in gear at cycle shop

By Cindy Atoji Keene
Lindsey DiGiovanni is proud to be shattering stereotypes of the typical bike mechanic. DiGiovanni, 36, admits it’s rare to see women in the back room of a bike shop, but she has a loyal clientele of cyclists – mostly male – at Cycle Loft in Burlington. “Some people are surprised when they ask to speak to a mechanic and I show up, but once they realize that I know what I’m talking about, I earn their respect,” said DiGiovanni. She admits that while the mechanics of bicycles isn’t rocket science, a bicycle is still a sophisticated vehicle with ever-changing technical upgrades and improvements.

Q: So what are you working on now?
A: I just built up a cyclocross bike, which is a bike that can be used for on or off-road riding. I set up a couple of wheels for it and modified a few components. It was a pretty straightforward build, except that the owner was looking for more of a hill-climbing set-up, so I had to put on a different derailleur to accommodate the gear-ratio he was asking for.

Q: What is the dumbest thing you’ve seen someone do to a bike that you’ve had to repair?
A: People put forks on backward all the time or put on handlebars upside down. They’ll inflate a tube before trying to put them into the tire, so the tubes are like huge balloons that won’t fit. That’s pretty classic. But the most common mistake that cyclists make is putting tons and tons of lubricant on the chain, which creates very dirty drive chains.

Q: Is it true that most bike mechanics tend not to read manuals?
A: I would definitely agree with that, although that doesn’t mean we’re relying on guesswork or subjective judgment. We’ll ask a fellow mechanic or research it by watching a video or searching for answers online. The only time I opened up an actual old-fashioned manual was when I was intrigued by an internally geared Sturmey-Archer hub, so I opened up a vintage 1970s book to see how many moving parts there were.

Q: How did you go from sou-chef to bike mechanic?
A: In the restaurant industry, I was working with my hands, making sure all the equipment was up and running and multi-tasking with different stations. So when I got burnt out and needed a change, I figured I could parlay my love for bike riding and my mechanical abilities into bicycle repair. I started here on the sales floor, just so I could learn a lot more about the products, and then sent myself off to a bike institute in Colorado, where I learned everything from suspension tuning to drive chain components. Then I came back and got a chance to try my hand at mechanics. That was six years ago and every day continues to be a learning experience.

Q: How many bikes in your stable?
A: Let me count – I probably have about five or six, including a 29-inch full-suspension mountain bike; a 26-inch hardtail mountain bike (a mountain bicycle that has no rear suspension) that I pulled out of the garbage and totally refurbished; a classic single-speed steel commuter that I’ve dressed up with fenders and rack; a cyclecross bike, and an old antique bike that I love to death; it’s an old Raleigh mixte (women’s bike frame).

Q: What’s your favorite quick fix trick?
A: If you puncture your tire and need to get somewhere to get it fixed, a short-term solution is the dollar-bill trick. Put a new tube in, then fold up a dollar bill and place it where the tire is damaged. The dollar bill will keep the tube from bulging out through the hole or cut, and you should be able to make it home.

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