BROOKSVILLE — When Mark and Patricia Laird got into serious bicycle racing in 2003, they had to truck their rides to Ocala for complex repairs and critical adjustments. Mark Laird yearned to know all the intricacies, so he could coax their bikes into top performance himself.
He learned. Copiously. Mark Laird has become one of few area bicycle mechanics certified by the worldwide Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association, plying his skills at the couple’s shop, Crank Works Bicycles.
"A lot of things can go wrong," said Patricia Laird, 35. She speaks easily about such things as derailleurs, internally geared hubs, spoke tension, cable housing, brackets and bearings. She is the Crank Works spokesperson and acting manager.
"I do the least amount of getting dirty as possible. That’s why I have a certified mechanic," she quipped, indicating her husband, 36.
Licensing and certifying cycle mechanics is required in Europe. In the U.S., not so much.
"Anybody can call themselves a bicycle mechanic, so you don’t know what you’re getting," Patricia Laird said. To bring professionalism to the ranks, the Mechanics Association launched an effort a year ago to standardize requirements for those who make cycle repairs.
With his self-taught mechanics, 15 years experience and PBMA training, Mark Laird earned his certificate via exam. He had to prove skills beyond brakes, gears and how to properly wash a bike, to race ethics and how to service a bike during a race.
The certificate enables Mark Laird to work sanctioned, insured races and to service wheelers of the U.S. Para-Olympic Cycle Team when training at Clermont and the hand-cycle program of the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. He’s qualified to perform repairs at the Tour de France, if he’s called.
Even with such lofty clients and access, Mark Laird likes to stick close to Crank Works, where, he said, "We repair anything." Flat tires are most common. Tending to a customer while he talked, he removed and replaced a tire in less than three minutes.
What the Lairds call "department store bikes" often need bearings adjustments. Often, they are assembled improperly by unschooled workers, according to the couple’s experience.
"We take anywhere from an hour to three hours" to assemble a bicycle from its boxed parts and pieces, Patricia Laird said.
A chalkboard lists fees for most requested services, from $65 for a standard tune-up.
Repairs consume up to 80 percent of the shop owners’ time, but cycle sales account for more dollars. The shop features the brand names Specialized and American Classic, with models priced from $250.
Buyers are treated to top-rated service at the point of purchase, as evidenced by Becky Young of Brooksville on a recent Thursday afternoon.
"I never had a new red bike before," she said, grinning like a first-time, bicycle-owning 5-year-old. Young climbed aboard. Patricia Laird adjusted the seat height, and her husband rectified its tilt.
"Now if that’s not magic, you bring it back," he told Young. "I’m looking for magic."
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]