Would you like to know which revolutionary bike tool has not been invented yet?
In this exciting and fun interview, Mary from Cycle Maintenance Academy sits down with Calvin Jones, the renowned bike tools and mechanics expert from Park Tool. They discuss the origins of Park Tool, and the development of their products, and explore the world of bike mechanics. Join the conversation as they share exciting anecdotes, insights, and tips.
Can you tell us a bit about Park Tool?
A: Well, Park Tools are used to fix your bike so buy a lot of them (Calvin laughs). We’ve been in business for 60 years. We started out in a shop so that’s our tradition and our habit to start thinking from the shop perspective. So, one of our first products was a repair stand.
There weren’t a lot of tools back then that were specially made so the owners, Howard Hawkins, and his partner Art would make tools, and eventually, other companies looked at them and wanted to buy them. So they developed tools you know, specialty products, started making tools and then we end up in Manchester UK talking to you.
Is there a bike tool that didn’t work out as planned?
Whoa, there are tools that uh yeah, that’s a good question. There are tools that we made that we don’t sell. There’s one kickstand remover that we made, we had uh people wanted it, and then turned out nobody wanted to remove kickstands anymore, so that yeah that’s especially tool that we didn’t want.
So, yeah we have 500 products and I’m sure that we will be changing things on some of them. So, no I don’t think any of them are crap, they all do their job. That’s definitely a good politically correct answer (Calvin laughs).
Is there a bike tool concept you wish had been invented?
Oh yeah, I think there’s the fun one, I’ll tell you. Somebody can take the idea and then run with it. This one, the cable stretchers, back when we used to have cables in the old-fashioned days, you pull it and then, of course, you have to cut the cable. You put an end cap on yeah.
So, let’s plug it into the wall. We’re gonna have a pair of pliers. It stretches the cable and then it cuts it with an electric bolt and that spot welds the end. So no end cap. So you get that nice factory weld on the end. Just don’t put your fingers in it!
So you can take that idea and you’ll have a little booth 10 by 10 selling one product.
There are many clever inventions and it’s okay to look at other people. For example wheel.
Some people looked at the wheel, “That’s a clever invention I’ll copy it” and look where it’s got us where we are today. However sometimes I do see clever ideas that fix one problem on one model of a brake on one bike, and it does it well.
So maybe the people that manufactured it originally should be looking at tooling it?
Bike companies and component companies will sometimes make a product and then the service is uh, “Sorry that’s your problem, yeah we’re done”
Is there a bike tool that Park Tool can offer to home mechanics?
Oh yeah, we have different lines of tools, like a headset press.
We have a professional one, then we have the home mechanic one. Things that we don’t have for bike mechanics are for example a home mechanic bottom bracket tap. You don’t want to do or shouldn’t be doing certain things as a home mechanic.
However, home mechanics can often be very clever. They can take their time, they can pay attention um and you know follow basics. One thing that we have that could be very useful for them is knowledge. We have a paper book, repair articles, and videos.
How do you address compatibility issues in the modern cycling world?
A: Compatibility has always been a challenge in the cycling industry. I’ve been in the industry for 50 years, I remember when we had to know our cotter pin sizes. Do you know your Cotter pin sizes? And then you had to file the angle, right to match the other one. Compatibility.
It’s still kind of all the same. Spindle length, we used to pick the right spindle length. People would get it wrong and the chain line would change. So, it’s always been a headache.
There are other things now that are equally a headache so I don’t know if it’s really changed much. We never had to check our firmware before. The first thing you get a bike in is to update the firmware. So a lot of the e-bikes now you have to check that, Shimano you got to check that, Sram you got to check that, So, that’s really new.
The conversation with Calvin Jones from Park Tool has shed light on the company’s history, product development, and the ever-present challenges of bike mechanics. Now it’s time to dive deeper into the world of cycle maintenance. Why not start with our tips on how to index gears?
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