Juelz Lee-Deckard, Bike Mechanic
When Juelz Lee-Deckard tells people what she does for a living they are often surprised.
Juelz is supporting our Let’s Go Ladies #WheelWomen campaign and we caught up with her in the workshop for some advice on bicycle maintenance and to find out more about her long-standing love affair with these two-wheeled machines.
“I suppose being a bike mechanic is quite an unusual job, but anyone who knows me knows I like to be busy and I enjoy practical work.” says the 49-year-old who works at Bike Stop on Skinnergate in Darlington.
Juelz’s job at Bike Stop involves carrying out servicing and repairs on customers’ bikes, and also recycling donated bikes and checking off bikes ready for sale.
How did you get into a career as a bike mechanic?
After a career break 10 years ago, Juelz, who has always loved being out on a bike, took a job as a cycle instructor with Durham County Council teaching Bikeability in schools and offering adult Level 3 on road courses.
Juelz is a National Standards Qualified Instructor and also a Cycling UK Group Ride Leader.
Two years ago she decided she was up for a new challenge after having seen the role of bike mechanic advertised in Darlington town centre.
“I saw a sign outside Bike Stop asking for a cycle mechanic. I have always looked after my own bicycles and when I saw the job I decided to go for it.” explains Juelz who recently passed her Cytech Wheel Building and Cytech Technical Two training, the international benchmark for bicycle maintenance.
What advice can you give women who want to start riding a bike?
“I think many women are worried that they won’t be able to cycle fast enough and that they need to be super-fit. It really doesn’t matter how fast or far you go or where you cycle. It’s an exciting way to travel and get exercise and the most important thing is that you enjoy it.
My favourite quote is by Eddy Merckx…
"Ride as much or as little, or as long or short as you feel. But ride"
To start off I’d recommend that people cycle with a friend or find a local group. We regularly run confidence boosters and short local rides. There are also Breeze rides that go from Darlington once you are feeling more confident.”
Where is the best place to get a bike?
“Your local bike shop is the best place to start. We have bikes of all types that are fully serviced and ready to go. From pre-loved to our new range of electric bikes, there is something to suit every budget and application.
“If you’re commuting then a power-assisted bike is a good option. They use a combination of pedalling and battery power. You have to pedal to get the power going so they are still great exercise but enable you to take on the hills without getting too hot and bothered. So they’re ideal for commuters or people who are finding that the inclines are becoming a little challenging.”
How can someone learn to maintain their own bike?
“We offer cycle maintenance courses here at Bike Stop which are suitable for anyone. If you are interested in a course you can come into the shop or get in touch with us and we can get you booked in. We can even arrange a course for you, your family or a group of friends, it’s a part of what we do.
“All bikes need regular servicing and repair. No matter what sort of bike you have, it should be getting a regular basic service with a full annual service depending upon how many miles you ride. Before you go out you should also remember to do what’s called an M-check, it’s a really quick, easy to learn method of giving your bike the once-over to make sure it’s roadworthy.”
Watch our video to learn how to carry out the M-check on your bike [link to video]
So what sort of cycling do you do?
We asked Juelz about her own bikes: “I have three.” she said, “An old mountain bike which I call my 'retro' bike, a second mountain bike which I use for off-road adventures, as well as a road bike which is the one I ride the most.
“I'm keen on riding Sportives,” explains Juelz when quizzed about her road bike, “I have done some of the Darlington Council Rides, Yorkshire Lass CC Sportive, C2C (Coast to Coast) and my husband and I are both ‘ride angels’ for the annual Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Challenge. It’s a two-day event in July and we travel the route helping out with minor repairs, moral support, and encouragement to help people get through the 144-mile route.”
What do you enjoy most about your job?
“I enjoy the variety and learning. Every day brings a new challenge. From preparing a youngster's first bike, helping a commuter continue their journey, to getting a competitive cyclist’s bike ready for a big race.
Here at Bike Stop we sponsor a cycling team - Team Bike Stop Tyrekey.
I particularly enjoy restoring 'old skool' retro bikes by taking an old tired bike and restoring it to its former glory.
“Bike mechanics is similar to solving a puzzle. First, you need to assess it, diagnose what could work better, take it apart, repair it and then put it back together. It gives you a sense of achievement when a bike is up and running again"