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Q+A with a bike tech

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On July 15, Grizzly Outfitters’ bike technician Marc Lange, 37, shared 18 years of knowledge with Explore Big Sky. Offering sound advice for experienced riders, as well as those just getting into mountain biking, Lange recounts a messy encounter with a barbed wire fence, gives servicing tips and delves into the sport’s positive growth in Montana.

Growing up in Cherry Valley, Ill., Lange had access to single-track trails out his back door. He didn’t ride anything fancy, but he always had wheels beneath him and the wind in his hair.

Spurred by dreams of bigger and better trails, Lange moved to Winter Park, Colo. in 1995, where he first started working as a bike tech. He also worked in outdoor retail in Steamboat and guided river trips throughout the West before moving to Big Sky in 2010.

Outside the shop, Lange enjoys exploring the Taylor Fork area on his Pivot Firebird.


Explore Big Sky: What should riders have in their kit for repairs when riding?

Marc Lange: Whether you’re running tubeless or not, you need a tube, pump, patch kit and tire levers. Shock pumps are not a bad thing to have either; bear spray, food. You could also have a master link or connecting pin, which enables you to rejoin a chain. A multi tool will enable you to do anything – it’s a Swiss army knife for your bicycle.

EBS: Could you offer advice for servicing a bike on the trail?

M.L.: I think most people figure out inverting the bike is necessary for repairs. If I’m out riding, I hang the saddle on a tree branch that will carry the weight of the bike. Having a knowledgeable person in the group is a good idea, too. People who aren’t do more bad than good trying to fix their stuff.

EBS: What’s a common thing people do to mess up their bikes?

M.L.: People almost always leave from their house with their tires inflated incorrectly, which leads to negative drama. If your tires are inflated correctly, you are much less likely to get a pinch flat.

EBS: Mountain biking seems to be growing exponentially. Why do you think that is?

M.L.: The grin factor, I guess. Sweeter bikes make for a bigger smile. It’s pretty easy to get out there and have a good time, and if the technology keeps up with it to make you feel safer, then great. So many things in outdoor retail keep getting better and better.

EBS: What new trends have you noticed?

M.L.: People are all hyped up about 29ers and 27 ½-inch bikes. It’d be interesting to see how big the 27 ½-inch craze gets. The larger wheels roll over obstacles a little more easily. It feels smoother when you’re going through rocks, cracks and dips.

EBS: What kinds of upgrades/changes are you seeing in the 2014 line of bikes and accessories?

M.L.: We’re seeing more manufacturers produce fat bikes for the industry. They help you access new terrain like beaches and Nordic trails. Shock and fork technology too – all suspension technology is constantly evolving into better and better product.

EBS: What routine services will help keep a bike in good condition? How can you get the most life out of a bike?

M.L.: You’re going to offer yourself the greatest longevity by keeping the drive train clean. Anytime there’s sand or grit in the working components of the bike, it erodes and wears things out, so you want to keep them clean and lubricated. Replacing the chain annually is a smart thing if you ride a lot, because it will stretch and induce unnecessary wear.

EBS: What gear should a biking enthusiast have on hand in his or her garage?

M.L.: Eye protection so you’re not getting mud and bugs in your eyes – clear is better for when you ride into dark spots. A helmet and bike gloves. If you’re becoming more of an enthusiast, you might want cycling shoes and clipless pedals. For the garage, you should have lubricant, and a bike stand’s nice. For any kind of service work, it just helps simplify the process.

EBS: What’s the worst biking crash you’ve ever taken?

M.L.: Ironically, it was a commute from the shop I was working at in Winter Park. So, it was a nice spring day. I rode my bike to work, all excited about the weather, and it was after work when I rode home. Some snow had melted on the bike path, and it refroze. I was hauling to my friend’s birthday party, and I went to turn right, but the bike went straight into a snow bank. I flew over the handlebars, and my face went straight into a barb wired fence. I tore my mouth off and had to eat out of a blender for two weeks.

EBS: What is your most fun trip of all time, or your favorite trails?

M.L.: There’s a lot of trails around Winter Park that are pretty near and dear to me. I really like the Flagstaff, Ariz. area – some phenomenal biking there. Ridge trail to North Fork which is accessed from the North Fork Trail Head just above Lone Mountain Ranch is pretty bitchin.’

EBS: How about this year?

M.L.: For this year, my favorite trip is the one that hasn’t happened yet. I think it will be when me and Damien [another bike tech at Grizzly] go to Interbike, a big trade show for the bike industry in Vegas. They usually have on-dirt demos at different places, so you can try all the new stuff and figure out what to covet for next year.

EBS: What’s the best part about being a bike mechanic?

M.L.: Selling fun. This is the adult toy store. Introducing new technology to people and watching them have a great time, setting them up for success. Getting them on the right product when maybe they don’t even know what that is.

EBS: How does Montana compare to the rest of the country for biking?

M.L.: The sweetest thing we have ahead of us is a lot of fantastic trail development. As the biking communities pull together and bike parks become more of a reality at ski resorts, we’ll continue to see more positive growth. So I look forward to riding a lot of new trails. More and more people are moving here and enjoying the sport, so I think we’re just going to watch it grow. A lot of places just don’t have space available to grow, and here we do.

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