Heavy rain is beating down on the workshop window. Yet inside it is wonderfully warm. Three bike mechanics tighten up the bolts on our signature bright-red bicycles. One thing is certain, today is definitely not ideal weather for cycling. But that’s fine by us because the winter is imminent and the cycle tour season has already come to an end. An off-season holiday is however not in sight for the business. Also not for Jacek Szczurek. For him and his team it is now time to prepare everything for the upcoming bike season, which kicks off again at Easter time.
Once a road cyclist but now a bike building expert
Since 1995 Jacek Szczurek has been working with one of Europe’s leading cycle tour companies. But his passion for cycling started many years earlier. To be precise, in the 70’s in Poland. At that time, the current 59-year-old Jacek was at home. When he was 18 years old, he was a keen road cyclist. Poland was a keen cycling nation back then. In every region there were numerous teams, which were competing for the championship. Jacek claimed many of these championship titles. But after two serious accidents and the birth of his first child he decided that it was time to give up his cycling career. A life without bikes was not a foreseeable possibility for him though. So he became a cycling coach. He remained a coach until he emigrated to Austria in 1987. Despite leaving lots of things behind in Poland, he brought his family and his passion for bikes with him into his new home.
“In Austria it went from one thing to another” said Jacek looking back at his memories from moving to Austria. Whilst in the refugee camp he met and got to know Herbert Würtinger (one of the Eurobike managers) whilst he was doing voluntary work there. In 1995 Eurobike was looking for a reliable bike partner and that’s when Jacek stood in. In his first year working for Eurobike, he had built 160 bikes by hand. Nowadays he builds about 1000 bikes a year by hand alongside his team for the tour operators Eurobike, Rückenwind and SE-Tours.
The tours that we offer are so diverse and for Jacek that means one thing, the bikes need to be built to meet different demands. Should it have 7 gears or 21 gears? Should it have a back-pedalling brake or not? Or should it be an E-bike with 8 gears? Jacek understands what it takes. He explained that “a bike for a bike and boat tour is exposed to the elements much more and therefore requires different materials and lubricants than a bike that always stays on the mainland.” In particular, the water is an important criterion to bear in mind whilst carrying out routine maintenance on the bicycles.
If a bike has been on a tour where there was a lot of rain, then the brake pads will definitely be switched before the next tour. All of our bikes get serviced before they set off a new tour. The quality of the bikes and the guests’ safety are both vital factors for the tour operator. In order to be able to provide this service, Jacek and his team are always on the move in the spring and summer months. There are bike workshops and service centres in Schärding, Obertrum near Salzburg, Bolzano and Munich and so these are all regular ports of call for the bike experts. Jacek told us that “it is no surprise that you can find problems with a bike just by listening to it but you do have to listen to it carefully”. He explained that “if you do so, then you can catch any problems with it early on.” He isn’t only speaking from experience but also from his passion for his job. “Without a passion for bikes, it would not be possible to do this job”.
These days Jacek only rides for enjoyment unlike 30 years ago. In answer to whether he still gets on his saddle occasionally, Jacek told us “only for comfortable rides on my road bike. To switch off.”
How to make your bicycle last longer
- Always keep your bike chain clean
- Take note of any unusual noises whilst cycling – if anything sounds suspicious then get your bike serviced
- Before the winter, clean your bike. Make sure that you lubricate the chain and moving parts.
- Make sure that your bike is not stored exposed to the rain – it will go rusty