11 Things With Steven Schwartz, service course manager

The Minnesota musician who saw an opportunity and seized it

2 months ago by Tom Owen

Meet the man at the center of a complex network of courier firms, equipment sponsors, directors, riders, and the top-level management of the Rally Cycling team. Steven Schwartz is our service course manager, as well as – possibly – the most musically gifted member of our whole organization. Get to know him in the latest edition of our “Things With” interview series.

I’m always bouncing around. I’m essentially an equipment manager, a warehouse manager, and a full-time mechanic – as well as that, I’m working with all our sponsors and suppliers. I’m also the one who plots all the fit data and helps our athletes get their bikes dialed in, so their bikes ride the same all across the globe.

The service course is loaded – literally. It’s a giant warehouse packed to the gills with all the equipment you might need for a race team that competes equally across North America and in Europe. We have shelves full of Clif products, SRAM parts, and everything else I would need to keep the team on the road. It’s a job in and of itself just to keep everything organized. 

We’re racing with the best in the world. That means our equipment has to deliver top-notch performance. We have to have enough of it and we have to have the best. That’s what keeps me up at night. Making sure I do everything I can to help the team.

I started on the ground floor. I was managing a bike shop in Minnesota and heard the Rally Cycling women’s team was coming through town. I approached Zane Freebairn who was the women’s team lead mechanic and he brought me on to do some part-time mechanic work. It snowballed from there and now I manage the service course in Golden, Colorado. It’s my third year with the team.

I try never to show the moments of frustration or anxiety in front of the riders. You have to make sure you look, seem, and sound calm because you’re around professional athletes that need to maintain this tremendous center and internal focus. 

I’m kind of an outlier. Unlike most of our management team, I’ve never raced a bike. I think that allows me to add a lot of different insight within the team. I come in with a different perspective and can offer a different viewpoint that they might not have seen before.

I have a degree in music with an emphasis on business. If you think about how much time these cyclists put in on their bike, I was basically doing that with music. Since eighth grade, I grew up playing the saxophone and guitar. I even got to take my turn on the First Avenue main stage, which is where Prince recorded a lot of the music video for Purple Rain.

We really burn through equipment. On a single race day, we wash a bike, we tune it, they race it, we do it again the very next day. We put a huge amount of wear on hex wrenches, cable cutters, and master links. It’s not just the mechanical use of the tool either, it’s the traveling and abuse they get. Luckily, Park Tool understands that and they always hook us up – not a lot of companies would. 

Sometimes I have to take one of the riders’ bikes for a spin. You can’t always replicate what’s happening for the riders on a work stand. It’s good to get out and thrash the pedals. That’s something that some bike mechanics don’t do, some think you shouldn’t and I’m the complete opposite. To replicate a problem a rider is having, you have to put the power in the cranks. Perks of the job.

I wouldn’t be happy in a desk job. Sometimes the job can be frenetic, but multi-tasking is one of my strong suits. I think that’s why I’m still in this position, really, because I like it and it keeps me going. It’s a big driving factor, I could be sitting at my desk all year long and I would not be happy.

Our whole business model has changed. Right now, we’re using our cycling team essentially as a channel to help people. Like everyone, we’re working through computer screens. It’s challenging but we’re having some great successes. We want to make sure people are staying happy, staying healthy, and staying safe. One of the best ways of doing that is exercise and riding your bike, but finding other outlets is important as well.