Tube change, adjusting the brakes, selling: summer is peak season for the bicycle shop “Kettenreaktion” (Chain Reaction) – and for trainee Paula. Sometimes, she says, 30 to 40 customers come in at a time. She still enjoys the work.
By Ula Brunner
Paula is very focused: time and again she checks the tension of the spokes, the centering, the running of the wheel. She doesn’t let herself be distracted. Neither by the two customers who are waiting at the counter, nor by her two bosses Sebastian and Willi, who bustle about in the small bicycle shop in the south of Leipzig. Now, at the beginning of summer, there is a lot to do and everyone has his or her job.
Paula values precision work | Photo (detail): © Ula Brunner
“Mounting wheels is my favorite. It's very interesting work, you have to be very precise,” says Paula, wiping clean her oil-smeared hands. Paula Luise Jule Kobus, the young woman with blonde dreadlocks, was born in 1997 and is in the third year of training to become a bicycle mechatronics technician. By now, she says, she can do almost everything: from changing the tube and adjusting brakes to frame construction.
Paula advises, repairs and sells | Photo (detail): © Ula Brunner
And that’s a good thing too, because beginning in spring it is peak season. “If you work in a bike shop in the summer, you have to be stress-resistant”, says Paula. “Sometimes 30 to 40 customers come in at the same time, they’re all in a hurry. That can get difficult. Even an emergency repair, such as a tube change, which we usually can do it within 24 hours, involves waiting time in summer.
City bikes, touring bikes, trekking bikes, children's bikes ... | Photo (detail): © Ula Brunner
Actually, the emphasis of the shop is on the sale of bikes and accessories. It has sent a customer a bike, which he bought before moving from Leipzig, even as far as France. But in summer, says Paula, “business swashes very much towards repairs”. In winter then things are more relaxed. “We even have free time, can stop working earlier and work on our own bikes.”
Paula rides her bike to work | Photo (detail): © Ula Brunner
For Paula, the bicycle is the number one means of transport: “I don’t have a driver’s license, I don’t like public transport and so I always ride my bike.” But she doesn’t wear a helmet, she confesses. “It’s so hard to fit over my hair.”
Half a year more and her training as a bicycle mechatronics technician will be completed. The profession was passed on to her: her father is also a bicycle mechatronics technician, and is proud of his daughter. Because women are still in the minority in this work. Customers often ask Paula about her working in a male domain. “I think it’s a pity when they make a big thing about it and say: Oh, a woman!” At her vocational school, only five percent were women. “But at least there are women there, that’s good. Something’s already happening.”