This month’s spotlight shines brightly on our Shop Manager Gregg Kato, who has been invaluable in helping with retail, donor and volunteer activities in the shop for the last year.
Gregg is a veteran of the bike industry having worked for Mountain Bike Review for 16 years and Bicycle Blue Book for 3 years before making his way to the Silicon Valley Bicycle Exchange. A native of Mountain View, Gregg has been riding bikes since he was a kid delivering newspapers. Over the years, he traded the paper route for trails, having raced mountain bikes and tried a downhill race, a dual slalom race, and a ‵cross race. And he squeezed in a few road races along the way, too.
In addition to working on bikes, Gregg finds time to volunteer with the Sunnyvale Junior Giants, teaching at-risk youth the skills of baseball and life throughout northern California.
Read on to learn a bit more about Gregg and his experiences with bikes. Thanks for your hard work, Gregg!
What is your background in cycling? And on wrenching on bikes?
I've worked in the bike industry for the past 21 years, with the bulk of that (16) working for a website called Mountain Bike Review (MTBR.com) as a site manager and editor. This is how I first met Andrew, we were both editors for different publications covering some of the same things. I then worked for BicycleBlueBook for 3 years as a mechanic and then as a retail and online sales manager. I owned a bike as a kid and had two paper routes for the Peninsula Times Tribune, now defunct and the SJ Mercury.
I used a bicycle to commute to classes at Foothill College but I didn't start seriously riding until I discovered mountain bikes now had front shocks that actually worked in about 1993. My first "real" mountain bike was a forest green Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo with a RockShox Quadra 21 R. My next bike was a 1995-96 Santa Cruz Heckler (back then Santa Cruz only made two models, the Tazmon and the Heckler).
I used to race mountain bikes all over the Bay Area, local races and the Norcal Bud Light series races. I've done some road races including the Cat's Hill Crit and the Sea Otter Road Race, one DH race (old Sizzler Classic), one dual slalom race (Sea Otter) and one ‵cross race (Surf City Cyclocross in Davenport). For me, cyclocross racing was the toughest!
I learned how to build a bike up from a bare frame from my time at MTBR.com. I learned how to assemble a bike (quickly) as well as pack and ship a bike from my time at BicycleBlueBook.
How did you get involved with SVBE?
Andrew texted me that he needed some help in a shop and I needed work!
What keeps you coming back?
I am one of two paid SVBE employees, so being able to pay bills is a pretty big motivator. But of course, I quickly learned that SVBE is an awesome cause that works because of the awesome people here! I feel very fortunate to have landed here.
You’ve worked on many different bikes. Which bike stands out as the most memorable, or your favorite?
Because we don't get a lot of full suspension mountain bikes, I would say a Knolly Endorphin stands out. It was also my first time learning to bleed brakes.
You've worked with a lot of volunteers, from our very youngest and newest to our most senior. Many come back week after week. What inspires you most about our volunteers? What advice do you have for a new mechanic?
What inspires me most about all of the volunteers is the dedication each of them shows to the cause of helping out others by working on bikes. Every single volunteer I have met has been nice, friendly and helpful with zero attitude or ego. It was obvious from my first day at BikeX that there was a strong, positive vibe here.
Advice for a new mechanic? Don't be afraid to ask questions! If you're not sure about something big or little, always feel free to ask a question. Of course, this should be balanced with a dose of "give this a try (ex: turn this screw...) and see what happens".
Funniest story related to a bike sale?
It's not like laugh-out-loud funny, but we now have a small Trek US Postal kid's road bike in our shop that was purchased a while ago and the buyer recently donated it back to us! It is still in great shape and according to eBay has some collector value to it, more than the first time BikeX sold it.
You have the honor of handling eBay and Craigslist ads. You must get a diverse selection of emails. What's the most memorable?
Thank you, it is an honor to handle the eBay and Craigslist ads for BikeX. I'm glad my experience from my last job could carry over so directly to my position here and I've worked hard to keep the stellar seller rating that my predecessor, Gordon Hamachi established. Most memorable would have to be a very recent one that came in about a WuTang Clan-inspired fixie that we had listed asking us if he can make payments for the bike for the next year because he just had to have this bike!
A highlight of the donations you've seen come through?
I would say there are two, both bikes, one mountain and one road.
The mountain bike was a Schwinn 1999 Homegrown in bass boat blue. A buddy of mine raced one of these back in the day and I always coveted it. This bike caught my eye even before I started working for BikeX. I'm glad to recently learn that it was bought by a collector who has a strong appreciation for the bike.
The road bike was a bright yellow Bottecchia that Cap'n Jonny restored. Kind of the same story, I had a buddy (different buddy) who raced these way back in the day and at that time, I didn't know the history of Bottecchia. You very rarely see any Bottecchia's so I was surprised to see such a nice one come through the doors. The yellow one was a 58, not even close to my size, sadly.
How do you think BikeX can increase its community impact?
Working on the retail side of BikeX, I can see that there is strong interest from many of our customers to want to give back and donate their time. Most of the customers who inquire about volunteer events seem to have intermediate-level knowledge of bike maintenance, so perhaps there is a way to focus these potential volunteers to become volunteer mentors. It appears that we have a shortage of mentors, so maybe there is a way to "fast-track" these individuals.
In addition to turning customers into mentor volunteers, perhaps there is a way to show the most current donations we've made and the number of bikes donated in the past month/ two months. "What charities do you donate to?" is one of the most common questions I get and being able to point to a chart with recent charity names and numbers would be a great way to build community awareness.
What can you share about your personal or family bike collection?
I have five bikes, from oldest to newest they are: Colnago Master-X-Light (lugged Columbus steel, Mapei colors, Campy Chorus), Leader Bike hardtail (carbon/alloy mix frame, Shimano XT), Surly Cross-Check, Cannondale Synapse (105), and a Santa Cruz 5010C.
What have you learned since joining SVBE?
I have learned a ton, but bleeding brakes stands out the most.
What’s your favorite bike ride (local or not)?
UC Santa Cruz campus trails. Am I incriminating myself with this answer? Mountain biking is not a crime!