Kevin Grove: Like Father, Like Son
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Kevin Grove is one of the BMC Racing team’s American mechanics. Passionate about the bike since he was a kid, Grove started wrenching with his father at local races when bikes still had downtube shifters before making his way to Europe where he has worked with U.S.-registered teams Slipstream, Garmin and BMC. Peloton visited with Grove at the team’s service course in Belgium and again during the recent Paris–Nice race.
Words & Images: James Startt
Peloton Magazine: Kevin, how long have you been with the BMC Racing team?
Kevin Grove: I started with these guys in 2009. Before that I was the head mechanic for Garmin and before that Slipstream Sports and before that TIAA Cref [the precursor to Slipstream].
Peloton: Wow, you were working with Jonathan Vaughters before he had a full-time European operation. How did you get into wrenching?
Grove: My father! His hobby was cycling. He used to be a high-level manager for IBM. It was a pretty stressful job so my mom told him to get a hobby to relieve his stress. He went to Barnett’s [Barnett’s Bicycle Institute for Bicycle Mechanics] and enjoyed that class and then went to USA Cycling and got his license as a mechanic. Then he started going to races. I was like 15 or 16 and started going with him. And then the Shimano guys started giving me wrenches and that’s how I got started.
Peloton: Oh, that’s a great story. Like father, like son! Where are you from?
Grove: Well, technically, Cincinnati. That’s where I was born. But I’ve lived all over the East Coast.
Peloton: Did you ever ride or race yourself?
Grove: Very briefly. When I was a junior I would race, but they didn’t have junior racing really set up, so I was always racing against 30- or 40-year-old guys in the Cat. 4 events and getting my ass kicked, so it wasn’t a lot of fun and I decided that working on the bikes was a lot easier.
Peloton: Obviously, you still are really passionate about the bike itself!
Grove: Oh, yeah!
Peloton: How does it work when you are at the races? Are you usually in a team car?
Grove: Well it changes. I started the week [at Paris–Nice] driving the mechanics’ truck, but now I am following the race in the second team car. We switch it up to make it more interesting for everybody.
Peloton: Do you have a preference? Do you prefer driving the truck from one team hotel to the next, or do you prefer being in the race?
Grove: Oh, that’s a difficult question! I really do enjoy driving the truck. It’s something that not every mechanic can do very well. It takes a certain ability, a certain fearlessness, to drive in local traffic and maneuver your way around small cities and villages all over the world. But I love being in a race too. I love being around the event, especially around the time trial. My favorite event is the team time trial. I just love that event. To have six or eight guys working in harmony is just the purest part of cycling, I think.
Peloton: And being a mechanic you must feel a real part of that event because the bike plays such a central role….
Grove: Oh, yeah! Exactly!
Peloton: You’ve seen the bicycle evolve a lot since you started over the last decade or so. What has been the biggest change for you?
Grove: Well, I started with downtube shifters actually! I remember when shifters went into the brake levers. That was a big deal. And today you have the electronic shifters, which is definitely the next level. Then we have the whole disc-brake evolution, if it ever really comes into the peloton.
Peloton: A lot of tech talk has focused on disc brakes in pro racing. Do you have a position? What do you think?
Grove: Well, I’d like to see everyone having them or no one having them, because the braking response is very different. The biggest issue regarding the disc brake in pro racing is going to be the time it takes for a wheel change. It takes longer. There will be more time on the side of the road and there are a lot of questions regarding what the officials will allow or will not allow when it comes to getting a rider back up to the peloton after a wheel change.
Peloton: What do you love most about your job?
Peloton: What is the hardest thing?
Grove: Traveling! I have a wife and three kids and it is not very easy to leave them on a weekly basis to go to a race for 10 days.