Sunday, July 25, 2021
HomeInterviewsDirk Dekeyser - Life as a Bike Mechanic

Dirk Dekeyser – Life as a Bike Mechanic


We spoke to circuit spanner man, Dirk Dekeyser at the Grenoble Six Day. Who makes sure the wheels turn smoothly during a Six Day race? The mechanics are the men who change the gears, stick on the tyres, endlessly polish the paintwork and pick up the pieces after crashes.

They arrive first to build the bikes up and leave last after having stripped the bikes down for transit. What makes a man want to roam Europe, often driving a thousand kilometres through the night to get to the next race – or to get home?

Dirk Dekeyser
Joerg and Dirk (R) take a two minute breather.

Your shop in Drongen, Gent is a family business, Dirk?

“My great grandfather started the business in 1920, he built his own frames, back then. My grandfather ran the shop until 1988 and then I took over.”

Were you a cyclist?

“No, I played football!”

How did you get into race mechanicing?

“The Belgian national coach and former Six Day man, Michel Vaarten asked if I would help the national squad mechanic at some track World Cups and then the track World Championships – it led on from there.”

How many Sixes have you worked?

“I’m not really into statistics, but I started 1999/2000. I think the first Six I did was Berlin?”

Typically, how many riders do you take care of?

“Sometimes just two; at Berlin I only had Michael Mørkøv and Alex Rasmussen. But here at Grenoble in 2009 I had eight. I mostly look after Belgian, Danish and Dutch riders.”

Dirk Dekeyser
The boys on the rollers, whilst Dirk prepares the TT wheels.

Do you work on the road, too?

“I help the Belgian pro team Topsport Vlaanderen; they have staff mechanics but if their programme is heavy then I’ll come in on a ‘daily’ basis.

“Recently I did the Circuit of Lorraine and Bayern Rundfahrt for them.”


“No, I don’t really like the behaviour of a lot of the fans at cyclo cross races – throwing beer at riders. Imagine if they did that at a Six !”

Mountain biking?

“Just to watch; I have a couple of guys who work in the shop and they are crazy about it.

“We stock mountain bikes, it’s a part of our business.”

What’s your favourite part of the job?

“Working with the bikes – when I’m in the shop so much of my time is spent on admin I don’t really get the opportunity to work on bikes at all.

“But here you’re working with them all the time – that’s what I really enjoy.”

Dirk Dekeyser
Dirk helps the riders in other ways – here pushing Cam Meyer off in a Derny race at the Berlin Six.

And the worst?

“The travelling; I have 1200 kilometres to cover to get home after this.”

You must have seen a lot of changes in equipment?

“It was steel frames when I started but then aluminium came along – many of those weren’t any lighter than the best steel frames.

“Then it was the time of carbon – it’s all commercial and nowadays things evolve fast.

“The big selling point with the first carbon road frames was that they absorbed the road shock – but now they are always making them stiffer.

“And the integrated seat post design makes them even more rigid – you need a massage after every ride on one of those!”

What get hits hardest on a Six Day bike?

“Tyres and handlebar tape; in the old days the headsets took a lot of punishment but now, with the integrated system, I can’t remember the last time I changed one.

It’s not like the road where a lot of dirt and water is flying about.”

What’s your favourite equipment development?

‘Shimano Di 2 electronic gearing – it’s amazing, Japanese precision at it’s best.

“I like the BB 30 bottom bracket system, the axle is shorter, there’s a narrowerer ‘Q factor’ (overall width of crank faces) and it’s much stiffer.

“The 1.5″ lower with 1.125” upper head race system is good too, much stronger.

“And now there are asymmetric chainstays – it never stops!: Focus now have a rideable bike with off the shelf equipment, which is less than five kilos.

“Hushovd’s Cervelo frame is just 800 grammes. I think that the UCI should look at the minimum weight restrictions, the light equipment is safe, now.”

Do Continental tyres still rule the boards?

“My guys are on them – Danny Stam rides Vittorias, they sponsor the team and the Swiss guys ride Schwalbes – but I still like the Continentals.”

Who’s the fussiest rider?

“Michael Mørkøv; he sees everything.

“I hate when the cabins are laid out so that the riders can see the bikes, Michael sits and looks at his machine all the time – he always sees something.

“But that’s part of the reason why he’s so good – that professional attention to detail.”

Dirk Dekeyser
Dirk shoots the breeze with Alex Rasmussen.

Who just let’s you get on with things?

“The older guys, they know I’ll take good care of their wheels and tyres and that’s the main thing.

“The young guys are into things looking good – white saddles and stuff like that.”

What do you like least about the circuit?

“The crashes; I was there when Isaac Galvez had his fatal crash at Gent… my rider, Dimitri Defauw – who is sadly dead now, too – was involved in the crash.

“I had to walk past Isaac to recover Dimitri’s bike – I’ll never forget looking down at him as he lay there.”

What do you like most about the circuit?

“It’s one big family, there might be different mechanics and soigneurs looking after different riders but it’s all one little world.”

The mechanic’s job is never done.

There’s a postscript – as I helped Dirk carry the bikes up to his camper van at wearing on for 02:00 am on Wednesday, he turned to me and said; ‘for the interview, when you asked about what I don’t like – I forgot about this bit !’

For more information, check out Dirk’s website.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Scottish Hill Climb Championships 2010 – Preview

Promoted by Sandy Wallace Cycles, the Scottish Hill Climb Championships 2010 takes place on Sunday on the Purrin Den ascent in Fife, and around 35 hardy souls are preparing to put themselves through the seven minutes (and more) of pain it'll take to see the relay station at the finish...

KBC Driedaagse van De Panne-Koksijde – Day 2, Middelkerke to Zottegem

Stage one is Middelkerke (home to the Tom Boonen fan club) to Zottegem, wearing-on for 200 K, when you include two laps of a circuit in the 'bergs' near Oudenaarde. All of the hills which give Het Volk, Kuurne, De Panne and Flanders their particular character are contained within a relatively small area.

Jim Cusick – The New Scottish 100 Mile TT Champion

"Cheers Ed! In pub at Evanton and had a few. Brought up touring bikes and off to Ullapool then Hebrides for a week. Reception poor but give it a try..." That was Jim Cusick's (Glasgow Couriers) reply to our congratulatory text message and interview request after he had just won his first 100 mile title on the familiar roads (if you're involved in Scottish testing) around the Cromarty Firth.

Le Tour de France 2015 – Stage 8; Getting Close to the Race at the Buses

I am staying at my in-laws in Brittany, as I do every summer since I got married and every two or three years it is my base for watching the Tour on the ground. This year things couldn’t be better, with a stage start about 40 minutes east in the city of Rennes and the finish accessible about an hour to the west. I have enjoyed looking at the team cars, buses at the start in previous years so my plan is to find the ‘paddock’ and see how close I can get. With journalists, soigneurs and directeur sportifs all around, the fan can feel part of the event.

Le Tour de France 2010, Stage 6: Montargis – Gueugnon; Top Mark Renshaw

We're in Montargis today, talking about Mark Renshaw; he has some nice wins in his palmares; the 2006 Tro Bro Leon, a stage in the 2008 Franco Belge and a hand in shattering Garmin's dreams to win the TTT in the 2009 Giro.

Neah Evans – Two Medals from the Commonwealth Games

Continuing with our series of interviews with Scotland’s Commonwealth Games cycling medallists, VeloVeritas chats to Neah Evans who returned from the Gold Coast with two medals from the points and scratch races, despite illness prior to The Games. Although she prepared specifically for the track events she also rode the individual road time trial and road race. Despite this she brought home two top 10 finishes.

At Random

Deeside Thistle Hilly 10.5 Mile Time Trial

Ali Watt (Granite City RT) broke his own Course Record on the 2 lap 19.5ml Deeside Thistle Hilly 10.5 Mile Time Trial on Thurs 24th May, only to be thwarted by a flying Ray Wilson (Dunfermline CC) who was over a half minute faster. A cool, dull evening with intermittent showers meant that Course Records weren't really on most folks' cards beforehand.

Christopher Macic – “I have to give it 100% this year”

A few years ago, Vik and I were hanging over the barriers at a Friday night kermis near Gent; ex-pro Tony Bracke was Hoovering up the primes but one of the Kingsnorth Wheelers guys was catching our eye, Christopher Macic.

Steve Joughin – The Original ‘Pocket Rocket’

The ‘Pocket Rocket’ they called him; British Junior Road Champion, twice winner of the season-long Star Trophy, winner of just about every major amateur race in Britain and twice British Professional Road race Champion – the Isle of Man’s own Mr. Steve Joughin. High time we caught up with him.

Magicshine MJ-816 Review – Front Light Set

Here in the UK we've been hammered recently by the weather; for the last few weeks Scotland in particular has resembled an Arctic landscape, with blizzards, white-outs, and motorways frozen closed for days - any bike riding that's been done has been in the garage on the rollers, or spinning down the at the gym. The last few days however, have seen a significant rise in temperature and the resultant thaw has us getting the overshoes looked out again, and the lights back on the bike, ready for recommencing the daily commute, training, and some off-road night riding too.

Grenoble Six Day 2010, Night Five – Velocious Elia Viviani

There’s no telling what you’ll see when you walk up those stairs; you’d expect to see Elia Viviani or Teun Mulder on the rollers on their road bikes or Shane Perkins on his track bike on the rollers — but a juggler?

George Berwick – Scottish Ultra-Distance Legend Still Going Strong at 80

A cold Friday night during the winter of 1971/72. My Kirkcaldy & District CC club mate, Rab Speirs and I are walking up the A93 near the infamous ‘Devil’s Elbow’ hairpin en route the Braemar youth hostel. Behind us we hear the sound of bike tyre on tarmac, two figures totting enormous saddle bags heave past us; Mr. George Berwick, who was reigning Scottish 12 Hour Champion at the time....