What would you do if the career you’ve chosen for yourself suddenly quits on you? Would you retool your life, or fold and choose the path with the least resistance? For Lucy Carrera, owner of Moto Lucia and a rock-star motorcycle mechanic, the way forward was clear after making a choice: fix kids or fix bikes.
“(I) was at a crossroads after being laid off from tech. The choices were clear: motorcycle school or child psychology. So similar,” Carrera jokes. “Both (satisfied) the chronic urge to fix. I was obsessed with motorcycles and riding, infectious to my non-riding friends to the point that they all knew which bike they’d ride if they ever did take up the hobby, so I went with it and chose motorcycle school.”
A World of Motorcycles
Twenty years or so later, Carrera runs a successful repair shop in San Francisco, specializing in Ducati and other European makes like Triumph, BMW and KTM. Carrera said on any given day, there is a healthy mix of the world’s motorcycles in for repair at the shop. And that’s just how Carrera likes it. This “chronic fixer” is more than a mechanic: She has an innate ability to diagnose and expertly repair and upgrade any motorcycle in her shop. At any time. That need to fix, and support other women who also “fix,” prompted her to start the Female Mechanics Alliance in 2009.
“I started the Female Mechanics Alliance in 2009 as an inclusive, yet private group for we fixers (not just cars! Trains, planes, motorcycles, diesel, marine, heavy equipment, industrial maintenance, helicopters, bicycles. . .),” Carrera said, “that “focuses our awesome female prowess into one spot where we can share, network and encourage; heavy on the ‘encourage,’ and you can find out more about us and join the group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/FemaleMechanicsAlliance.”
Despite more than 24 years of riding bikes and nearly 20 years as a mechanic, Carrera still suffers from a twinge of Imposter’s Syndrome – that little poke of self-doubt that can either turn you bitter or make you better. She’s allowed it to make her better – and support other female mechanics to boot. Has it been without challenges? Not even close. But those hard-won years of experience proves itself every day in Carrera’s work ethic, the need to make sure things run perfectly, and her mindset.
“I’m grateful for the path and it’s challenges that have led me to where I am, which turns out is running my own successful shop and hiring another woman to work on my team and looking forward to the future from here,” Carrera reflects. “But even now, almost 20 years in, I still doubt myself sometimes – still spin my wheels a bit before asking for help. In my previous career in database administration, I suffered greatly from imposter syndrome. Even though I was good at my job, I worried that because I didn’t have an IT degree, but rather self-taught and scrambling to learn along the way, that I was just one wrong move from being found out and fired. Turns out the bubble burst and layoffs took care of that.
“Then came motorcycle school – I thought finally, some formal training! As a 30-year old woman surrounded by 18 year-old boys I realized quickly that motorcycle school is one part sham and two parts what you make of it,” Carerra said. “I graduated and realized, once again, that I knew nothing. Truth is, school knowledge is a thin, flimsy layer upon which you begin to stack experience. During my first years at Desmoto-Sport there were several weekends I spent wondering if I’d be fired on Monday for the mistakes I’d made the week before. It wasn’t until maybe 5 years in that I realized that I was kinda good at what I was doing. Sure, there’s aptitude, but mostly it was TIME and having good mentors. It started to sink in that most everyone is “faking it until they make it,” but only in the sense that you have to pass through time to gain the experience and you have to give yourself that time to learn.”
Read the Manual. There’s Important Stuff in There
Carrera welcomes riders to take an active role in the maintenance of their bikes, drilling down to the most basic of care: Reading the actual manual that came with the motorcycle. She shares her top three things to remember about motorcycle maintenance.
- “The first thing I encourage everyone to do is just sit down and read every single word in their owner’s manual. Most of these manuals have pages of practical tips that explain things many riders aren’t aware of like tire pressures, fuel recommendations, and maintenance schedules (time-based intervals vs mileage-based intervals).”
- “The second thing is to regularly check in with your bike. Take 15 minutes to clean and just get down there and look at all the stuff. You’ll become so familiar with the way things are that you’ll be able to notice when something’s a bit off. These 15 minutes should include checking at least the tire pressures, the oil level and your brake light.”
- “The third thing is to take in your online information with a grain or two of salt. There’s nothing worse than going down the rabbit hole and worrying yourself sick because the forums told you that you’re going to need a new motor when all you wanted to know about was that drip of oil you saw or noise that you heard. Find a shop you trust and have them check it out, instead.”
Ever hopeful, and ever the supporter, Carrera shares her best piece of “fixing” advice she ever heard, from a friend’s father: “Look for horses, not zebras.” Meaning look for the most obvious of items that could be broken, and work backwards. Solid life advice that can apply to anything. She also encourages women to pursue their dreams of being a mechanic, if that’s where their passions lie.
“If you think being a (mechanic) might be your thing, go for it!” Carrera encourages. “It’s my dream that the novelty of seeing a woman in a traditionally male position will continue to wear off and sooner than later, we’ll find that more and more people understand what we already know: duh, women are really good at things. Do yourself a favor and be kind and patient with yourself while you’re learning and don’t settle for any position that doesn’t support you in that. One of our favorite sayings in the group is ‘toolboxes have wheels for a reason.’”
In addition to mechanical services, Moto Lucia also offers bike storage for only $165/mo in a safe, secure warehouse, with the added bonus of checking tire pressures and doing a safety check after a rig has been stored over time. You can find Carrera and Moto Lucia in The Castro district in San Francisco; their address is 274 Shotwell Street at 17th, San Francisco, CA.
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