Peter Matika – [email protected]
WHEN Mr Michael Stuhardt was dealt a raw-deal from a bicycle tune-up back in the 90s, he never imagined that years down the line, he would be the “go to guy” in offering the best bicycle repair services.
Now 48, Big Mike as he is popularly known, regards himself as the best bicycle repair man in the region, if not the country.
His story began back in 1994 when he worked for Advance Wholesalers as a marketer.
He had just been gifted with a mountain bicycle by a relative in South Africa. A mountain bike in the 90s was one of the most sought-after bicycles by many; it was synonymous with the elite.
“I had just been gifted with one of the most desired modes of transport – a mountain bike. So, I rode the bike for some time and it needed a tune up. Some of the parts had worn out and it needed some servicing. I took my bicycle to a ‘bike-technician’ in Makokoba with anticipation that he would do a sterling and satisfactory job,” said Mr Stuhardt.
He said it was only after he collected his bike that he realised that he had been dealt a raw deal.
“It was not what I expected, the parts that were fitted and some that I was made to purchase did not fit or match the bike’s specs. It was then that I decided to take matters into my own hands,” said Mr Stuhardt.
He said he decided to research on mountain bikes, and happened to come across a magazine that specialised on the model.
“I wanted to fix my bike. I wanted it to meet my expectations. I wanted it to be the best. I wanted it in tip top condition, just in the same manner I had received it as a gift. I was obsessed with bikes,” said Mr Stuhardt.
He said at that point he realised it was more than just an obsession but a hobby and a career that he could delve into and make a living from.
“I decided to start my own thing. I would use my lunch breaks at work and even after or on my free time I would spend time fixing bikes for people,” said Mr Stuhardt.
He said it was during that period that he decided to quit his job as a marketer to become a full-time bicycle technician and repair man.
“I turned my passion into talent. I opened a bicycle repair shop in Makokoba. With the knowledge that I had amassed on my own and all the practice, I was even surprised at myself when I realised just how good I was. I was the best,” said Mr Stuhardt.
Before opening a repair shop, Mr Stuhardt said he started off with a mobile bike repair facility, which he used to entice clients.
“I am a marketer by profession and I used my knowledge and skill to promote my business. I rode a bike with a trolley that I would use to carry my tools and parts. Riders and bike owners were enthralled with me and that is how I managed to land my clientele base,” said Mr Stuhardt.
He said when he opened the shop, he started off with small jobs before landing big ones.
“Before long, I became a specialist. I then landed a tender with the police to service their bikes. After that I landed more and more tenders. I was the go-to guy. Everyone knew I had the expertise and knowledge,” said Mr Stuhardt.
He said he managed to land a commission-based job with a bicycle company, where he was a repair and spares specialist.
“I was working and was also running my own thing. I managed to open another branch in the same neighbourhood,” said Mr Stuhardt.
However, as the “sisters of fate” would have it, weaving a tapestry not to be undone, Mr Stuhardt had to shut one of his branches.
“Such a job needs a hands-on approach. I had employed a couple of young men who shared the same passion as I but not as much. It was an unfortunate thing but it had to be done. I then focused my energy on the remaining branch and my job,” said Mr Stuhardt.
But with a grip so intense, the “sisters of fate” fortified with an all-seeing eye led Mr Stuhardt on a journey that would see him becoming the greatest bike master in the country.
“I became accustomed to imbombela- the Black Horse. I knew all about bikes and I had every client eating from the palm of my hand,” said Mr Stuhardt.
He however had to close the Makokoba shop before being employed by a company in the city centre.
“It was a venture I could not let slip. I established many partnerships through the company. We sold many bikes and it was the best,” said Mr Stuhardt.
He continued: “But I had to run my own race. So, we parted ways and I went on to do my own thing.”
Mr Stuhardt said as time would have it, he drew the attention of local cyclists and new-fangled companies.
“I was doing my own thing. And I still am. I employed a few boys and they are doing wonders across seas and borders. Some have cycled for big competitions and through all that they are now based and working for big brand bicycle companies,” he said.
Mr Stuhardt said he owned at least five custom designed bicycles, which he hired out for occasions.
“I design my own bicycles and they are good. I have had people even from outside the country tell me they would love to take me on,” he said.
“I am part of many riding organisations and I am extremely proud of myself. I made myself and it feels good. I have even mooted some ideas that have taken centre stage,” said Mr Stuhardt.
He called upon the Government to consider bicycle repairs as a career and lucrative industry that should be included at college and university level.
“My long-term plan is to have my own brand that will attract countries to Zimbabwe. This can boost tourism and other sectors of industry,” said Mr Stuhardt.
He urged the youth to follow their passions and dreams to achieve what they desire most.