By Sal Ruibal/This article originally appeared in the June `13 issue of Bike
On the outside, Tinker Juarez looks like Mr. Laidback. But his signature dreads and mellow demeanor belie a world-class athlete's focus on details. In his early days as a bMX racer, he would have his mother amble around the pits, pretending to be an absent-minded mom looking for the ladies restroom. In reality, she was scoping out the competition, counting the number of teeth on the other racers' chainrings and cluing in tinker on their race strategies.
When Tinker began racing mountain bikes, he became obsessed with the composition of parts on his bikes—especially a specific model of Look clipless pedals that were big, chunky and very red. "They had a big platform," he now explains of that preference. "I like to have a big platform under my feet. If something works, I'm going to stick with it. There's no reason to change. Those pedals were bombproof."
Former Cannondale team manager Adrian Montgomery, now director of brand marketing at Backcountry.com, remembers the pedals well. "My best memory of those pedals was when we were at a 24-hour race and he was telling me that the two pairs he had on his race bike were the last two he had," Montgomery says. "He was really concerned about the future once his last two pedals were worn out."
A week or so later, Tinker found a bike retailer who had five sets of them still in the box. "He was set for another few years with that purchase," Montgomery says.
Tinker also was obsessed with a single-bolt stem he'd used for years. The team carried a new, lighter stem for him, but he held on to the single-bolt model well after stems were being produced with multi-bolt face plates. That stem lasted so long it had to be repainted from red to blue when Cannondale changed its team colors.
"One day he showed up at a race and had forgotten his stem, or it was missing from his bike bag," Montgomery remembers. "He had to take the one I had in the truck, and from then on he ran it. He never found that old thing. I bet it still bothers him today."
Tinker denies, "being anal about that" and insists that any fussiness was due to the way Cannondale designed its bikes back then. The Lefty shock the team used required a short, negative-rise stem. "Those were hard to find," he explains. "Once you got one that fit, you hung on to it."
Tinker says he didn't care what other riders said about his parts choices. "Every rider would tell me a completely different story," he says. "It was all about attention to detail. I couldn't use something just because everyone else was using it."