LINK Internships are a special opportunity that Animas High School Juniors get to experience towards the end of the school year. For 3 weeks, every junior gets time off of school to pursue an internship of their choice to experience and learn from a mentor in a field that they are interested in. Juniors must complete 90-120 hrs of time at the internship, and a final project of their choice. For my Internship I worked with Travis Brown, the head of Trek Bicycles Mountain Bike product development team. Trek Bikes is one of the largest bike companies in the entire world, and getting to put my hands on and give feedback on prototypes that would influence production was a pretty cool experience.
Luckily for me, securing my internship has been fairly easy. I knew I wanted to do my internship at a company where I could see firsthand what engineering looks like, and what better company to do it with that the bike company that sponsors me. Luckily I had some connections with the company, and with Ce Compton who had done her internship with Trek before. I got in touch with Travis Brown, the head of the mountain bike field test and product development team. We set up a meeting to discus what an internship with him would look like, and with that I locked it in. I luckily didn't have a hard time finding an internship, I got my first choice internship. This internship is going to hopefully let me see what its like to work in the bike industry, riding and seeing the engineering behind them, which sounds like a perfect job to me. As an official member of the product development feedback team, I will be giving input on the variety of products I test, so hopefully I can contribute worthwhile feedback that makes a difference for the future!
Fat tire bike testing day with local RedBull athlete Payson McElveen.
During the three weeks at our internships, we are tasked with taking the knowledge that we learn to produce a final project. One of the main things I learned about at my internship was suspension. The front suspension on a bike is called a fork, and the rear is called a shock. Both are air sprung, which means the support or firmness of the fork or shock is adjusted based on air pressure which can be added or subtracted. There is also the rebound, which is the speed at which the suspension returns after it takes an impact, and finally the air chamber. All three of these things affect the suspension characteristics, and the goal with my link project was to find the most ideal setup for XC racing, the type of mountain bike racing I mainly compete in. In XC racing, there are both up and downhills, so it is important for your bike to be light and efficient. Suspension bob is when you are pedalling hard, which causes the suspension to compress and actually sap some of the energy that you are putting down instead of it being used to propel you. My bike has a remote lockout, a lever on my handlebars that allows me to fully lock out my suspension when I feel like it. XC bikes don't have much suspension travel, so you want to be able to use it in the most efficient way possible. The characteristics I was going for with my bike were as follows:
Efficient pedalling in the open position
Good Travel management, not bottoming out easy but using full travel
High-speed bump compliance
I first spend a lot of time on a test bike experimenting with a variety of rebound and air pressures, along with trying different volume reducers in the shock. A volume reducer in the shock or fork changes the air can so that the volume of it is more or less, which in turn creates more or less progression of the travel of the shock or fork.
Once I found a setup I was happy with, I took what I had learned and set up the bike I was going to race in Utah the coming weekend. I changed quite a bit, and it felt great. That weekend it obviously worked, as I was able to win both races.
Coming into LINK, there were a variety of skills that were useful to me. For my LINK, I would spend a couple of hours a day in Travis's shop learning from him and doing shop work and then the rest of the day would be spent riding and testing products on my own. It was a lot of freedom, but also a lot of work, and I felt really prepared to independently manage my time and get my work done. I also wrote a variety of feedback reports for Trek and worked on a field test with some very experienced professionals, and I felt like I was very prepared to both write professional pieces of work and conduct myself that way when I needed too. During LINK I also developed a variety of different skills. On one specific occasion, I was tasked by my mentor with going to buy 2 tires from a bike shop, a simple enough task. But I quickly learned some problem-solving skills when the first bike shop didn't have the tires I needed. Or the second bike shop. Or every bike shop in town. Really I needed the tires that day so I could complete a tire comparison test, but nobody in Durango had the tires I needed so I had to get them as soon as possible. I ended up having to call one of the bike shops and get them to overnight the tires from a Colorado warehouse. It isn't much, but there were multiple times I had to adapt on the spot to challenges out of the ordinary. Besides those small things, all in all, my internship went exceptionally smooth. Now, I am continuing to work for Travis and Trek doing more product development work, so I am continuing to make a lasting impact at the company. I felt that my work and help was valued and made an impression that will pave a foundation for future Animas students wanting to pursue a similar internship.