Dave Mannino started his 40-year career as a bike mechanic above an insulation warehouse.
The young Gonzaga graduate was just thrilled to have a job working with bikes at Selkirk Bergsport, an early Spokane bike shop. But he had to work around the warehouse’s schedule.
Every day, the train would rumble up to the warehouse to unload pallets of insulation. Customers had to walk through the warehouse loading dock and head upstairs.
“Back then most people considered a bike a kid’s toy,” he said. “It was really an anomaly to have an adult on a bike.”
But Mannino, 63, loved everything about bikes. He loved riding them. He loved fixing them. And he loved talking about them. That passion ultimately led to a career that has spanned decades and left a lasting imprint on Spokane.
That imprint was on full display on Friday at a retirement party for the beloved mechanic. Roughly 40 people gathered at the South Perry Bike Hub to praise Mannino’s craftsmanship, patience and kindness.
“I grew up in the Valley and we always heard about Dave Mannino,” said Chris Andreasen, the co-owner of the Bike Hub.
As a bike mechanic and salesman, Andreasen said Mannino was remarkably present. He never rushed a customer – or a repair job.
“If you were with Dave, you were with Dave,” he said.
Over the years, Mannino proved himself adaptive – both to new technology and new people. When Andreasen first hired Mannino in October 2016, he worried that the older man wouldn’t adapt well to a group of younger folks.
“We didn’t know how well (he would adapt) to these young wild dudes,” Andreasen said. “And he just molded right in.”
Two of Mannino’s children attended Friday’s party as well. And while he was obsessed with his work, Karen Mannino said he always made a point of including his family.
“It made for an excellent childhood, quite honestly,” she said of her father’s profession.
Albeit, a childhood spent on two wheels.
“We didn’t actually have enough seat belts in the car for all of us,” she said. “But we did have enough helmets.”
And when her dad did drive, Karen said often he’d take odd, winding routes.
“He would say, ‘Oh, this is how you bike it.’ ”
In addition to working on bikes, Mannino acted as a bike evangelist introducing many to cycling. Linda Stephan and her husband went on their first bike tour with Mannino 40 years ago. The trio headed north toward Metaline Falls.
“We were complete newbies,” Stephan said.
In an effort to conserve weight, the Stephans didn’t pack any food. As the miles added up, their energy disappeared.
“We were bonking and of course, Dave had a gorp (trail mix) bag,” she said.
Mannino happily shared his food. He then cooked them a large, nutritious dinner and serenaded them with flute music. That trip was the first of many bike tours for the couple.
“Dave just kind of showed us that it wasn’t all about racing, but about the experience,” she said. “He’s just a gentle soul. A very old soul.”
The true testament of Mannino’s maturity and calm might be the patience with which he works on bikes. Sally Vantress-Lodato was Mannino’s manager at REI for four years.
Mannino helped start REI in Spokane in 1986 and worked there for 18 years. His concern and care for bikes was a huge asset, she said, although sometimes as a manager she urged him to hurry up.
“He genuinely cared about making sure each bike had special attention,” she said.
Rich Landers, the former outdoors editors and now contributor to The Spokesman-Review, dubbed Mannino the “Mother Theresa” of bikes on Friday. For Mannino, a bike is a bike, regardless of its age, make or model, Landers – who was a frequent customer – said.
For his part, Mannino said he just loves bikes. And, he was lucky enough to start working right as biking underwent a mini-renaissance in the United States.
“They called it the bike boom of the ’70s,” he said.
Bike sales increased 22 percent in 1971, reaching 9 million. In 1972, sales grew to 14 million. Of those bikes, 60 percent were for adults according to Curbed, an online publication focusing on urban issues. And while that growth ultimately petered out in the mid and late 1970s, adult biking was left a cultural fixture.
Now, the number of trips made by bicycle in the U.S. has more than doubled from 1.7 billion in 2001 to 4 billion in 2009, according to the League of American Bicyclists. In 2016, there were 66.5 million cyclists, according to Statista.
Mannino, a California native who moved to Spokane to go to Gonzaga University, has remained dedicated to biking throughout the ups and downs of popular demand.
“I rode back and forth from work every day for 40 years,” he said.
Although he’s retiring, he’s not done with bikes. He hopes to work part time. If anyone wants Mannino specifically to work on their bike, the South Perry Bike Hub has agreed to contract with him.
“I just love bikes,” he said. “I still do. It hasn’t gone away yet.”
He added, “After being in bike shops for 40 years it’s kind of hard to just drop it cold turkey.”