James and I have returned from the depths of southern Oregon—Ashland. Cool town, nice friendly people, pretty easy getting around via bike, the weather was decent, could have been better/warmer/dryer. Getting to and from Ashland could easily have been more convenient; never had either of us had such a difficult time getting somewhere with our bikes. The irony in this is, of course, the fact that UBI, one of only two bicycle mechanic training facilities in the country, is in Ashland.
The two weeks started off with our traveling to Portland for the Filmed by Bike show. This was, as always, a good time. I wasn’t really up for Friday’s Midnight Mystery Ride, but evidently I was up for something on Saturday night. Being that we were staying in Portland until Sunday to travel to Ashland, we enjoyed the Saturday viewing of the show and were invited by Ayleen, the Rev. Phil, and others to have a smaller “ride” for some lively party action; we ended up on “Pirate’s Island” where evidently I was nearly beheaded by a flying pallet without even knowing it. Good raucous times. Ridiculous. Needless to say, the drive via rental car to Ashland was quiet and subdued.
The following two weeks were spent attending the United Bicycle Institute where we took part in the Professional Repair and Shop Operation class offered there. Barring the results of our tests, we will be certified bicycle technicians. (We’ll be getting our test results back in the mail sometime next week.) As far as the class went, it was pretty cool.
UBI “training” facility. Some other photos of the classroom can be found here.
We never did actually find out what that old shack was all about, I can only imagine the relief of the instructors when they got promoted from gravel and rusty nails to clean linoleum. The instructors were all-about cool guys, knowledgeable and very helpful. The other students were also about what you’d expect, cool bike enthusiasts; the several we hung out with were all really great people. I’m happy to know I made some friends out there. It was great meeting you all; you too Raul.
The schedule of the class was eight hours, probably about half hands-on, half lecture. At times the lecture grew tedious, but that was really just the factor of the clean and organized walls of tools tempting us to use them. I’m no stranger to most of these tools so that wasn’t the most exciting part; actually learning an exact methodology on using them accurately and precisely however was. Some of what I’ve learned up to this point has been learned through trial and error, a new level of precision has been added to my quiver of mechanical skills. As one fellow student put it, he no longer is the monkey with a stick working on bikes. I’ve also added a level of confidence, especially when working on newer bikes and components (10spd, hydraulics, suspension, etc.). Granted I do still reserve the right to break out the kung fu hammer and “cold-set” some steel when I need to. Calculated persuasion sometimes comes in handy when dealing with less than high-end parts.
With this added confidence, completed curriculum, and hopefully certificate, I’ll have luck in continuing this line of work for years to come, wherever I’ll be (that town the horses race in in Kentucky is next). Because I really do enjoy wrenching on bikes and I’ve been itching to get back to it at Wright Bros. since about Tuesday of last week during class. Who knows, maybe I’ll have my own shop one day somewhere. What kind of bike shop? Like mentioned in the class, the mom & pop shops are disappearing, being replaced by “retail establishments” that sell bikes. Not sure how I feel about that myself, I guess time will tell.