Two Weeks Past

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.

The trip back in Glen’s over-loaded and over-weighted car.

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.

On Our Way

Yep, we’re heading down to Portland for the weekend (do it!) for a great time, and then James and I are cruising down to UBI for our stay in Ashland. I’m just barely set to go, a few more things to pack up and such. One thing I’m set on is toiletries, just last weekend at the Dead Baby Office Chair Downhill I ran into the fine gentleman Joby who was kind enough to share with me a brand new “In Flight Shoebag Amenity Kit” I’ll be sleeping with American Airline’s style in my bunk at the CycleHostel in Ashland: eyeshades, earplugs, & socks after just using the included toothbrush, plastic toothpick and likely towelettes…. Thanks Joby!

The site might be a little quiet for the next couple weeks unless someone lets me use their iPhone to post UBI updates of course. I’ll probably have a good deal to share about UBI when I get back so stay tuned. Being away for these two weeks will also prevent me from shipping out magazines, feel free to order them while I’m away, they’ll ship out immediately the day I get back.

Trade School

Is there too much emphasis put into education for computer tech, business, or other such “desk jockey” type jobs? Aren’t hands-on, skilled positions also necessary for society to function? Or are we all aspiring to make our million sitting in front of a monitor? Charles at Wright Bros alludes to this discrepancy at times. His entire point wasn’t included in the PI article, but the notion that more people should concentrate more on vocational trade skills is an interesting one. I agree for the most part, I’d only like to see it go deeper into the bike realm. I’d like to see the trades really accept the bicycle mechanic as one of it’s own. Like a carpenter, an auto mechanic, or an electrician—all professions that necessarily benefit society—a bike mechanic is a skilled technician that, as the price of gas steadily increases and hopefully more people begin riding bikes for transportation and delivery, will be a necessary component to his or her neighbors and fellow citizens.


This is part of the reason I intend on attending United Bicycle Institute next month. Not neglecting the fact that I have learned extensively under Charles’ tutelage at Wright Bros, rather my session at UBI will be to fill in some of the gaps that might remain, gain a different, comparative, perspective to bicycle mechanics, and to go for a certification in the industry. Maybe it’ll even give me an extra shot of confidence, who knows?

The article in a recent issue of Momentum mentions a bit of the idea I’m talking about. (Check out the Winterborne Bicycle Institute.) Like the article says, being a bike mechanic is not really a trade, not today. In my mind, until there is more acceptance of bikes in our culture, like the editor says people valuing their bikes as vehicles [a mindset that I feel is changing, albeit glacially] it will be tough for this vocation to take off as an accepted trade. Personally, I love it and want nothing more than to continue with it, learning more everyday. I’m being an optimist in this, I think the necessary acceptance will arrive, and I’ll be happy to lend a hand repairing bikes far into the future.

Deciding between UBI or Barnett’s wasn’t too difficult, it’s debatable which is the better school but UBI being closer geographically was the clincher (although we’ve found out that getting there from Seattle is far more difficult than we imagined). Both I’m sure are worthwhile institutions. I’d like to attend a frame-building class sometime soon; UBI has a pretty well known program for this skill, but recently I’ve been hearing mention of the Yamaguchi Framebuilding School, also in Colorado like Barnett’s.

Wish me luck, I’m really looking forward to it, partly because it’ll also be a vacation of sorts. James and I will be heading down to Portland for the awesome Filmed by Bike film festival and then we’ll make our way down to Ashland on Sunday to start classes on Monday; should be a rawking way to start the school.