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Old 11-09-10, 10:37 PM   #1
BikeArkansas
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Bike mechanic school

This thread is to ask if anyone in this group has attended a bicycle mechanic school that is designed to teach a cyclist how to maintain or assemble their own bike. I have learned how to perform several tasks, but not nearly enough to do a credible job of fully maintaining, tuning or assembling a bike.

I would like to hear the experiences of cyclists that have attended something of this type. Is a school worth the cost of money and time? Also, if someone has investigated this type of school and decided not to attend, I would like to know what made you decide against it.
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Old 11-09-10, 11:57 PM   #2
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I took an 8-hour class at REI about two years ago. It was 8 to noon on a Saturday, and 8 to noon the next day.

I found out later that it was the curriculum of the Park Tool School, using the standard Park Tool curriculum and training materials:

http://www.parktool.com/trade-resour...rk-tool-school

It's my understanding that bike shops all over the country use this material/curriculum for their course.


I really enjoyed it. I had done bits of most things before, but had never tackled some of the stuff that I don't own tools for (such as removing bottom brackets). Basically in four hours we disassembled each part of my bike and then put it back together again (e.g., remove rear derailleur, clean it, put it back on and adjust it, then move onto front derailleur, brakes, crankset, bottom bracket, etc.). We also learned to true wheels by practicing on some old wheels they had in the shop. I think the class made me much better at doing my repairs on my own; more confident in doing repairs; and also made me better at diagnosing stuff even when I want the shop to do the work. I think there also is a discount on any tools bought at the the time of the class (10 pc off?).

We did not:
- build a wheel from scratch
- install a headset (though we did take the fork off my bike and put it back on).

I'd recommend it, very much worth the time and money ($150-ish?).
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Old 11-10-10, 05:29 AM   #3
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Only the school of hard knocks.
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Old 11-10-10, 05:49 AM   #4
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A helpful way to learn is to do a complete build from scratch or get a bike that needs a total tear down and build up.
Fits with the "school of hard knocks" as advocated by Bluesdawg. Nothing beats screwing it up all by yourself and then figuring out how to make it right.

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Old 11-10-10, 06:12 AM   #5
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I took the two week course at Barnett's, but there is a more basic one week course that deals with assembly and maintenance.
It was a blast, learned lots and the riding around Colorado Springs is fantastic.
If nothing else, it makes a terrific vacation.
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Old 11-10-10, 06:32 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by bykemike View Post
A helpful way to learn is to do a complete build from scratch or get a bike that needs a total tear down and build up.
Fits with the "school of hard knocks" as advocated by Bluesdawg. Nothing beats screwing it up all by yourself and then figuring out how to make it right.
And the best time for this is the summer after you turn eleven.

Hmm. That advice is probably a little late for the members of this forum.
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Old 11-10-10, 07:01 AM   #7
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I took the one-week course at United Bicycling Institute (UBI) in Ashland, Oregon, about four summers ago. It was great! Learned a ton, hung out with about 15 other bike nerds (class sizes are limited to give good teacher-to-student time). Ashland itself is a beautiful town to spend time in. I now do all my bike maintenance and bike builds on my own. I have a local LBS guy who will give me a hand when I get stuck on little things or double-check something that I'm puzzled about. He also gives me good advice about parts. The only thing I didn't learn is how to build wheels--that's a separate course.

UBI recently opened a new school in Portland, OR. Same curriculum, I reckon, just serving the huge bike needs in Portland.

UBI is on the web: www.bikeschool.com
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Old 11-10-10, 07:15 AM   #8
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+1 on the UBI
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Old 11-10-10, 08:29 AM   #9
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Chainwheel offered the Park Tool School here four or five years ago... I can check with some of the local bike shops to see if we can get that brought back to town. I missed it the last time, and it hasn't come back around anywhere locally since...

The League's "Traffic Skills 201" class covers a little more advanced maintenance and repair... brakes & derailleurs, cable replacement, bearings, chain maintenance & repair, wheel truing, etc... among other stuff.

I've heard good things about UBI and Barnett courses, but simply haven't been able to swing the time off to go out there and take one of them...

tom
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Old 11-10-10, 08:46 AM   #10
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I did all my self-learning starting back in the 70's with my first good bike and a copy of Tom Cuthbertson's "Anybody's Bike Book." This was a good time to learn because everything was pretty standardized; the same bottom bracket and headset tools would work for just about all brands. The only mfr-specific item you really needed was the freewheel remover.

Today things are a little more complicated. Many components require their own tools for installation/removal, some of them require specialized steps that need to be explained, and usually only shop mechanics can attend the courses or are given the videos. Carbon fiber components require use of a torque wrench. Campag Ergopower overhaul requires seeing the video; it's not obvious. So I think that today, the home mechanic is able to work on his own bike, but not necessarily on any bike, just because things have become more specialized. For example, I can overhaul square-taper bottom brackets (and replace ISIS bb's), but I am unfamiliar with SRAM GXP or FSA Mega-EXO because I don't use them and have never had occasion to work with them. (I am contemplating upgrading from ISIS to a SRAM Omnium crankset with GXP bb on the fixie, though, and have been studying the instruction sheet and trying to figure out what they mean by removing play by re-greasing and repeatedly reinstalling the left crank until there is no play. That sounds odd!

I wonder if the bike maintenance courses teach some of the advanced methods to deal with things the typical home mechanic is likely to come up against, such as frozen seatpost or stem, frozen bb cups, or frozen hub bearing cartridges, where judicious use of a propane torch is required?

L.
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Old 11-10-10, 09:30 AM   #11
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That's pretty much how I learned. One crisis at a time.

My next lesson is in how to adjust an indexed rear derailleur properly. On Monday, I came to a stop to let an ambulance pass and when I tried to start again, my shifter cable had snapped. I've got the cable, but now I need the weekend so I can do the assigned homework.

I got the instructions from Park Tool website. All I need to do is find them again.
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Old 11-10-10, 10:18 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bykemike View Post
A helpful way to learn is to do a complete build from scratch or get a bike that needs a total tear down and build up.
Fits with the "school of hard knocks" as advocated by Bluesdawg. Nothing beats screwing it up all by yourself and then figuring out how to make it right.

Mike
I was not advocating so much as reporting. Nothing against the classes. They sound like a great idea. But I have not taken any classes. I started fiddling around with my bikes as a kid, managing to keep them rolling and making a few modifications. Later I worked on my motorcycles as much as possible, learning from magazine articles, advice from friends and repair manuals.

When I started riding bicycles again in 1990, I needed to do as much of my own work as possible since there was no bike shop within 30 miles. I read bike magazines, asked friends and did a lot of guesswork. Whenever I ran into something I couldn't do, I would take the bike to a shop or find the tool I needed and order one from a catalog (now online) or buy it from the not-so-local bike shop. I used the Bicycling Magazine bike repair book as a reference, then online references like the Park Tool website and Sheldon Brown.

As new technologies come along and I slowly adopt them, I learn how to work with them and buy the tools I need. What I can't do myself, I take to the shop.
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Old 11-10-10, 08:28 PM   #13
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Some great reviews for the schools. This may turn into a trip to Colorado or Oregon.

I simply do not wish to go the "hard knocks" route to learn how to work on my bicycle. It is worth it to me to have someone teach me about working on the bike instead of taking all that time away from riding or something else I would like to do. Installing some part several times until it works was fun when I was younger (mostly boat parts). Not now.

It certainly appears I am "getting old". My time has become my most valuable possession.
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Old 11-12-10, 02:16 AM   #14
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+2 on UBI about 4 years ago. Great training, much fun, nice town. Wonderful theater if you can spend a few extra days.
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Old 11-12-10, 10:02 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
I took an 8-hour class at REI about two years ago. It was 8 to noon on a Saturday, and 8 to noon the next day.

I'd recommend it, very much worth the time and money ($150-ish?).
Sounds cool, but there isn't an REI store in the state. Have to drive to St. Louis or Dallas.
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I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.
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Old 11-12-10, 10:31 AM   #16
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I went to UBI a couple years ago. Class was pretty much evenly split between older hobbyists or carreer switchers and younger folk. The intro one week course is really decent--bring your own bike out there and apply what you learn to tuning or overhauling your own bike. You take everything off your bike, put it back on, tune it, so you really know your bike. Instructors will give personal attention to quirks about your particular bike -- if you're running something non-Shimano or non-current, the hands-on time while instructors wander will be invaluable.

The 2 week pro class is a nice follow-up and they usually schedule them concurrently. Continue on with this if you really want to get into it, but that single week seemed to satisfy most who were just looking to learn to work on their own bike, not necessarily make a career out of it. However, you're working on shop bikes, not your own.

If you have the time and inclination, three weeks of training is fantastic, but either the one or two week course would do the trick. And yes, Ashland OR is lovely, great place to hang out while attending bike school.
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Old 11-12-10, 10:45 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lhbernhardt View Post
I did all my self-learning starting back in the 70's with my first good bike and a copy of Tom Cuthbertson's "Anybody's Bike Book." This was a good time to learn because everything was pretty standardized; the same bottom bracket and headset tools would work for just about all brands. The only mfr-specific item you really needed was the freewheel remover.

Today things are a little more complicated. Many components require their own tools for installation/removal, some of them require specialized steps that need to be explained, and usually only shop mechanics can attend the courses or are given the videos. Carbon fiber components require use of a torque wrench. Campag Ergopower overhaul requires seeing the video; it's not obvious. So I think that today, the home mechanic is able to work on his own bike, but not necessarily on any bike, just because things have become more specialized. For example, I can overhaul square-taper bottom brackets (and replace ISIS bb's), but I am unfamiliar with SRAM GXP or FSA Mega-EXO because I don't use them and have never had occasion to work with them. (I am contemplating upgrading from ISIS to a SRAM Omnium crankset with GXP bb on the fixie, though, and have been studying the instruction sheet and trying to figure out what they mean by removing play by re-greasing and repeatedly reinstalling the left crank until there is no play. That sounds odd!

I wonder if the bike maintenance courses teach some of the advanced methods to deal with things the typical home mechanic is likely to come up against, such as frozen seatpost or stem, frozen bb cups, or frozen hub bearing cartridges, where judicious use of a propane torch is required?

L.
Oh! I had that book, too! Long gone in some move or a loan to a friend.

You're right. I was a lot simpler back in the 70s. I did everything except build wheels and I really regret never having done that. Maybe I'll do a pair this winter.

There is still not much I won't attempt on my bike. I did recently have the LBS true my rear Fulcrum wheel. Something about the low spoke count and half radial half tangential set-up spooked me. For the $10 I was charged it was OK with me not to have the worry of screwing up my wheel.

That said I enjoy working with my hands and mind on mechanical stuff. I like the satisfaction when it comes out right and the feeling of self sufficiency.
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Old 11-12-10, 11:25 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BikeArkansas View Post
I simply do not wish to go the "hard knocks" route to learn how to work on my bicycle. It is worth it to me to have someone teach me about working on the bike instead of taking all that time away from riding or something else I would like to do. Installing some part several times until it works was fun when I was younger (mostly boat parts). Not now.

It certainly appears I am "getting old". My time has become my most valuable possession.
I don't think I would want to start the "figure it out on my own" process at this late stage either. I think anyone wired to do it that way would have started down that path long before now.
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