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United Bicycle Institue in Oregon worth it?

Old 05-20-16, 07:25 PM
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eastbay71
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United Bicycle Institue in Oregon worth it?

I'm planning of my next phase of life and I would like to find a job in the biking business. I will be moving back to a small resort town in the midwest at some point in the future. I'm thinking about taking some classes at UBI in Oregon before I retire from my current job. I was trained as an electrician in the Navy, that training included a fair amount of mechanical training on installing bearings and adjusting backlash and things like that. I've also worked professinally as a mechanic in a Paper Mill and in a shop that rebuilt paper converting equipment, I have a strong background in engineering from Navy Nuclear Power School and from working as a Project Manager for an engineering group. To top that off my dad taught diesel mechanics, hydraulic systems and a number of other mechanical courses at a tech school when I was young and past a great deal of knowledge onto his kids. I worked assembling bikes at a bike shop in highh school and have built most of my bikes in the 25 years since then. I have most tools a professional bike mechanic would have.

With that background does it make sense for me to go and get certified? I am lacking in some skills like wheel building that I would really like to learn but thats in their advanced course.
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Old 05-20-16, 08:03 PM
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Hmmm

I suppose one question is whether the average bike shop requires "certified" mechanics.... vs some one who just knows their stuff.

The coursework sounds like fun. It does get a little expensive. I wonder if you can skip the "basic" coursework?

You might also look at CAT here in Eugene. A bit eccentric, but it may also be worth it. It does depend a bit on what you have in mind. CAT is heavily into cargo bikes & trailers.

Human Powered Machines Cargo Framebuilding Apprenticeship
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Old 05-20-16, 09:29 PM
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The class i went through a few years ago included one guy planning for his retirement from the military as well as a couple of other career changers. Some have been successful. The instructors are first rate. You will get as much out of the class as you put into it but a two week class will leave you a bit short of "journeyman" abilities. I've discovered that my past life experience gives me skills the young ones have yet to earn.
Ashland is a cool place-take your bike.
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Old 05-21-16, 12:15 AM
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Great! thanks for the feedback. I would definitely give it my best shot.
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Old 05-21-16, 07:02 AM
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I bet you could find a wheel-building course somewhere if that's where you feel your skills are lacking.

There is probably a base of knowledge imparted by these UBI courses that is not easily picked up by those of us who are self-taught. I know that I tend to have gaps in my knowledge that are just a result of what I've happened to have worked and learned about, and what I've never had the opportunity to touch. (Hence my recent debacle with cottered cranks). There's probably some theory too, that's good to know about.

If you're already comfortable working on bikes, then maybe look into the Bill Woodul course:

2015 Bill Woodul Race Mechanics Clinic Registration - USA Cycling

Where I'm at now, the above course is really attractive. I'm not ever going to work in a shop, but it would be fun to be able to support an event now and then.

Also visit this site:

ProMechanics | Updates from the Professional Race Mechanics Community

Fairly new site, I think, and part of a movement to add a level of professionalism to bicycle mechanics.
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Old 05-21-16, 09:15 AM
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I would just weigh the cost of courses vs potential earnings. I think most LBS mechanics wages are equivalent to a part time retail job. Wheel building and just about everything else can be learned online for free and through books and doing it. I would invest money in tools and buy cheap wheel supllies and learn by doing.
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Old 05-21-16, 11:20 AM
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Old 05-21-16, 02:07 PM
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In attempting to make money in a bike shop, I suggest you'll do better with a salesperson's talents or with some sort of IT/online sales abilities, rather as a wrench. But if you still want to do it, you probably have the knowledge and common sense problem solving abilities for most basic bike building; you're probably already a shoe-in for some kind of position at most shops. The list of your bikes in your signature are all nice bikes, but nothing truly modern- you're going to need to know how to build a bike with newer 11 speed drivetrains, electronic shifting, and know your way around the myriad of different bottom bracket designs that are out there, as well as modern mountain bike suspension adjustment. Just about any high dollar bay area bike shop is going to survive on bikes with those kinds of parts. But they're things you can learn on the job. If this job is something that's potentially happening soon, go find a job now- this is outdoor season!- and if you feel that you need to go to the school, then do it in the winter months when work is more slight.
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Old 05-22-16, 07:04 AM
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I say good for you and thinking about what you want to do after retirement. Based on what I read, I think you have all the necessary critical thinking skills to do anything you would come across on a bike. I am currently working as a bike technician at a local store and have a similar background as a field service engineer. I started working with only the knowledge of bikes that a typical customer would have who takes an interest in mechanics. I then followed up with reading a book like the Park Tool manual to get introduced to all of the different stuff that is out there. Most of the things that you read about, exotic bottom brackets, you never see in the shop. With a little research at the time you come across some of this stuff, you will find plenty of service manuals and other resources to navigate repairs. I think the best training is to jump in and start working. It helps if you have a mentor in the shop, however, I also use these forums for my education because it seems that everyone has already had a problem like mine and the solutions are discussed. I think on the job training is best and just be honest if you don't know something, then take initiative to learn everything you can.

On another note, where in the midwest are you looking to retire?

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Old 05-22-16, 07:22 AM
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You might consider your ultimate goals for shop work.

Very few bike shops will be welding frames together. Although that may be fun... it would only apply if you choose to work for a major bike builder, of which there are very few in the USA. Or, perhaps building your own custom bikes. Custom repair shop?

Likewise, wheel building may seem like the ultimate test of your goals, but it may not even be done by most bike shops. I would think simple truing and replacing a few spokes would be the extent of what most shop mechanics do.
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Old 05-23-16, 10:21 AM
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eastbay71...... it might be worth your while to talk to some local bike shop guys.....

I would suggest talking to Tahn and Silva cycles. Silva Cycles

He worked for a long time at a local to me (less than a mile away) shop that did well until a ownership change seemed to blow up the shop and it moved.

Silva cycles is eclectic. The are a rivendell dealer and the last bike I saw their was a Jones mtb with the electonic Shimano shifter set, so sales it not the key driver that it would be at say a Mikes bikes.

It seems service is a big driver

might be worth a trip to the southbay......bring a six pack
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Old 05-23-16, 11:13 AM
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Sooooo, is any certification really worth it?

Is a customer going to get in the owners face and say "He's not going to work on my bike! He's not certified!"

There are some things that you really should have a cert, but I think most of them are a waste of money. Especially the ones where they hit you with an annual fee to renew your certification.

Best wishes on whatever new venture you may try.

-SP
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Old 05-23-16, 11:49 AM
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I went to UBI. Change of careers, I had already landed a job as a sales-guy in a new LBS. I sold a motorcycle to afford 4 weeks of UBI -- Intro mechanics (1 week basic course), Pro/shop mechanics (2 week course), and the additional suspension/wheelbuilding classes (1week, total). The class made a difference in my life -- instead of straight sales, I got into a service/sales position, instead.

There was a younger crowd hoping to get into bike shops. There was an older crowd -- career changers or those already in the industry doing professional development. I think it was most suited for those already in the industry, looking for professional development, less useful opening doors for those looking to get in as a career start or outsiders looking to move from one career to another. Although it certainly didn't hurt to have the certificate.

For many, it was learning the correct way to do things they already knew. For some, it was their first exposure to many procedures, tools, and tech. One guy from S. Africa specifically wanted the certificate. I learned the value of a torque wrench, a few different tips and tricks, and how to build wheels. Otherwise, most of what they taught, I basically knew, although it was good to also find out what I'd been doing completely wrong for a long time...

With the OP's background, I'm thinking much of it would be boring, there would be useful bits and pieces to be picked up. But might be better served just by getting a mechanic job. I certainly learned a lot at UBI, but there's only so much that can be taught in 2,3, or 4 weeks -- I learned much, much more in my first year of employment as a mechanic. The UBI teaching, gave me a solid foundation, however, and just having attended landed me in a job more to my liking than was offered.

On top of which, Ashland is a fantastic place to hang out. I needed a break after a career switch and a month learning to wrench bikes in a hippie oasis was a nice change of scenery. The biking around town is fantastic, especially the mountain biking--bring your bike.

For me it ended up being about 1/3 vacation, 2/3 educational, and was very much worth it. For others? Some got a lot out of it, some not so much. Coming from a tech background like the OP, there will be disappointing aspects to it, offset by the vacation quality, the eventual certification, and the bike-specific things learned.

Once in the industry, I'd also recommend Part Tool School seminars, local/regional tech presentations by various manufacturers and distributors, and other learning opportunities like reps stopping by the shop.
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Old 05-23-16, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by mconlonx View Post
I went to UBI. Change of careers, I had already landed a job as a sales-guy in a new LBS. I sold a motorcycle to afford 4 weeks of UBI -- Intro mechanics (1 week basic course), Pro/shop mechanics (2 week course), and the additional suspension/wheelbuilding classes (1week, total). The class made a difference in my life -- instead of straight sales, I got into a service/sales position, instead.

There was a younger crowd hoping to get into bike shops. There was an older crowd -- career changers or those already in the industry doing professional development. I think it was most suited for those already in the industry, looking for professional development, less useful opening doors for those looking to get in as a career start or outsiders looking to move from one career to another. Although it certainly didn't hurt to have the certificate.

For many, it was learning the correct way to do things they already knew. For some, it was their first exposure to many procedures, tools, and tech. One guy from S. Africa specifically wanted the certificate. I learned the value of a torque wrench, a few different tips and tricks, and how to build wheels. Otherwise, most of what they taught, I basically knew, although it was good to also find out what I'd been doing completely wrong for a long time...

With the OP's background, I'm thinking much of it would be boring, there would be useful bits and pieces to be picked up. But might be better served just by getting a mechanic job. I certainly learned a lot at UBI, but there's only so much that can be taught in 2,3, or 4 weeks -- I learned much, much more in my first year of employment as a mechanic. The UBI teaching, gave me a solid foundation, however, and just having attended landed me in a job more to my liking than was offered.

On top of which, Ashland is a fantastic place to hang out. I needed a break after a career switch and a month learning to wrench bikes in a hippie oasis was a nice change of scenery. The biking around town is fantastic, especially the mountain biking--bring your bike.

For me it ended up being about 1/3 vacation, 2/3 educational, and was very much worth it. For others? Some got a lot out of it, some not so much. Coming from a tech background like the OP, there will be disappointing aspects to it, offset by the vacation quality, the eventual certification, and the bike-specific things learned.

Once in the industry, I'd also recommend Part Tool School seminars, local/regional tech presentations by various manufacturers and distributors, and other learning opportunities like reps stopping by the shop.
TL;DR: yes, worth it; YMMV
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Old 05-23-16, 12:47 PM
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Ashland's season of Live theatre and The Shakespeare Plays is Great !




SF bay area? I shouldn't have to tell anyone there now, dont plan on moving back...

unless your income from retiring from your other jobs is substantial.

A Bike mechanic salary alone wont be enough to live indoors these days, there .

it was difficult enough by the end of the 80's..





Weapons engineering & production is where the money is..

Military industrial congressional Complex..

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Old 05-23-16, 09:31 PM
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OTOH, the UBI Portland campus is close to the middle of Bicycle City USA: About Portland

My (current) job is less than a mile away from their campus. One of these days I'll go up for a visit, but they might kick me out for being too cynical. My favorite:

"How do you make a small fortune in the bicycle business?"
"Invest a large fortune."
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Old 05-23-16, 10:11 PM
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Originally Posted by speedy25 View Post
Sooooo, is any certification really worth it?

Is a customer going to get in the owners face and say "He's not going to work on my bike! He's not certified!"

There are some things that you really should have a cert, but I think most of them are a waste of money. Especially the ones where they hit you with an annual fee to renew your certification.

Best wishes on whatever new venture you may try.

-SP
I think it all depends on the shop. And, perhaps if you have a good mechanic to intern with.

Some shops might post "XYZ Certified Mechanics" on the door... but most probably don't care. Experience, of course is good, and the certification might help you get into the door, where the experience really begins.

Our local co-op has a younger "mechanic" that had recently taken some kind of a training course. She is pretty good with some things, but learning a lot on the job. So, expect that a 2 week course would be just barely enough to get your feet wet.

A couple of weeks of welding? In general, few shops would let you show off your welding expertise unless you get into manufacturing.
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