When I first started mountain biking, I was hard on my bikes. My wheels were constantly wobbly, and as I was a broke college student I had to learn to repair them myself. Taking a workshop got me a start to tackling basic repairs.
Some time later I got my first job at a bike shop, assembling bikes at a shop in my home town. Desiring to learn the art of building wheels and wanting to take my skills to the next level I signed up for the Professional Repair and Shop Operation course at the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, Oregon. I spent two weeks in Ashland, where I learned about thread specifications, bearing theory, frame alignment and acquired basic mechanical knowledge I never had, giving me a solid foundation to build on. (I also rode the local trails as much as I could)
I worked my way through college as a bike mechanic, then continued for a number of years toiling on the ground floor of the industry, working in bike shops in Portland, Medford, Ashland and Richmond (CA).
During that time, I expanded my knowledge, rebuilding dozens of Rockshox and Marzocchi forks back in the day as well as Hayes Mag disc brakes. I grew to be a pretty solid wheel builder too. Often the only mountain biker in a shop full of roadies, I specialized in disc brake rebuilds (back when that was still a thing) and fork servicing. With a poorly chosen college degree in fine art, I supported myself for a number of years off bike mechanic wages. Eventually I moved out of the trenches and migrated into e-commerce and online marketing, getting my start working in and managing online sales for a Bay Area Bike shop chain.
Since my time at UBI, the bike school in Ashland has expanded, with a second campus in Portland. Future mechanics as well as aspiring bicycle frame builders now have a second location to choose from. (a number of our frame builder friends got their start building frames with UBI)
Recently I found myself chatting with UBI instructor Jeff Menown and upon discovering I had gone through the Shop Operations course long ago, he invited me to stop in and visit the Portland campus. Being located down the street from my 9-5, I pedaled over one day during lunch to visit and see how the school has kept up with the times.
A mechanics course was underway at the time. The basic class hasn’t changed to much but the curriculum has evolved to reflect current trends in cycling. As the class packs a lot of learning into two weeks, the trade school has created additional workshops to cover more advanced and focused sessions with advanced certification seminars in wheel building and suspension for mechanics looking to expand their list of certifications. They also have a Fox Master Tech clinic, Disc Brake Seminar and Shimano Di2 course.
Frame building has always been a staple of UBI and they continue to offer courses in Cromoly Brazing, TIG welding, titanium as well as a TIG welding seminar.
For more info on UBI, visit their website: United Bicycle Institute