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  1. #1
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    United Bicycle Institute?

    So, I'm getting closer to my dream of retirement and moving to a 2nd career as a bike mechanic working in an established shop. I've built & maintained my own bikes for years but also realize that taking some instruction from a recognized tech school would be a good idea. It would certainly do me some good to gain more insight and learning. Bolting parts together doesn't make one a true mechanic

    UBI has been mentioned by some folks I know as a good place to gain some knowledge. Has anyone here had any experience with them or know of someone who has? I've read all the info on their site, just wanting to chat with someone with first hand knowledge.
    There are three kinds of people: those of us that are good at math and those that are not.

  2. #2
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    I live blocks away from it and know many employees as well as Ron, the owner. UBI is a well-run school/business and your time will be well spent. But I have never taken a class there - I will someday...

  3. #3
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    I've worked mostly with mechanics that have come up through the menial bike shop tasks and into being the good wrenches and I've worked with a couple of people who have attended UBI's mech school. In my opinion, you will learn a lot of information in UBI's class, but depending on your shop you'll never need most of it. The bulk of the skills you will use frequently come through repetition and experience. So while UBI's school will give you a great head start, if you're patient then you should be able to work your way up the ladder.

    I think the most important thing to do is talk to the shop, or a shop that you might want to work for, and ask them what their hiring procedure is like. If they want experienced or educated employees then by all means hit the school. If they have their own training system then start working and take some time off during the winter to go to the school. The shop won't mind not having to pay you during the off season, I'm sure. The new bikes won't be in until probably December, so you have some time before you learn the joys of assembling new bikes over and over again.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by zebrahum View Post
    I've worked mostly with mechanics that have come up through the menial bike shop tasks and into being the good wrenches and I've worked with a couple of people who have attended UBI's mech school. In my opinion, you will learn a lot of information in UBI's class, but depending on your shop you'll never need most of it. The bulk of the skills you will use frequently come through repetition and experience. So while UBI's school will give you a great head start, if you're patient then you should be able to work your way up the ladder.

    I think the most important thing to do is talk to the shop, or a shop that you might want to work for, and ask them what their hiring procedure is like. If they want experienced or educated employees then by all means hit the school. If they have their own training system then start working and take some time off during the winter to go to the school. The shop won't mind not having to pay you during the off season, I'm sure. The new bikes won't be in until probably December, so you have some time before you learn the joys of assembling new bikes over and over again.
    Yeah, I have no illusions about real world bike mechanic work. I've helped my lbs assembling low end bikes before. Most of the work is mundane. I know the shop owner & he knows my history of building my own mountain bikes many times over. I do enjoy working on high end stuff, but most shops move a lot more low-to-mid level bikes than what I prefer to ride or build.

    I just want to know about UBI and if their instruction is worth the time & money I'll devote.
    There are three kinds of people: those of us that are good at math and those that are not.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by onepivot View Post
    I just want to know about UBI and if their instruction is worth the time & money I'll devote.
    What do you want to get out of working at a bike shop? The camaraderie? The skills? The discounts (yeah, it's a valid reason but certainly not the best reason)? The industry insider information?

    The reason I suggested you speak with your LBS is that they can tell you how valuable it is to them that you go to that school. Let's say that you just want a casual job putting parts on bikes and changing out derailleur cables all day. Well at that point, you're probably already qualified for it and the guy at the LBS knows it. So if that's what you're into and that's what the shop is looking for then it would be a waste of money going to UBI.

    In contrast, if you're looking for an LBS job to learn all there is to know about bikes then UBI (or equivalent) should very well be your first stop on your way to wrenchood. If you want to know how to do everything there is to do, then you might as well start with a high end crash course. You may not use half the things you learn, but if you're like me that doesn't matter because you just want to know about them.

    So figure out your priorities and talk with the shop you're looking at. Are they even looking for someone?
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  7. #7
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    UBI Mechanics and Framebuilding Courses

    I just got back from two weeks in Ashland taking UBI's tig framebuilding course. I had gone to UBI about 15 years ago for their advanced bicycle mechanic's course as well. The whole UBI team is a class act. The framebuilding teachers are full-time framebuilders and the assistant has a Masters in mechanical engineering. The tech teachers have years of experience working as Shimano technicians. Iím not sure itís possible to have more highly qualified teachers!

    The amount of information they go over is huge. You will be challenged. Seriously. And pushed to the edge. What you come away with depends on your perspective. No you won't suddenly be ready to start at the top of the technical food-chain, but you will have learned about and done nearly every possible procedure any shop is likely to do. You will have a leg-up and any shop owner is likely to prefer hiring you over someone who hasn't gone through UBI (given that your level of experience is the same).

    Most people learn better by doing, and not once but over and over. There is no substitute for working side by side with a highly qualified service manager or someone who really knows his or her stuff. But taking any course at UBI is going to give you a tremendous amount of technical information and procedures that will only be reinforced by working in the real world. As a result you will own the knowledge faster and have more ways to do the same things than someone who hasn't done the training. In any case your confidence will be higher having de-mystified nearly every aspect of a bicycle.

    And no I donít work for UBI. I worked as a mechanic in bike shops for 7 years, got out of it, became a graphic designer and at some point want to return to the bike industry as a framebuilder/industrial designer. Having taken an intensive two-week course in framebuilding does not qualify me to build bikes for others. That will take years of practice. But the best things about having gone to UBI are that I've actually gone through the process of building a frame and as I start out on my own, the teachers are available to answer any of the inevitable questions that will come up along the way. Being able to buy tools for wholesale for up to a year later doesn't hurt either.

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