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  1. #1
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    Bike School Vs. Barnett Bicycle Institute

    Has anyone attend either of these schools? Can you tell me a little about them?
    I've been a professional wrench for a year and my boss would like me to get a certification.
    Both look good. I'm wondering which has the better program.

  2. #2
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    Hi MENABIKES

    Did you get any answers to thes post?
    Did you take a desition about which school attend?

    I am in the same position as you are any clue will be helpfull
    In my workshop, dirty hands is a state of mind

  3. #3
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    I've been to Barnett and....

    enjoyed it very much. It's fast paced so expect to be kept busy. I much prefer their style of teaching to other schools or seminars that I've been to (most not bike related though). You will rarely spend more than 15 to 20 minutes in your seat being lectured, and most seat time involves physical demonstration. After that you are at the work bench doing hands on. The instructors are very professional and have worked in the industry as mechanics so they know what works and what doesn't. The biggest thing with the Barnett system is just that. It is a systematic approach to bicycle mehanics. Every thing you learn is geared toward producing consistant and repeatable results no matter what brand of components (or what compontent) you are working with. So each ajdustment etc. has exact steps that they take you through that are designed to give the same results consistantly every time. If the results aren't correct then there is something wrong with the component or system, or you missed a step.

    Anyway, I highly recommend Barnett's. I got more out of that course than any course that I've ever taken on any subject. Fun relaxed atmosphere and a great bunch of people on staff.

    As far as UBI, having never been there I can't really comment. But from what I can glean from their curiculum, they cover the same things that you'd learn at Barnett's. I just can't comment on their teaching style etc. But as with most good bike courses, hands on is emphasized. It has to be, you just can't learn it by somebody talking.

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  4. #4
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    I've taken the UBI course as well as most of the mechanics in the shop where I work. I'd say it was pretty good in terms of covering what you need to know to get a decent grounding in bikes. Mind you, I took the course after wrenching for a number of years and I found that I already knew most of the material being taught. Never really learned any new tricks.
    Having said that, I do notice a few deficiencys in most of our mechanics, especially the ones without alot of experience. The detection and correction skills to find problems are not there. They don't understand that there is a tool for almost every job and quite often don't even know what those tools are. The ability to research parts and systems on the internet or any other souce than Sutherlands lacks. All of this may just be stuff that you just pick up over time but I think theres room to teach some of it to mechanics that are entering the work force.
    All in all, either one you take will help you out in the long run just remember that you can only cram so much stuff into two or three weeks. This trade just like any other requires you to keep up on current technology and not to forget the old stuff.

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    i cannot comment on BBI in any manner. but i do have some experience with a couple of UBI grads.

    the first UBI grad i knew was a wrench at a competing shop. he was universally considered the least of the town's full time mechanics. the town had 4 shops and probably 1 or 2 established mechanics each. i ran into many people on the trail and in the community who would use the phrase, "it's XXX, so you know" whilst never proven deficient in a manner of malicious or unsafe work, he was not up to the level of the other mechanics in town, none of whom had ever attended classes anywhere.

    the second UBI grad that i came to know was hired (against my recommendation) in the shop where i worked. i personally tested him to determine his level of aptitude and i must admit i found it substantially lacking. he was a grad with no shop experience and i do believe that what he recieved was suitable for an entry level position at a shop, but entirely inadequate for a legitmate mechanic. the kid supposedly worked out well after i left, but in the months that i worked with him, i would have placed him lowest on the scale of all our service personel, with a possible exception of our 15 year old.

    i also encountered a UBI grad in a revolution shop in florida. he and his service area impressed me highly. i do however feel it was the nature of the individual more so than the training or education. he was resourceful, meticulous and systematic. most places cannot train these things into a man in a matter of weeks.

    that being said, i have personally come to the conclusion that a UBI grad (and indeed by the concept of it being comparable to BBI) or BBI grad as well is suited to consideration for entry level postions and possibly more if the person conveys a higher level of aptitude. but for any type of full time, unsupervised or otherwise demanding work i would gladly pass them over in favor of a comparably experienced shop mechanic without the certification.

    i would state that in your situation as an established and experienced shop mechanic, i would dispose of the idea of attaining such certifications for certifications sake. as a professional, i would instead discuss with your shop the areas of your strengths and weaknesses and implement a way to address the weaknesses.

    for example, my previous service manager worked his way through small bike shops for the past 15 years or so. he was weak in the areas of new technology such as forks and disc brakes. i would not send him to classes for these things, esp given the prerequisites. instead, i would have him take some time over the slow winter months and familiarize himself with the brake systems on incoming bikes with the more affluent mechanics.

    i have no idea what the courses currently cost, but take the time you'll need off and then divide the cost for the course and travel and divide it by your rate of pay. i can assure you that the shop can afford to give you many many more hours of in-house training than you'll recieve at these schools.

  6. #6
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    Just to add to whatbighitdon said I think both these schools are an OK idea if you're an experienced wrench to start with. A lot of the folks that go through the classes with out previous experience come into shops and ask people like me to hire them and their ego. My problem isn't the education it's the ego most of these folks get during the process.

    I know good wrenches that went to both UBI and BBI and I think the Barnett's seems to turn out slightly better grads. If you go with your eyes open and don't let your head swell it could be a good experience, though don't expect it to pay for itself when you get back.

  7. #7
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    I dunno, unless you're delving into digging into forks/shock tuning and full service or something I think hands on, self teaching is the best way to learn, along with a couple good books - nothing beats hands on. I don't work at a shop, never prob will, but have taught myself by experimenting on my own stuff and watching a few others and MTBR and now, "assist" others with the upkeep of their bikes for a small renumirational fee
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  8. #8
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    I used to think that self taught was the way to go but not anymore. You just miss too many fundamentals that way. I agree thought that the bike schools aren't completely doing the job. Not sure what the solution is here. I've talked about it at length with the lead mechanic in the shop as well as the owner and we've come to the conclusion that new hires need the schooling to be able to work. With the consistent deficiencies though, we've decided that we need to take the time to train them pre season and moniter their performance the rest of the time. I've actually gone to the trouble of writing a shop manual over the previous winter that outlines how we expect things done and the level at which it must be done. It covers everything from minute the bike leaves the box to the time it comes back in for service. Even had to include basic shop practices in there. Too much liability these days not too. Someone commented on the need for training in newer technology. This comes up all the time and I've found that if you talk to the distributers and/or service centres, they're usually willing to host you for a few days to teach you what you need to know. Also, Park has started to do a tech summit with several suppliers. I know that its in a couple of places in the US this year, nothing in Canada, but this is a step in the right direction for staff training.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by lane
    I've actually gone to the trouble of writing a shop manual over the previous winter that outlines how we expect things done and the level at which it must be done. It covers everything from minute the bike leaves the box to the time it comes back in for service. Even had to include basic shop practices in there.
    i had the same idea and my old owner responded posatively to it until it came time to actually make it happen. funny how he did that with every idea anyone had. it was a lot of work to establish a baseline of what was acceptable with more than a couple guys around for a while with their own experiences developed over time.

    i agree with you on the park seminars and such. i missed the one in philly last month. funny how the new owner is a toolbag as well.

  10. #10
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    I think we need to remember....

    that these courses are not designed to turn out "Finished" mechanics. Yes there are defficiencies in what they teach, but you can only cram so much into a 3 week course. And they are primarily geared toward the person that has little or no knowledge of bike mechanics. They are designed to give the student the basic "tools" that he or she needs to work on bikes in a competent manner. If the student pays attention and applies themselves they will come out of the course with the good knowledge of basic bicycle systems and how to work on them.

    Mr. Barnett himself will tell you that the goal is not to turn out a "completed" mechanic. No school can do that. Time and experience are the only way to get there. But his goal is to provide the tools for folks to "get there". Once the basics are firmly in place it's up to the individual, or the shop as the case maybe, to put the polish on.

    I was a "1 year old" mechanic at the time I attened Barnett's. They taught me allot that I didn't know, reinforced what I did know, and showed up some "bad habits" and misconseptions that I had developed. From there it's all been makey - learny.

    The "big head" ego thing is an individual problem. If a person comes out of one of those courses thinking they know it all, they are saddly mistaken. I know for a fact that the instructors at either of the schools under discussion have forgotten more about bike mechanics than I will likely ever know. And I know that there are mechs at our shop that are way better than I am. But that's my goal, to be the best I can be. A certain amount of humility is deffinately required. Unfortunately that's a virtue that isn't taught much anymore.

    The biggest thing a student at either school MUST remember is to do it their way (the schools way) while you are there. Then when you get home, do it the way the Head Mech or Shop Manager wants it done. And don't let your own ego get in the way.

    These schools aren't the be all and end all for a bike mechanic. They simply provide you with the basic skills and a working knowledge of bike systems that will help you get started. How good you become from there it totally up to you.

    Would I hire a UBI or BBI grad. Sure? Would I make it the sole hiring point, not on your life! There's a whole lot more that goes into it than that. But for an entry level position I would at least know that the person in question (if they were awake during the course) would have a firm grounding. The shop I work at doesn't even make it a prerequisite for hiring. They have you work at least a year to see if you have the apptitude and are someone they like and can work with. Then if you work out they send you to the school.

    So what's the conclusion. If you are "young" mechanic (not age wise but experience wise) then go for it. It's a good experience and you will learn something for certain. If you've been wrenching professionally for 5 years then it ain't worth it. You probably know more than what they are going to teach you anyway just from doing the job. Just keep in mind that attending the course isn't going to make you a "bike wizzard". You'll still have a LONG way to go. The course won't make you a "better" mechanic. But it will give you the basics that you need to be a better mechanic. You have to take it from there.

    Good Dirt
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squash
    The "big head" ego thing is an individual problem. If a person comes out of one of those courses thinking they know it all, they are saddly mistaken.
    I think you did the school the way you should have, some good experience and then off to the school. You're on the right track with most of your post except this part. I've been hiring and firing wrenches since the early '90s and one thing I've seen too often is a BBI and or UBI certificate comes with an ego. Truth be told the ego really only shows up with folks that want to become professional wrenches and are new to the industry, or thought thay were something hot before the school. I know a bunch of folks that took the classes for fun and their own self betterment and they all came out fine.

    Maybe it's also a cocky early-20s thing too. Maybe it's that they spent thousands of dollars to get a job that pays $10/hr and lays them off in the winter. I do know that lots of service and store managers see a UBI and BBI certificate as a warning sign. I've taken on some of these folks as a challenge over the years and rarely do things work out well unless we break down that ego first. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't.

    What it boils down to is don't go to the school until you've got your chops down and can decipher what the teachers are telling you. Also when you get back you're the same mechanic that you were when you left only with a little more info in your head. Lastly while you're there network and get to know other industry folks. Those connections will serve you better in the future than any mechanical info you glean from the teachers.

  12. #12
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    I think you just hit on the biggest problem in the bike biz. Need for technical expertise and lack of pay for it. You can't expect people to hang around and learn when you don't pay them. I figure it takes a good year to get someone to the point where I don't have to double check everything they do. Thats usually about the amount of time it takes to save for a year in Australia or New Zealand, and then we loose them. I know theres a few old timers around, myself being one of them, but they're getting harder and harder to find. A few trade organizations have talked about standards of training in order to establish competence among shop staff but in reality, until we get some longevity in the shelf life of a mechanic and the wages that go with it, those standards will not happen.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by lane
    I think you just hit on the biggest problem in the bike biz. Need for technical expertise and lack of pay for it. You can't expect people to hang around and learn when you don't pay them. I figure it takes a good year to get someone to the point where I don't have to double check everything they do. Thats usually about the amount of time it takes to save for a year in Australia or New Zealand, and then we loose them. I know theres a few old timers around, myself being one of them, but they're getting harder and harder to find. A few trade organizations have talked about standards of training in order to establish competence among shop staff but in reality, until we get some longevity in the shelf life of a mechanic and the wages that go with it, those standards will not happen.
    Lane,

    i have to say i cannot agree with you more. in the situation i'm in currently, i'm looking for employment as a shop mechanic or service manager. the problem is that no one can pay me enough to make a living. there's been much wailing and gnashing of teeth to hear people say that they'd love to sit me down and talk but they can't offer anywhere near the salary i need to make ends meet. it's frustrating as i'm giving a lot of serious thought to giving up what i love to do and go back to school for something i'll hate to do each day just so i can pay the bills.

  14. #14
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    Well it's not glamorous work and people who own sub $500 bikes don't want to pay much to have them serviced, they think of them as recreational toys and it "shouldn't" cost that much to fix one. Sadly that's where most of the bike shops business comes from, the guy/gal who just wants to casually ride for some health and fitness reasons and doesn't want to spend over $500. I think there's certain professions where you have to be single with no dependants if you're going to survive doing that and bicycle wrenching is one of them.


    Quote Originally Posted by bighitdon
    Lane,

    i have to say i cannot agree with you more. in the situation i'm in currently, i'm looking for employment as a shop mechanic or service manager. the problem is that no one can pay me enough to make a living. there's been much wailing and gnashing of teeth to hear people say that they'd love to sit me down and talk but they can't offer anywhere near the salary i need to make ends meet. it's frustrating as i'm giving a lot of serious thought to giving up what i love to do and go back to school for something i'll hate to do each day just so i can pay the bills.
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  15. #15
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    bighitdon going back to school isn't a bad plan, but looking for something that will be well paid and needed in the future is a tough call. My wife's a univ prof (which is why I can afford to wrench as I turn 40 though I'm currently unemployed waiting for the '09 season to start) and she sees kids everyday spending money getting degrees that there's no employment. She's a prof of Art History, and though she loves her majors, she knows they have no real future use for their degree unless they go to grad school.

    Generally the only jobs I see in demand in the future are nursing, network admin, chemical and materials engineering, and that's about it. Actually there is one more if you like working with your hands, physical therapy, particularly if you specialize in geriatrics. I've "retired" from the industry a few times-- the last time was to spend 3 years as an accountant-- and every time I came back. I do see a time in the future that I'm not spending much time in the shop because as I get older my hands and wrists don't work as well as they used to in days past. I don't see a time when I'm not working in the industry though.

  16. #16
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    Ultimately, I think the trick to staying in the biz and making a living is to strike out on your own. If a person has some good basic business sense, can accept that they're creating a job for themselves and not an investment, there's a real possibility of doing service work full time, year round. You have to decide if its worth it. I manage to work all year but my income is pretty low (28,000-30,000can if I work full time all year, without a break). Enough to live comfortably on, and buy a bike every couple of years but just barely. Its just a matter of choosing priorities. Wrench, ride, and go home to my wife at the same time every night making less pay, or toil long hours in an office and not enjoy it. I choose the wrench, hands down.

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    i'll agree with you there, Lane. you are never gonna make any headway working for someone else. not in the bike biz. service only work can be done with a minimal enough investment, but you've got to be somewhere that it is lucrative enough to support you year round.

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