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  1. #1
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    Highest regarded bike mechanic school in north america?

    Hi, this maybe slightly off topic for this forum, just not sure other then passion.

    I am 31, i spent 12 years training as a goldsmith and well that industry has kinda gone in reverse. Due to economics and price of gold more people are selling then buying. Lucky for me i have been doing sales and customer service since i was in high school so i manage to land on my feet in a managers position. But its just not doing it for me, im too used to doing things with my hands all day.

    So with a new found passion i have been contemplating getting my bike mechanics certification. So after looking around online there arnt to many "big" school, but i have requested some further information and we will see where that goes. But as always i thought i would see what i could do to look forward so i ask you, which is the best school?. Whos names carries the most weight?.

    Currently my number one choice is the united bicycle institute, they seem to cover everything.

    Thanks for reading, hope this isnt to far off for this forum.
    2012 Giant Reign 1

  2. #2
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    Don't become a bike mechanic thinking you'll make a living at it. The money is pretty bad.

  3. #3
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    Im not doing it to make big $$ im doing it to be happy doing something again. The wages seem to start around 13hr and top out around 15-17hr/36k a year type area.

    Not great and honestly step down from where i am now, but im also working 60 hours a week right on salery, and when i work out my hourly i would be better off flipping burgers.

    Im just looking for a secondary skill set that my existing will transfer over too fairly easily, idealy i will go back to goldsmithing at some point.

    i dunno, maybe the numbers i have researched are not on target. I just browse the jobs available and base it off what i see people offering.
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  4. #4
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    I was in a very lucrative area for being a bike mechanic and even then I wasn't making that kind of money. You need to love the work because you're not likely to make much money as a wrench. That being said, most of the time it's easy work to love. You'll also get a new perspective on the insane crap that people do to bicycles on a regular basis, so that's pretty cool.

    I'm not sure how applicable "certification" is in the real world. I've only ever met one or two people working at bike shops who have been through an official program. What I would do to start is go to whatever shop you're looking to work for and talk with the owner. Ask him/her about getting a job and if that sort of official experience is recommended or looked favorably upon. Ask around town and see if you get any other opinions. Taking the class won't be a bad thing but it might not be required if you're just looking to get a job at a shop.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  5. #5
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    I think what it is is when a shop is looking for certified there is shop managment skills that come along with that ticket. But yeah, I should go in and bug my LBS a bit.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobinGB View Post
    I think what it is is when a shop is looking for certified there is shop managment skills that come along with that ticket. But yeah, I should go in and bug my LBS a bit.
    If someone is looking to hire a manager for a bike shop they're much more likely to hire someone with bike shop experience rather than someone with no experience and a "certification". As someone with only a bike school cert, you're not likely to put those shop management skills that you learned at UBI to use until you get some experience working at a shop.

    Maybe my experience is unusual but I don't think that shops are actively looking for someone with certification. It will probably help you find a job, but I don't think it is required.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  7. #7
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    Im lucky, i have the time and money to get the certs. So i think it will help, showing a level of aptitude and commitment.

    Same way i got my goldsmithing apprenticeship, i bought into the tool and started tinkering at home and did some course. then moved into a professional level, but either way i have 14years of high level sales experience and 5 years experience managing workshops and retail locations. Im just trying to figure out the best school to go to, but it dosnt seem to really matter. I will just keep watching the postings, i have seen a few site UBI certs. I will wait another 6 months and see if any others come up.


    Thanks guys.
    2012 Giant Reign 1

  8. #8
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    I can appreciate your gusto, however...My experience lines up with Zebrahum; generally, 'certified' mechanics with no shop experience are looked down upon. It is very much a field that still thrives on experience vs. education. There is not a ton of information that is hidden/uncommon in the bike field, and learning to work on bikes is not hard (volunteer at a co-op/used bike shop!). There are more esoteric procedures, but anyone mechanically inclined can sit down and read the service manual before starting.

    The cert can't hurt you, but going up to a shop and asking to intern (for lack of a better word) would likely serve you better.

  9. #9
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    i guess the cheating way would be to get the cert then go in like you know nothing... lol

    be the worlds fastest study.
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  10. #10
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    Barnetts and UBI are the two major ones in North America. Both are good places to learn a foundation of knowledge. I've never hired a grad of either one of those programs. I've worked along side a few and some where good and others were not so grand. The requirements to get through either are not stringent enough to guarantee quality grads. There are also a hand full of clinics like Shimano S-tec that's online based and the Park Tool tech summit. Those two are a way to stay current as things are changing at a pretty rapid rate.

    You should find another vocation though. Being a bike mechanic is a dead end job unless you get really lucky. Even owning your own bike shop isn't as grand as you might think.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobinGB View Post
    Im not doing it to make big $$ im doing it to be happy doing something again. The wages seem to start around 13hr and top out around 15-17hr/36k a year type area.

    Not great and honestly step down from where i am now, but im also working 60 hours a week right on salery, and when i work out my hourly i would be better off flipping burgers.
    If you are in a job that is paying $36k+ a year now stick with it and be happy in the fact that you can afford a hobby.

    I would guess most bike mechanics are making around $25k a year.
    See if you could can save $10k a year for a couple years then decide if you really want to take that kind of pay cut. That is almost $1k a month, can you set that aside?

  12. #12
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    Just remember: bike shop mechanic is an amazing job if you can pull it off. You're going to learn to love and hate bikes simultaneously, you'll learn how to avoid "those guys" who come in just to shoot the **** while you have 6 people waiting, you'll get so good at fixing shifting and braking that you'll start fixing bikes that pass you on the trail because they made more noise than you would like. Hopefully you won't have to resort to eating Ramen all the time, which is why I had to leave the industry. I'm plotting constantly on how to return, it's a good industry in general.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  13. #13
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    I already have a "day job," and I got certified with the United Bicycle Institute because I wanted to learn, and didn't intend to get a job in a bike shop. It was a very worthwhile experience and I learned a lot. I've since formed a mentorship-style relationship with two local professional race mechanics, and I'm learning a lot that way, as well. I assisted one of them at two World Cups this past summer, which was a great experience. I think there are other ways to work as a mechanic beyond just bike shops, but as others have said, none of the options seem very lucrative. I do it because I enjoy it and can bring in a little extra cash, and that works great for me.

    As for the schools, I've heard that Barnett's might be a bit more rigorous than UBI, but I can't say from experience. So much of it is indeed learning by doing, as others here have said, but the classroom setting does give you a good background to start from.

    Good luck!

  14. #14
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    Thats awesome, and i agree.


    As i said i am a trained goldsmith, and i may start my shop up again. That is another part time evening job but even if i had a low but steady income it would take alot of pressure off.


    i have done all my planning for an ashland trip, but im still waiting to pull the trigger.
    2012 Giant Reign 1

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobinGB View Post
    Thats awesome, and i agree.


    As i said i am a trained goldsmith, and i may start my shop up again. That is another part time evening job but even if i had a low but steady income it would take alot of pressure off.


    i have done all my planning for an ashland trip, but im still waiting to pull the trigger.
    Just do it. You'll regret it if you don't and it won't hurt anything but your wallet. If you can afford the trip, take it and be happy. Time spent learning about bikes is rarely time wasted.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  16. #16
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    Yeah man, I'd do it. I remember a few negative nancies-but the class is great. have fun.

  17. #17
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    I'll show my bias - I went to Barnetts in Colorado Springs - They also teach the "business" aspects of the trade. UBI can teach you how to weld a fram from scratch but i do not think Barnetts will.

    I got alot out of my time at Barnetts. Others in my class who had also attended UBI thought alot of the Barnetts program -

  18. #18
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    Instead of offering advice to NOT do it, I will give you my experience...... I am retired, and work on my own stuff. Wanted to learn things the "right" way and open up possible part-time employment in a shop to kill time and advance my skills. Went to UBI's Professional Repair and Shop Operation course. I highly recommend it. You get out of it what you put into it. It is highly immersive and they cram a huge amount of info/skills into two weeks. If you complete the coursework satisfactorily, you get a "Certificate of Completion" If you stick around and take the test (and pass) you get a "Certified Bicycle Technician" certificate. I passed.
    I graduated just recently.....Nov 2nd. first week home I had several job offers. I took a part time gig at a major chain retailer, building bikes for a couple of hours in the AM, then working with head tech on repair tickets for the rest of the day. Not sure what the outcome would have been if I went to the school with no knowledge...... I build/repair my own stufff and had attended Park Tool School previously. I can definitely say you will forget a huge amount of stuff if you dont start working immediately. I say go for it man...... I am currently living my own dream of being immersed in bikes as a hobby, and now working in a shop.
    Word of warning....... When you get out and start interviewing, most shops are totally put off by Tech School Grads. You will probably be put through a "test" before being hired, with every tech in the shop watching. Mine was to build one Mountain Bike and One road bike from boxes, then true and dish two wheels. I did something similiar at every place that wanted to hire me, so be ready to be nervous. Just man up.....it's only pot smoking bike-weirdos testing you.
    PM me if you want more info on UBI.

  19. #19
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    A bike school cert can't hurt, but it may not help. The first question is if there are jobs available in your area. If every shop is already set for mechanics it doesn't matter whether you're educated or not. No jobs = no jobs. Certification will put you ahead of non-certified mechs with no experience, but probably not ahead of mechs with real experience. There's a lot of stuff they don't teach you in school (especially regarding how to fix Wal-Mart bikes), which is why experience is preferred.

    Unfortunately, $13-$17/hr sounds high. Maybe for someone with shop experience or at the top of their game but I think you'd be hard-pressed to walk into a shop and command that kind of coin. Not trying to douse your spirit, but the reality of it can suck.

    I would definitely do research with local shops before making a financial commitment to any of the classes.

  20. #20
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    I was a wrench for 4 years, there were several of us and I don't think anyone had a cert. It certainly won't hurt you but many smaller shops wont turn away someone that is competent. I was making $8/hour full time in the mid to late '90s while I was in grad school...fun job..wish I could afford it now!
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by zebrahum View Post
    Just remember: bike shop mechanic is an amazing job if you can pull it off. You're going to learn to love and hate bikes simultaneously, you'll learn how to avoid "those guys" who come in just to shoot the **** while you have 6 people waiting, you'll get so good at fixing shifting and braking that you'll start fixing bikes that pass you on the trail because they made more noise than you would like. Hopefully you won't have to resort to eating Ramen all the time, which is why I had to leave the industry. I'm plotting constantly on how to return, it's a good industry in general.
    You aren't lying...I fix stuff all the time for folks because it just bugs the crap,out of me and it usually only takes a minute.
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

    2012 Specialized Stumpy EVO 29 HT

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocop View Post
    Instead of offering advice to NOT do it, I will give you my experience...... I am retired, and work on my own stuff. Wanted to learn things the "right" way and open up possible part-time employment in a shop to kill time and advance my skills. Went to UBI's Professional Repair and Shop Operation course. I highly recommend it. You get out of it what you put into it. It is highly immersive and they cram a huge amount of info/skills into two weeks. If you complete the coursework satisfactorily, you get a "Certificate of Completion" If you stick around and take the test (and pass) you get a "Certified Bicycle Technician" certificate. I passed.
    I graduated just recently.....Nov 2nd. first week home I had several job offers. I took a part time gig at a major chain retailer, building bikes for a couple of hours in the AM, then working with head tech on repair tickets for the rest of the day. Not sure what the outcome would have been if I went to the school with no knowledge...... I build/repair my own stufff and had attended Park Tool School previously. I can definitely say you will forget a huge amount of stuff if you dont start working immediately. I say go for it man...... I am currently living my own dream of being immersed in bikes as a hobby, and now working in a shop.
    Word of warning....... When you get out and start interviewing, most shops are totally put off by Tech School Grads. You will probably be put through a "test" before being hired, with every tech in the shop watching. Mine was to build one Mountain Bike and One road bike from boxes, then true and dish two wheels. I did something similiar at every place that wanted to hire me, so be ready to be nervous. Just man up.....it's only pot smoking bike-weirdos testing you.
    PM me if you want more info on UBI.
    That is what we did..."build this bike" then we all just sat back and watched. You will build a lot of bikes....a lot. I did that at my second shop..they were impressed
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

    2012 Specialized Stumpy EVO 29 HT

  23. #23
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    From my experience it seems like more shops recognize and respect a BBI cert then UBI. Not that UBI is bad in anyway but they seem to teach in two different ways. BBI is very procedural, UBI (from what I can tell from only having looked at some of their literature) is less so. BBI's method results in a sort of built in liability protection, that a lot of shops really want. I have actually been offered two jobs based mainly on my BBI education.

    I will also say that even a little prior experience will go a long way in helping you absorb and process the information. I have interviewed a bunch of guys fresh out of BBI that have no experience and it showed. I think in every case we went with the guy with more experience and just taught them BBI methods and procedures.

    Personally I worked in shops for over ten years before I went to BBI and I feel like it took my game to a whole new level. I have actually spent some time in shops I worked in prior to going and am embarrassed at the way I used to do things. It's actually pretty nuts what goes on in most bikes shops, and that people pay for it. Oh, the stories I could tell.

    And while it is true that you will top out around 25k, in most cases, it is a awesome way to make a living. I'd probably keep wrenching if I won the lotto.

    I wouldn't tell you not to go to either, but you may try to get a part time gig at a local shop first and see how that plays out.

  24. #24
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    My 2 cents.

    Having served about 8 years as a shop mechanic, I'll say that if you get hired at $13-15 then that must be a decent sized shop that is doing well. But as has already been said, it is a dead-end job. I enjoy most of what I do, and I place a lot of value on my skill set that I've developed, however there is zero growth potential. You're either at the mechanic level, might move up to shop manager, or even owner. That's it. I'm 31 and have almost no idea where I'm going to go from here, because I can't see myself making this money 10 years from now. Goi to a bicycle mechanics school will get you on the fast track to having a solid base of mechanical knowledge, but I would only suggest it if you are committed to making this a long term thing, otherwise the cost is hard to justify.

    If you do decide to join this industry, set your expectations low. Very low.(maybe I'm just bitter about my situation.)

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cabin Fever View Post
    My 2 cents.

    Having served about 8 years as a shop mechanic, I'll say that if you get hired at $13-15 then that must be a decent sized shop that is doing well. But as has already been said, it is a dead-end job. I enjoy most of what I do, and I place a lot of value on my skill set that I've developed, however there is zero growth potential. You're either at the mechanic level, might move up to shop manager, or even owner. That's it. I'm 31 and have almost no idea where I'm going to go from here, because I can't see myself making this money 10 years from now. Goi to a bicycle mechanics school will get you on the fast track to having a solid base of mechanical knowledge, but I would only suggest it if you are committed to making this a long term thing, otherwise the cost is hard to justify.

    If you do decide to join this industry, set your expectations low. Very low.(maybe I'm just bitter about my situation.)
    lol, I feel the same way about goldsmithing. Started in the industry and burnt out (financially) running my own shop after 10 years int he industry. I think everything is like that, you gotta keep trying to think of ways to make it a better paying job. Where i am now i went from lowest paid newest sales guy to manager in 8 months.

    at 31 i have a few great skill sets but feel completely lost, im torn between the career job that will pay well just because... its what everyone seems to do. Or getting the kinda cool guy job with my artsy job part time and being happy. Im not a very material person, i am a very simple creature really.

    I really appreciate everyones opinions and views on the idea, i will post if i go further.
    2012 Giant Reign 1

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