Professional Repair and
Shop Operation Class

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Reston, VA to Ashland, OR


Ever since I discovered that schools existed for learning about bicycles, I've wanted to attend. There are two main schools in the U.S., Barnett Bicycle Institute and United Bicycle Institute (UBI). Barnett's is known for teaching one how to use precise measurements to adjust and install bike parts. UBI uses a less formal teaching method based on lectures and hands-on exercises. UBI conducts several training courses for bicycle mechanics and frame builders. Based on discussions with previous students, I chose to attend UBI.

I recently completed the two week Professional Repair and Shop Operation class offered at the institute, located in Ashland, Oregon. The class is “a comprehensive 2 week professional level course for students with limited or no bike shop experience.” It includes a combination of lecture and hands-on work. The ratio is probably 3 parts lecture to 1 part hands-on.

The course topics ranged from very basic operations to doing some of the more advanced procedures that I've never attempted, such as changing the oil in a front suspension, chasing bottom bracket threads, facing a bottom bracket and a head tube. There was enough advanced material to hold my interest. At the end of the two week class, a test of 100 questions is administered. Upon successful completion of the test one becomes a Certified Bicycle Technician.

Flying into Medford
Ashland is located in southern Oregon, a significant distance from any major airport. It's neither easy nor cheap to get there. The closest regional airport is in Medford, about 15 miles north, and the flights are expensive. I decided to take my Bike Friday folding bike, both as transportation from the airport to Ashland and to use during the open lab sessions in the evening.

Farm on N. Phoenix Rd
Thanks to John Barnes, the UBI administrator, I received good directions from the airport to UBI. Fortunately there is a paved trail that extends much of the way from Medford to Ashland. There is currently about a 5-mile gap in the trail, but there is an alternate route along two major roads with bike lanes. I soon discovered that this part of Oregon is very bicycle friendly.

On the final leg of the trip from Medford to Ashland I ran into another cyclist who waited for me to catch up, and we carried on a conversation for the duration of the trip to Ashland. He is a professor of percussion at Southern Oregon University, and knew where UBI was located. He led me to UBI and the cycle hostel located next door. He also mentioned that he was conducting a jazz concert the following Friday at the University.

As Murray, the hostel owner, had said,
Cycle Hostel
we found the hostel located above Siskiyou Plumbing. The hostel is basically a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor of the building, with a kitchen and two bathrooms. There's a TV with two small couches, a dining table and a few chairs. Four people sleep in each room on two bunk beds. It's cozy.

After getting settled it was time for a meal. Past time, as it was almost 9pm East Coast time. No one was around so I walked into down and checked out the menus for several places along Main St. I soon discovered a couple of things about Ashland; the restaurants are expensive, and that's it's a tourist town, with almost no practical stores in the downtown area. The downtown consists mostly of restaurants, coffee shops, and gift and art stores. For a relatively small town (about 50,000 people in the city and surrounding area), there were a surprising number of bookstores and bike shops.

I was in the mood for some Mexican food and settled on Tabu, which serves “Nuevo Latino Cuisine”. The food was good and not too expensive. I sat near the bar and watched the bar tender mix martinis.