ASHLAND, Ore.– Bike building isn’t something we typically associate with southern Oregon. But an Ashland school is one of the only places in the world providing a full cycling workshop experience.
From mechanics and maintenance to building your own frame, it can all be found at the United Bicycle Institute. Located near downtown Ashland, a passion for all things cycling is essential at the institute.
“I’ve always loved bikes. I’ve been riding bikes since I was a little kid,” said Nathan Riddle, a mechanics instructor at the school. “As a little kid, I broke bikes, had to figure out how to put them back together again.”
The institute began back in 1981 as a mechanics school. Riddle says he’s been with the school for the past 12 years. He estimates they’ve helped thousands of students learn the ins and outs of bicycles and helped them find jobs and opportunities within the industry.
“The thing that I see over and over and over again is when people finally get here and they take a look at what we do, it’s always like this, ‘Whoaaa!'” he said.
That’s how it was for one of the institute’s newest instructors. B, as she is known, began teaching three years ago. She says her love of bicycles began as a kid with her father. She fell out of touch for a little bit but picked it back up again as a form of transportation. When she started taking classes at the school, she studied everything she could about bicycles.
“As a novice, I was like, ‘Why? I just need to get to work!'” she said. “But at the end of the day knowing how to fix it myself was one of the most empowering things I did for myself.”
B also received help through a scholarship that supports gender diversity for women, trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming, and intersex individuals in the industry. Known as the QBP Scholarship from Quality Bicycle Products, it allowed B to take professional classes at the school for free. She advocates it for any other women looking at getting into the industry.
“There’s a lack of those people in our industry and it’s very sad,” she said. “I think our industry is the worse for it.”
In the classes, students learn everything from bicycle mechanisms and maintenance to even building their own frames. They can also become certified as a bicycle mechanic. For the instructors, it’s a rewarding job, especially when it attracts people of all personalities from across the world. The school says it’s had students come from over 45 countries.
“Everybody comes here ready to learn and that’s by far one of the most awesome atmospheres to be a part of,” said B.
For these gear-junkies, bicycles are now just a natural part of the cycle life.
“When it all just clicks, it’s a really wonderful moment to be a part of,” she said.
The school also accepts VA benefits and has helped educate veterans with the knowledge to start their own workshops or join businesses in the industry. You can find more about classes and schedules on its website at United Bicycle Institute.