In the 30-plus years that UBI has been teaching mechanics and frame builders, our family of alumni has grown into a truly international community. Aspiring velophiles come from all corners of the globe to take in our unique mix of bike-centric knowledge and culture. This week we had the pleasure of hosting a group of folks from Japan who are bringing the energy and enthusiasm of Portland cycling culture back to Tokyo. “Kiyo” Naohiro Kiyota and his collaborators were the brains behind Pedal Day, a celebration of all things bicycle that takes place in Tokyo. They were also instrumental in starting the Tokyo Farmer’s Market, an idea formed in part by their trip to Portland last year.
Kiyo and crew spent a few days exploring the trails and winding climbs in Ashland before heading up to Portland. They were eager to see our facility, then did our framebuilders version of “Tour of the Stars” to document the burgeoning community of builders and makers, movers and shakers in the Portland cycling industry. This is all a part of a project to showcase people who make things. People who create beautiful, functional objects. Look for UBI and local Ashland and Portland framebuilders in their upcoming publication.
Arigatou gozaimasu, Kiyo.
Father knows best! From left to right: Dan Britton and Bob Britton, Jon Sedgwick and Mark Sedgwick, Rich Morey and Andrew Morey.
They say the acorn doesn’t fall very far from the tree. With Father’s Day ahead of us, we thought we’d pass along some family values, UBI style. The Introduction class that ended Friday in Ashland had not one, not two, but three father-son teams in attendance. We’ve never seen this before! Seems like the dads had better bikes than the sons, but we’ll leave it at that.
Happy Father’s Day!
UBI Instructor Richard Belson is passionate about bicycles. All of us at UBI are. But Richard’s passion for vintage mountain bikes approaches that of a single-minded obsession. When the sun is out in Portland (which is more and more frequent these days), Richard commutes on one of his 30-odd pristine vintage VTTs. Fishers, Rock Lobsters, Bontragers, a Steve Potts here and there. His collection is a rolling museum of the early days of mountain biking.
This morning he arrived astride one of the earliest production mountain bikes available. Fillet-brazed in 1983 by a mustachioed Tom Ritchey for Charlie Kelly and Gary Fisher’s infant “MountainBikes” company, with a traditional 68 degree seat angle and 73 degree head angle. Fillet-brazed “Bullmoose” stem/bar combination emblazoned with Tom Ritchey’s name. With the exception of the seatpost this bike is all original. Even the IRC Racer X tires. Charlie Kelly himself hand-built the wheels, undoubtedly with some Bob Seger playing in the background.
Component spec is a mix of Suntour and Shimano parts, including Shimano’s very first mountain bike-specific group: Deore XT. A beautiful, functional machine that tips the scales at a respectable 30lbs. Not exactly svelte, but not an all-out porker either.
Do you hear that? That flock-of-sparrows sound that could only be a neglected, un-lubed chain? No? That’s because we hushed a metric boatload of them yesterday. As the endless procession of bike commuters made their way up N. Williams Ave, we sang our siren song and enticed many of them to make a quick stop so we could give a little love to their faithful velocipedes. Our friends at Dumonde Tech were kind enough to supply the chain lube, with riders able to choose between Original, Lite, or Bio-Green.
High-fives were liberally dispensed, tires were inflated, rigs were checked, and many new friends were made. All in all a resounding success. With warmer weather upon us we will undoubtedly be doing more of this. Thanks to our friends at Las Primas, Hopworks Urban Brewery, and of course to all of you who came by. Don’t be a stranger.
UBI Portland is located on N. Williams Avenue, one of the city’s most popular North-South bike commuter corridors. At peak times over 600 cyclists an hour pass our building. To show our appreciation for these legions of riders, this Thursday (May 30th) during the evening commute we’ll be swinging open our doors to lube chains, air tires, and give commuters’ rigs a once-over. Everyone who stops by will get a UBI sticker. Present this sticker to our neighbors, Hopworks Urban Brewery, for $0.50 off the frosty beverage of your choice.
Curious to see what goes in our mechanics and frame building classes? Swing by UBI between 4 and 6pm this Thursday, May 30th. We’re located at 3961 N. Williams, just past the Hopworks Bike Bar and behind Queen Bee Creations. Just our way of saying thanks to our amazing community. See you then.
Braze your own sweet steel frame!
It’s tough to get into a UBI brazing class. Waiting lists are long, and classes fill far in advance. Sometimes people have to transfer or cancel. We just had such an event occur yesterday.
This means you can slide into an open spot in the June 10th Brazing class in Ashland and build yourself a sweet lugged or fillet brazed steel frame. Build it up and you can be riding your own hand-built bicycle for the rest of the summer.
You can register for the class by visiting the Ashland registration page on our web site.
MaryJane Munger in her mobile shop.
We were very saddened to learn that a former UBI student, MaryJane Munger, passed away recently. MaryJane attended UBI in 2009. She took our Professional Repair and Advanced Mechanics courses, and also built her own steel TIG frame in one of our frame building classes. She applied her UBI knowledge to open her own mobile bike repair business on the Oregon Coast.
Word came today from the executor of MaryJane’s estate that her mobile bike repair van, with all its fixtures and shop tools, is for sale. It was MaryJane’s hope that the van would go to another UBI graduate who would pick up MaryJane’s wrenches, so to speak, and continue her mission (and passion) of keeping people on their bikes.
If you have any interest in purchasing a turnkey mobile bike repair business and carrying on MaryJane’s work, especially if you are a UBI graduate, send us an email and we’ll put you in touch with her estate. You can also visit her web site.
Preparing students for work in the industry is what we do. It’s our “raisin deeter“, as the French say. That’s why it is supremely satisfying when we have students pop by to tell us how their experience at UBI helped further their professional development. Just last week in Portland we had a visit from a recent graduate of the UBI Professional Repair and Shop Operation Class. He wanted to dole out high fives and thank us for helping him secure gainful employment in the tofu-dog-eat-tofu-dog world of Portland bike shops. He went from intern at a (UBI grad-owned) bike shop to a full-fledged mechanic at one of Portland’s premiere cargo bike shops. Ladies and gentlemen, Adriel Weiner.
What’s your name and current job title?
Adriel Weiner, Mechanic at Clever Cycles
When did you attend UBI?
February 11th – 22nd, 2013
Did you have any bike industry experience prior to attending?
Yes, I was an intern at Metropolis Cycle Repair starting in January 2012. I also did administrative work at Pedal Bike Tours down town from the summer of 2010 through the beginning of 2013.
How did your experience at UBI prepare you for a job in the industry?
UBI helped me build confidence and fine tune the skills I had gained as an intern at Metropolis Cycle Repair.
Would you recommend UBI to someone planning on pursuing a career in the industry?
Yes, prior to being an intern I took the Basic Mechanics Course. I think that it was helpful to have a basic understanding of how bikes work because I had no previous experience. And like I said, it helped me then fine tune and build confidence in the skills I had gained as an intern.
Anything else you’d like to add about your UBI experience?
All the instructors are super awesome. They all have a great resource of knowledge stored in their brains and know how to explain things in a simple way for our lessor minds to understand. The course material are really helpful even post class. The set up of the course and environment it creates is very comfortable and conducive to learning.
Congratulations, Adriel, on this next step, and thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.
Interested in following in Adriel’s footsteps? Check out our class schedule and register online.
You, your torch, your new bike.
All of our frame building classes for 2013 filled up by early April. Something had to be done.
We’re happy to announce that we’ve added another brazing class to our Portland schedule this summer. The dates are July 8 – 19. Portland frame builder Joseph Ahearne will be the instructor.
Although this class has been on our registration page for less than a week, we’ve already had some enrollments. Which is to say, we expect it to fill soon.
You can register for it by following this link.
What’s old is new again. Twirly mustaches, bergamot-scented hair treatments, wool spinning: They’re all the rage with the kids these days. But before you disparage all the young bohemians and their love of the anachronistic consider this. Those of us in the cyclo-industrial complex are not immune to similar fits of whimsical nostalgia. Take the 650B / 27.5″ mountain bike. For those of you who were still in shortpants when mountain biking transitioned from fringe activity to legitimate sport, it may seem as if this not-26er-not-29er just sprung fully-formed from the heads of marketing and engineering geniuses in 2011. Not so. Let’s take a look back.
So what exactly is 650B? Back when berets weren’t worn ironically, the French used a 3-digit-plus-letter naming convention to identify different tire sizes. The three-digit number indicated the outside diameter of the tire, with the A,B,C designation used to indicate the relative width / height of the tire casing. A 650A, 650B and 650C tire would theoretically all share an outside diameter of 650mm, but since the 650A tire was skinnier than the 650B, the rim of the 650A would be larger, and thus have a greater bead seat diameter. This Bead Seat Diameter (BSD), the diameter of the rim/tire where the bead interfaces the rim, is the defining characteristic of tire size, and the most critical measurement to determine tire and rim compatibility. In order to be compatible, a tire and rim must share the same BSD. Nowadays, you would be hard pressed to measure 650 anythings on a 650B tire, whether it be millimeters, cubits, or skoshes. But what you will be able to measure is the BSD. If the BSD is 584mm, you have a 650B.
The wide tire profile of the early French 650B tires made it ideally suited for the popular French pastime of cyclotouring. These tires, called “demi-balloon”, made for comfortable, sure-footed riding over unpaved roads on loaded touring or “randonneur” bikes.
But unlike the vaunted French 700C road tire, the 650B never gained purchase across the pond. Schwinn used the 584mm BSD sparingly on their S-4 rims, as did Raleigh on some 3-speeds, but by and large the more common 559mm BSD (what we know as 26″) become the de facto rim size for most non-racing bicycles in the US. This had profound implications for mountain bike tire sizes.
The early American mountain bike pioneers in Marin County used modified Schwinn cruisers as their off-road vehicles. Since these bikes came with standard 599 BSD rims and tires, the 26″ wheel became, by default, synonymous with the mountain bike. But twenty years before, back in the ancestral home of the 650B, a group of proto-huckers realized you can’t spell “rando” without “rad”. The VCCP (Velo Cross Club Parisien), a group of 20 riders outside of Paris, anticipated people like Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly by a few decades by modifiying and shredding 650B randonneur bikes in the 1950′s. This video is a must-see for bicycle history geeks and francophiles alike.
Some of the early American mountain bike frame builders flirted with the larger French tire. Tom Ritchey build several 650B mountain bikes in the late 70′s, using imported Finnish Nokkian Hakkapalita studded tires to shod his 584 BSD rims.
This letter from Gary Fisher to Geoff Apps in England shows that the 650B was not unknown in the American fat-tire scene. The issue seems to have been one of ready availability of compatible rims. With the 559 BSD 26″ rim being ubiquitous, it made sense to make it the standard mountain bike tire size.
Not surprisingly, Gary Fisher was an early proponent of the 29″ mountain bike, itself built on another French rim, the 700C (622 BSD). The benefits of the larger wheel size include a larger contact patch (and thus better traction), and greater ability to roll over obstacles. For smaller riders, or those interested in more nimble handling than a 29er, a size midway between the 26″ and 29″ began to make more sense. Re-enter the venerable 650B.
The industry has been much quicker to adopt this resurrected big wheel than they did the 29er, with all major brands offering at least one 650B model. Even gravity sports like downhill and freeride seem not to be immune to the trend. Some industry insiders even suggest that the return of the “demi-balloon” might mark the death of the 26″ mountain bike. That remains to be seen. But the story of the fall and rise of the 650B does serve to illustrate that there truly is nothing new under the sun. Tomorrow’s “innovation” may well be yesterday’s forgotten standard, and it all comes around again, not unlike the wheels on our bikes.