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.
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.
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.
As cycling author Andrew Ritchie has written, “The bicycle points a direction. It allows people, in a simple but radical way, to gain control of their lives.”
UBI’s Introduction to Bicycle Maintenance class can allow you to take control of your bicycle! Our goal is to make you a more self-sufficient cyclist, to give you both the skills and the confidence to keep your bike on the road.
This summer’s Introduction classes are upon us and we still have availability in most sessions. If your goal is self-sufficiency, here’s your chance to gain it.
This summer’s schedule and availability:
June 3 (Limited availability: two spots one spot)
August 5 (Limited availability: two spots)
UBI Ashland hosted another UBI FOX Master Tech Clinic this past Saturday. Led by UBI’s Nathan Riddle and Jake Sawyer, and FOX’s Jeff Menown, a full house of shop mechanics learned hands-on the latest FOX fork technology (with a sneak preview of the upcoming model year). Students also got to sample a one-off batch of FOX co-branded Puck’s doughnuts, including a CTD-damped eclair, a rigid old-fashioned, a locked-out bear claw, and a high-compression shim stack with sprinkles.
Are the rumors true? Is Fox making doughnuts?
As always with this seminar, a brand new FOX fork is included with the cost of tuition. $600 buys you lots of FOX smarts and a new fork. The doughnuts are just, um, icing.
Several students were left on the waiting list because this class was full, so plan ahead for the next session. It comes up Saturday, November 16 at UBI-Portland, as part of our Advanced Super Week. You can register for it here.
Damper removal on a new Fox fork.
Fox’s Jeff Menown gives a student in-school suspension.
The North American Handmade Bicycle Show may be the biggest tent in the custom bicycle world, but the UK’s Bespoked Bristol — which just wrapped up its third show last week — looks like it’s not far behind. The show posted a weekend attendance of 6,000, up from 4,000 just a year ago. While most of the show’s exhibitors were from the UK or the Continent, a few Americans made the journey. Among them was the Eugene, Oregon-based Eric Estlund of Winter Bicycles, who is also a UBI brazing class graduate.
Eric. Bike. Ribbon.
A gorgeous neo-classic.
Eric was justly rewarded for the long trans-continental-trans-oceanic trip by winning the prize for Best Track Bike. So, as UBI doffs a derby in Eric’s direction, here, courtesy of Bespoked Bristol and Gold Seal Photography, are some pictures of his winning track bike. Classic details, beautifully rendered. Carry on, Eric!
Spring has come to Oregon, ladies and gents. For real this time. The students at UBI Portland are still trying to figure out what exactly that big yellow orb in the sky is. Birds are singing….or is that an un-lubed chain? The North Williams corridor, a major North-South Portland bicycle thoroughfare that runs past our campus, sees considerable bike traffic on even the nastiest of days. But once the sun comes out it’s a two-wheeled Long Island Expressway. Over 600 bikes an hour can be seen passing by UBI during peak commute hours.
To celebrate the coming of Spring, we’re going to take a break from our usual velocentrism to showcase the neighborhood that UBI Portland calls home. For those of you who attended classes in Portland this will certainly make you nostalgic. For those who have yet to visit, it will give you a taste of what you can expect. So put on some comfy sneakers, change into your favorite cardigan sweater, and let’s get our Mr. Rogers on.
We are grateful to be surrounded by some amazing neighbors. Within a few blocks from UBI you can find world-class coffee, dynamite eateries, coffee, two local breweries, coffee, and some truly Portlandia-esque shops. And also coffee.
UBI is tucked behind local Portland bag maker Queen Bee, just off of North Williams Avenue in what is affectionately known as Portland’s “Fifth Quadrant”. This is where the magic happens. We occupy two spacious buildings, one housing the mechanics’ classroom and one serving as the frame shop. The neighborhood has experience a bit of a renaissance as of late, and the impending arrival of homegrown grocery New Seasons Market two blocks South is going to hasten even further changes. In short, the place is going off.
A block North is the Friendly Bike Guest House, temporary home to many UBI students during their stay. Close enough to allow the less morning-oriented among them to literally roll out of bed and into class.
The view South on Williams shows UBI’s immediate environs. Need some ink? Care to sample the local tipple after class? Shopping for the fam back home? Done, done and done.
Local sudsmaker Hopworks Urban Brewery opened their second location not long after UBI moved to town. In addition to good food and local beer, they also feature taps made from Chris King components and decor featuring frames from local builders (including quite a few built by UBI instructors and students).
People are particular about their caffeine-delivery devices. For that reason we don’t even try to play barista. But one block away we happen to know some folks that do. Ristretto will make sure that you are amped to the gills before class starts promptly at 8am. They might even draw a smiley face or a bicycle in your latte.
The view North towards UBI. During “bike rush hour” the bike lane on the right is a river of two-wheeled traffic. Stretchy pants, beards, tall bikes, waxed canvas: It’s all on display. There is no better place in Portland to people watch. The Cat 6 commuter sprint points are hotly contested on this particular stretch of the parcourse.
This velo-inspired piece adorns the wall of the UBI frame shop. Talks of more bike-related public art are in the works.
Even the cars give a nod to the work we do. UBI is proud to be a part of the thriving community in North Portland. If you’ve been thinking about signing up for classes, now is the time. It doesn’t get much better than this.
An Advanced Mechanics Super Week? That’s what we’re calling it, for now.
Coming in November, bike mechanics looking for advanced training will have the opportunity for a concentrated slam of every advanced mechanics seminar offered by UBI! Thing is, it’s ten days long. But we’re calling it Super Week anyway.
It all starts on November 11 with the UBI/DT Swiss Wheel Seminar. Wednesday, November 13, you’ll get the UBI Suspension Technician Seminar. Following hot on its wheel will be the FOX Master Tech Clinic, Saturday, November 16. After a breather on Sunday, students will pick up the UBI Disc Brake Seminar Monday, November 18, followed by the Chris King Seminar on Tuesday the 19th.