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UNITED BICYCLE INSTITUTE
P.O. Box 128
Ashland, Oregon 97520

ASHLAND CAMPUS
401 Williamson Way
Ashland, Oregon 97520

PORTLAND CAMPUS
3961 N. Williams Ave.
Ste 100
Portland Oregon 97227

FAX: (541) 488-3485

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Frame Building Class FAQ
(Frequently Asked Questions)

Below are the most common pre-class questions students have asked about our frame building classes. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact us at any time.

1. Are there any prerequisites for any of the frame building classes?
    No. We assume you have no prior knowledge or experience. Students who have at least average mechanical ability and reasonably good hand-eye coordination tend to do well. Corrected vision needs to be at least fair in the medium to close-up distances. However, students must be at least 18 years old to enroll.
2.What is the class size?
    We limit the class size to eight students. Each class has two instructors, so our student/teacher ratio is 4:1.
3. Should I take a welding or brazing class prior to taking a frame building class?
    Again no prior knowledge or experience is assumed, but in the past some students have taken evening or weekend community brazing or welding classes and some have found the experience to be helpful.
4. I'm signed up for the brazing class, should I also take the TIG Seminar?
    If you are interested in TIG welding, or simply want to find out more about it, the class is a great introduction to the practice, though it is not required. The TIG Welding Seminar is offered immediately following the brazing class primarily so students can learn both brazing and TIG welding skills. Learning both skills is particularly helpful if you wish to be a frame builder. You may also take the TIG Welding Seminar as a standalone class at any time in the future.
5. What kind of tubing will I use to build my frame?
    In our steel frame building classes, we use high quality, butted, chromoly tubing. The brands we most often use are Kaisei (UBI is the exclusive US distributor of this prestigious Japanese brand), Columbus, Tange and True Temper. In the titanium frame building class, we use certified American-made 3/2.5 titanium tubing.
6. Why can't I build using the super light, heat treated tubing?
    Frankly, even the best students do not develop enough heat control during a two week class to be able to build a safe bicycle using very thin heat-treated tubing. It's best to save such tubing for your second or third frame.
7. Why can't I build with aluminum or carbon fiber?
    Both aluminum and carbon fiber offer challenges to the beginning frame builder that make them inappropriate for learning frame building.
8. What type of bicycle can I build?
    With the exception of tandems, full suspension bikes and recumbents, we do not restrict you from building any particular type of bicycle. As long as the available fixtures and lugs can accommodate your design, you can build the bicycle. Past students have successfully built road, mountain, hybrid, touring, cyclocross, trials, BMX, and track bikes.


    In our brazing classes, traditional bicycle designs work best. Normal sizes for mountain bikes are from 16 to 21 inches, and for road bikes (with 700C wheels), normal sizes are from 19 to 25 inches (48 cm to 63.5 cm). Particularly small bicycle designs offer the greatest challenge to the frame building student. Traditional bicycle designs usually include normal seat tube angles (73 or 74 degrees), and normal head tube angles (71 degrees for mountain bikes and 73 or 74 degrees for road bikes). Though traditional road bikes often have a horizontal top tube, mountain bikes can be built with almost any slope if it is fillet brazed, or a slope of seven degrees if it uses lugs.

    In our TIG frame building classes, you certainly can build a normal-size, traditional bicycle design, but you could even build a not-so-conventional design. There are limitations, but as long as the fixtures can hold the tubes together, and you have adequate access to TIG weld the joint, then it's buildable. Even so, the normal-sized, traditional bicycles are easiest to build.
9. Why can't I build a tandem or a recumbent?
    Fixtures and distractions are the biggest problems. Non-traditional designs require specially designed fixtures. The fixtures that are used are often custom fabricated by the builder to accommodate a specific design. They are not commercially available.
10. Why are my geometry choices more limited when I build with lugs?
    Lug availability. Lugs are made for specific frame tube sizes and angles. They are not made for every tube size, and they are not made to accommodate every tube angle. Lugs are made for typical tube sizes and angles. As long as your design includes tube sizes and angles that are at least somewhat normal, there won't be a problem with the lugs.
11. In the brazing class, what type of lugs are used?
    We use the highest quality, investment cast, chromoly lugs. The brands we use the most are Henry James, Pacenti, Richard Sachs and Everest.
12. Can I build an elevated chainstay bicycle?
    No. The reason is, once again, fixturing.
13. Do I get to build a fork?
    Building a fork is very time consuming and labor intensive. In fact many frame builders do not build their own forks for this reason. If you are building a traditional lugged road bike in the brazing class, then you will be allowed to build a fork as part of the class. This is because a traditional lugged road bike is the easiest frame to build so you will have more time in class to complete the fork. If you are building a fillet brazed (brazing class only) or TIG welded bike (TIG class only), you will not build a fork and will instead use the extra time available for much needed practice brazing or welding.
14. Can I build a full suspension frame?
    No. Of course you can design and build a frame with front suspension using a fork you supply, but not with rear suspension. At this time, unlike with front suspension, there are far too many different designs of rear suspension units and very little standardization. Plus fixturing non-traditional designs may be impossible with commercially available frame jigs.
15. How are the days structured during class?
    The first week, class days run from Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the weekend off. The second week follows the same schedule, but class concludes usually by mid-day Friday. Weekday class sessions will begin each morning with a lecture and demonstration, followed by an afternoon work session. Lunch breaks are one hour long and usually begin between noon and 12:30 pm.
16. What does tuition include?
    The tuition includes practice material, tubing, dropouts, lugs if applicable, bottom bracket shell, braze-ons, use of the UBI facilities and tools during assigned class sessions, instruction, and course handout materials. It does not include your lodging, travel expenses, or personal living expenses. There may be a slight upcharge for using certain types of expensive slider dropouts. Please contact us if you plan to build with slider dropouts.
17. How much of the work do I get to do myself?
    You will have an opportunity to do 100% of the work on your own frame. In fact, most students do every single step themselves. If you do need help though, a UBI instructor will gladly help you anywhere along the way.
18. Will I be able to finish my frame?
    Most students have no problem completing their frame. In many cases the frames are ready, or nearly ready, for painting at the conclusion of class. Frames that aren't quite ready for painting usually require various amounts of filing or sanding to make them ready. Students often find this finish work to be such an enjoyable part of frame building they drag it out on purpose.
19. Tell me about the tool discount?
    For every class you complete here at UBI, you are entitled to one order at wholesale prices from the United Bicycle Tool Supply catalog. Your purchase may be made anytime before one year from the last day of class. Some restrictions apply. You will be given a complete Tool Discount Sales Policy handout before you complete your class.
20. Can I buy components for my frame from UBI?
    There will be an opportunity for you to purchase a parts group at a significant discount. We will discuss the policies and restrictions for the group purchase in class.
21. Will I be able to paint my frame at UBI?
    No. Painting could easily be a one or two week course itself - that's without considering the health and environmental hazards to those taking such a class. We will supply you with a list of frame painting companies.
22. Do I receive a certificate upon completion of the class?
    Yes. All students who successfully complete any of our classes receive a Certificate of Completion.
23. Can I get a job building frames after my graduation?
    Though many students have taken our frame building classes with a desire to build just a single frame for themselves, others have taken the class with professional aspirations. Many past graduates have gone on to become successful custom frame builders. Some have acquired jobs with large bike companies. We quite often receive calls from manufacturers looking for our frame building graduates. That information is always available to our graduates who are looking for work.

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