What do our students say?
A friend and I wanted to do a maintenance course geared towards touring cyclists and Dewi created a very full week covering everything we wanted while several other students worked on wheelbuilding and bike building. It made for a great atmosphere and we learned all the more by watching and listening to others as they worked.
Our bike maintenance course covered gear setup and tuning, brake assembly and maintenance, headsets, hubs and bottom brackets and wheel truing besides a good study of the basics of disc brakes and hydraulics and a wheelbuilding demo. We brought our own bikes to work on once we had practiced on the training frames and wheels, so we finished the course with our bikes having had a thorough service, hubs cleaned and lubed, wheels and brakes running
perfectly and gears shifting well with new cables throughout.
One year later, we just spent another very enjoyable week at CycleWales doing the 3-day wheelbuilding course and then a 2-day bike build. Wheelbuilding might seem a bit like knitting but it’s very satisfying, as is speccing and building a bike entirely of your own choosing. Dewi helped buy the parts and ensured everything was going to work together and of course supplied all the extras like cables and cable housing and other odds and sods to get everything to work together properly. As I finished my bike by fitting the saddle, I realised I’d bought totally the wrong colour, a brown hush-puppy nubuck Selle San Marco on
a black and green bike. It looked dreadful, but Dewi said ‘hang on a minute’ and came back with the exact same saddle in black and offered a straight swap. He can’t guarantee miracles every time but he has a knack of getting you out of every tricky situation you run into when building a bike and finding you’re stuck.
We enjoyed evening rides along the bike path or up towards Snowdon or down to the sea and walked through fields to the workshop every morning – it’s a very beautiful setting and all the better for being a little inaccessible for some mobile signals or email. You will hear a lot of Welsh spoken and for me this was another big plus and made for a much richer experience and a feeling I’d had a holiday and a good break from home too.
Colin Cahill from Southern Ireland
My Road to Cycle Wales
There comes a time when you say to yourself I want to know more. As leisure cyclists for more years than I care to remember, I had a plan. I want to tour with a dedicated touring bike and be fully trained on bike maintenance. To get a qualification that would allow me to work on bikes as a source of income while touring and to keep my own bike on the road.
Research and the Internet were the first tools I used. What I found was a Company in Wales offering what I required with extra options such as a bike build, and wheel building .I was very interested in this. We exchanged emails over a few weeks. This was the Deal. A two week course, one week in January one week in March. A set program on all aspects of bike maintenance 9 individual City&Guild exams, Wheel building, and a bike build.
I now began to plan my touring bike, type of frame, components, wheels, tyres, racks, gearing, bars, seat, etc. Frame and size decided and most components chosen. Cycle Wales would take care of ordering and supplying every component needed to build the bike. Frame colour was chosen and powder coated locally in Wales.
A 200k Train journey a 4hr ferry crossing and 3 bus rides I arrive in Cycle Wales training centre Talysarn at 8 30 am on day one of course having left Ireland the day before. Three months preparation and her I am my dream starts to become a reality. I was greeted by Dewi Jones with whom I had emailed over the past three months.
Course got under way promptly at 09 30 registration and course details to start with. All course participants had a work station bike stand and a bike for the duration of the course. The workshop is professionally kitted out with the latest tools and technology for bike maintenance/build. Dewi is a very competent tutor, he patiently went through every single bike component, how it works, how to dismantle and assemble using the correct tools, it came quite clear as the week progressed I will have a huge knowledge on bicycle repair. Dewi led me into the stores mid week and pointed to a large box of bike parts “that’s your bike you will build it on week two”. “Great I replied I’ll cycle it home from here”.
Week one finished three exams taken and passed a course manual and notes to take back home to study.
Week two started with wheel building with Gilly, very intense with theory and practical but by the end of it I built my own wheels for my touring bike. More exams/maintenance followed as we covered every dimension of the bike. Building a bike from start to finish can be described as precision engineering. Bottom bracket shell head tube and fork crown are machined first before a single component is fitted. This is well explained why and the consequences if not. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning opening the different boxes of bike parts. One by one I fitted each component under the watchful eye of our tutor; my dream was becoming a reality. Completed all exams it was now time to go for a test spin. All participants tested including Dewi. Final adjustments made all course participants agreed the bike was superb. Some had wished they built there own bike at Cycle Wales rather than buying already built.
This was a really worthwhile course. Dewi is hugely knowledgeable and a very patient tutor. I built a Surly Long haul Trucker touring bike here at Cycle Wales, and yes I did cycle it home to Ireland.
Colin Cahill. 23/3/09
Three months ago about the only thing I could do with a bike was mend a puncture and I was getting fed up of running down to the local bike shop to have them fix the simplest of items or fit new component. No matter what books I read or websites I visited, I was still unable to master the art of cycle maintainance. So I decided to do something about it and hey, why not go the whole hog and take a two week course.
Now I’m not a mechanically minded individual but Dewi and Gill of Cycle Wales were on hand to guide me through the difficult parts. I don’t care what anyone says there is no substitute for practical demonstration and this was available in spades. I particularly enjoyed the wheelbuilding part of the course which was initially a bit daunting but once explained and mastered, entirely satisfying. Small group and an extremely well equipped workshop, one could not ask for more.
However there is more! The workshop is located in an old mining village in the foothills of Snowdonia, which itself probably contains some of the best cycling in the UK, whether it be road or off road. So a day at the workshop was followed by some great summer evening riding along the local tracks, paths and lanes. Weekends gave me a chance to try out some of the bespoke MTB courses only a short drive away. All in all expert tuition, great riding, good company and a bit of relaxation (did I mention the pubs?). I even came home with a newly built bike and a qualification. Now I can’t wait to assemble the tools (Cycle Wales can help here too) and take some bikes to bits.
Setting off to spend 4 years cycling around the world in September 2009, I knew that cycle shops would be few and far between and that my mechanical abilities were pretty limited. Struck by the need to a have a really thorough understanding of both the concepts – threaded versus thread-less headsets for example – and the practical, a brief chat with Dewi firmly confirmed to me that the 10 day City & Guilds course would be just the ticket.
Fair to say that when I started there were probably few sights scarier than yours truly with tools – and they didn’t have to be the powered variety. I thought I had a reasonable idea about cycle maintenance beforehand, but quickly realised I had probably been rather more reliant on cycle shops that I had imagined. However, by the end of the course, I could quite happily strip out bottom brackets, pull headsets apart, build wheels, and quite a bit more – in fact, all the skills I should need to be able to maintain my expedition bike over about 45-48,000 miles. Quite a transformation in technical ability, and a pretty big testament to the teaching skills – and immense patience and understanding – of Dewi, my instructor.
I found the discipline of the various City & Guilds trade tests, culminating in stripping down a road bike to its bare frame and then reassembling it, very helpful in making sure I really had properly grasped everything. There is also a certain re-assuring satisfaction in, for example, looking at a rounded, dished and trued wheel and thinking ‘I made that!’.
What next then before I set off later this year? Armed with my new found skills, I’ll be back up at CycleWales to make use of the workshop facilities to fine tune my expedition cycle, changing the frame on another cycle for a friend and building some more wheels – all things I simply wouldn’t have dreamt of doing before I’d done the course.