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Portland Made: United Bicycle Institute

Monday, August 17, 2015


Photo credit: Aaron Lee Photography

Many of Portland’s incubator spaces are working to engage students in demo days, days of building, pitch events, and more. Many alternative educational programs are also feeding these maker collectives and the associated workforce that these growing companies are hiring. The United Bicycle Institute is training future bike builders, the American Barista & Coffee School is training future baristas and coffeepreneurs, the American Jewelers Institute is growing the next generation of jewelry designers, and the Portland Sewing school is training the future seamsters. These institutions are building a skilled workforce and creating future entrepreneurs in the creative industries.

Portland Made contributing writer Peggy Acott sat down with the United Bicycle Institute to find out more about their educational programs.

United Bicycle Institute (UBI) offers coursework and certification in both Bicycle Mechanics and Bicycle Frame Building. “It is a very unique business,” says Stephen Glass, Manager of the Portland Campus, as it is one of only a few schools in North America to offer these programs. These classes have attracted students from all fifty states and forty-four different countries. They are approved to accept Veterans using the Post 911/GI Bill through the US Veterans Administration and also accept students through vocational rehabilitation programs.

UBI is a Licensed Private Career School through the State of Oregon and as such, its curriculum goes through the same evaluations and standardizations as other state schools, which Glass thinks helps keep the quality of their curriculum high, giving those who attend a “truly professional education.”

Not all students attend UBI for vocational training, however. Different classes in Bicycle Mechanics run from one day to two weeks; some are geared (no pun intended) toward bike enthusiasts who want to learn more about maintaining their own bicycles, while the more technical courses provide vocational training and continuing education for existing mechanics to improve and expand their skill.  In the two-week courses on frame building, the student leaves with their own custom-built frame along with a new set of skills.

The original location (the school’s administrative headquarters) is in Ashland, Oregon. It was founded in 1981, and in the years that followed, classes were added and wait lists continued to grow; it was time to expand. In 2009 they added a second location, and chose Portland because 1) it was easier for students traveling from a distance to fly into, and 2) Portland had a good-sized bicycle manufacturing and community already in place, and so there would be a pool of interested potential students for what the school had to offer. They were right.  Today at the Portland campus alone, there is enrollment of 400-500 students per year.

Glass says the school attracts a broad student base: The average age, he estimates is in the mid-30s; approximately 25% of the students are women (a number that has been steadily increasing since the mid-1990s); the summer classes tend to draw more hobbyists – especially students and educators who have available time during the summer months. Experienced and working mechanics tend to take classes at other times of the year.

Glass says the biggest challenge they continually face is how to insure that everyone gets what they need out of their classes, when students come with a wide variety of existing skills. “The bike industry is somewhat tribal,” says Glass, where people tend to learn the skills they need informally from someone else, without necessarily having “the whys and hows” of what they’re doing. So each class at UBI strives to fill these gaps, to provide a strong knowledge base as well as skill set for their students.

UBI is finding a lot of success in their programming, regularly receiving “glowing reviews” from their students. Glass thinks this success is largely due to the strength and quality of their teaching staff. The company has a total of nine teachers between both locations, which combined have more than 200 years’ worth of experience in various aspects of the bicycle business. It’s this depth and breadth of knowledge that enables such a wide range of students’ needs to be met.

To find out more about UBI, visit their website http://www.bikeschool.com/

Kelley Roy is the founder of ADX, a 14,000 square foot Makerspace where artists and designers work along side each other to prototype and launch new product lines. ADX is also open to the general public and teaches people of all ages how to make. And if you don't want to do it yourself, you can hire ADX to make it for you. For more information check out adxportland.com. 

Portland Made is a digital storytelling platform and advocacy center for Portland's Maker Movement. We do 2 features a month on Portland Makers; connect makers with more local, national and international markets; connect makers with local professional and manufacturing resources; advocate for makers with politicians at all levels of government; work with PSU on an annual survey that captures the economic power of the Maker Movement; help makers find real estate; and promote Portland makers with local and national media.


Related Slideshow: 17 Ways to Experience Portland on Bike

Check out these 17 businesses for bike rentals and tours, that allow you to enjoy the Portland bike scene without owning a bike:  

Prev Next

Pedal Bike Tours

Bike rentals and guided tours, including a pub and Columbia River Gorge ride

Bike Rentals: $35-$60 a day

Tours: $89-$109

133 SW 2nd Ave 

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Peer-to-peer bike sharing 

Search online or with an app for avaiable bikes of all sizes and prices to loan from local bike owners 

Bike owners list their own rental prices, anything above $1

Prev Next

Go By Bike Shop

Bike rentals  and valet partner with OHSU at the Portland Aerial Tram

$40 a day, $20 a day for OSHU employees

SW Moody and Gibbs  

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Waterfront Bikes  

A wide range of city, cruiser, road, mountain, tandem, child, and hybrid bike rentals

10 SW Ash Street #100 

Prev Next

Clever Cycles

Brompton folding bike rentals, with optional child seats and mandatory bells

$30-$45 a day

900 SE Hawthorne Boulevard
(503) 334-1560

Photo credit: Number 10 on Flickr

Prev Next

Portland State University Bike Hub

Bike rental for PSU students and visitors, and a bike sharing program

$35 a day

1818 SW 6th Ave
(503) 725-9006

Prev Next

Splendid Cycles

Bullitt cargo bike rentals

$24 a day

407 SE Ivon St  

Photo credit: wittco.gmbh on Flickr

Prev Next

Wheel Fun Rentals

Specialty bike rentals, including tandems, quad sports, choppers, slingshots, and surreys. 

$20-$45 a day

1020 SW Naito Parkway  

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Mountain Shop

Off-road bike rentals

$60-$75 a day

1510 NE 37th Avenue

Prev Next

Bike Commuter

8-speed, 1-speed, and racing bike rentals.

$35-$50 a day

8524 SE 17th Ave

Prev Next

The Bike Gallery

Bike rentals with locations in Downtown, Hollywood, Woodstock, Lack Oswego, Beaverton, and Clackamas

$75-$85 a day

Downtown Location:
1001 SW Salmon 

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Everybody’s Bike Rentals

Vintage, road commuter and touring bike rentals

$25-$30 a day

305 NE Wygant 


Prev Next

Fat Tire Farm

Road and mountain bike rentals

2714 NW Thurman 

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Sellwood Cycle Repair

Road and cruiser bike rentals

$40-$50 a day

7639 SE Milwaukie 


Prev Next

Cycle Portland Bicycle Tours

Single speed, road, and electric bike rentals, was well as number of city tours

Bike Rentals: $30-$70 a day

Tours: Start at $40

117 NW 2nd Ave


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Athletes Lounge

Road bike rentals

$60 a day

2671 NW Vaughn


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Veloce Bicycles

High-end road bike rentals

$40-$60 a day

3202 SE Hawthorne  


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