We met the chaps from The Bicycle Academy at the Bespoked show in Bristol and we were really interested in their plans, so it's good to see that they've been keeping busy behind the scenes.
If you've not heard of The Bicycle Academy then the basic premise is simple: it's a place where you can go and learn to build bike frames. Specifically, the place is Frome in Somerset, and your tutor will be Brian Curtis, who's been building top-class MTB and BMX bikes by hand since 1972.
The Academy are hoping to offer the following course formats for frame building:
The courses are likely to cost between £500 and £800 depending on length.
So far, so straightforward. There's a couple of major differences to the standard setup though. First of all, each student on a TBA course will learn their framebuilding skills by putting together a specific utility frame that Curtis and Academy founder Andrew Denham have developed specifically for export to Africa via their partner bike charity, re~cycle. So, the first bike frame that you build will be built up and shipped out to be used by people that really need it.
By developing a single utility bicycle design and standardising its components TBA hopes to address many of the problems associated with suitability, maintenance and sustainability that bicycle distribution charities encounter. Every frame will be uniquely identified so that students can find out where the donated bicycle is sent and who is using it.
So you get to build a bike and then you have to give it away? Well, yes. But once you've graduated from the Academy the workshop will be available at least twice a week for graduates to work on new projects, and the idea is that you continue to build bikes, not just do the course to say you've done it. "It’s fair to say that the first bike you build will be the worst bike you build", says Denham; it's their contention that it's better to learn the skills and have the workspace available to continue learning than put all your focus into one frame.
The Academy will be looking to attract crowd funding to finance startup. If you're not familiar with the concept of crowd funding it basically means that investors will be sought to front the money – TBA are going to be looking for £30,000 – and they'll receive incentives instead of equity. Some of these will be places on the courses, but it'll also be possible to pledge a smaller amount and the Academy is working with other local business such as White Duck Screenprint in Bath and Il Soignuer musettes in Bristol to come up with some great incentives to be a part of the launch. If the funding target isn't reached, no money changes hands, so no-one loses out.
The crowd funding attempt will happen in October, so we'll remind you then. In the meantime, check out the TBA website at www.thebicycleacademy.org
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.