The story of Cycle Maintenance Academy
By Andrew Brown, February 2021

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or ... how to pivot your business in the midst of a pandemic; whilst continuing to provide excellent bike maintenance skills to the public. 

The story of Cycle Maintenance Academy

People love repairing. Whether it’s watching a heart-warming restoration on “The Repair shop”, successfully fixing the arm back on a pair of glasses or bringing the twinkle back to a set of fairy lights, nothing brings out that sense of satisfaction like nursing something back to life.

Bicycles are high up on the list of things that can be repaired.  No messing with plumbing or electricity, clean enough to be fixed in the kitchen and enough cogs and spinney things to make it look like you want to have a go. There is another, more subliminal, reason why people want to repair bikes and it’s that general feeling that you should be able to fix your bicycle. Even people who have no interest in bikes or cycling assume anyone who owns said machine can maintain it.

Up until the mid-80’s it was important, as a male cyclist, that you fixed your own bike. Bike shops repaired bikes for spinsters and women whose husbands were too busy. Everyone, mechanics included, were self-taught. Then mountain bikes came onto the scene and things started changing. The new enthusiasts didn’t necessarily want to mess about fixing bikes. These rookie cyclists often had a bit more money to spend on bikes and were used to other people repairing things for them.

Now people no longer were expected to be able to naturally repair bikes, bicycle maintenance classes started to become popular. The accepted format is to have a small group of people, no more than 8, demonstrate a task, such as removing and replacing your wheel, tyre and tube and then have the students copy the task. When everyone has had a go and has all their questions answered then the teaching and learning is deemed successful.

Covid 19 and the birth of Cycle Maintenance Academy

Covid led to lockdown and no more face-to-face teaching, but it also meant a renewed interest in cycling. Velo Times was one of the shops that benefited from this.  Many of the customers were new and returning cyclists who knew very little about their bikes. Arek, Sarah and Mary, the people who run Velo Times, realised that most people were asking for help with things they could learn to do for themselves, saving them time and money. Without the ability to use traditional teaching methods the three of them looked at how they could pass on their knowledge and found the ideal place. No masks, restrictions or leaving your home. The internet.

They wanted a name for their teaching platform that expressed the fact that they were educating people in learning about and looking after their bicycles, hence the name Cycle Maintenance Academy.  Utilising their skill set meant that Mary could write the script, Sarah could illustrate and Arek could film and produce the videos.  At first they thought that the online courses might be temporary until they could safely go back to face-to-face teaching, but as ideas turned into lesson scripts and then into videos, everything they ever learned about teaching was turned around.

Don’t make a mistake. Delivering information by video means no fumbling or faltering.  Sometimes a section of a video has to be recorded time and time again to get it right.  If you get the chance, have a look at the puncture repair video, peeling the cellophane from the patch so that it was at a watchable standard had never been so difficult!

Stop being the “sage on the stage”

Online teaching removes the excess expertise that inevitably follows when the tutor really knows the subject. The student just needs salient information. Face-to-face teaching doesn’t generally involve a prepared script. There is a lesson plan often controlled by the tutor who can easily become the star of the show not necessarily noticing students becoming distracted. An online lesson just gives the information you need.

 

Teaching and learning

The phrase “Face-to-face teaching” is indicative of how the giving and receiving of knowledge is viewed. The focus is on the teaching rather than the learning. At Cycle Maintenance Academy, the tutors are encouraging people to become their own teacher. The videos are step-by-step guides so that students can stop the video and replay it until they are clear about what to do. It’s called “becoming your own expert.”

 

When and where

Physically attending a course means the student has to be at the specific location at a certain time. With online learning, the student chooses when and where to start and stop. This gives the student much more flexibility and allows Cycle Maintenance Academy to reach and help more people with cycle maintenance and repair.

Just learn what you want to know

At first, the tutors at Cycle Maintenance Academy wrote courses in a traditional way that started with the basics and then moved onto what was considered the next step of skills. After experimenting and looking at what people were actually searching for, it became clear that tradition may work for some people, but what the public really want is a way to solve a particular problem. They have removed the need for knowledge build up and looked at ways of taking one aspect of repairing a bike in a 5 minute lesson. A small introduction, any salient knowledge that is deemed necessary to complete the task and then how to do it.

Cycle Maintenance Academy see that while online self-learning may not be for everyone, in terms of bicycle maintenance it’s a quick and easy route to helping cyclists and cycle maintenance enthusiasts to learn what they need to know, embed that knowledge and make them confident mechanics.

 

Hopefully the videos will make cycle maintenance more accessible for everyone and will encourage more and more people to take part in cycling, whether that be for their daily commute or a fun hobby.

Contact Cycle Maintenance Academy here

All credits: Cycle Maintenance Academy, 2022

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