said coming to Portland was
a “no brainer”.
(Photos © J. Maus)
United Bicycle Institute, a frame building and mechanic school based in Southern Oregon, will open a new location in North Portland this summer.
UBI is a licensed, private career school that opened its doors in 1981. They offer a variety of certifications and classes in bike repair, bike maintenance, and frame building. In 1986, it was purchased by Ron Sutphin and he has been the company’s owner and operator ever since. I spoke to Sutphin last week during a visit to Portland to finalize the deal.
“Our intent is to get established with the mechanics classes, learn more about the community and how we can fit in, and then add frame building classes as soon as possible.”
— Ron Sutphin, UBI
He said the decision to come to Portland was a “no-brainer”. “Portland is the bike culture capitol of the universe as far as I’m concerned,” he said, “And if it doesn’t have that title officially, it soon will.” In addition to Portland’s healthy bike scene, Sutphin said the city’s accessibility was also a big factor. The school has graduated students from over 40 countries, so having an affordable location near a major airport is a big plus.
UBI has been at the front of a surging interest in hand made bikes and many of the world’s most well-known builders have passed through its doors. Local UBI graduates include Jordan Hufnagel of Hufnagel Cycles, Aaron Hayes of Courage Bicycle Mfg., Jude Kirstein of Epic Wheelworks, and others. Sutphin said both their frame building and bike mechanic classes have been at capacity and backlogged for years and he hopes this expansion will finally help them catch up with demand.
It’s important to note that UBI is not moving from Ashland, they are expanding their business and they will now have two locations for aspiring bike mechanics and frame builders to choose from.
Last year, UBI graduated an estimated 400 professional mechanics, 100 frame builders and offered about 80 weeks of class instruction.
Sutphin says they’d like to offer even more at the Portland location. “Our intent is to get established with the mechanics classes, learn more about the community and how we can fit in, and then add frame building classes as soon as possible.”
In addition to their usual mechanic and frame building classes, Sutphin says they hope to add to their menu. In the works are continuing education classes for mechanics (such as manufacturer-specific trainings), shorter, more focused classes for existing frame builders that want to augment their skills, and even night classes for anyone in the community interested to learn more about how their bike works.
The location of the school will be at the corner of N. Williams and Shaver. The lot is being developed by Jon Kellogg and Thad Fisco, who are behind several other recent developments in the area. Last winter, searching for inspiration on what to do with the property, Kellogg told me he stumbled across the Oregon Business Magazine that had the bike industry on its cover. After that, Kellogg knew he wanted the entire lot to be filled with bike-related businesses.
It’s not a bad idea given the growing reputation of the area as being a bike haven, and the large amount of bike traffic that the Vancouver-Williams corridor attracts.
Having UBI in North Portland is a major jolt for that community and for our city, and it certainly bolsters our ever-increasing “bicycle-industrial complex”.
The school plans to open in late July/early August. For more about UBI, visit BikeSchool.com.