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Portland’s new ‘Bike School’ opens doors to community

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Inside the UBI classroom at their
open house Saturday.
(Photos © J. Maus)

United Bicycle Institute (UBI) has only been operating a campus in Portland for a few months, but they’re already giving back. On Saturday, UBI threw open their doors and welcomed the community with a day full of free food and drinks, a prize raffle, an expo area, and framebuilding demonstrations.

UBI owner Ron Sutphin gave a
framebuilding demonstration.

UBI is a state-licensed vocational school that started in Ashland in 1981. Their new campus on the corner of Williams and Shaver in North Portland consists of two buildings. One of them includes a gleaming classroom surrounded by bike repair work benches and offices in a loft above them. Framebuilding classes, which are set to begin in April of next year, will take place in a separate building that is still under construction.

On Saturday, UBI owner Ron Sutphin stood in the doorway of that new building, giving a crowd of onlookers the lowdown on how a bike frame comes together. With a brazing torch in his hand and a microphone in his mouth, Sutphin, who’s owned the school for over two decades, described the finer points of welding with the same sense of passion that you’d expect from an eager new student.

The site is still under construction.
Portland Design Works’ new lights will be out soon.

Sutphin has reason to be excited about the new campus. John Baxter, the school’s administrator (and do-everything man), told a crowd Saturday that UBI has seen demand for their services increase steadily over the last 10 years — but nothing prepared them for the reception they got in Portland.

Some smokin’ deals to be had.

“We were absolutely astounded.” Baxter said the five classes they’re offering in Portland filled up completely in just three weeks, a time frame that was “well beyond our expectations”.

UBI isn’t just a school, it will also be a convenient materials resource for Portland’s bike builders. They plan on stocking several types of bicycle frame tubing and other parts. On Saturday, they held a shop garage sale that several local builders took advantage of.

Across from the shop sale at a mini-expo, local vendors chatted up their products and services. Portland Design Works shared their latest products — the “bar_ista” handlebar-mounted cup holder and a line of bike lights (keep your eye on PDW, they are definitely on an upswing).

UBI is a huge asset to the North Portland community and to our City. We’re looking forward to what the future holds.

In related news, Portland’s Queen Bee Creations will be moving into retail space that fronts N. Williams Ave in the same building as UBI. Another building is coming soon to the corner and the developer hopes to land more bike-related businesses (call Jon Kellogg at (503) 274-0211 if you’re interested).

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