Park Tool Maintenance School
N.B. ATG have now taken over the Park Tool School from Promech following the recent demise of the Aylesbury based company new details are here.
Bicycles are really fairly simple things, but they have their maintenance idiosyncracies and they're often expensive. Which is enough to put a lot of people off trying to mend their own bikes. The Park Tool School is designed to change that by demystifying bike maintenance and taking pupils through the fundamentals of spannering.
It's a course designed by Park Tool, and taught exclusively in the UK by top training outfit Promech. Which is why we found ourselves pitching up in a chilly Aylesbury early one morning to give it a go. Promech makes no attempt to shatter any bike mechanic stereotypes - the first thing that happens is that you get a mug of tea and a biscuit. It's a good opportunity to meet the rest of the group and instructors Russell and Peter.
You might not have heard of Promech, but it's a leading training establishment for bike mechanics - lots of shops use them to get staff trained up for the ACT's CyTech qualifications. Indeed, Promech personnel were heavily involved in designing the qualifications. They know their stuff...
The format of the course is fairly straightforward. The various elements are introduced verbally, with the instructor explaining what the bits are and any issues to note. That's followed by practical demonstrations and then hands-on practice by the students. Everyone gets their own workstation for the duration of the course, fully equipped with a full range of lovely Park tools. Promech is supported by a number of bike manufacturers too, so there are plenty of shiny bikes around to fiddle with.
The School covers all of the fundamentals including tyres, tubes, drive train, hubs, bottom bracket, headset, pedals, wheel truing, brake and gear adjustment, stem, bars, cleaning and lubrication. Being intended for relative beginners it doesn't delve into the arcane world of suspension or disc brakes - Promech do other courses specifically to cover those, as well as wheel building and a bunch of other stuff.
It's a two-day course, so if you're not local to Aylesbury you'll need to find somewhere to stay - Promech can point you in the right direction. It's a good idea to stay nearby, as the days are pretty long in order to get all of the material in in just two of them. There are plenty of breaks programmed in, though, giving you a chance to consolidate what you've learnt and ask any further questions.
We attended the very first Park Tool School that Promech had held, but you wouldn't have known it - it all ran very smoothly and to time. We like to think that we're fairly respectable mechanics but we still learnt quite a bit, so don't be put off if you've already dabbled a little in the mechanical arts. We reckon you'd get the most from the course if you have a reasonable idea of what all the bits of your bike are called and what they do but don't really know where to start when it comes to tuning, repairing or replacing them.
As an added bonus, everyone gets a copy of the Park Tool School Student Manual, a handy 146-page spiral-bound tome that contains details of everything in the course as a useful reference when you're back in your shed without a highly-qualified instructor within hailing distance.
The Park Tool School costs £180 and 2004 bookings are now being taken. That might sound like quite a lot of money, but if you paid a shop mechanic for the number of hours in the course it'd cost you a lot more. You won't have to do all that many jobs yourself for it to save you money. A couple of services, the odd bottom bracket swap, some upgrades and a couple of retrued wheels would probably cover it. And you'll be in a position to head off some mechanicals before they get expensive, too...
So all in all, it's a very good thing if you can spare the time. You will come away wanting to own several hundred pounds' worth of Park tools, though. You have been warned.
Further details at www.promech.co.uk or call Promech on 01296 395333.