Words by Chloe Hay
Whether you’ve always fancied yourself a bit of a bicycle DIY-er or you are simply looking for a challenge and to learn new skills, a bicycle building course could be for you.
From workshops aimed at complete beginners to courses for bike maintenance pros, we’ve rounded up seven of the best Build Your Own Bike (BYOB) courses around the UK where you can get your hands dirty and learn to craft the ride of your dreams.
Even if you have little interest in building a brand new bike from scratch (‘What’s wrong with the one I’ve got, it cost me thousands?!’ I hear you ask…) these courses are still for you, simply take along your own bike and learn how to take it completely to pieces, service it and then rebuild it all over again. You’ll thank yourself for it next time something goes wrong with your bike on a long-distance solo ride or when you’re short of cash… Here’s where to go to BYOB:
London: London Bike Kitchen (complete bike)
If the idea of turning a pile of parts into a functioning bicycle makes you a little nervous, one of the London Bike Kitchen’s Introduction to Maintenance classes is an ideal place to start.
Over two days you’ll get to grips with bicycle mechanics lingo while learning how to fix punctures, discover exactly what should be in your SOS bike fixing kit and much more. Then once you’ve got to grips with the basics, you can sink your teeth into a more mechanical course focusing on anything from cable disc brakes to dynamo wheel building. And, of course, there’s the build your own bike course.
You’ll work 1:1 with a mechanic to either take your current bike apart and learn how to completely rebuild it or start with a pile of parts and finish eight hours later with a brand new bike – made by you. How cool is that?
Every second and fourth Monday of the month is WAG (women and gender-variant) night, where you can learn simple bike maintenance skills for free, in a welcome and inclusive environment, and the LBK is also open daily for drop-in sessions. And if that all sounds great but you can’t make it to London or you’d just prefer to build your own bike from the comfort of your garden shed, check out the London Bike Kitchen’s founder, Jenni Gwiazdowski’s, book: How to Build a Bike to get the building at home.
London: Bamboo Bicycle Club (complete bike)
To build a bike that’s sure to get its fair share of attention on the road, sign up for a frame-building workshop at the Bamboo Bicycle Club.
Run over a weekend, you can choose to build your own MTB, road, hybrid, track or fatbike frame out of sustainable bamboo with the help of experienced frame-builders and in the company of three other bike-building enthusiasts.
Each day finishes with a well-earned house bamboo beer and once you’ve completed your frame, you can take the finishing guide home to add all the extra components in your own time, or sign up to a finishing workshop where you’ll receive 1:1 help to turn your frame into a beautiful, fully-functioning bike. There’s also the option of ordering a home-build kit for anyone keen to make their own bamboo bike who can’t make it to the workshops.
Shropshire: Bicycles by Design (frame only)
Who can envision your perfect bike better than you? That’s the thinking behind the frame-building workshops at Bicycles by Design.
During the week-long course, you will receive all the tuition and guidance you need to make a frame perfectly suited to your size, shape and riding style. Choose to create a road, hybrid or mountain bike frame, pick between a steel or carbon fork and your choice of lugs and braze-ons, then once it’s finished, have it professionally painted in your favourite colour. Don’t worry if you don’t live in Somerset, many workshoppers make a holiday out of their course and stay in one of the nearby campsites or B&Bs.
Sussex: Reilly Cycleworks (frame only)
Taught by expert frame builder, Mark Reilly, the five-day frame-building workshops at Reilly Cycleworks in Brighton require no previous experience, so anyone with an enthusiasm for building their own bespoke bike can sign up.
Over the course of the workshop, you will learn all the techniques and skills needed (from using BikeCAD software to brazing your frame and everything in between) to create your own tailor-made frame.You then have the option to have this professionally painted by a local artisan, before taking it away to fit your wheels, handlebars etc to it before taking it for a test ride in the rolling Sussex countryside.
Somerset: The Bicycle Academy (complete bike)
Whether you’re after a road, track or mountain bike, the crew at The Bicycle Academy will teach you everything you need to know to build your own during their two-day course, suitable for everyone from complete novices to pro mechanics.
There are many different options for your build kit, so you can tailor your creation to your specific needs and desires, as well as choosing your preferred colour. After the workshop’s over, you can leave your newly made bike behind for painting and finishing touches before returning to pick it up just five days later to take it for its first ride.
Cumbria: Greystoke Cycle Cafe (own bike)
One of the more affordable options, the Learn to Strip & Build a Bike one-day workshop at the Greystoke Cycle Cafe is a great option for cyclists wishing to get to grips with their own bike, rather than build a new one from scratch.
You’ll start the day by taking your bike to pieces bit by bit, and go on to learn how to fix and care for the gears, brakes, chains, cables, headsets, bottom brackets, wheels and hubs – all invaluable skills and knowledge for long distance cyclists, cycle tourers and those that love to ride solo. The only course prerequisite is that you must already know how to remove and replace the rear wheel of your bike with ease. And for an extra special (and very welcome) touch, the workshop also includes a delicious two-course lunch plus afternoon tea.
Devon: Cycle Systems (complete bike)
If you have a couple of friends that would like to build their own bikes too, why not make a holiday of it and sign up for a course or two at Cycle Systems in beautiful Devon.
On-site accommodation starts from just £20pp/pn and there are numerous picturesque trails and roads to test out your new wheels on after class. Courses range from basic bike maintenance to frame and wheel building, as well as professional bike maintenance courses for anyone wishing to turn their hobby into a business or simply increase their skill-set for their own cycling pleasure.
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