TBA Africa Bikes – We’ve just got to put the stickers on…

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TBA Africa Bikes – great news!

I wrote a little update back in April to highlight the fact that we have been working hard to find an organisation who could help us to get all 150 of our fantastic student-made TBA Africa Bikes equipped with components. We had the component supplier lined up but didn’t have the funding secured at that time.

We had a wonderful response from all of our students and crowdfunders and many others too. Our previous efforts hadn’t been in vain though, as it was actually one of our many previous direct enquiries that paid off in the end. I’m thrilled to say that by the end of April we managed to secure the funding to equip the frames. This final piece of the puzzle means that we now have everything in place to complete the project; frame finishing, the source of the components, component funding, painting, packing, shipping, assembly and distribution.

In July we assembled one of the student-made bikes with a full set of the very same components that will be used to equip the other bikes and we’ve been riding it for the past few months. It handles superbly and can take a huge load on the back rack, the coaster brake is really effective and it’s great fun! It really does do everything we’d hoped that it would and the components all fit as they should.

All 150 frames will be sent to Africa in November later this year to be assembled with the components by mechanics in Namibia, where the bikes will be distributed to different aid projects over the weeks following.

It’s brilliant when people work together to do something so positive and it’s been a pleasure to work with so many likeminded people over the past few years on this wonderful project. We’ll keep you posted over the next few weeks as we complete the next and final stages….

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TBA Africa Bikes – an update

I started The Bicycle Academy in 2011 with the desire to “make framebuilding more accessible”, and if at all possible to do so in a way that would benefit others who were most in need. Before starting The Bicycle Academy I had either volunteered or raised money for a few different charities that provide people in Africa with bicycles, so offering to support these charities by providing bicycle frames seemed like a great idea and it was very well received.  I came up with the “Make a bike. Make a difference” idea: a course where people learn how to build a bicycle frame, keep the skills and give their first bike to someone who really needs it.

I based the TBA Africa bike on the Buffalo Bike, which is designed specifically for people in Africa. It’s the most widely distributed bike in Africa so I made sure that the TBA bike uses all of the same standardised components. It’s tough, and thanks to the fantastic standard components it uses it can last for five years without much maintenance. The tyres are puncture-resistant – good for travelling over rugged ground. The design is simple, so it’s easy to look after and it doesn’t need lots of fiddly parts if anything does go wrong. It’s strong, so it can carry heavy loads. And it’s flexible, so it can be used for all kinds of different things like going to school or work, collecting food and water, helping health workers get from A to B, and even as an ambulance.

We opened our doors in July 2012 and so far more than 150 high quality, purpose built, steel “Africa Bike” frames have been made thanks to help and support of every “Africa Bike” course student and all of our crowdfunding backers. It’s taken a tremendous amount of work to get this far, but it’s been very worthwhile and each of our students have developed many wonderful skills along the way.

So far we’ve covered the cost of all materials used to make all of the frames and forks, and we’re pleased to say that we have now secured transportation of the frames from the UK to Africa. In the meantime the frames are being stored here at The Bicycle Academy in a big rack ready to undergo the next stages of their journey towards being given to people in need.

We are fully supportive of each of the charities that have been linked to this project at different times and greatly admire the fantastic work that they do. Our original plan was to work with a charity that would ship and assemble the frames into ready-to-ride bicycles. We’ve secured a source for the components; a charity that’s based in Africa that will supply them at their cost price, but what we are yet to find is an organisation or charity that can fund the purchase of these components, so we’d love to hear from you if you can help us to do so. Finding willing recipients for the bikes is straightforward, as many projects have expressed a real interest in taking the bikes. Completing and delivering the bikes to those most in need is a big logistical challenge, but one which we have always been and remain completely committed to.

We’re really looking forward to seeing the bikes in action and will update you all as we continue to make progress.

A fully painted TBA Africa Bike

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A helping hand…

The Bicycle Academy exists to stimulate and support the framebuilding community and to make framebuilding more accessible. We do that by providing courses, access to workshop hire and supply of equipment and consumables. I think we do a good job but sometimes it’s important to go a step further and really get behind an individual who shows promise.

A few months ago SaiTong Man attended one of our Classic Framebuilding Courses. He worked hard, was a great learner and had a great attitude. It was clear that he wanted to make a career from framebuilding and we felt that if he stuck at it SaiTong had a great chance of doing so. So together with our friends at Columbus, weldability-Sif , Saffron Frameworks and BikeCAD we decided to give SaiTong a bit of extra help by giving him enough kit and materials to get started…

We gave SaiTong a complete Oxy-Propane gas brazing setup courtesy of Weldability-Sif, a set of TBA Tube Blocks, a full set of hand files, a BikeCAD Pro licence from Brent Curry, a full set of Columbus Cromor tubing supplied from Columbus and all the other bits and pieces needed to make the frame from The Bicycle Academy and finally we also arranged for SaiTong to spend a week shadowing Matthew Sowter of Saffron Frameworks.

This isn’t a one off, it’s something we will do every year, when we feel that we can really make a difference.

Here’s what SaiTong had to say:

“In 2013 I did a U-turn on life and left my career in the video games industry to go back and follow my roots in engineering, my love of craftwork and my passion for bicycles.

I came to The Bicycle Academy with the idea to start my own framebuilding business and it was here at the Academy where I learnt the core process, skills and techniques to build bicycle frames and forks. 

Andrew even tailored the course to support me in my goals, ensuring I got as much relevant tuition as they could physically fit in during my time there, not only covering additional frame building skills but also jig design and advice on setting up my business.

We covered everything I’d hoped to, it was simply the best thing I could have ever done. To be awarded such a fantastic prize was just unbelievable, and  has really motivated me to get started and follow my dream

And here’s what SaiTong did with his new set-up and the tubes…

“The frame features two bi-laminate 4130 lugs, machined by hand, and brazed on to give the appearance that the rear end of the bicycle is holding onto the front end. The rear dropouts are also of a custom design, water jet cut from a sheet of 4130 steel. The bicycle is then finished off a Columbus Minimal 1” Carbon Fork with a blend of Campagnolo, Cinelli, HPlusSon, Nitto and Velo Orange components and topped off with a Brooks Limited Edition Cambium C15 Saddle.”

We’re super proud of SaiTong and will be right behind him as he continues to progress. Satoma Cycles will be exhibiting at the Yorkshire Bike Show this weekend, so go along and say hello.

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BTR Fabrications #pushforthepinner Kickstarter Campaign!

BTR Fabrications was just “two guys with a dream in a shed” working day jobs and building bikes in evenings and weekends. Since they started the feedback from their customers has been awesome and their frames have been featured in mountain bike magazines and selected as one of the best products of 2014 by the Dirt 100.

Almost a year ago Paul and Tam moved into a proper workshop and now spend almost all of their time working on BTR. Over the last few months they’ve been working on something really exciting; their first production full suspension frame. It’s a go anywhere trail destroyer with enduro style geometry, trail bike travel and DH bike strength. A bike to take on an uplift without worrying about it breaking, that you can fly around a trail centre on, or just ride for hours with a smile on your face. It’s the super fun full suspension bike they wished existed and daydream about riding, and it’s called the Pinner.

The Pinner is available to pre-order now through Kickstarter in either 26″ or 650b wheel sizes, and having ridden it we can say that it’s everything that they planned it to be and more, so much so that I’ve got one on order myself!

It’s great to see such brilliant work come out of a homegrown bike company so if you like what they’re doing then please get behind them and make a pledge!

Pinner 26"

Pinner 26″

Pinner 650b

Pinner 650b

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Academy Tools…

Over the past few months we’ve been working on a side project, Academy Tools.

We did a bit of a soft launch at Bespoked so that people could see what we’ve been up to, and we’re chuffed with the feedback.

We design every Academy Tools product in-house working closely with brilliant makers. We’ve worked with people from Turin, Dundee, Smethwick, Bristol and Frome and had a great time doing so.

We’ve designed workshop aprons, tube cutters, prints and tube blocks and a lot more. We’re not ready to launch yet, but we’re very proud of the results so far and look forward to Academy Tools opening for business very soon, so watch this space!

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Bespoked 2014

The UK Handmade Bicycle Show is the highlight of our year – we get to catch up with lots of friends and meet lots of fantastic new people and this year was no exception…

Our stand was flat out busy all weekend with loads of past students popping by to say hello and lots of new course bookings made. We also had great feedback from lots of the builders many of whom came over to pass on their admiration for the work that our students are doing, something that makes all of us here very proud.

We unveiled a small selection of our Academy Tools to a great reception and were thrilled that builders such as Chris Igleheart bought a set of our new tube blocks!

5 of the 10 ‘New Builders’ exhibiting this year were our students; Whiter Cycles, Seren Bicycles, Automatic Cycles and Bear Bikes and the winner of the Best New Builder Award Swarf Cycles who we taught on a Fillet Brazing Masterclass over a year ago…

… 2 of the other award winners were past students of ours also; Sven Cycles and Donhou Bicycles along with plenty of other exhibitors including Paulus Quiros, Grim Cycles, Toad Cycles, Tatts and Beards and 18 Bikes all of whom are TBA alumni.

Just a few days before the show we were asked to make two prototype BMX’s for old school BMX racing legend Tim March who also exhibited, relaunching his old brand MRD . It took an almighty effort but we managed to get them done in time…

… another of our students, Peter from Peter’s Bike, also pulled an all night effort to get ready for the show, he made a fantastic low rider inspired bicycle here at our workshop…

…and finally, it turned out that one of our new fans is Darren Baum who’d been following us on Instagram and wanted to exchange some of his TIG welding wisdom for some fillet brazing tips. It was great to chat with someone we admire so much!

We really did have a great time and can’t wait for bespoked 2015 which will back in Bristol the weekend of 17th -19th April.

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