What is The Bicycle Academy?
We’re a bicycle frame-building school and open workshop. We teach people skills and provide the use of our workshop and tools. We also want to do something really good for people in need, so we build bicycle frames that we donate to people without transport in Africa.
Is The Bicycle Academy a Business or a Charity?
We’re a for-profit limited company that cares about a lot more than just making money. We’re making frame building easier for everyone and helping people in need at the same time.
How did The Bicycle Academy get started?
Andrew came up with the idea in November 2010, and founded The Bicycle Academy as a Ltd company in December 2011. To get the project started Andrew ran a crowd funding campaign in November 2011, which you can find out more about here.
What courses do you teach?
How do I book onto a course?
Go to the Course Calendar, choose a course that suits you, then click on it to be taken through the booking process.
I’d like to book a date that isn’t on the calendar yet, what shall I do?
Is the waiting list very long?
It’s a list of people who all get notified about upcoming courses a few days before the courses are made public on the website. Everybody on the list has the same chance of booking a date that they want, so while there are a lot of people on the list there’s no order to it, and so even if you join today you will have the same chance as someone who joined a while ago but hasn’t found a suitable date yet.
Do I need to have any previous experience to attend a course?
Not at all. We tailor each course to your individual skill level. We have taught people who have never held a file before let alone a brazing torch, yet by the end of the course they were brazing like a pro and had built a bicycle frame.
Can I do a course with a friend?
Absolutely, so long as the course is 2:1, and both spaces are available then that’s fine. Lots of people like to do this.
What if the other person has a different skill level to me, will that be a problem?
Not at all, we can teach people of completely different skill levels simultaneously, in fact this is often the case.
Do I have to pay for materials or equipment while I’m on a course?
No, the course fees include all materials and the use of all the equipment you will need. There are no hidden costs.
What materials do you use to build bicycle frames?
We use steel tubing.
What method of joining tubes together do you teach?
We specialise in teaching fillet brazing.
Why fillet brazing?
Because it’s the most versatile way to build steel frames (we can set the angles of the joins ourselves), and it’s what Brian knows inside out and backwards. He’s famous for it. To begin with, you’ll come away being able to join any two tubes together any way you want to. So you’ll have more skills at your fingertips than if you’d learnt to build a frame with pre-made lugs.
There’s some more info here
I’ve seen videos on youtube of fillet brazing, are they useful?
The videos on youtube show people fillet brazing in a way that’s very different from how we do it. We get very different results.
So, what’s different about the way you fillet braze?
Our brazing doesn’t need to be filed, it’s perfectly neat and consistent straight out of the torch. That’s what we teach you.
But don’t frame builders just file the braze anyway?
Some do yes, and although this can be to hide messy brazing it’s also done because the end result is a join that looks smooth once painted.
So if I’m planning to file my fillet brazes will this course help?
Absolutely! We can teach you to make very neat and consistent fillets which will dramatically reduce the time you’ll need to spend filing and sanding them afterwards.
Is it only Brian who teaches the brazing?
Both Andrew and Brian teach Fillet Brazing, and are very competitive to see who can get the best results. Brian is very famous for his fillet brazing skills but over the past few years he has trained Andrew who is now a very talented teacher.
Can I build a frame to keep, one of my own design?
Yes, but not on the course itself. We know frame-building classes aren’t cheap and if you don’t have a workshop nearby with all the kit it’ll be hard for you to make another bike. Which means you might want to keep hold of your very first frame. But The Bicycle Academy is different. We’re open every week for you and other graduates to come back and build your own frames, at your own pace, as and when you want to. So rather than putting all your focus into one frame, you can build your first frame knowing that it will be one of many. And it’ll change someone’s life.
What bike will I build on the course?
The TBA Africa Bike is a robust bicycle engineered specifically for rural African terrain and load requirements – such as having to carry over 100kg on the rear rack. It’s based upon the a standard design as 100,000 of these bicycles have been successfully distributed across Africa to date making it the standard. We’ve modified some of the details of the design to make the frame easier to make, but essentially it remains identical in terms of size, geometry and all component interfaces. It can last for five years without much maintenance. The tyres are puncture-resistant – good for travelling over rugged ground. It’s 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.
Why do you teach this way?
We know that it takes a long time to become a master at something, so our courses are designed to teach you the practical skills and understanding that you need to be able to engage in meaningful practice.
Rather than a one-time frame building experience; we teach you ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what if’, so that you can do things for yourself, and we think that means far more than walking away with a frame at the end of the week, plus you get to donate your first bike to someone who really needs one.
So what happens to the frame once I finish the course?
Once made and painted, your frame will be assembled great components in Africa, before being donated to someone in need. We cover the material cost of building and painting the frame, and will be looking to raise money to fund the shipping and build of each bike shortly. Every single Africa bike we make at The Bicycle Academy has its own special code, so you can track your bike to see where it’s going and who it’s helping.
Why build bikes for people in Africa?
For many people in Africa, bikes are a lifeline. They help children go to school or work and they transport food and water.
Charities who distribute donated bikes in Africa often face problems with the bikes themselves: sometimes they’re not strong enough to ride in rural areas, or they’re hard to maintain, or they just don’t last very long. By building frames around a set of standard components, we’re hoping to face – and help stop – these problems head-on.
Once made and painted, your frame will be assembled with great components in Africa, before being donated to someone in need. We cover the material cost of building and painting the frame, and will be looking to raise money to fund the shipping and build of each bike shortly.
So, wilI I be able to build more frames?
Yes. On top of our courses, the workshop is open all week to all The Bicycle Academy graduates to work on their own frame building projects. We keep costs down and only charge for the time you spend in the workshop and any materials you use.
What if I live too far away to make use of the workshop frequently?
Well, you can buy affordable jig building kits, materials and other things you need from us. So you can do most of the work at home before coming down to use our brazing stations to finish your frame. You may even want to set up some brazing equipment of your own at home.
Do you stock frame materials, tools and equipment?
Yes we do, from cheap materials for prototyping with through to top end tube sets. We also stock various tools, and brazing consumables like brazing rods, goggles and gloves.
Where is Frome?
It’s in Somerset. Getting to Frome is really easy as it’s only 45 mins away from Bristol (Britain’s first cycling city) by road and has a well-connected train station.
Are there any good places to stay near by?
Yes, there are plenty! See here for a full list of local accommodation: http://www.frome-tc.gov.uk/accommodation
Is there somewhere to park my car or bike at The Bicycle Academy?
Absolutely, we have a car park outside and bike locking facilities too.