It was around about lunch time on a Thursday afternoon, when received a phone call from a strange number, one I had never seen before. Maybe it’s someone who wants to buy a frame I thought? The voice on the phone said “Hello, this is Andrew Denham from The Bicycle Academy”. He didn’t need to tell me where he was from, I knew who he was, and was now really excited to know why the man from The Bicycle Academy was calling me!?
Now for those of you that don’t know, this The Bicycle Academy was set up around about a year ago with the aim of keeping the craft of bicycle frame building alive, whilst helping out the people of Africa at the same time! How good is that?!
I mean they teach people to make bikes, which I love! Then they send the finished frame over to Africa, my home continent, so it can be built into a bike and given to Doctors, nurses, and anyone else who needs one. Amazing, I love the idea!! If that’s not enough for you, the legendary Brian Curtis (of Curtis Bikes) is on board to teach you how to braze! I’m wetting my pants just thinking about it! And there is more, once you have built your bike you get yourself a recognised qualification to prove that you can braze! You just can’t ask for anything else can you? Well actually, about 100m down the road from the factory is a pump track, designed and built by the man Rowan Sorrel, and it’s sick! When I saw it for the first I couldn’t believe my eyes, pure gold I tell you!
Anyway back to the phone call, Andrew then said to me “You should totally come hang out this weekend. We can chat framebuilding and you could have a go at brazing if you like”. “Hell yeah” was my response! So we organised to meet up at the workshop on Saturday afternoon.
Unfortunately Tam was away so I took my girlfriend, and BTR website Guru, Ellie along for the trip. When we arrived on the road leading up to the Old Mill I thought to myself this can’t be right, stupid satnav has screwed me over again! There were a load of houses around and it just didn’t look like there would be a bicycle frame building school around here. But no, the Old Mill was just a little further up on the left. I called Andrew to let him know we had arrived and he was like “Ok cool, I’m just leaving mine now”. 3min later and he rocked up in his Vdub van and I thought about how cool it would be to live that close to your awesome day job? We made our introductions and headed inside.
Through the main door and the first thing I see is a big space, in an old mill, not being used. My first thought was wouldn’t it be so cool to move BTR into here? I’m always on the lookout for cool places to move BTR too, not that I have any plans right now to move, it’s just fun to look! We moved though the space and into the frame building workshop. We were greeted by a nice clean workshop, with each workbench set up with all the tools required for frame building hanging on the wall, nice and tidy! They even have a ‘Library’ of all the frame building books you could care to look at, and a kitchen with Tea and Biscuits!!
So we sat down and had a chat about bikes and frame building, the course they offer, and the funny stories of Brian’s old school teaching. Andrew then offered to teach us some brazing, which I have not had a proper go at before. I have used oxy-acet. to weld in the past but never with a brass filler so I was dead keen. Andrew gave us a quick demonstration before letting me loose. I was surprised at how similar the technique was to TIG welding, and so I managed to lay a pretty good braze down if I do say so myself. Ellie was next and I couldn’t believe my eyes when she laid a near perfect braze down on her very first attempt. She then went on to write her initials on the workpiece. ha ha
We then had a chat about Andrew’s plans for the future. He wants to get more machines and tools to make things better for the students. Which with then allow him to teach them more about the art of frame building and give them more options on courses. This can only be a good thing and I wish him the best of luck in getting it all sorted!
We were then escorted out of the building and down to the pump track. Andrew kept telling us it was just down the road and to be honest I was expecting something fairly small but still fun to ride. I mean we are in the middle of a housing estate, it can’t be that nuts! So we arrive and I poke my head over the wall only to be blown clean off of it. No it wasn’t an electric wall, I just couldn’t believe my eyes. The thing was huge! The rollers were all massive and the berms were near vertical and standing around 4-5 feet tall. I was so excited at that point and Andrew could tell, shame the weather was terrible and I didn’t have a bike! The story goes that the contractors hired to bring the soil in had got the dimensions mixed up and just kept calling in more dirt. By the time Rowan turned up to do the shaping it was too late and he had more dirt than he knew what to do with. The result is this piece of art!
Man I wish I lived here!!
So basically all you need to know is that The Bicycle Academy is Rad and you need to go there and learn how to make a frame!
Keep ‘er Sideways