Having had a few months to settle into new higher-capacity premises, Mark Sutton revisited the ATG, this time as a student on an advanced wheelbuilding course. Here he examines why these training courses are drawing and maintaining the attentions of students and retailers alike...

Training first-hand

With funding now available for the majority of 16 to 64 year-olds, the ATG is enjoying a wave of interest from bicycle dealers looking to get their staff certified to boost store credentials.

In fact, when speaking to students on a recent wheelbuilding day, some were commenting that such education and training would never have been possible without the generous Government grants that are available, valued at up to £6,000 for a single apprenticeship.

According to the ATG’s head of cycle training Matt Goodrich: “People still seem genuinely surprised that funding for these programmes is available in the majority of cases. Having said that, we’re making good progress at present and have a few new courses lined up, including a dedicated suspension course. We’re also preparing ourselves for Di2 training alongside Madison.”

To see the value in such courses, many dealers will have to weigh up the pros and cons of giving mechanics time out. But if you need confirmation that the ATG courses could teach students far more than a couple of half hour briefings in the store workshop, look no further. In just one of the two days on the ATG advanced
wheelbuilding course, the following had been extensively covered and understood: spoke tensions, spoke fatigue, hub wear, lateral forces, how to dismantle a wheel, how to build a strong and true wheel (in many spoke combinations, some using complex hub designs), elastic limits of spokes, rim stiffness, distribution of impact stress, comparisons between metals and carbon, spoke tying and soldering, braking surface wear and much more.

Students are not working on old and tired bits of kit, either. As a result of Madison’s sponsorship, the ATG has access to a range of gear from Shimano and Park Tool, while DT Swiss sponsors the wheelbuilding programme, meaning students are never short of spokes to examine, lace and dismantle.

Trained teachers tutor the courses, all with experience in the bike trade. For example, on BikeBiz’s arrival, the teacher – an ex-Brixton cycles mechanic – was already laying into the theoretical reasoning behind why certain lacing patterns were stronger than others. Graphs were drawn, questions were taken and answered and the students all appeared to fully grasp the topic before any
wheels were chosen for dismantling.

Among the more complex arts of wheelbuilding, students were taught to tie and solder their builds, a service often reserved for the high-end punter, but an essential skill nonetheless. And as practical sessions were underway, the teaching experience was highly interactive. Discussions were had on the heat dissipating properties of carbon rims and comparisons drawn between various metals and pad compounds.

All in all, as explained to BikeBiz by Goodrich at the facility’s opening: “For the most part, students are genuinely enthused about the subject and are boosted by the chance to work on top end kit.”

To enrol a student on one of the ATG’s courses in Manchester or Aylesbury, call Elaine Powell on 01612 306241 or visit www.atg-training.co.uk.

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