Back to school: Relearning bicycle maintenance

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At Cytech you learn all the skills (Photos: Ride24)
At Cytech you learn all the skills (Photos: Ride24)
  • With the right aptitude and the appropriate training anyone can do basic maintenance on their bicycle
  • Torq Zone Academy is the only accredited training facility of bicycle repair technicians in South Africa
  • Well-trained bicycle repair technicians are sought after across the country

Although relatively simple machines in principle, bicycles of today are also rather complex and need to be maintained properly in order to perform optimally.

Fortunately, with a little bit of technical aptitude and the right training, the service and maintenance of bicycles is a skill that can be learnt.

One thing that lockdown taught me is to be more self reliant, so when the opportunity to attend the Torq Zone home mechanic course presented itself I jumped at the opportunity.

This course covers all the basics of bicycle maintenance and over two days participants work through their entire bicycle learning how to care for and replace various components.

The curriculum saw us strip and service components including headsets, bottom brackets and freewheel bodies. We learnt to true wheels and mastered the art of properly adjusting gears.

Graeme Stickells, the lecturer and owner at Torq Zone academy in Centurion presented the course. It is structured in such a way that it discounts any prior experience, instead following a precise, methodical process of completing a task.

For example, there is no point in adjusting gears if you have not checked the straightness of the rear derailleur hanger. So that is what you do, and then you follow a step-by-step process to get the gears to shift when you want them, precisely. Following a pattern ensures you don't miss anything, like building Lego, you first need to complete steps one to three before you can hope to complete steps four to ten correctly.

bicycle DIY
Learn how to set your own gears - properly (Photo: Ride24)
DIY bike
The Cytech facility is set-up for learning and perfecting technique (Photo: Ride24)

Learning to do the small things, correctly

As a serial tinkerer that has been baffled by the indexed swapping of cogs for the better part of 25-years, the feeling of accomplishment as I finally mastered the fine tuning of my 12-speed groupset, left me with a smile on my face.

The ancient phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness” also rings true for bicycle maintenance and although washing your bicycle is important, completely stripping down components like head sets and bottom brackets, cleaning them and applying the right lubrication does wonders for the life of the components and the efficiency of your steed.

Over the two days these attributes of following a methodical approach to solving problems, and cleaning everything, becomes second nature.  The apprehension of stripping things down into the sum of their parts, also disappears.

Although some of the tasks may seem familiar to those who like to tinker with their bicycles, the course teaches you the fundamentals. Examples are: when and how to use a torque wrench and what kind of lubrication goes where.

The Cytech Home Mechanic course is not meant to replace the professional in your local bike shop. It is designed to teach you how to get the most from your bicycle and how to make the basic adjustments yourself.

Following completion of this course participants can continue their training with the home mechanic plus course, wheel building, suspension or hydraulics courses depending on their requirements.

Mountain bike fix
You can save yourself a lot of money, and bother, by learning DIY bicycle repair skills (Photo: Ride24)
Bicycle DIY
Empower yourself, with Cytech training (Photo: Ride24)

Gearing-up for a bicycle mechanical career 

Although the Torq Zone academy does offer home mechanics courses, they are really geared to training professionals and are the only training facility in South Africa that offers accredited training for bicycle mechanics. Using the Cytech curriculum they offer courses including; Pro Level One and Two as well as more specific courses dealing with subjects including suspension, wheel building electronic groupsets, E-bikes maintenance and more.

Apart from properly training bicycle repair technicians, Torq Zone hopes it is developing this profession as a well-respected well-remunerated trade, just like it is in other developed countries.

South African cyclists have a liking for top quality equipment and components. They are not afraid to spend large sums of money to keep their bikes in the best condition, so there is really no reason why the technician working on their bike should not be trained and remunerated accordingly.

Investing in training is essential for cycle stores. It means happier customers, quicker turn around times and less comebacks.

There is such a demand for properly trained bicycle repair technicians that the majority of academy graduates are able to walk straight into a job, or start their own business, following completion of their training.

As the Cytech certification is internationally recognised it also allows participants to find jobs overseas if they so wish.

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