Class teaches Utahns to build bicycles by hand
Taylorsville • Drew Shetrone already has nearly half a dozen bicycles.
So why did he shell out $1,000 to spend a month building another by hand?
"It's just awesome to think you're riding something you built," said the 35-year-old Holladay man. "It's just completely custom to you."
Shetrone is part of a small class that may be the only one of its kind in the state: bicycle frame building at Taylorsville High this summer. The course, which is wrapping up, was offered as part of the Granite School District's community education program in cooperation with the Bicycle Collective.
"I hope people take awayâ¦ that they are capable of doing it themselves, and something that's seemingly difficult is actually something within their reach," said Jonathan Morrison, executive director of the Salt Lake City-based Bicycle Collective.
The Collective has long offered classes on bicycle maintenance and cycling to promote it as a sustainable form of transportation that can lead to a healthier, safer society. And cycling continues to gain speed in Utah: The number of cyclists in Salt Lake City jumped by about 27 percent last year, according to the Salt Lake City Transportation Division.
But Morrison said at least one thing has been missing in the area's climb toward becoming a cycling haven. Until now, only a few Utahns have actually been building bicycles. The Collective hopes the Granite class helps to spread the practice here.
Bike-building enthusiasts can spend as much as $5,000, between travel, lodging and tuition, to go to schools in Colorado or Oregon to learn bike construction, Morrison said.
But by partnering with the Granite School District, the total cost of the class in Taylorsville comes out to about $345 for instruction and $700 for materials.
It's still a lot of cash, but for that, students get instruction, a hand-made bike frame built to their exact specifications, and the tools to make more at home.
"Our goal is to build the culture," Morrison said, "not necessarily just help someone build one frame."
The Collective provides the instructor, and Granite provides the metal shop classroom and welding teacher.
"Community education is about having a space to learn something whether you're a kid or adult or older person," said Mike Kaly of the district's community education program, which offers a number of classes each year in cooking, sports, language and finances, among other things. He said Granite was pleased to offer the class at the Collective's suggestion. "We just saw this niche and felt we could utilize this space."
For this first time around, the class was limited to just six students.
They started by taking measurements of their bodies and then creating blueprints of the bikes they would build, suited to their personal dimensions.
They then used metal files to cut lightweight steel tubes for the frame and jigs to hold the tubes in place as they welded them together.
It may sound straightforward, but the process is anything but easy.
It takes patience, precision and math skills.
"I had to do a quadratic equation for the first time in 17 years," Shetrone said. "A bike is just a bunch of triangles when you come down to it, and if you don't have the right angles, it won't be stable."
Though the classes only met twice a week for a month, it was for four hours at a stretch.
Student Adrian Lazo, 27 of Cottonwood Heights, said the math involved in designing a bike, and the painstaking hand filing, have been the most difficult parts of the process.
But like the other students, he's giddy about his new single-speed track bike and said the work was well worth it. It's satisfying to do "it on your own," he said.
"It's really easy to buy something," Lazo said. "It's a lot harder to have something you actually made."
Justin Semran, 31, of Sandy, called the class "a huge opportunity" given how much less it costs than attending a frame-building school out-of-state.
Class instructor Todd Erickson, who went to an out-of-state frame-building school, said cost is often a deterrent for those wishing to build their own bikes.
He hopes the class reduced the size of that roadblock. Morrison said he'd like to see the class offered again.
"People like to work with their hands and have something they built with their blood, sweat and tears," Erickson said. "Not everybody can say the bike they're riding is one they constructed."
To learn more about community education classes offered through Granite School District, go to granitepeaks.org.
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