Customers frequently ask if we have repair classes. What most of them don't realize is that they really don't want to take a repair class, they just want to know how to do repairs. They hope that the instructor can sum up two or three decades of experience in one very short presentation which will magically download to their brain all the nuances of procedure we have developed over an entire career devoted to the trivial pursuit of bicycle maintenance and repair.
True, I learned the essentials in a lot less than twenty or thirty years. As with any discipline, you do a lot better with the new stuff if you know something about the old stuff. When I got into bikes, technology had been relatively stable for many years. A lock nut was a lock nut, ball bearings were ball bearings, freewheel ratchets were freewheel ratchets and so forth. I had ample time to master the basics of bearing adjustment and wheel building before the obsessive-compulsive innovators took over in the late 1980s. Thus if I want to teach someone how to work on things now I have to go through some of the simple concepts from back then. Most of these concepts still apply, but they are often deeply buried or thoroughly camouflaged. The novice mechanic will do better knowing they are there and how they work rather than simply working with the new surface.
"Just because you know the latest thing doesn't mean you know everything," as I used to say to smartass punks in the 1990s when they tried to bury me under a pile of articles and hip jargon from bike magazines.
Wow. Magazines. There's a dated reference.
Nothing makes people's eyes glaze faster than a full explanation of how even a simple mechanical thing like a bicycle goes together and works. So where I used to try to rise to the occasion and actually answer people's questions now I grunt and change the subject. Or I give the short, misleading answer instead of the convoluted and boring one because, let's face it, the person who asked wasn't planning on listening to either one.
Most of my bike clientele is glad I know what I know even if they don't want to hear it. They want to see the result in high quality service and good advice. If they wanted to know the details they would have studied them already. Upon occasion a true student arrives. I am ready to respond. But such a student never asks for a repair class. They usually come in with a specific issue because their curiosity and aptitude have already led them into it.
Classes are a symptom of the human tendency to want to fix it and forget it. A bike repair class is like a climbing class or a kayaking class or any of a host of specific activity-related short courses. The participant wants to pay the fee, go in a novice and come out an intermediate, properly instructed.
Almost all school is set up the same way. Kids go in one end. Educated near-adults are supposed to come out the other, equipped with specific knowledge and a standardized version of the facts of life and certain historical events, officially prepared for the next phase of life. Some are, some aren't. Certainly a canned preparation received from an accredited institution is liable to make you think that certain social and national goals are good ideas when in fact they may not be. Because it all happens on a conveyor belt, even if the student tries to jazz it up with some well-thought-out questions and a bit of independent research, they'd better do it within the time allotted -- or faster -- in order to keep up with the rest of their cohort. Otherwise there will be a lot less left on your generation's buffet of opportunities by the time you find your way to it. And these tables have less and less for more and more people as it is.
Actually, those of us who live somewhat outside the norms have certain advantages. We learn skills and live according to our values while avoiding the worst mass hysterics based on unquestioned pre-packaged norms and values. The norm may crush us physically, but we hold sole title to our spirit.
Personally I don't like to talk about nothing but bikes. Much of the time I'd like to talk about anything but bikes. I love to use bikes to get around. I've had some great little adventures on bikes. Riding one adds a lot of good elements to my daily life. But life is life. It's packed with all kinds of things to learn and do. Bikes are part of my Utopian fantasy, but so is personal creativity and a moderate, sustainable lifestyle including local agriculture and a reverence for the local environment wherever you live, not just in the spectacular places or those deemed absolutely necessary to preserve a meager supply of fresh water for a paved-over Hell of Megalopolis.