Training at Cycle Systems Academy

2012 November 29
by Chris Vernon

I last wrote about bicycle maintenance almost a year ago, here’s the next instalment.

Fork service

Draining oil from the fork's damper.

Last month I spent two weeks at the wonderful Cycle Systems Academy in London. I was there to take a level 3 training course in cycle maintenance, officially the Level 3 VRQ Diploma in Cycle Maintenance (QCF). This builds on the level 2 course I completed some 18 months ago with Alf and Teresa Webb at The Bike Inn. The two institutions are quite different, not least as one is in rural Lincolnshire, the other in north London! However, the training offered from both is top notch.

The syllabus of the level 3 course spends a few days on each of the following technical areas; hydraulic brakes, fork suspension, full suspension systems, complex wheel systems and advanced groupset set up (including Campag, Sram, Shimano and Shimano Di2). First time I’d worked on the (ridiculously expensive) Di2 system and I can’t say I’m totally convinced electronic shifting is future however prices are likely to fall quickly.

Fork service

Servicing a RockShox coil fork.

Fork servicing

5ml of 15wt oil in the bottom of each leg.

How many bike shops service forks and shocks these days?

There was lots of hands on experience working with the Avid, Hope (excellent British company) and Shimano hydraulic brake systems, servicing coil and air sprung forks from RockShox and Fox, X-Fusion and Fox rear shocks, building wheels from Fulcrum and the crazy ‘Cobalt’ wheelset from Crank Brothers to name just a few. Our tutors knew their stuff. I’ve never actually owned a bike with hydraulic brakes, let alone one with full suspension (wasn’t a big mountain biking scene in the Lincolnshire flatlands where I grew up!) but after getting to know the product well, I’d be very happy to run the Hope brake system.

There’s also a significant written element to this qualification with an essay on customer service and for each technical area there is a short answer exam and report to write. A multiple choice health and safety exam is also required for one unit.

Rear suspension

Four-bar rear suspension system using a Horst link.

The workshop is very well equipped with each work area having its own high quality tool set and the bikes we were working on were modern and of high quality. Although some had unusual wear associated with being dismantled dozens of times and yet hardly being ridden! It’s a pleasant 15 minute walk along Regent’s Canal from Angel tube station to the academy, just what’s needed after a Northern Line rush hour commute!

Crank Brothers Cobalt

Crank Brothers Cobalt wheel, the hub mounted nipples are are long as the spokes!

These bicycle maintenance skills complement the frame building I’ve been doing. I’ve built frames with Dave Yates, Dario Pegoretti and The Bicycle Academy this year. After all this fancy kit, I’m thinking to build myself a minimalist frame for a single speed next!

X-Fusion O2

The X-Fusion O2 rear shock. Only one order works!

The certificates arrived within a few weeks.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Hilary permalink
    February 8, 2013

    Hello Chris
    thanks for writing about your experience at the Cycle-System Academy…and well done for passing the course! I am searching the net for recommended cycle maintenance and repair courses and this article has now got me interested in registering either with the Bike Inn or the CSA. I haven’t attended any official bike service/repair courses, but have knowledge and experience of the basics so which would you recommend to start with? Would it be too much for someone like myself to go headlong into the Level 3 Diploma not having even removed a cassette before?
    PS: the pics you’ve added to this article are excellent!

  2. Chris Vernon permalink*
    February 8, 2013

    Hi Hilary,
    Thanks for getting in touch. Both places are great. It sounds like the level 2 course would be best for you, the L3 course I took with CSA does assume a good level of skill at L2, which includes basic wheel building, servicing hubs, frame prep (facing and reaming), understanding the difference between cassettes and freehubs, 8sp and 10sp etc, basically completely stripping a ~£300 bike and rebuilding. The L3 course is quite specific and doesn’t go over the old ground. The L3 technical syllabus only really applies to fairly high end equipment.
    All the best,

  3. Hilary permalink
    February 10, 2013

    Thanks for the feedback on the courses Chris.
    Yes, makes sense for me to choose the Level 2 course first, in view of what you’re saying. I have also considered Cytech, beginning with the Level 1 online theory course and was wondering if you know how good they are as a provider of quality cycle tech training.
    Thanks in advance.

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