Bella Coola students ride into new year with bike mechanic skills

SAMS students Luke Wheatley and William Dishkin learn bike mechanics during a course offered recently at the school. (Photo submitted)SAMS students Luke Wheatley and William Dishkin learn bike mechanics during a course offered recently at the school. (Photo submitted)
Bike mechanics student Ashton Gunderson with a bike stand he made for the course. (Photo submitted)Bike mechanics student Ashton Gunderson with a bike stand he made for the course. (Photo submitted)
Students work during a bike mechanic course at Sir Alexander Mackenzie Secondary in Bella Coola. (Photo submitted)Students work during a bike mechanic course at Sir Alexander Mackenzie Secondary in Bella Coola. (Photo submitted)
SAMS students completed a bike mechanic course taught by Jeff Bryson. (Photo submitted)SAMS students completed a bike mechanic course taught by Jeff Bryson. (Photo submitted)
Aubrey Pellitier, left, Finn Carlson, Ashton Gunderson, Ewan Koroluk and bike mechanic instructor Jeff Bryson out in the woods. (Photo submitted)Aubrey Pellitier, left, Finn Carlson, Ashton Gunderson, Ewan Koroluk and bike mechanic instructor Jeff Bryson out in the woods. (Photo submitted)
SAMS students Ewen Koroluk, left, Finn Carlson, Ashton Gunderson, Alex Boileau, teacher, Jeff Bryson, bike mechanic instructor and Aubrey Pelletier kang out during the course. (Photo submitted)SAMS students Ewen Koroluk, left, Finn Carlson, Ashton Gunderson, Alex Boileau, teacher, Jeff Bryson, bike mechanic instructor and Aubrey Pelletier kang out during the course. (Photo submitted)

Some Bella Coola high school students recently gained bicycle mechanic skills through a course offered at their school.

The 16 Sir Alexander Mackenzie Secondary School (SAMS) students who completed the program learned first-hand from instructor Jeff Bryson, owner and operator of Bikeroom, a bicycle mechanic school located in Kaslo, B.C.

Coast Mountain News caught up with four of the students for a phone interview just before Christmas to find out what they thought about the course.

Jae Moody enjoyed learning general maintenance of bikes.

“We learned hub service, bottom bracket service, brake bleeds and other things amongst that.”

Jae was not a bike rider before taking the course, but is thinking about taking it up now.

Katie Koroluk said the students had the opportunity to work individually as well as with other people.

“It was very hands-on, which was also really nice,” Katie said. “It was not just someone telling you what to do, you had a lot of opportunities to learn and experience exactly what you wanted to.”

Students were able to go more in depth if they wanted, she added.

Bella Coola does not have a bike shop or bike mechanics in business, said Ewen Koroluk, noting most people take their bikes out of town to get them repaired which is costly.

Ashton Gunderson said the course has inspired some of the students to get bikes.

“I feel like riding more now, not only because of what the course taught us, but as a rider you will progress and get better because you are not afraid to use your bike how it was meant to be used. If you need to change a wheel now, we know how to do stuff like that so we will feel more comfortable increasing our riding skills,” Jae said.

Teacher Alex Boileau said the course complements trades, tourism and outdoor education courses and gave the students 12 hours studying with a certified bike mechanic.

“We wanted to make sure we didn’t leave out any hands-on learners – a lot of these students learn very well with their hands. Both Jeff, the instructor, and I were blown away with the students’ confidence to try things and their professionalism. They were amazing.”

Coming from a small community himself and seeing what bikes and getting people engaged can do first hand impressed Bryson.

“Going there and working with the staff and students it was really cool to see the passion and where Bella Coola is located with the mountains and the trails that can soon be developed.”

Bryson has taught the program for almost 10 years in schools and instructed teachers how to teach the program as well.

He is hopeful the staff and students at SAMS will keep the learning going and not be scared to pull something apart and figure out something together as a group.

“We really like to teach how things work,” Bryson said.

“A front hub works the same as the rear hub works the same as the bottom bracket – it is just a bearing. If they get a new bike or someone in the community needs something fixed they can understand that it is very similar and have the same principles but that little procedure might be a bit different.”

Over the four days he was teaching the course, the students gleaned a lot of information and hands-on experience.

“We got all the bikes going and the students doubled up or tripled up — they were always doing something,” Bryson said.

Worried there wouldn’t be enough bike stands for the course, he arrived and learned some students had made six bike stands.

“I was almost emotional when I saw them. It was better than I could have ever expected. For someone to have the ingenuity and do that was pretty cool.”

Bryson added while he did not know if the students normally hang out together outside of school, it was great to see how they asked questions and helped each other out during class.

There were three or four tool sets with about eight benches going and students shared everything and assisted each other.

“When something went awry with one of the bikes the students were very open to taking it apart to get it fixed. Now the residents of Bella Coola have someone who can fix bikes in the community. I really hope to see the program evolving into doing repairs by donation for the bike club within the community.”

Bryson said the program has expanded in Smithers to a 30-hour program with the Grade 7 students.

He taught the shop teacher in Smithers and the principal of a few schools in the area.

“They see the benefit to it with their trails and keeping kids engaged,” he said.

Visiting bike shops around B.C. and Alberta in the last five years, Bryson has seen shops in the big cities – because of internet sales – getting smaller or going out of business.

“But you are seeing in small towns bike shops are growing or another bike shop is opening.”

Boileau said the school was grateful for the funding BC Healthy Communities Active School Travel Program, Williams Lake and District Credit Union, Bella Coola Community Forest Ltd. and Vancouver Coastal Health contributed toward the course as well as support from School District 49, Ruckus Bikes, Board and Skis as well as Kona.

He also thanked SAMS students Ashton Gunderson and Keelan Nelson for building the bike repair stands.

As a follow up this spring, Boileau said the school hopes to bring in Jacob Mullen, a sponsored mountain biker, who has a program called Ride and Discover Coaching.

“We would like to start a racing team here,” Boileau said. “He’s going to come down and keep building on what we’ve learned to apply the mechanics to the trails and to racing.”



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