At Bike Saviours we've been doing an 8 week class session. We require it of new volunteers before they can wrench in our shop. The idea of the class is to expose them to good mechanic practices and teach the principles behind the systems. AFter they've taken the class they gain experience by working in the shop and helping others. 

These are the class topics in order: 1. Intro to our shop and bike basics, 2. headsets, 3. bottom brackets, 4. hub bearings and gears, 5. brakes and intro to cables, 6. derailleurs and shifters, 7. wheel truing, 8. extra topics (tire sizing, fixed gear, bar wrapping, bike style) and review.

We cluster the bearing systems together and we teach that all open bearing systems are the same. We do a similar thing with cables, using brakes to teach the barrel adjuster which is very helpful when you do shifters.

We've been revising our class handouts using Google Docs, They are almost done, let me know if you're interested in checking them out. I'll also look into putting links on the wiki.


On Tue, May 12, 2009 at 10:12 PM, John Carlson <> wrote:
We've had similar experiences in our space.  I keep coming back to the same philosophy - you don't fight something by pushing against it, because resistance is met with resistance.  There is a reason we have unskilled, but enthusiastic people, myself included at times - because they have not really learned the proper way to do things.  And there are is a reason that they help others with wrong information - because they want to help and nobody else is there to do it.  We all know how frantic it can get and they jump in and help because they really want to.
So the solution we came up with is that we need to be more intentional about our volunteer training.  Most organizations like ours rely on volunteers but don't really spend the time to really train them.  It's always 'learn as you go' mentality and that can be pretty haphazard and incomplete.  Many years later a core volunteer may never even know how to overhaul a headset or understand all the different types of brakes and how to adjust them.  One way we are dealing with this is by creating a new volunteer only night, with no sales, no open shop and an organized agenda which includes instruction for volunteers.  Part class, part work on bikes we need fixed.  It's a good start.  We are kicking it off with a volunteer appreciation party and then it will run every Monday night from 6-9pm.  And we are looking for other ways to be more intentional about an internal training program for volunteers.  The new progam will definately create more skilled volunteers and helps enthusiasm across the board.  People like having the right information to pass on to others.  It's empowering.
Anyway, being intentional about helping our volunteers learn more and do things the right way creates a new thing and makes the old irrelevant.  So any ideas for us also, on how all of you do internal training for volunteers/staff would be really helpful to us. Let us know your ideas!
Sibley Bike Depot
St. Paul, MN
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 11:10 PM
Subject: [TheThinkTank] how to deal with enthusiastic but wrong volunteermechanics?

Sorry for dominating the emails, folks. Community Cycles is in all kinds of transition, and we're looking for help.

I don't know all the details right now, so I'll keep this general.

We've been lucky enough to have a volunteer show up who's very motivated and enthusiastic about our mission and our programs. This person has gotten really involved in existing programs and even helped work on and start a new one.
 Recently, this person was asked by another shop visitor a mechanical question, since it was clear that the volunteer was more staff like, and less client. The answer given was very incorrect (one of the details I'm missing is what the quesiton/answer were), but this was witnessed by another very competent experienced mechanic, who was uncomfortable correcting the misstatement in front of the group.
 In another situation, the same volunteer was seen making very basic mistakes when working alone on a bike. From what I understand, the big one was being asked to install cables on a bike, and neglecting to include housing.

We would like to continue having this person as a part of our team, but we also need to make sure the advice and work they do is correct, safe, and appropriate.

One other wrinkle, is that the two incidents were witnessed by two different staff members, both very skilled mechanics.

How to approach the volunteer? Any help or experience you folks have would be greatly appreciated.



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