An insight into the Bicycle Mechanic Training Courses at UCI World Cycling Centre, Aigle, Switzerland
by Dominic A. Price (recent graduate of the course)
On the Plan du Rhône, surrounded by mountains in the south west of Switzerland lies the town of Aigle. It is here that Union Cycliste International (UCI) have established an elite coaching and training centre. On 2nd September 2021 a group of eight cycling enthusiasts began an eighteen-day training programme to qualify as cycle mechanics.
The organisation of the course combined administration, accommodation, catering and mechanic training elements. At the best of times this presents a considerable challenge for any organisation but to succeed in the middle of a pandemic while ensuring the safety of staff, athletes, aspiring coaches and mechanics and also the general public was a major achievement for which UCI deserve great praise.
The students who attended the course came from many countries including China, Mexico, Portugal, Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Ireland. The students represented people of different ages at different stages of their career paths. Some just beginning a career while others wished to change career and move into an area for which they have always had a passion. Uniting all the students was a commitment to learn and to work hard during their time at UCI in Aigle to reach the high standard required of them by the UCI WCC’s Mechanics Manager Alex Roussel and Mechanics Tutor for the course Enrique Guerrero.
During their training the student mechanics worked with road, mountain and track bikes manufactured in both aluminium and carbon. Technical aspects included lubes and greases, specifications of quality tools and components, correct alignment of frame and components, mechanical and hydraulic braking systems, the drive train & indexing, wheel composition and building as well as tyre types. A primary aim of the course emphasised safety and the correct preparation of bike and components to enable the rider to maximise the potential of their cycling experience and/or sporting discipline. Acquired skills were assessed through a series of tests carried out within a specific time frame. Classes ran from Monday through to Saturday each week with Sunday being a day off.
Students stayed at Monsejur in Aigle. Each room was spacious with a bathroom. Some of the daily meals were provided there and also at UCI. In Monsejur a laundry room was also at the disposal of students for washing, drying and ironing. A city bike (hybrid) with lock was given to each student for the duration of their stay. Each morning students cycled a three kilometre journey to UCI to begin their daily training.
All of the trainees made use of the evenings and the weekends to explore the breath taking scenery in the countryside with a number also undertaking some serious hill training. Aigle is an ideal location as a base for a varied training programme. A rider can accomplish some distance on the flat along the banks of the Rhône and Lake Geneva or for those who enjoy an arduous series of climbs followed by the skills of the downhill with plenty of cornering there are more than enough varied routes to attempt. The use of local knowledge and the app Switzerland Mobility is useful for planning specific cycling routes and avoiding traffic. Some of the highlights experienced by the group of trainees on their cycles were Lake Geneva, Champérie, Corbeyrier, Gestaad and Col de la Croix.
The social mix of students attending mechanic and coaching programmes from many countries offered a good deal of insight into challenges and successes experienced in the cycling world. This facilitated a shared education on the key areas of respective disciplines. Lectures and speakers from both courses also visited students in their workspace to briefly introduce themselves and talk about their specialist fields.
On the penultimate evening students gathered in the Mechanic Centre at UCI to receive their Certificates and to celebrate their graduation as qualified mechanics. The experience at UCI was very positive which combined high educational standards in a warm friendly atmosphere united by a strong commitment to bicycle mechanics. The last day provided an opportunity for individual feedback for each student coupled with student assessment of the course.
On the 18th of September, the students departed Aigle confident in their newly acquired mechanic skills, happy with the new friendships they had developed and optimistic about the world of cycling which has done so much to brighten many lives especially during these past two years.