Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why have you changed the names of some of the modules?
A: As Velotech has expanded outside of the UK and started to work with candidates for whom English is not necessarily a first language, we have chosed to name the courses in a way that is more closely identifiable with their level and indicates a more widely-understood progression.
We also wanted to take out an element that has uncomfortable overtones for a significant number of candidates, the reference to the colours of our national flag. In many parts of the world, those overtones carry difficult historical associations and we endeavour to be sensitive to that.
Q: Can our organisation offer Velotech Training?
A: Possibly ... we have a number of sites around the UK where Velotech accreditations are offered up to the Gold (Intermediate 2) level. These are independent centres which we audit annually, whose trainers have worked and continue to develop their skills with us directly at Velotech. The centres all have to adhere to specific standards with regard to tooling, space and general facility to run training courses for all levels of ability up to the Intermediate 2 level (or a less advanced level if that is what is required).
Please contact us directly if you feel that your organisation might wish to offer the accreditation.
In 2015 we introduced three further centres who can offer the Platinum (Professional) accreditation - Glenmore Lodge (Scotland), Cycle Training Wales (Wales) and Outspoken (Cambridge).
Q: Are there age limits with regard to Velotech Training?
A: Yes. Foundation levels ar suitable for students down to 12 years of age, provided that they have the hand-strength to correctly use the tools required.
For the Bronze course, although under 16s can comfortably complete the course and be assessed, because we regard it (and it is regarded by the industry at large) as an entry-level course into the trade, we don't issue the certificate to under 16s until their 16th birthday. This protects Velotech Cycling Ltd from possible claims against the company based on an U-16 undertaking a repair for reward on the basis of having received an industry-recognised accreditation, should something go wrong.
Q: Do you have government-funded training?
A: No, although organisations such as Business Link may be able to source funds for training at a local level for you. Some charities may also be able to source charitable funding for you.
What we have found in the past, is that for the cycle industry, because we are able to follow a process of assessment first, then training areas of weakness and then re-assessing, mechanics or staff members are generally taken away from their role in store for far less time than is the case with some other training providers. This, in addition to the fact that our courses don't include the elements of numeracy, literacy and IT competence that often slow down final award of a qualification on other schemes also leads to a quicker acheivement of the award and less time away from the store.
When lower accommodation costs as well as lost revenue are factored in, we find that the real cost to retailers of our training is frequently less than that of the "free" options.
Q: Is your training recognised within the industry?
A: Yes. We are endorsed by the Bicycle Association, which is the representative organisation for wholesalers and importers, as well as by many individual manufacturers such as Bianchi, Campagnolo, Sturmey Archer, Sun Race, Sapim and Miche. We run specialist training for many of these companies.
As noted above and on a wider scale than within the "pure" industry, we are also recognised and widely used by the London Cycling Campaign (LCC), Transport for London (TfL), Sustrans for both their Bike-It and Active Travel initiatives, London Ambulance Service and City of London Police. In the Prison Service (HMP, SPS and YOIs) use, at selected prisons, the accreditations up to Gold level, in part of their programmes for the rehabilitation of inmates.
We were also asked to work with the European Two Wheel Retailers Association (ETRA) and several other partners to assist in rolling out a Europe-wide standard for training and accreditation in the cycle trade. Although the demise of ETRA forestalled the completion of that project, Velotech was the partner of choice.
During 2022, Graeme has also been asked to teach some modules of the UCI Level 3 course and occasionally at other levels, at the World Cycling Centre in Switzerland.
Q: How do the various levels of Velotech accrediation compare to CyTech?
Comparisons are invidious, but broadly, as we discuss below, all of the current industry training schemes are aimed at conferring basically the same skills. We have recently "re-sliced" the skill set and changed a couple of the requirements at the Platinum end of the scale.
The Bronze accreditation, gives basically the same skill set as CyTech 1, certainly by the time a candidate has progressed to Silver, Cytech 1-level skills will be well entrenched.
The Platinum (Professional) accreditation, into which we have now rolled the Sapim-supported Basic Wheelbuilding Certificate (still available as a stand-alone certificate), now has the same skill set as CyTech 2.
Part of the reason for the re-slicing of the course content at each level, was to allow graduates at each level to be able to say that in the context of the whole bicycle, they are comfortable completing specific operations, so we would characterise Bronze as a "set-up and assessment" level accreditation, Silver as "maintenance" and Gold as "Basic repair / assembly".
Platinum (Professional), in common with CyTech 2, requires a deeper and more thorough understanding of the bicycle and it was felt important to position this course and accreditation at a directly comparable level to CyTech 2 to reduce confusion as to candidate abilities at respective levels of acheivement.
Platinum Plus (Professional Plus) is a set of "Level 3" courses in that they requires a deep understanding of a number of manufacturer-specific technologies and the way that they inform the design and assembly of the complete bicycle. For this reason, we believe that once a candidate has completed the modules to complete Platinum Plus, there is a direct comparability their skill set and that of a technician who has successfully completed CyTech 3.
Q: Are there real differences in the way that you train compared to others?
A: All of the mechanics training courses, ours, Cycle Systems, CyTech, etc. - teach fundamentally the same skills, but our approaches do vary. At Velotech, we get you hands-on as early in the process as we can, and try to integrate all of the theory into practical demonstrations.
Q: Is there anything I should do before I come on a Velotech course?
At Velotech, almost all of our trainers are to some extent practical mechanics as well. This differentiates us from many providers whose trainers are often purely trainers and are no longer in real day-to-day contact with all types of bicycle.
In general, we try and cement the "how" to the "why", so that if you are faced with something that you have never seen before, you can relate it to something that you have seen on a bicycle and have an understanding of "where to start" ... of course that should be with the manufacturer's notes, but often these are not as clear as they might be, or have been translated from a second language, or both ... so a little "priming" is often useful.
Unlike others, we DO NOT TRAIN ON A SPECIFIC BRAND until we ourselves have had training from the manufacturer or their appointed service centre and have been signed off by them. We absolutely do not simply take an instruction manual, come up with our own interpretation of it, and then regurgitate that. Let's face it, after a very basic training course, any good mechanic could do that ...
We assess continuously as you work with us, so whilst there are tests, much of the time, you won't know that you are being tested - this cuts down on the anxiety that it is otherwise easy to develop.
A: Currently, no. We are looking at preparing a sort of "Cycle Mechanics 101" to go onto the web site so that you'll be familiar with some broad basics, like the names of parts of the bicycle, but currently we'd just advise you to read around the subject from authoritative sources, so that you'll have some background feeling for what might be involved.
Q: How long will it take me to gain a Velotech certification?
In terms of other media, we'd strongly recommend Park Tool's excellent set of basic instructional videos. These are clear and well made but we would stress, are no substitute for hands-on instruction from an experienced trainer-mechanic.
A: Since 2008, we have been gradually shifting some criteria on the Velotech courses, as experience has shown us what works and what doesn't, for our candidates. We used to offer the possibility of a short, intense bout of training that would take a candidate from "zero" to Professional (formerly Platinum) in 8 days - that was all well and good, to some point, anyway, when all of our entrants were already fully embedded in the trade.
Q: What is included in my course fee?
Since that time, we have placed more and more emphasis on a mix of training and consolidation - this has also become more possible with the rapid growth of recycling and upcycling charities, offering plenty of opportunity for candidates to consolidate.
We would now very strongly recommend that you think about a pathway to a Professional certificate over a six month period, whereby you follow a foundation and Bronze course, initially (that will be your first certification), then consolidate for a minimum of one month, working on a variety of bicycles a few hours a week. We'd recommend that you then do a Silver course, another month of consolidation, then a Gold. The gap from Gold to Professional probably needs to be longer, as by that time the knowledge base is bigger so the amount of consolidation required is more - so two to three months, before attending for a Professional course.
A: All of your tuition and assessment, your certification and ongoing email / text / phone support after the course - you can always email or phone for advice if you get stuck! It has to be said email or text is a better bet as if we are teaching, the phones go straight to voicemail!
Q: Can you help with accommodation?
All of the consumables we use on the courses are included, and we have a range of bikes purely for training purposes on hand to show typical examples of all of the systems that we discuss, and in general we have "live" repairs to help with that too.
A: If you are coming to us at Stoke-on-Trent, in general, yes ... just let us know a couple of weeks in advance of the course and we will be able to recommend accommodation at the very least - in some cases we'll be able to book it for you, too.
Q: I don't live anywhere near Stoke-on-Trent - can you come to me to deliver training?
Coronavirus has to some extent limited what we can do but for the most part local accommodation is running fairly normally at present.
A: Yes, we can, although the costs make this prohibitive in many cases, only really balancing out if we can assemble 3 people in the same place at the same time.
Q: How does the course structure work? Can I do an intensive course?
We also have a limited number of partners that deliver training and certification up to Gold (Intermediate 2) level in other parts of the country, so if you think that one of those partners may be able to meet your needs, please contact us for more information.
A: In general, we would very strongly advise against any attempt to follow the full Velotech course from entry to Platinum (Professional) in one continuous set of sessions, unless you are already at least two to three years into full-time employment as a mechanic in the trade.
Q: I already know all the basics, do I have to start at square one?
Essentially, the courses follow the modular structure so that candidates are encouraged to attend 2 or 3 days of training, reach a suitable point and be assessed at a level and then go away to put their learning into practice, to consolidate it and apply it outside of the sterile environment of the training workshop, before coming back to further training, later.
There are three very natural points at which candidates might consider taking that consolidation break. The Bronze (Foundation Plus) accreditation, or perhaps the Silver (Intermediate 1) - so after 2-3 days of training. The Gold (Intermediate 2), after another three days of training, and then, of course, the Platinum (Professional) accreditation.
We run a series of Platinum courses through the year and candidates attend the days that correspond to their existing level of acheivement and the next steps they wish to take - so a candidate starting at Foundation 1 ("Red") may want to train through to a Silver (Intermediate 1) assessment (and hopefully accreditation). They'll attend Days 1 to 3 of a full course.
Subsequently, they may wish to go on the attain Gold (Intermediate 2) - in which case they'll attend days 4 and 5 of a full course.
Finally, to gain the full Platinum (Professional) accreditation, they'll attend days 6, 7 and 8. The pre-requisite for attendance is that the candidate has attained the accreditation preceeding the one being studied for and assessed - so a Silver (intermediate 1) candidate coming on just Days 3 & 4 of a course, must already have a Bronze certificate.
A: In order to protect all of the people and equipment that you will be working with within the training environment, we start the training of good working practice, including Health and Safety, at the Foundation 1 (Red) level.
Q: Can I do one set of modules at one Velotech Training Workshop (VTW), then another at a different VTW?
There are important differences between working on your own and working in a shared workspace and in working on your own bike and working on someone else's, that we start to emphasise from the very beginning of the course.
It would be deeply unfair to expose others on the same course to the risk of another candidate behaving (often unwittingly) in a way that would present them, or the instructor, with a hazard, so all courses must be followed in their entirety, starting at the very basic level. The only times we make any exception to this are on courses that are offered as stand-alone courses or modules - typically manufacturer-specific courses and Foundation / Advanced wheelbuilding courses.
Occasionally in the past we know that this rule has not been followed across all of the Velotech Training Workshops but going forwards from the time of this update (March 2021). it will become an absolute rule.
A: Yes, you can. The syllabus is the same across all the VTWs. There may be differences in emphasis and certainly differences in teaching style, but the material covered at each level, at each VTW is the same. Course materials and assessment systems are likewise the same.
Q: How do the courses divide up naturally?
A: The Bronze skill level is parallel with a level 1 VRQ or NVQ, and so by that definition, a point at which, in the workplace, most candidates would still expect to be supervised. For candidates who have taken an interest in bicycles and some of the skills that many regular cyclists learn "along the way", training to this level formalises and extends across other types of systems what they may already have learned on their own bikes. It also seeks to explain the basic principles behind some common procedures (as well as offering formalised procedures where previously a degree of "trial and error" may have existed) and primes the candidate to consider elements that are absent when working on one's own bicycle but which are vital when working in a commercial environment. For many candidates, this is their first "break point".
Q: What is Professional Plus?
The Silver accreditation takes Bronze, which mostly addresses the safe adjustment of an already-90-100%-assembled bicycle, and moves it on so that the candidate learns some dis-assembly and assembly techniques, replacing parts or servicing them (as distinct from maintaining them), on a "like-for-like" basis. This is a little above a Level 1 learning stage but the candidate, in the workplace will still expect a fair degree of supervision.
Gold takes the skills and practices learned and consolidated so far and moves into "what if" territory ... how do I decide if a bike with specific gear ratios can be modified for lower gears (a favourite topic), for instance ...
Professional (Platinum) is the point where the candidate can take a lot of the skills and knowledge acquired so far and apply them to a "from scratch" build. Once a candidate is producing high quality work at this level, as well, he or she is likely to find themselves starting to work more alone, with close supervision generally reserved for less-commonly-undertaken or novel tasks.
A: Platinum Plus, or Professional Plus as it is now known, is a suite of courses which are designed to either explore specific manufacturer's product, or to help move a mechanics skills to the next level.
Q: What are the course fees?
The content of Professional Plus has shifted over the years, because in some areas such as suspension maintenance, specialist vendors have moved in to support retailers, so making some of the skills that we used to teach less relevant. On the other hand, new channels such as a Foundation in bike fitting and a Foundation in frame materials and design have moved into focus.
Advanced wheel building, teaching more complex or less-often used but still relevant skills and techniques has also gained traction with the industry interest in more personalised solutions.
Currently we have six courses of varying length under the Professional Plus banner (most are single day but Campagnolo, due to our close association with them, is 3 days as it is very comprehensive), of which a candidate must complete at least 4 to gain the Professional Plus accreditation.
A: At velotech's main training workshops, we have a flat per-day, per mechanic fee of £190.00+VAT. This way, candidates can choose to pay for their training as they go along and as time allows them to be away from the regular working environment of the shop or other business in order to attend training.
Q: Do you offer CPD?
Hence, the cost of a Platinum (Professional) Accreditation is 8 x £190.00+VAT spread over as much time as the mechanic wants to take.
A: In some senses, as we shift the elements of Platinum Plus, or Professional Plus, each of these new courses constitutes an element of CPD.
We are also very happy at Stoke-on-Trent, on a one-to-one basis, to revisit parts of a course or specific skill sets with past candidates - so for instance, a candidate who has already completed a Wheel Building course may wish to come back to us and re-cover elements of the course or simply practice under the eye of an experienced wheelbuilder - that can always be arranged. Fees are at the single-day level.
We would very actively encourage anyone who wants to come back to us for further training or to expand or flesh out specific topics to contact us. There are always spaces in the workshop schedule providing the opportunity to cover in greater depth, areas that may not have been addressed as fully as a candidate might wish in a general course.