The founders of the Port Townsend Cycle School discuss the opening of their new enterprise. From left are Kees Kolff, Dave Thielk and David Engle. The school will hold a launching community conversation Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in Port Townsend. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

The founders of the Port Townsend Cycle School discuss the opening of their new enterprise. From left are Kees Kolff, Dave Thielk and David Engle. The school will hold a launching community conversation Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in Port Townsend. (Jeannie McMacken/Peninsula Daily News)

New Port Townsend school to teach bicycle maintenance in first for region

PORT TOWNSEND — It takes more than air in the tires to keep a bicycle on the road or trail. A new school being launched Thursday also aims to teach cyclists how to care for and maintain their rides.

A group of cycle enthusiasts have founded the Port Townsend Cycle School. It will be the only school that teaches bicycle maintenance in the region, founders say.

Port Townsend residents Kees Kolff, Dave Thielk and David Engle, and Ric Hjertberg of Port Hadlock are the co-founders of the enterprise, operating under the umbrella of the nonprofit Community Arts and Recreation Alliance (CARA), doing business as Jefferson County ReCyclery.

A kickoff is planned at Rosewind Commons, 3131 Haines Place in Port Townsend, at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

Details about school plans will be unveiled.

Currently, those who want to learn bike mechanics have to ride far, founders said.

“You have to go to Colorado or Oregon or British Columbia to become a professional bike mechanic. There’s nothing in the Puget Sound area or Washington state,” said Kolff, president of the ReCyclery.

“Hjertberg is an internationally-known bike mechanics educator,” he said.

“Ric came to the ReCyclery and said he thought Port Townsend was a great place to start an institute to teach anyone who wants to learn all about bicycles. It’s his initiative,” Engle said.

The group wants to create more than just a school for bike mechanics.

“We want to create a school to grow human powered transport,” Thielk said.

”E-bikes are part of the picture, as is frame building, wheel building, arts, restoration, and working with materials like wood and bamboo. There’s a wide spectrum of possibilities here.”

However, the mechanics piece is an important core component.

Eventually the group expects the school to attract national instructors and students from around the country.

“The big scheme is to push the culture of cycling and maintaining the independence of cycling’s self sustainability,“ said Kolff, a former mayor and a present Jefferson Healthcare commissioner.

The nuts and bolts curriculum focus is to teach people how to do wheel building in a two-day class for different levels, and a five-day course in bike mechanics from beginners to professionals.

“We left a lot of holes in our course catalog for possible expansion where we bring in speakers and events in the community — and aspects around art, like decals, design, paint jobs,” Kolff said.

The first partner for the school’s wheel building class is the Port Townsend School of the Arts.

“We are going to co-locate with them at Fort Worden and be partners. They’ve already talked about ideas for incorporating the arts into this vision,” Engle said.

The group projects that by 2020 it will be offering more than 20 courses to over 400 participants. The founders’ goal is to provide scholarships for every course.

“We have a high priority of working with this community,” Kolff said.

”We are partnering with the school districts who are looking for both recreational and personal development and a potential career.

“When you see the growth in the interest in cycling, particularly in the electric bike field, this school is on target. None of the other institutes that we are aware of do much with electric bikes.”

According to the founders, Washington is rated the number one bike friendly state in the nation, and Seattle is in the top five cities.

“How ironic that there’s no bike school here,” Engle said.

“You can be a hobbyist, or come out of high school and decide you want to be a bike mechanic. The diversity of the types of people working on bikes is growing rapidly, across genders and ages.”

The Port Townsend Cycle School will hold its first wheel building class on April 21-22. It will offer advanced bike building courses in May and other classes throughout the year.

“It might have an electric motor, but underneath it all, it’s still a bike,” Kolff noted.

“From repairing flats to fixing chains, there are still a lot people who want to know how to fix and maintain their electric bikes.”

The Port Townsend Cycle School plans to help get them through it.

For more about ReCylery, see http://www.ptrecyclery.org/.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected] news.com.

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