AHN SHOWS THE WAY
He offers hands-on maintenance and repair clinics
isdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
This may not be Albert Einstein’s famous quote that compares life to riding a bicycle, but instead talks of his burning desire and constant quest to seek knowledge.
For cyclists, it should ring especially true. There are always new technologies and products that we get excited over, but how many of us can grasp the basic mechanics of the bicycle?
Knowing how to change your tubes and tyres is one thing, but being able to fix problems by yourself is a valuable skill that all cyclists should have. You could head to the nearest bike shop or your favourite mechanic, but what if you’re 50km from the nearest town, on a long solo ride? What if you’re touring in foreign lands where no one understands your language and you have no means to communicate intricate bike problems?
In these instances, it becomes more apparent than ever that some basic know how is necessary, and understanding of your own bike. One of the places you can do this is at The Way Bicycle Lab in Putrajaya. As a Certified Park Tool School, the place offers hands-on maintenance and repair clinics. It uses curriculum and materials from the BBB-3 Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair, which acts as the outline for each clinic.
The place is run by South Korean Jerome Ahn, a Certified professional bicycle wheel builder by UBI & DT Swiss, and a Certified professional suspension technician by United Bicycle Institute(ubi) in Portland, USA.
He opened the business fuelled by a desire to set up his own bike kitchen, where riders can troubleshoot issues and repair their own bikes. I paid him a visit recently, and discovered that the unassuming, soft spoken man has many other impressive credentials under his belt.
“I’ve also taken a professional mechanic programme at Bike Academy in Korea, the most well-known bicycle institute there. I got a deep understanding of the broader aspect of bicycles. For example, shifting trouble is not only from shifters.
“It could be from the hanger, BB and hub, spacers or frames,” Ahn explains. While this knowledge was sufficient for fixing bicycles, he wanted to learn more. “I wanted to know more professionally about wheel building and suspensions. So I took the advanced mechanic
”Wcourse at United Bicycle Institute, one of the world’s best. Then I took exams to get these certificates. It was a little bit stressful but worth it.”
As part of his services, Ahn also runs a professional tools rental service. “Most people are surprised to see we have lots of tools when they visit us. We’ve got 5 professional tool sets for full overhaul services, wheel building tools, bearing service tools, hydraulic brake service tools, suspension forks tools and many more,” he says, gesturing around the shop.
“We also have tools to service high-end products such as Chrisking and DT Swiss hub. And tools for mechanic services, threading, reaming and facing.”
It’s certainly an impressive list, and allows those signing up for the clinics to really get their hands dirty. Jerome admits, the search for the perfect instruments took a bit of time. “I compared more than 10 bicycle tool makers and chose tools for the best usability and functionality. The Park Tool school participants have so far been satisfied with these different professional tools and customers who use our services trust that we work properly with the right equipment.”
But that isn’t all on Ahn’s list of things to do. He’s long harboured a desire to build his own frames, taking inspiration from the annual North America Handmade Bicycle Show.
“When I saw the beautiful handmade bicycles on the internet, I wanted to try it too,” Ahn remembers. He devoured ‘The Paterek manual’, a legendary book for frame builders worldwide, written by Tim Paterek, who recommended two frame builders in the United States. “So I learned from one of them - Steve Garn, who has built bicycles and motorcycle frames more than over 40 years. He is one of the gurus of frame building. The frames he built has had several national champions and records. When I met him, I was amazed. He could ground and weld bicycle tubings in a second. Learning from him was a great time for me.”
But he doesn’t just plan to be your average frame builder. “I’ve always been interested in mini velos (small and portable bicycles) and randonneuring or touring bicycles. Maybe put a motor on it too. Then next, I’m going to build frames with titanium tubing. Titanium itself is good material but you need very careful welding conditions.
“It should not be contaminated by any other material when it is ground and should be shielded from the air in and out of tubings when it is welded. I’m now building test products and prototype designs.” So far he has no date on when these will be on offer, beyond a target of sometime in the third quarter of the year.
The Way Bicycle Lab is available for walk-in visitors if they are open, but is not open full time during normal office hours. Ahn advises anyone interested to call ahead or make an appointment beforehand. For more information log on to https://www.facebook.com/thewaybicycle.lab/ or https://www.thewaybicycle.com.
“We’ve got 5 professional tool sets for full overhaul services, wheel building tools, bearing service tools, hydraulic brake service tools, suspension forks tools and many more.”
1 Bicycles set up for the next bike clinic. 2 Jerome Ahn giving a tour of his premises. 3 Another wall of tools at the shop.