Red Wing is the place to go for a ‘bike science’ degree

Listen up, bike lovers. You can now turn your leisure-time passion for cycling into a career at Minnesota State College-Southeast Technical (MSC) in Red Wing. The college has just enrolled its first class in a two-year Associate of Applied Science Degree in Bicycle Design & Fabrication.

Students are flocking from across the country to take advantage of the new program. They range from teens fresh from high school to retirees who want to ramp up their skills for stage-two careers.

MCSC’s bike program is thought to be the first of its kind in the nation, according to a recent article in the Star Tribune. The faculty lead for the program, 29-year-old Chase Spaulding—who has an advanced degree in industrial design and has designed and built custom motorcycles—was recruited from North Carolina to get it started.

“These guys eat, sleep and breath bicycles,’” he told the Star Tribune. “Now they’re learning how to drive that passion into learning all the components of the machine. They have the why; I’m giving them the how.”

The Star Tribune summarized the program’s content this way:

Students take academic classes on the history and theory of cycle design and physics for bikes, but much of their work is hands-on in the newly constructed bike lab on campus. They work on welding, machining, metal fabrication and 3-D printing, all applied specifically to cycle fabrication.

They can open their own shops, be entrepreneurs or work in manufacturing, [Spaulding said]. “We’re giving them the tools.”

Cycling’s popularity has exploded, the Star Tribune points out, and here in Minnesota, more than 2,000 middle and high school athletes now participate in mountain biking through the state’s High School Cycling League. Spaulding adds that before the MSC program began, a company that makes bike parts called and said, “We want your graduates.”

MSC has a history of creating unusual technical degree programs:

For decades, the college has attracted students from all over the world to its one-of-a-kind Guitar Repair and Building course. It also offers diploma programs in band instrument repair and violin repair, with an impressive 100% job placement for graduates.

The new bike program was the brainchild of Travis Thul, MSC’s dean of trade and technology. He saw it as a way to attract Gen Z and nontraditional students to technical careers.

One such student is Chris Lucas, a 62-year-old Californian, who came to Red Wing to prepare to open a new business designing and selling a line of recumbent bikes.

Thul believes there is tremendous potential for bike-related careers.

“In our backyard, between the Twin Cities and Madison [Wis.], biking is a billion-dollar industry when you look at companies that make cycles, components or sell bikes,” he told the Star Tribune. “These are real legitimate local brands but up until now, there wasn’t a program building a workforce for the field.”

As of now, MSC’s bike program is going gang-busters. It is filled to capacity with 18 students, and others are already signing up for next year. Adding to its attractions for bike fans is its price tag: $11,675 for the two-year program, including tuition, fees and supplies.