Transformed bus lets mountain bike teacher take his school on the road

GORHAM – Brian Danz is ahead of two popular trends. Danz is a certified mountain biking instructor – a profession that didn’t exist outside of ski areas a decade ago – and he’s converting a used school bus into a motorhome to get to workshops he gives in New England.

For Danz, traveling with his bikes in a motorhome made sense. After looking at used motorhomes and even construction vans that could be converted, Danz quickly looked at the school bus trend, called skoolie conversions, in which a retired school bus is gutted, isolated. and equipped with a bed, a kitchen and a living room. space.

“You see people on Instagram with $ 50,000 vans,” he says. “It has become more expensive than it once was. This spring I started looking for vehicles with an overall budget of $ 10,000. I quickly looked around, considering the school buses.

Brian Danz sits behind the wheel of the school bus which he transforms into a motorhome. Brianna Soukup / Staff Photographer

Since 2018 Danz has been a mountain bike instructor for Ninja Mountain Bike Performance, a national company with certified instructors across the country. He is one of three Ninja instructors in northern New England. For the past two years, he’s also been a full-time skills instructor at Portland Gear Hub, where he is the Senior Buyer and Adult Education Coordinator.

Mountain biking lessons are a relatively new offering in the ever-growing sport. The mountain biking landscape in Maine has changed a lot since the Professional Mountain Bike Instructors Association was formed just 15 years ago. The association trains over 1,000 instructors per year, but still has only about 100 instructors in New England. Maine has six mountain bike clubs that apply for grants for trail construction, and many professional companies are hiring to do the job. In recent years, mountain bike clubs have started to acquire snow groomers to open the trails in the winter.

Last year Danz taught 200 riders how to tackle more difficult terrain on their mountain bikes at over 30 workshops across New England, including Boston and on Kingdom Trails in Vermont. This year he’s adding Ninja workshops to Carrabassett Valley and Camden.

Brian Danz shows his student Lydia Cote something on his mountain bike ahead of a workshop he was teaching at Gorham Middle School on May 18, 2021. Brianna Soukup / Staff Photographer

Danz teaches fundamental skills – like body position, how to climb steep slopes and how to overcome obstacles. He also teaches several advanced level courses, such as turning.

“The coaches of the professionals work on the corners. This is the holy grail. There are slalom turns, incline turns and multi-peak turns, ”Danz said, referring to technical turns that involve several different approaches.

At a recent Basics Workshop in Gorham, he taught five mountain bikers with varied riding experience – but all with the same enthusiasm. Eric Nate James Nathanson, off-piste ski instructor at Saddleback Maine ski area and sea kayaking guide, said he has been mountain biking intermittently for 12 years but wanted to hike more difficult this year, so he signed up for the course.

“I really enjoyed it a lot,” Nathanson said. “It would be especially helpful for someone who is a new mountain biker. But you don’t have to be a beginner for this to be useful. I definitely plan to take more advanced courses. “

Lydia Cote de Windham, a rider for about 10 years, wanted to move from an intermediate rider to a more experienced rider.

“I saw on a Facebook group that I follow how someone took a course last year. He was someone who’s been riding forever and they said it was awesome, ”said Cote. “And I realized in (autodidact) the fundamentals myself, I probably took bad habits.

Cote thought it was fantastic when she saw Danz show up for the workshop on a school bus that he was turning into a motorhome.

“My husband and I talked about a motorhome,” she says.

Brian Danz’s mountain bike is loaded onto the school bus, which he transforms into a motorhome. He converts a school bus van into an RV to help him transport himself and his bike to mountain biking lessons statewide and in New England. Brianna Soukup / Staff Photographer

One of the hottest trends right now is vans. The number of motorhomes shipped by manufacturers in the first three months of 2021 has increased by 149% compared to the same period last year, far more than any other type of motorhome, according to the RV Industry Association.

Used short school buses cost between $ 5,000 and $ 15,000 – well within Danz’s budget – but they take more work to convert. In March, he found one with 115,000 miles for $ 7,000 and bought it.

“It’s unique and fun. It makes me smile when I drive, ”Danz said. “I have friends who say they live vicariously through me. But not when I park it in parallel in Portland. “

Over the past two months, he has emptied the interior, insulated, laid the sub-floor and had the van rewired. So far he’s spent 80 to 100 hours on it – and anticipates he has at least that amount of work ahead of him.

When finished, his school bus / motorhome will have a double bed in a mezzanine at the back, shelves and storage space under the bed with room for two bicycles, a sofa that converts into a guest bed, a counter with a sink, a small refrigerator and room for a camping stove. Behind the driver’s seat are floor-to-ceiling cabinets for additional storage.

“I’ve seen some really cool setups with a deck on top. Maybe (this will be added) in four or five years. That’s the plan, ”he said.

Danz romanticized the idea of ​​hitting the road and embracing a Gypsy lifestyle after his van was converted, but he loves being in New England and his job in Maine.

“It’s a basic vehicle. Everything I need is in it. I had visions of living a truly nomadic life, but I love where I live, I love what I do, especially working for the Gear Hub, ”Danz said. “I have never had more job satisfaction. It’s super progressive and we teach good things and fun things there. It is very rewarding. “

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About Juana Renfrow

Juana Renfrow

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