Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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Renew Your Wheels at the MUM Bike Shop

Do you know about the MUM Bike Shop? If you are an MUM student and you have an issue with your bike, there is a cheap or very nearly free place you can go take your bike to get it serviced or to work on it yourself. This summer, I sat down with Mattie Kennedy, the sole mechanic at the MUM Bike Shop. I found out a little about his background with bicycles and mechanics. And he tells us all we need to know about the shop’s most recent history, how to get your bike fixed, and other bike-related tips and advice.

 Before I run the interview, allow me to reveal to you the location of the MUM Bike Shop: 1. Find the east entrance to the Sustainable Living department. It is just past the Student Gardens. 2. Once inside the building follow that first main hall all the way to the west end of the building until you find the large SL classroom, room 119. 3. The bike shop is inside that classroom, through a door as you keep going west.

Tell me about the Bike Shop, what is its history?

The bike shop officially became my work-study position last year. The bike room has always been here on campus. This is the beginning of my third year, and when I first came here, I heard about the bike room and I went back there. It was super disorganized and I almost didn’t think that it was a legit bike room. Then it got cleaned up a little bit that year. At that time, I was doing some bike work for people, charging them money, which was in no way associated with the university.

At the beginning of last year, Mark Stimson approached me and told me that there was a work-study position opening up to work in the bike shop, and he asked me if I was interested. I told him, Absolutely! So when it became a work-study position, it was then that the university was paying me for bike maintenance, rather than the individual student paying out-of-pocket.

I think its a great program because it allows college students who don’t have spare money to have a place to fix up their bikes. If I work on your bike, labor is free, you just have to pay for replacement parts.

How do you know about bikes?

I have grown up my entire life having cycling as a very important part of my life. My dad introduced it to me when I was very little, and I actually did some local racing in my town for five years before I came here to go to school. Pretty much everything you can do on a bike, I’ve done it. Well--not unicycles... But, I do have a tandem bike here on campus. Me and my girlfriend were riding it about ten minutes ago.

Where are you from?

I am from southern Wisconsin. It is beautiful up there; I used to enjoy taking bike rides for training and just for fun. So many times, I could ride out in the country to the point where I could go 2 hours without seeing another person. It has just super beautiful scenery.

Are you a Sustainable Living major?

I am a Sustainable Living major. My emphasis is in Green Building and Renewable Energy. I am really interested in mechanical things. This is also why I like doing bike mechanics. I have a dream of someday building my own home, or really putting a lot into a fixer-upper, because, when I came to MUM, I really wanted to build my own house. But Lonnie Gamble has something that he likes to tell students in all the Green Building courses which is: The most sustainable building is one you do not build.” Because as soon as you put that energy into creating it, that’s energy spent that you could put into fixing an existing house.

Okay, now into specifics. How do students get help from you? If I have a broken bike, what do I do?

Last year, people got help from me mainly word-of-mouth, and that kept me busy enough because I was still working on fixing up the shop and making it a nicer place. My hours were a bit inconsistent last year. This year, my office hours will be: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, from 3:30 to 5:30 pm.

Any student who has any sort of bicycle-related problem, can bring the bike into the shop and if I’m not there, definitely label the bicycle as being yours. Leave a description on the bike of what is needed. You can also email me at: cycleguy2112@gmail.com.

If you leave your bike in the shop when I am not there, please make sure to label your bike. The bike shop is a place where you can take and use any parts that you see. And sometimes entire bicycles get donated for re-use, and so, if your name is not on your bike, it can be mistaken as a donation. It has happened in the past.

Would you ever want any help in the shop, if people are interested in helping out?

This is my last year here, so regardless of whether I will do something like a Bike Kitchen where people can come and hang out and help and learn somethings from me, there is going to have to be someone to replace my position next year.

When students come in with a small problem, I often have them watch what I do. Especially if it is something that happens to their bike a lot, and that is easy to fix. There was a girl last year whose chain was falling off all the time, so I showed her how to put the chain back on her bike. Or you know, adjusting your breaks or changing a flat tire. These are all things that are basic mechanics. Just as long as tools don’t scare you, you can do a lot of stuff on your own.

If I need a bike, how do I get one in Fairfield?

There are three ways.

Sometimes stuff gets donated to the bike room. If the bike has been left on campus for a while, and has flat tires and broken parts on it, we assume that the person is not coming back for it. The bike will come into the bike shop, and this is how sometimes we can have entire bikes we can fix up and give to people. This would be the free or minimal cost way to get a bike.

Walmart sells bikes. They are just over $100. I hear they sell bike insurance for $10 and I would recommend getting that, because a lot of their bikes fall apart quickly after being purchased. Because they sell so many bikes, they do not have professional mechanics putting them together. They just have people who put stuff together putting together the bikes and the bikes can just fall apart quickly after getting sold. But, Walmart’s bikes still roll. They go forward. They are bicycles none-the-less.

I personally would recommend that if you have the $300 dollars, get a bike at AJ’s. AJ will fix the bike if there is anything that goes wrong with it--if it is a defect that is not your fault, like if you crashed into a tree and the bike broke. If you are riding along and you notice that a part is loose, and you bring it in, he apologizes and fixes it up right away. His bikes work great. He has an awesome selection. And in my opinion, his bikes are prettier.

They are super nice there. Sometimes, they sell used bikes there too. I got lucky and got a vintage Schwinn road cruiser at AJ's for about 90 bucks.

AJ is a good guy. If I go in there to buy a bike tube, we talk for an hour. We have lots of stories to swap. He’s got a bunch of maps in there, too--local maps of mountain bike trails, for example. By the way: The Fairfield loop trail is getting completed next month. It will be a complete loop, whereas right now it is kind of like a horseshoe. Its opening day will be sometime in December.

Do you have any advice for people who are just beginning to ride their bikes around here?

Fairfield is extremely bike-friendly. You really don’t need a car here. I ride my bike in the winter, though I guess that is a bit extreme. Most people don’t do that.

As far as salts on the road, it is not so much a problem for bikes. If you notice that your bike is getting dirty or you rode it through some slush or the rain, a good thing to do is to take a rag and wipe it off, including the chain, and re-apply oil. For the most part, that is an easy thing to do anytime your bike gets dirty or wet. A clean machine runs better.

Also, it is important to have both front and rear lights on your bike at night. It can be a $150 ticket if you don’t have them.

Any final words about the Bike Shop that you’d like people to know?

On Saturday, September 24th, there will be an event taking place at MUM, at which I will host a bicycle repair workshop, going over at least changing a flat, and possibly more.

On Thursday, September 22nd, there will be a Critical Mass meeting at Howard Park (where the Farmer's Market is held) beginning at 7 pm.
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Now, everyone enjoy the benefits of this awesome service available to us as students at MUM. Thanks to Mattie for the interview and sharing bike expertise with his MUM community!

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