Smile Politely

Learn to fix your bike now

When and if the oil runs out and runs postmodern car culture aground, Champaign-Urbana’s pretty well positioned to deal… at least insofar as it will still be pretty easy to move around town, scavenging for food and whatever else one does after cars are gone (besides, like, live in a totally unalienated utopian World Made By Hand). It’s completely flat here and with the roads free of cars there’ll be no excuse, really, for not always just cycling from point A (say, your non-alienated libidinal workplace) to point B (e.g. the collective farm where you’ve gotta pick up your broccoli ration).

Even in our preapocalyptic days, C-U’s already a very bikeable community. We’re blessed with numerous bike shops around town like Durst Cycle and Baker’s Bikes: places you can pick up great, affordable new and used bicycles, respectively. We’re also lucky to have great advocacy groups like Champaign County Bikes, numerous bike lanes on-campus and off, and a tremendous civic culture that encourages things like the upcoming Bike to Work Day and comprehensive transportation plans including space for bicycles.

We’re also blessed with a really great bike co-operative: The Bike Project of Champaign-Urbana, a not-for-profit community bike shop based in the Urbana-Champaign Indymedia Center near Lincoln Square in Urbana. Sure, The Bike Project sells some bikes… but the real attraction of the co-op is that when one becomes a member, one gets access during open hours to the shop, its tools, and the collective bike repair knowledge of the co-op’s volunteers.

These volunteers won’t fix your bike for you; instead they’ll help you learn how to fix it yourself, from problems as simple and commonplace as flat tires and worn-out brake cables to undertakings as involved as revamping a bottom bracket, repacking a hub, or replacing a broken cotter-pin that won’t come out unless it’s first heated up with a torch (just for example). The point is to empower you to be able to repair, to maintain, and even to build your own bike — useful skills all, both before and after the hypothetical onset of a post-carbon world.

As The Bike Project’s mission converges with UIUC’s plans for sustainability and transportation, the University and The Bike Project have recently collaborated to open another shop on campus: the Campus Bike Project. In a garage bay space donated by the Illinois State Geological Survey and the Illinois Natural History Survey — a space made usable by a $30,000 grant from the UIUC Student Sustainability Committee — the Campus Bike Project offers another space in which co-op members can learn to work on their own bikes. The Bike Project even offers a special student membership rate.

Here, some disclosure: I volunteer at the U-C IMC Bike Project shop and also at the new Campus Bike Project. Joel, manager of the Campus Bike Project, is an editor here at Smile Politely and my fantasy baseball team is beating his fantasy baseball team 6-4 this week (even though I wasted draft picks on terrible Cubs players Ryan Dempster and Alfonso Soriano.)

The Campus Bike Project is located in the southwest corner of the Natural Resources Garage. The garage is between Sixth St. and Goodwin Ave. on Pennsylvania; it’s between the Stock Pavilion and the Law Building, and it’s directly south of the Natural Resources Building. And across from a cemetery!

The Campus Bike Project is open Sundays from 5-9 p.m., Mondays from 8 a.m. until noon, Tuesdays from 6-9 p.m., and Fridays from noon to 5 p.m.

And don’t worry about all that oil crash stuff: we’re sure to have enough miscanthus to keep on keepin’ on. Cycling, though, helps you keep in shape and I promise it will make you happier than driving.

Photos courtesy of Illinois Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability.

Want more Campus Bike Project coverage? Check out Kelly’s interview with Joel on Smile Politely Podcast #1.

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