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Keeping Campus Rolling Along

Linda Cicero

UP TO SPEED? Shop manager Christian Parker checks out a new bike.

When he started working at the Campus Bike Shop 25 years ago, Keith Moranz was riding a clunky blue two-speed Schwinn with kick-back brakes. Not much of an image.

But within a couple of years, Moranz had shelled out $150 for a real looker—a royal blue Nishiki International with 12 gears. And he’d also bought the shop.

As he prepares for the annual fall quarter onslaught, Moranz is counting the number of seat posts and forks on order, and spiffing up the display of saddles, pumps, brake cables, horns, foam grips, bar ends and streamers in the “showroom,” where tires and wheels adorn the ceiling. “We get bombarded for three days straight,” he says. “And 80 percent of buyers are frosh.”

On a campus with more than 12,000 bicycles, Moranz keeps adding to the stock. He buys several hundred entry-level mountain bikes at the start of each summer and rents them out to participants in programs at the Graduate School of Business and the Haas Center, among others. Come fall, he sells the slightly used bikes to incoming students for around $200. (The shop also carries new bicycles.)

Once the busyness of the first week of classes has passed, Moranz and his four mechanics can return to the year-round job of servicing hundreds of bikes. Most can be diagnosed and treated in a day. Common problems? “Students’ bikes tend to sit outside and get wet, either from rain or sprinklers, and if they don’t keep them lubricated, they start rusting and then deteriorate.”

For fix-it students who want to do their own basic repair work, Moranz hangs tools on a big whiteboard just outside the front door: headset tools for adjusting handlebars, Allen or hex wrenches for fittings on brakes, and crank pullers to lift the arms off pedals.

A minor tune-up, or “check-over and oil,” as it’s known around the shop, runs about $35 ($50 for bikes in worse-than-ordinary shape). The aging three-speed Raleighs and Phillips with the frayed front baskets belong to faculty and staff, and get tender reconditioning from Moranz, who can tell you all about the factory in Nottingham, England, where they were built.

And if you want to see him really light up, ask him about the day his dad took him to the local bike store in Des Plaines, Ill., to buy his first Schwinn.

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