Environmental Almanac

Campus Bike Center helps students keep rolling

For cyclists looking for a tune-up, a visit to the Campus Bike Center might be in order.
Two students stand working on bikes held up on workstands.

Staff member and student working. Jeremiah Napper

This week Environmental Almanac concludes its series featuring students from the School of Earth, Society, and Environment who are developing their skills to communicate about environmental topics.

Lauren: The University of Illinois’ campus always appears to come back to life in the Spring after hibernating in the winter, reminding students that there actually are tens of thousands of other students attending school with them. It is during this time that the buses become significantly less crowded, and students can finally bike to class again.  

The benefits to biking are numerous and well known, including exercising, reducing emissions from driving, and for the simple enjoyment of getting fresh air. But for a college student, buying and maintaining a bike is not always possible on a college budget. At stores like Sports Authority or even Target, prices for a quality bike can easily exceed $200 and go as high as $400. Luckily, the University provides an alternative for students and community members alike to purchase and maintain bikes at prices they can afford. After a frigid winter, there’s no better place to help you get back on the bike trails, and make sure your bike is in top condition for riding, than at the Campus Bike Center.

Kate: Located at 608 E. Pennsylvania Avenue, the Bike Center sits at the southernmost part of campus tucked behind the Natural Resources Building. It's easy to miss in the winter, on beautiful spring days it opens up its doors and windows, allowing passersby to see and hear what’s happening inside. There are dozens of refurbished bikes available to buy in a range of prices, but averaging is just over $100. Once you’ve purchased a bike, the Center offers services to help you keep that bike in good condition and teach you how to take care of it yourself.

And there is always plenty of work to do. America Guerra, a freshman at the University, started coming to the center three years ago to fix her own bike. Eventually,started volunteering there, and is now a staff member. She explained the most common fixes students need help with. “Most common is just maintenance work, so ABCs is an easy way to remember that: air, brakes, and chain.”  

While those are the routine fixes, the shop is equipped to handle a much wider range of bike needs. A junior in aerospace engineering, Alex Jing was visiting the bike shop for the first time to fix the wheel hubs on his bike, while a student next to him was greasing the fork crown on her bike.

Karn: Once the bikes are fixed, students often linger at the center. Attracting a wide range of students, the Center has created its own welcoming community. As America describes it, “This used to be solely a work space, and little by little I’ve seen it turn into a social hangout space. So friends will come here and just hang out here… and I hope to see more of that in the future.” Hopefully, the community will grow as the need for the bike center increases.  

The University has recently revamped a bike share initiative in collaboration with CUMTD, the City of Urbana, and the City of Champaign. This program allows students to pick up and drop off bikes around campus using smartphones. As students share in the convenience of having a bike, they also share the maintenance of it, and that’s where the Center steps in. So the next time you get a flat tire or need to grease your squeaky brakes, I hope to see you at the Campus Bike Center.