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Pushing Pedals

MSU Bikes workbench

Pushing Pedals

For nearly two decades, MSU Bikes has encouraged the campus community to enjoy the ride.

In early 2003, Gus Gosselin, then director of building services for infrastructure planning and facilities, and Terry Link, former director of the Office of Sustainability, came up with a simple idea to encourage bicycling on campus: repair impounded bikes and loan them out to faculty and staff.

The pair gathered a handful of volunteers—who provided their own tools—and set up shop under an overhang outside a south campus warehouse. Support and demand have grown, and MSU Bikes has since graduated to a full-service shop and repair center located on the north side of the Red Cedar River Trail at the base of Bessey Hall.

Back in ’03, Tim Potter was one of those original volunteers. Today, he is MSU’s sustainable transportation manager and runs the MSU Bikes Service Center. “The mission of MSU Bikes is to help people discover the joys of bicycling—and that’s what we do every day,” says Potter.MSU Bikes workbench

Potter, who attended MSU in the early ’80s, has been advocating the benefits of bike-riding to the community for years. “The wonderful thing that bikes provide people on campus, or in any large community, is it makes a big place so much smaller,” he says. “Plus, it’s a great way to connect with the environment and just enjoy your commute.”

In 2021, MSU was designated a gold-level Bike Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists. Only 31 universities in the U.S. have received the distinction, and Michigan State is the first gold-level higher education institution in Michigan.

“The gold ranking puts us in some pretty rarefied company,” says Aubrey Hoermann, service manager at MSU Bikes. “In the time that I’ve been here, I have seen the bike infrastructure really improve—as well as just the number of people that are out there on bikes.”

The university is attentive to those rising numbers and has been working to accommodate bicyclists for over 20 years. “Right now, on campus, over 70% of our roads have proper bike lanes,” says Potter.

MSU Bikes Storefront
Now located along the Red Cedar River Trail at the base of Bessey Hall, MSU Bikes has grown from a handful of volunteers in 2003, into today’s full-service shop and repair center.
Mechanic servicing a bicycle
Mechanic Can Sandiraz works on a refurbished rental bicycle.
Bike with hang tag
MSU Bikes offers rentals by the day, week, month, semester or academic year and also carries a wide array of new bikes for purchase.
Mechanic working on bicycle handlebars
Beck Pickard at work in the service center. MSU Bikes offers service to the entire community and accept donations of bikes and accessories in any condition.
Cabinet of bike parts
Missing a piece? With parts and accessories spanning decades, chances are MSU Bikes has a replacement on hand.
Tim Potter
Sustainable Transportation Manager Tim Potter in the MSU Bikes Service Center.
MSU Bikes Crew with Assenmachers
From left: Service Manager Aubrey Hoermann, Sustainable Transportation Manager Tim Potter, Barbara and Matt Assenmacher, Mechanics Can Sandiraz and Beck Pickard in front of MSU Bikes.

But aside from infrastructure and safety updates, Potter doesn’t foresee a whole lot of changes ahead. “The general shape and function and mechanics of a bike have not changed much over 200 years. I think people like the simplicity,” he says. “But who knows, maybe we’ll get some e-bikes in here someday.”

 

THE GIFT OF GEAR

In 2023, after nearly 50 years of supporting the Flint-area bicycle scene through his shop, Assenmacher Bicycle Company, Matt Assenmacher made the decision to retire. But when he sold the store, Matt and his wife, Barbara, were left with a sizable number of spare parts and accessories.

Matt knew just who to call.

“I asked Tim Potter and if he would be interested in these parts, and he said absolutely,” says Assenmacher.

The gift-in-kind includes new stock parts, as well as pieces for older bicycles, which the team at MSU Bikes relishes. “It’s a treasure trove of items that some consider obsolete,” says Hoermann. “But sometimes those little gems are just what it takes to get back on the road.”

From left, Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. with Matt and Barbara Assenmacher,
Director of Development Kristen McGrath and Tim Potter at Cowles House.

Potter says the gift provides enough parts and items to help MSU Bikes for a decade or more. That hits home on many levels. “This gift really mirrors what we do here,” he says. “It was a huge boon, emotionally, to know that someone was interested in helping our little operation.”

As for Assenmacher, he’s pleased the parts will go to good use. “I just hope it helps a lot of people,” he says. “I know it will because it’s in the right hands.”

 

 

Author: Tim Cerullo, '08

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