The Duke of bikes

Duke Schimmer

photo by dane stivers

As students shuffled across the Chico State campus in the scorching heat, bike mechanic Duke Schimmer, a semi-professional road biker from Santa Rosa, stood coolly under the shade of a red tent just outside the Bell Memorial Union, chatting with a few of his buddies. For the past nine years the tent has served as a bicycle-repair shop known as the “bike cart,” helping cash-strapped students maintain their rides. With a vast supply of parts and wheels, Schimmer and the other mechanics set up on campus each Monday through Thursday, from 12-4 p.m., during good-weather months. Last year, the popular fix-it station opened a shop at 4th and Cherry streets to serve as an extension of the cart (open Monday-Thursday from 2-6 p.m.). Services range in price from roughly $7 to $30. Call 898-3202 for more info.

What services do you provide?

We have a fairly large selection of used parts, so if something’s broken on your bike, then instead of paying full retail price for a brand-new part, come to the bike cart, and there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll have a used part that will work for you.

How do people respond to your work at the bike cart?

It’s been a positive response. I’ve had a lot of people come up to us when we’re working and they’ll say, “It’s so awesome for you guys to be providing this service.” And it’s so convenient for students with us right here on campus or in the shop downtown. A lot of shops, when they do really good work, they definitely charge a premium price. We’re able to get people on the road and running for a lot less money.

Do you see foresee changes with the bike cart?

I see future expansion. I know other campuses have a very similar program, like on-campus actual bike shops, where they not only have services, but they also sell bike accessories, sometimes even sell bikes. If you’re a student and you’re looking for a bike, you might as well come to a spot right on campus. That’s super convenient for students. It offers really good retail opportunities for the school as well.

What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had at the bike cart?

I’d say probably just the interaction at the cart … all the employees, everybody’s just super awesome; we make really good friendships at the cart. We don’t just work together, we hang out together on the weekends. It’s not just like, “Oh, these are some good dudes that I work with.”