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Hi Gabe. Thanks for taking time to speak with us. Let’s tell the people where they can find you. Where is the Cycle Learning Center located?
The Cycle Learning Center bike shop is located in Boise, Idaho in the center of campus at Boise State University.
When did the Cycle Learning Center open their doors for business?
The CLC started out as a workshop for daily riders to get tubes and lube in 2002. Over the years it's been transformed into a full-fledged bicycle retailer and service shop and now operates as complete bike facility for the university and public.
"Cycle Learning Center" has a different ring to it than most bike shops. What was the inspiration for the name?
It stems from our mission to be a place where folks can walk in and learn something in order to increase their self-sufficiency with bike repair. We want all the students at Boise State to graduate with the knowledge of fixing flat tires, keeping a lubed chain, and basic maintenance they can do themselves. The Cycle Learning Center aims to be a bike shop where customers aren't shunned for asking stupid questions and feel safe to learn the basics without the barriers of intimidation.
What about other businesses or organizations? Is there anyone you’ve had the opportunity to partner with to help increase the visibility of the cycling community in your area?
We are big fans of the Boise Bicycle Project and help out with some of their revolutionary events like Tour de Fat, Boise Goathead Fest, and the Christmas Kids Bike Giveaway. We partner with Safe Routes to School and summer camps to help teach kids safe riding skills and rules of the road.
Tour de Fat is one of our favorite events too! What else do you like about your location and community?
Being on a college campus allows us to build bike stoke for young folks and build a culture of riding bikes everywhere, everyday. Bikes make the people around us happy and gives us meaning in our work.
Looking beyond the university a bit, what makes Boise great area for cycling?
Boise is a flat city with a vehicle-free Greenbelt that gives us 50 miles of riverside riding. Street riding is a blast too since the Idaho Stop Law gives riders the right to use stop signs as yields, and red lights as stop signs. This law takes the chop out of city riding, but so does the relatively light traffic here.
Okay, back to the shop. What is the Cycle Learning Center’s story?
The CLC was started by students in the Outdoor Program who wanted to provide a workshop for other students to repair and maintain their bikes. People started to want more from the shop and eventually the demand evolved into a business plan to create a shop with basic parts, accessories, and services. Key people at the university worked with Parking and Transportation and Campus Recreation to forge a partnership that would financially support the bike shop. At this same time a new parking garage was being planned for construction with the street level being built for office suites. Good fate and promises of free flat fixes helped put us in a corner suite lined with windows. The shop was built with a four station workshop in the back and retail space in the front. It's a prime location with large sidewalk space to display bikes outside, a public repair station, and a perfect meet up point for rides.
That is certainly unique. Tell us more about that. How does your affiliation with Boise State set you apart from other bike shops?
Having a state run bike shop is a unique thing. There is no owner, and the coordinator has to work within the processes of the institution. Lines can get a little blurry since the school wasn't necessarily designed to run a bike shop, but we make things work out! Since the CLC is owned by the university, Boise State employs one full time staff member to run the shop, and a part-time crew of student mechanics. There have been about four different Coordinators, each who have developed the shop and contributed to significant levels of growth. The shop itself is a learning institution and a place for college students to build a skill set they can use in the real world. Even though the CLC is financially self-sufficient it is backed by the university, which means that revenue isn't the bottom line. Instead of worrying about prices we can focus more on educating customers on life skills, like fixing flats and general maintenance.
Alright, let’s get some quick ‘pro’ advice in. What’s your favorite product you stock? What is that one thing every cyclist should have?
Nice, bright USB rechargeable lights! Being visible is a must on the streets to stay safe.
While we’re at it...Tell us about yourself. What go you into cycling?
The taste of freedom made me passionate to ride my bike from a young age. Riding bikes has been a daily need ever since I set a goal to pedal to school every day of the year. At the time I was in 6th grade and lived in Maine. Yep, the winter was rough, but it inspired me to bolt my own custom made studded tires! I eventually connected with riders at local shops and got into the mountain bike race series (remember NORBA?!) -- from there on I was hooked on riding in the woods, racing, and adventuring on bikes. I started working in a shop at 13 years old and have been in the game as a mechanic, guide, or educator ever since.
That’s a great story. Let’s go back even further though. What was your first bike?
My first bike was a red BMX Freestyle with white tires and checkered bad covers. I got it from Maine Sport Outfitters in my hometown when I was about seven. I learned from that bike that tires don't last long when you skid on them all the time. That bike inspired me to seek the freedom of biking in every possible moment.
How did you become involved with the shop?
I was transitioning from a seasonal lifestyle into something more stable and professional. My now wife was moving to Boise for her career, and I was looking for a new job as well. When I saw the job opening here, I knew it was created exactly for me.
When did you start carrying State Bicycle Co. and why?
We began carrying State because we were seeking a durable and affordable brand that would appeal to college students. Dean G., a former student employee suggested we carry State because it was his go-to company since he was 13, and he really believed in their brand and what they were doing. Boy, was he right, State has been a perfect fit for what we were seeking!
Thanks Gabe! We’d have to agree about State Bicycle Co. and Cycle Learning Center being a perfect fit. We’ve been working together for a while now, what are some of the shop’s favorite State Bicycle Co. products?
My favorite model is currently the Black Label line. Several of our employees are currently loving theirs. They look and ride so good, especially for the price point! I also love the single speed Pulsar -- though it's a bruiser to climb on trails we still love the punishment.
What is your favorite thing about State Bicycle Co. customers?
They are pleased. Owners of State bikes are proud of their sturdy steed and realize that their purchase changed their lives. Yesterday a student told me about how much money and time he saves now that he has a fast and reliable bike to get him to work and classes. Before he was relying on Uber and bus schedules. He certainly feels liberated with his bike!
That’s really great Gabe! Though that student seems to be far from the only one that your shop has helped to inspire to ride more. Tell us about your 10K Commuter Club.
Our 10K Commuter Club was created to inspire commuters all over Boise to take a more renewable and healthy form of transportation to work everyday. Collectively our approximately 65 members have ridden over 215,000 miles just in their daily commutes. Aside from the acclaim, we offer seasonal discounts and sales to our members, as well as free tunes and repairs at 1,000 mile marks.
It seems others are recognizing the great things you’re doing at the Cycle Learning Center. We saw you were awarded a Platinum Bicycle Friendly Business designation from The League of American Cyclists. What does that mean to you, your shop, and your community?
The League of American Cyclists has done a phenomenal job defining standards of being "bicycle friendly". It guides groups in making the world a better place to ride bikes, and we wanted to do just that. As part of Boise's effort to be the bicycle capitol of the US, we have joined many other local organizations in doing our part to meet the best practices of bicycle infrastructure, education, encouragement and more. Boise State University is one of 20 gold Bicycle Friendly Universities, and the CLC is one of two platinum Bicycle Friendly Business in the state of Idaho! Working diligently with multiple groups and departments around campus and in the city builds our bike community's strength and vision, as well as creates support to tackle big projects. Bicycle Friendly designations are a big deal around here; they show an organization's commitment to a safe and functioning bike world which serves all of us who want to use bikes as our main mode of transportation.
Do you host any rides, or how do you connect with the local cycling community?
We host a variety of seasonal rides. Our most popular ride is our mountain bike group ride: Mountain Mondays, which are weekly trail rides on local singletrack in our vast trail system that starts just 1 mile from town. We also offer beginner mountain bike rides to teach newbies basic bike handling skills. Recently added is a Fixed-Gear and Single Speed ride every first and third Thursday of the month to engage our growing population of fixed gear riders.
Thanks for taking some time to speak with us, Gabe. We appreciate it, as we do everything that you do for the State Bicycle Co. brand.
Whether you're new on campus and in search of a bicycle for your commute as a student, or whether you're interested in becoming a more self-sufficient cyclist, stop by the Cycle Learning Center on the Boise State campus!