“I’d like to help the next generation of kids
make healthier choices about how they
spend their time,” says Greg.
Greg is senior technician and manager of Cycle Fit, but most customers know him as the face of the bike shop. “I love fixing bikes,” explains Greg, who has been working with brothers John and Peter Weniger, the owners of Cycle Fit, since the store opened in 1992. “Every bike is a different challenge. Every customer is a chance to make someone happy.”
Helping kids – and their parents – find just the right bike is what it’s all about for Greg. “If kids don’t enjoy riding, they won’t do it,” says the father of two boys, age 10 and seven. “They may think they want that $80 Spikerman bike from the department store, but when they find it’s too heavy to handle and no fun to ride, they’ll stop riding.” Greg’s sons ride Trek bikes, which start at about $200. “They each have a mountain bike and a road bike.” Add Greg’s five bikes and his wife’s four bikes and “there’s no room for cars” in their two-car garage in Garnet Valley.
In addition to riding to work nearly every day, Greg, along with Barbara and their boys, spends most Sundays on bike trails in the area – often riding 35 to 50 miles in a day. “My boys are in too good shape,” he admits. “This winter it would have been better if they were a little heavier for ice hockey.”
Greg, who worked his way through Delaware County Community College at Cycle Fit, has helped Swarthmore College students with some unusual bike projects. Last year he and a student built a three-wheeled, gearless, hydrogen-cell bike. Several years ago he helped a student create a bike with a concrete frame. “It really worked. But it was pretty heavy.” And he’s ready to help at any customers who’d like to try building a bamboo bike. “Calfee (calfeedesign.com) sells a cool bamboo kit.”
While most of the 500 to 800 bikes on site are in the $200 to $700 range, Greg has a few specialty bikes, like the futuristic-looking $12,000 Trek racing bike he keeps for an Ironman triathlete from Virginia. “It’s made from carbon fiber, has internal cables, battery-powered electronic gears and weighs less than 20 pounds.”
On a recent Sunday, Greg was helping Zayne Carey, 15, of Swarthmore, find a bike for riding around town. Zayne had grown a few inches since last summer and needed a new bike to get to his job as an SRA summer camp counselor – this year at Notre Dame de Lourdes. Zayne’s dad, Michael, was reflective, “Could we get a cheaper bike somewhere else? Probably. But we like the convenience and service we get here.” Greg had just done a quick spring tune-up for Zayne’s sister’s bike. A full tune-up usually costs about $65.
Vicky Huestis , Swarthmore mother of four, says she has purchased “many, many” bikes at Cycle Fit over the years. “I shop at Cycle Fit because of Greg. He keeps a file on our family so he knows what bikes we have and what we like.” Vicky’s son, Jon, 24, rode in his first Ironman Triathlon in Australia on May 2, taking all his Cycle Fit gear with him.
Over the years Greg has seen customers go through transformations, like the 6’3”, 380-pound guy who came in looking for a bike after his doctor told him he needed to lose weight. Greg recommended he start slow, riding for just 10 or 15 minutes a day, three or four times a week. Two years later the man was biking to work every day. “Now he weighs 200 pounds and looks great,” says Greg.
If Greg had his way, every kid would start riding a “strider” bike by the time he or she was two or three years old. Cycle Fit carries six different strider models – lightweight bikes without pedals. “A two-year-old can lift the six-pound bike over his head.”
And it’s never too late to start biking. With sharrows (those share-the-road arrows painted on the pavement) clearly marking local biking routes, using a bicycle to run errands or get a little exercise is easier than ever.
Greg sells racks, packs and baskets that make biking instead of driving practical. Satchels for computers, bags for groceries, racks for sports equipment – if the weight is distributed evenly over the back tire, toting heavy items is surprisingly easy. The US could save 462 million gallons of gasoline a year by increasing cycling from 1% to 1.5% of all trips. (Go-by-Bike Top-10, reason #10.)
While Greg was being interviewed for this article, a father came in with parts of his son’s bike wheel. “I think I have the wrong tube,” said the dad, holding up a rim, a tire and a floppy tube. “Nope,” said Greg, and within 90 seconds he had assembled the tire and inflated the tube. Greg seemed almost giddy when he handed the wheel back to the surprised father who tried to pay him. “No, just come on back if you need anything else,” Greg offered with a smile, putting another kid is on his way to a lifetime of biking and healthy habits.