Drew Hagen is a mechanic and salesperson for the new Champaign Cycle store in Urbana, Illinois, which opened in March. I was with a group of people who dropped by the shop during the ride before the Illinois Bike Summit in April. I talked to Drew about business, cottered cranks, his career path and his favorite bicycle.
First, business is good. “We are very much busy right now. Right now, we have an average of filling up the entire day of work orders the day before. And we’re completing them, so we’re staying at pace of the maximum capacity we can do right now, and it’s really a good feeling.
“Not everyone can work here. We have a bit of a squirrel catcher. We like to nickname it the Mensa test. We have a 100-question test that we go through that has 50 questions on engineering and general mechanical knowledge, but then also we have 50 questions on general bike knowledge like, for example, how do you extract and drive a cottered crank.”
A member of the better hammer club. “I knew because I used to have an old Fuji and had to pound those damn cottered cranks back in and knew exactly how to do that.
“Three days after I started, I was the only person who knew how to do a cottered crank in the shop because somebody brought one in, and I was like, no, no, not ball peen, you gotta get a claw hammer because you have to strike that thing like a nail. Everyone looks at me like I’m crazy, and I’m like no, no, really–look it up on Sheldon Brown.”
Those kept from teaching, wrench. “I’ve always done bikes. I’ve been biking since I was five years old. I used to race. I’ve done my own mechanicking my whole life. Right now, I’m actually mostly a cycling advocate. Mostly I do mountain biking and commuting. I’m also the trail work coordinator for Kickapoo Mountain Bike Club and do a lot of organization for them as well.
“I’ve worked for Peter [Davis] a little over two years now. Before this I did service of various different kinds, but I went back to school to become an elementary school teacher. In 2010 I was certified, and I hit the market the same time that Illinois let go of 15,500 teachers.”
“My favorite bike? Oh, you know my favorite bike is the person’s first bike because people come in here and they say, ‘I’ve fallen in love with cycling–I want to ride.’ And we find what they need.
“And when you find a bike that fits and they go out and they try it, and ‘this isn’t what I’m thinking of,’ and they try another bike. It fits but they’re still riding around, ‘eh.’ Then they get on the bike that fits their needs and desires, and they come back and their face is glowing.
“That’s one of the things that people have difficult time faking–when they come back grinning ear to ear. That’s the bike, their first best bike.”
Champaign Cycle opened in the late 1960s. Owner Peter Davis began importing Sekai bicycles in 1975 and acquired the Trek franchise in 1979. At least three employees became engineers for Trek. I worked for Peter in the late 1980s and still have a Trek 2300 with the store’s sticker on the seat tube. It looks a little different these days, but don’t we all.