Different Spokes for Different Folks

Despite winter weather, bicycling enthusiasts show up for bike swap.

December weather means a lot of things in Milwaukee, things like snow, ice, shovels, salt, slick roads and stuck cars.

Bicycles might not come to mind, but before the UWM Union Ballroom doors opened at 10 a.m. one recent Sunday morning for the second annual Milwaukee Bike Swap, the line of bike enthusiasts waiting to get in stretched to the food court.

“They have a bike swap in the middle of winter, in a lot of locations, so you can build up bikes and parts and you can dream about what you're going to do in the spring when the weather gets nice,” said Don Zawadiwsky, a part-time bike builder from West Allis.

“Now, if you ride through the winter, different story. Now you're looking for stuff for a beater bike,” Zawadiwsky said. He also said he doesn't make much money building bikes, but does it for the love of the sport.

“My office is my back yard, and my test track is the alley,” said Zawadiwsky.

Business and Bikes

The Bike Swap is a joint fundraiser for the Wisconsin Bike Federation, the UWM Cycling Club, and the Milwaukee Junior Cycling Team.

“Being a student organization, we could get the Union for free...so that helps our profit margin quite a bit,” said Mike Verhagen of the UWM Cycling Club. “We split whatever we make.”

Admission was $5 for nonstudents or $3 with a UWM student ID, and tables rented for $125 for retailers or $40 for nonprofits or individuals.

“We've doubled the size of the event this year,” said Verhagen. “Last year we had 40 vendors. This year we have, I think, 75.” More than 200 people paid to attend this year's swap.

Different Strokes for Different Spokes

Bikes for sale ranged in price from $100 for a vintage Schwinn 16-inch with a banana seat to over $2000 for high-performance models from Trek, and accessories for sale at other tables included spandex riding outfits, shoes, water bottles, and a slew of bike parts.

Bike Federation Encouragement Manager Shea Schachameyer and seamstress Julie Ruplinger offered pillows, blouses, T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts embroidered and screen printed with pictures of bicycles, as well as framed pieces featuring similar art, at their table. For them, the two-year-old event is already a tradition.

“This is just something fun we do every year,” said Schachameyer.

“What we don't sell here, we can probably sell online, but mostly it's just for fun,” added Ruplinger.

Verhagen says the growth of the Bike Swap mirrors the growth of cycling itself in southeastern Wisconsin.

A Lifestyle Sport

“I think...the whole Lance Armstrong thing has really opened people's eyes to road racing...all the marketing with him...has really brought road racing to interest,” Verhagen said. “If you go and look in the swap meet, almost everything there is for...riding on the road or racing on the road.”

Changing lifestyles are a major factor in cycling's growing popularity, according to Verhagen.

“I think a lot of people are starting to realize that America's so fat,” said Verhagen. “When I race mountain bikes, especially, I'll get beat by guys twice my age...I think it's great, you know? A 60-year-old guy can beat the 22-year-old kids.”

“Not many other sports can that be possible,” he added. “Most 20-year-old kids are going to beat a 60-year-old guy in tennis or something, or basketball...it's a great sport you can do for as long as you live, really.”

Alternative Energy

Verhagen says the economy and the high price of gas also contribute.

“Last summer when gas hit over four dollars a gallon, the bike shops saw a huge surge in bike sales, because people thought, 'Well, I don't need, for short trips, I can go ride my bike,' and really, there's no reason why you shouldn't,” Verhagen said.

“They're like, 'Well, gas is high, I only go two miles to work,' you know, 'I should just pedal and it'll be OK,'” said Verhagen. “I think that's really helped, and I think that's, again, why a lot more people have taken an interest in cycling.”

It's That Time of Year

Of course, December also brings the holiday season, and that's one more reason to have the Bike Swap now.

“Why store something if you can sell it?” said Verhagen. “I actually bought a frame and components for my brother, for a Christmas gift for him.”

“Right before the holidays, after Thanksgiving, people are looking for gifts...maybe it will free up some cash, too,” Verhagen said. “If you can sell some things, you've got money to spend on other things, too. So...why not?”



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