Winning the Huffy Toss isn’t about strength; it’s about technique.
“The trick is to throw the bike in such a way that it bounces end-over-end,” says New College Bike Shoppe Manager Michael Getz. He’s describing the shop’s aptly named and recently revived competition, in which students battle to throw a gold-painted Huffy bicycle the farthest.
“With that weight, you’ve got to make sure it bounces,” says Getz.
In his second year as manager of the Bike Shoppe, the college’s longest-run student organization, Getz has his hands in more than just bike repairs. Playing host to a variety of events, including thrash-metal concerts, cookouts and the aforementioned quasi-Olympian contest, the shop is a social hub for many students. But, Getz says at the root of its quirky personality, the main focus has always been fixing bikes — and teaching others to do the same.
Sitting on a couch outside the small shop, surrounded by dozens of bicycles and stacks of parts, Getz watches as students and volunteers shuffle up to the garage to work, seek help or just hang out.
He explains that a few students with an affinity for bikes and, more importantly, access to tools, established the shop in 1990, and it’s been a campus fixture ever since. It offers students free bicycle repairs, parts at wholesale price, and with its full set of tools and knowledgeable staff of mechanics, the shop is the perfect place to learn the ins and outs of bicycle repair.
“The general philosophy behind the shop is self-reliance,” says Getz. “It’s important to be competent with the things you interact with on a daily basis.”
According to Getz, the shop’s mission is to eliminate the typical customer-mechanic relationship by performing all repairs in full view of the bike owner and encouraging him or her to participate. Eventually, the hope is that the owner is comfortable enough to do the work unassisted.
Raised in a family of bike enthusiasts, Getz grew up learning to maintain and repair his family’s bikes to avoid trips to the shop. Once word got out in his neighborhood that he knew his way around a bike, Getz began repairing friends’ bikes in his garage.
When he got to New College, he quickly found a home in the student-run bike shop, and he related to the recycle-everything mentality of the volunteer mechanics.
“I have a love for bikes, both as a form of transportation and as an object of art,” he says. “The other mechanics share that appreciation, and that’s a really strong thing to connect over.”
Getz runs the shop as manager, with the help of three other mechanics. With a full set of Park tools and access to metalworking equipment, the students are capable of just about any repair or custom project, but he says the majority of their requests are routine and maintenance-related.
For Getz and the other mechanics, the shop also provides relief from the school’s heavy workload. The nighttime shifts offer a much-needed escape from the “thesis cave,” and when nights are slow, he and his coworkers relax and socialize.
When Getz graduates, he’ll hand the managerial position down to another student, the same way it was passed down to him, and the shop’s mentality will live on.
In a time when convenience is king, and it’s often cheaper to replace than repair, he says the biggest payoff comes when a new customer returns and insists on attempting to fix a bike without assistance.
“Bikes aren’t like cars,” he says. “All the mechanics are in plain sight, but it’s interesting how little the average person knows about how they work. It’s really satisfying to see people take the initiative to learn for themselves — it’s all I can really ask.”