This summer, University Communication & Marketing is getting outside, and hitting the road with its newest series: "Adventure Abound at UNM." We will explore the Outdoor Adventure Center, a unique UNM amenity with biking, getaways, classes, and challenges. Join UCAM as we team up in a four-part series with the not-always-well-known UNM center. It’s all part of UNM’s 2040 sustainability goals– to embrace wellness, the environment, and all the fun you can have with both.
Mountains, trails and arenas of sand and dirt–New Mexico has a whole realm of outdoor activities that welcome a person on two wheels.
Still, before you put your feet on the pedals, and slap on a helmet, there’s so much to understand about the thing we learned to ride without training wheels. That’s where the Lobo Bike Shop comes in.
“It's been around for a long time. It's gone through different iterations. I think right now we're at our highest peak of quality and knowledge in the shop,” Outdoor Adventure Center (OAC) Operations Specialist Charles Gwinn said. “We put out really quality products and stand by our work. I think that one of the things that makes us a little bit different is that we also like to guarantee all our service.”
Gwinn is the go-to guy for anything related to the OAC. He’s also an expert bike mechanic, something he’s able to showcase at the Lobo Bike Shop. This 40-year institution is all thanks to UNM Recreational Services Director Jim Todd (JT.)
“JT has plenty of bikes that I still see fairly regularly. He was passionate at the time and really pushed for it and saw the need, and it turns out he was right,” Gwinn said.
In 1987, he wanted the bike shop to be a part of what the OAC is now– a successful mission that has only grown since then.
On paper, the Lobo Bike Shop, housed inside the OAC, is a place to make sure your tires are pumped, or to stop that annoying squeaking sound with your breaks. Upon further inspection, however, it’s much more than that.
“We have great pricing, professional service and we're timely. We'll have you walk us through what they're hearing and then diagnose it right there and then. If it's something small and there are just adjustments, we'll go ahead and walk them through it,” Gwinn said.
When it comes to the tiniest or biggest issue with your bike–things most people don’t even notice–the workers at the bike shop are ten steps ahead.
“My passion for biking has come a long way. I have 20 years of experience. My staff has been with the program for up to six years and we get thousands of bikes every year that come through our shop,” Gwinn said.
It’s also not about just solving a problem. Gwinn says the team is also more than thrilled to enhance your riding experience or refurbish something from the past.
“We get a gradient of everybody from the new bike person, the occasional person that is just learning to ride a bike for the first time, all the way up to elite athletes. No matter if you have a $12,000 mountain bike or a garage find, you can bring it in,” he said.
The kicker is that it’s also incredibly affordable.
“Pricing is half of what an outside bike shop is going to be and we're only available to the UNM community,” Gwinn said. “I think that's one of the things that I really enjoy about that part of the customer interaction–when something surprises them because it's so fast or keeps the budget for them underneath what it needs to be, and it’s quality work.”
We’re barely through the halfway point of the Lobo Bike Shop hike, however. The other special component Gwinn and his hard-working bike squad offer is an invite to the band: an understanding.
“I think that that's one of the things that makes us unique versus other shops. We do the educational piece. We do have the time to walk people that are new to biking through the basics of what bikes are and what is going on,” he said.
On top of understanding your bike piece by piece, there are a number of bike shop-centric learning opportunities.
“I think a lot of people take their bikes for granted. One of the educational pieces that we work with is that bikes are similar to cars in that they need maintenance and annual service or monthly service depending on how much you ride,’ Gwinn said.
There are tune-up clinics, wheel-building workshops, custom bike building, and even water bottle cage construction.
“You can only do so many little changes to it yourself, but when it's time to upgrade or when things are wearing out, that's the time that you can really customize your bike,” Gwinn said. “We’ll start from just a frame and work with them really closely on what kind of riding they like to do, where they go with it. We can build a bike that is really their own.”
It’s okay if none of those course names jump out at you at first. There’s plenty of understanding for first-time bikers.
“During the instructional classes, I'm an informal educator. I like for the students to learn from each other. One of the things we do is we go around each other's bikes and have an anatomy lesson for each bike and how they work,” Gwinn said. “We just want to make sure that they're connecting the dots so that they can help other people after they leave the class. Sometimes it's like a little bit of a firehose of information, so sharing that knowledge is important in addition to helping others learn.”
Gwinn is not only an experienced repairman but a trustworthy teacher. If his talk of the classes isn’t enough to prove that, right now, he is showing a certain toddler the way of the bike.
“We're working on it. The bikes, as he gets a little bit older, come with brakes, and brakes are kind of a new concept versus him using his feet,” he said about his four-year-old.
The bike shop offers the very basics for those who aren’t even sure bike riding is their thing. The Lobo Bike Rental Program does just that. Even for those who are a little more acclimated to bicycles, can rent out a bike on a semester basis.
“We do really quality work, we do it quickly, we're cost-effective and all about the educational side. We’re in the business of getting people back on their bikes as soon as possible and teaching people how to keep their bike in great shape for seasons to come.” – Charles Gwinn
“We take classic bikes from the ’80s and ’90s. We refurbish and then we rent those out on a semester on a semester basis to students, staff, faculty, that kind of thing for the semester,” Gwinn said.
It includes service changes, tubes and a helmet, for an entire semester. It also helped inspire the new 5k Commuter Club–an everlasting, sustainable program meant to get people outdoors. That encourages UNM students, faculty and staff to eventually bike 5,174 miles–UNM’s elevation.
“One of my favorite things about biking is transportation, getting you from A to B in a manner that is not in a car,” Gwinn said. “The university area in general is really bikeable. There are so many good bike paths that come in towards the university, it makes commuting a breeze.”
That’s another special thing the Lobo Bike Shop has–access to a wide array of New Mexico bike trails. With dozens of special monuments, parks and mountain clusters right around the corner, the excuses to avoid the outdoors grow a tad smaller.
“We have these amazing, high-class venues for downhill mountain biking that a lot of other places around the country just don't have. I feel so fortunate that our population here is so low that you can get out and away whenever you want. New Mexico is a great spot to try out any type of biking,” Gwinn said. “If you don’t want to take it on yourself, our Getaway Adventures Program offers bike outings every semester, including local rides, bike-packing, and mountain biking. We provide all the equipment.”
No matter if you’re window shopping, in need of a repair, or in need of a bike-inspired expedition, the Lobo Bike Shop has you covered.
“The goal is providing really quality service at a reasonable price to keep students, staff and faculty on their bikes,” Gwinn said. “It should be listed as one of the benefits that we get here at UNM. That’s how good of a value it is.”