The Champaign-Urbana bike community will be losing a great resource and advocate in a couple of weeks, when Champaign Cycle manager Scot McCollum moves to La Crosse, Wisconsin. In addition to running the best bike shop in the area, McCollum has been active in the Prairie Cycle Club and played an integral role in getting the Bike Project co-op off the ground. He’s moving to La Crosse with his wife, Carrie Melin, who accepted a position at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse teaching English as a second language.
McCollum has a long history in the bike business, including more than 12 years working for Trek in Waterloo, Wisconsin. His family moved away from Champaign-Urbana when he was one, and he’s “lived all over Illinois, except for Chicagoland.”
After earning a degree from Southern Illinois in Industrial Design, he started with Trek in their quality department, before moving to engineering. “I was in charge of the workability of all US-built bicycles,” he noted. “In the design phase, when the product manager wants to put these components on this model bike, I would figure out if anything is incompatible with the frame or if there were an size differences that would cause a problem. I checked bills of material for accuracy, down to the number of water bottle screws or how much cable housing was needed. You don’t want five million extra feet at the end of the year, and you definitely don’t want to run out. So I figured out the cable housing lengths, across all models and sizes. In the design phase, I worked with the frame engineers to make changes in frame design, and I worked with the component manufacturers.”
There were certain perks to the job, McCollum recalled. “I never had a shortage of bikes to ride,” he recalled. “I built up one of each size of each model of bike sold in the US, so it wasn’t really important to buy the latest of everything.”
After Trek went through a large personnel turnover, McCollum was ready for a change. His grandmother needed some assistance, and “that’s how Champaign-Urbana got me” in November 2002.
Barry Isralewitz of the Bike Project remembers McCollum’s help at the beginning. “Scot has been key to the Bike Project from the first day,” Isralewitz said. “I have photographs of Scot donating and loaning the very first tools to the Bike Project.” McCollum says, “I’m a tool junkie. The first tools for the Bike Project were loaned by Jeff Bertolet, and then I saw I had triplicates of things and I donated them on the condition that they had to make it work, and they have.”
McCollum has continued to support the Bike Project, passing along bikes that are left at Champaign Cycle and providing little things, like surplus derailleur cables. “If I can get more people on bikes that make them want to ride, then that’s worth doing,” he said.
He’s also built up a loyal customer base at Champaign Cycle. “We get so much repair work that we’re two weeks out” for repairs just on bikes that his shop has sold, he said as we talked in his “office,” a workbench in the middle of the bustling business.
In the end, the lure of geographical variety is just too much for McCollum. While he appreciates “what a great agricultural resource east-central Illinois is,” McCollum is ready for some interesting riding again. “I’m looking forward to hills, curvy roads, and being closer to bodies of water that are not borrow pits.”
As for his non-bike riding plans when he gets to La Crosse, McCollum is keeping his options open. “I’m not positive yet,” he said. “A shop offered a similar position to the one I have in this store. There’s something else that’s a possibility, and I can’t talk about it yet, but it’s bigger and akin to what I’ve done in the past.”
Thanks so much to Scot for everything he’s done in the bike community and C-U as a whole. He will be missed.