Neutral Cycle is not your average bike shop. They pride themselves on their commitment to people and the community, using bicycles as a tool to connect with others. Neutral Cycle has taken initiative in Champaign-Urbana, participating in various projects designed to spread bicycle awareness and benefit the community. What owners Tim Chao and Daniel Kamberlis started three years ago as one store in Urbana has expanded to a shop on campus, as well as the new Neutral Design Studio.
Chao believes many issues can be solved through bicycling, including spending time with a friend to strength your relationship, exercising for your health, and even revitalizing the town by encouraging people to bike to local shops and businesses.
“What our mission is is to look at the bigger picture. We don’t see ourselves as just in the bicycle business, we are in the transportation business. We use bicycles as a medium to be able to connect more people. We believe that we can solve a lot of problems happening in society,” said Chao.
Neutral Cycle has been involved in various projects aimed at helping the community, including multiple bicycle classes, CU Bike to Work Day, a mural in downtown Urbana- even a CU Bike Polo Tournament. They have often collaborated with other organizations in Champaign-Urbana, including Champaign County Bikes, The Bike Project, and the C-U Safe Routes to School Project, to name a few.
Another recent venture is the Neutral Design Studio, a place for Neutral to collaborate with designers and artists to develop creative projects. It is located on South Gregory Street, close to campus.
“[The Design Studio started because] we are very creative people. We can’t just do one thing. We have a hunger to learn, and we really love art and engineering, and how to combine those two. We really started from product design, and started our own product, and learned the manufacturing process…we’re designing bikes, accessories, and a doing lot of branding work with video and photography,” said Chao.
The next upcoming event Neutral Cycle is participating is the second installment of the Urbanalove Movie Night Series, taking place this Saturday, June 13. Urbanalove is an organization that focuses on discovering and creating events to celebrate Urbana’s culture and get people together. Neutral Cycle is a part sponsor of Summer Movie Night, which features a different film outside once a month for anyone in the community to attend for free. There will also be activities and live music by The Chemicals at 7p.m., before the 8:15p.m. screening of a few short videos followed by The Royal Tenenbaums film, located at 129 N. Race St. in Urbana.
“During the movie we have “trailer time”; A few short videos made by local organizations that have a message to send out, or local artists that show their work…to let people know what is up in Urbana,” said Chao.
Before the movie bikers have a chance to meet up at 5:30p.m. at Neutral Cycle on campus (624 S. Fifth St. Champaign) for a quick bicycle ride that will lead you right to the event.
Another new program Neutral Cycle has in the works could make having a bike on campus a lot more convenient for students.
“For next summer and also next school year we’re starting something called the Chambana Bike Program. People will be able to come in, and then they can participate in the program to rent a good quality bicycle for a whole semester. All the repairs and everything will be on us. So they don’t have to worry about repairs…They’d be able to come into the shop, sign up for the program, get the bike, and be hassle-free for the rest of the semester.”
A pilot for the program is in the works right now, although in the future renters will be able to choose a bike online before picking it up in store.
Neutral Cycle also provides short-term bike rentals, perfect for visitors that might want to experience the choice mode of getting around in Champaign-Urbana. A variety of bikes are offered, including a tandem bike (perfect for mom’s weekend).
“It’s really fun, especially on the weekend for friends that come down or when family comes to visit,” said Chao.