A student worker for the Bike Shop works on a bicycle. (Hannah Manning/Connector)
Any students curious about how they can enjoy the great outdoors while getting their education have an exciting new place to call home — and it happens to be closer than they might think.
UMass Lowell’s bike shop and home for all things outdoor recreation moved to a new location at 5 Lawrence Drive in May of 2018, occupying one of the Townhouse spaces at River Hawk Village. The new space features a retail area offering bicycles and various outdoor accessories, a workshop area for students to work on their bicycles and a formal meeting area for the Outdoor Adventure program.
Kevin Soleil, the assistant director of outdoor and bicycle programs at UMass Lowell, says that both he and his staff are thrilled at having their own location.
“We are grateful for this opportunity,” he said. “It really does feel like we now have the right size facility to do what we were doing all along. We were definitely doing more with less in the past and now we feel like we’re doing more with what we need.”
This momentous change comes after being located on the second floor of the Campus Recreation Center for quite some time. Both programs were confined to an incredibly small space jammed at the end of a narrow hallway, as Soleil attests.
Soleil says that the previous location was difficult for students to find, which made it difficult for him to live true to his mission of encouraging as many students as he could to be active by hopping on bikes and getting involved in outdoor programming.
“We were so hidden away in that building anyway that there wasn’t really a presence besides the physical presence of the people,” Soleil says. “We have a much better presentation here.”
Soleil says that the gear closet for the Outdoor Adventure program was located in a closet on Basketball Court A in the CRC. This was not only distracting for the basketball players but often times dangerous for his students who needed to retrieve gear from the supply closet.
“There was more than one occasion where you’d be getting gear out of the closet and a basketball would come and hit somebody. That’s no longer an issue,” said Bill Moriarty, a student working for the Outdoor Adventure program.
Moriarty, a junior electrical engineering major, says he is quite happy to not worry about dodging basketballs each time he wants to hold a meeting for his program.
Soleil says that he and his staff are happy with the extra space they are given to go about their business. There is a centralized shop area which is open and clear, and students are able to work on their bicycles without fear of interfering with each other’s work. Soleil says that this was not always the case.
“In the previous shop, we [were] kind of tripping over each other every time we went to move. Here, they have enough space to work safely,” he says. “Everybody loves it so much.”
On the Outdoor Adventure side of things, Moriarty says that he and his coworkers enjoy having their own designated area to both hold meetings and store their adventure gear.
“I just had a 12-person meeting and we had a nice table to sit around. There [were] no distractions, we just had our own room. Our gear was right there so we didn’t have to move locations in order to get gear,” he says.
Soleil is likewise happy to have a space for the Outdoor Adventure program. The current room not only features a large meeting table but rows of backpacks, rock climbing equipment, camping gear and winter supplies.
Having one centralized location is crucial for pre-trip planning, Soleil says. “It’s one place where all of our things… for most of our fall trips we’re able to stage and come back here in this room. It’s a very multi-purpose space.”
As everyone adjusts to the new location, Soleil hopes that the bike shop and adventure program will see more new faces. He said that since the transition, the bike shop has seen a “significant” increase in students, while participation for the outdoor adventure program is “steady.”
“We’re hoping that camping equipment [and] hiking equipment use and rentals can increase,” he said.
Moriarty says that the new location offers many new possibilities for both the bike shop and the Outdoor Adventure program.
“It allows us to branch out and it also feels like we’re actually part of the campus instead of just stuffed in a closet in a small room. Now we have our own location that’s ours,” he said.
The Bike Shop is open from 1 to 9 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, with abbreviated hours on Friday and Saturday. The Outdoor Adventure program offers ten more trips this semester, with locations offered from Nashua, N.H. to the Everglades.
Anyone interested in learning more about the shop or the Outdoor Adventure program may contact Soleil at Kevin_Soleil@uml.edu.