Ben Wyse ‘99 isn’t just the cool guy who sets up his mobile bicycle repair shop – Wyse Cycles – in front of Eastern Mennonite University’s Campus Center on most Wednesdays. He is also the Best Bike Mechanic of the Blue Ridge in Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine’s Best of the Blue Ridge Awards contest.
Wyse pulls his equipment in a trailer behind his own bicycle, and is entering his 10th year of providing house calls and event support. He also volunteers his mechanic skills for a number of local nonprofits.
The eighth annual awards contest included more than 100 categories from destinations to events to food to people. Voting took place in October, and the winners were published in a Dec. 21 online article and the January 2019 issue of the magazine. Bike mechanic finalists also included Adam Ritter of Bluestone Bike and Run in Harrisonburg and Randy Collette of The Hub and Pisgah Tavern in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina.
At EMU, students, faculty and staff can leave their bicycles with Wyse, head to class or a meeting, and later return for pick up – and lots of bike owner advice and friendly conversation.
“Ben loves what he does and infects others with a curiosity and excitement about bikes,” said junior and Cycling Club president Ella Reist. “He connects bikers across generations and communities. Anyone from undergrad students to professors to VMRC residents to community members all pass through to see Ben, just to chat, if not to get their bike worked on.”
Bicycles are a means of fun recreation and exercise, yes, but also a tool for affordable transportation that Wyse began using in a serious way one summer during college. While at the time Wyse would have loved owning a vintage muscle car instead, economic necessity drove him to rely on bicycling.
Over the next few years, he came to see it as “a way to live out many of my ethical and theological beliefs,” he said. Biking is not only cheap: it’s also anti-war, pro-healthy planet, egalitarian, pro-community, good for mental and physical health – and more.
As he said in a 2014 EMU article, riding bike “is fundamentally about moving us toward something that’s more whole and healthy for the human community.”