New University of Saint Francis president says cycling outlet for fun and connecting with others
In Mark 11:1-11 in the New Testament, Jesus sent two of his disciples to fetch him a donkey. Upon their return, Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem where he was met by cheering crowds.
“He rode a donkey, so I’m imagining that he might have considered riding a bicycle if they had those things back then,” said the Rev. Dr. Eric Zimmer, president of the University of Saint Francis, with campuses in Fort Wayne and Crown Point.
Zimmer took over as president of the university July 1. He most recently served as a professor in the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. There he directed the school’s interchange with the United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education.
He worked previously in higher education at Creighton University, Georgetown University and the University of Washington. He also serves as pastor of Saint Patrick’s Church in Walkerton.
When he’s not studying, teaching or tending to his flock, Zimmer is an avid cyclist
“I like bicycling because I like the wind in my face,” Zimmer said. “I like the exercise, (and) I like being able to see things at a slower pace than in a car.”
Zimmer has been biking for years. In 2003, he rode 4,000 miles cross-country for Project Rachel, a program designed to provide healing after an abortion.
When he worked at St. Xavier High School in Kathmandu in Nepal, he ran the bike club.
“We would take bike trips throughout the Kathmandu Valley, and on a couple of occasions, longer bike trips throughout the country,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer says biking allows him to see things he could not while walking or in an automobile.
“I’m able to stop and wander around if I need to when I am bicycling through an interesting area,” he said. “I like the mobility of that (it) is not dependent on having enough gas in your gas tank, (and it) allows me to see things I would not have otherwise seen.”
Zimmer said he enjoys biking with other people.
“I like bicycling with other people, (and) I like the camaraderie ,” Zimmer said. “I find that when you approach people on a bicycle, they are more open and more welcoming than you would be in a car.”
Zimmer said, for example, if you’re out in North Dakota and you’re bicycling along and you see a farmer stopped alongside the road, it’s likely you’ll stop and chat with him.
“If you were in a car, he probably wouldn’t give you much of a glance,” Zimmer said. “But seeing a bicyclist coming by in a rural area, people say, ‘hey what’s going on, what are you doing, where are you coming from?’”
In keeping with his deep educational training and background, Zimmer also took courses on professionally repairing bicycles at the Barnett Bicycle Institute in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“It’s (a) pretty well-known institute,” he said. “It is their manual on how to repair bicycles that (is) used in many bicycle shops across the country.”
There he learned to repair his bike and keep up with maintenance.
“I wanted to do longer trips (and) traveling through rural areas, I would be able to repair my bike,” Zimmer said. “But I would also be less likely that I would need to repair it since I know how to keep my bicycle in good form.”
During the pandemic, Zimmer said he has been doing more bike rides but locally, not long rides. That’s in line with many Americans where bike riding has increased as alternatives to taking public transportation.
With bicycle inventories in short supply in many retail stores, holding on to and repairing and fixing up any bike you have seems to be the way to go.
Zimmer said, while he might repair a friend’s bike, it is difficult because of changes in bike technology and design.
“I occasionally repair other bicycles,” he said. “What I find is that bicycles have changed on some level over the years, (and) the specifications in the building of the bicycles have changed.”
Zimmer said repairing something from the 1970s might present more challenges than something built in the early 2000s or even today with higher-end bikes.
“They have electronic shifting now,” he said. “My bikes are all 20 to 30 years old, (and) I don’t know how to do electronic shifting, and I will probably will not learn.”