By Tim Simard
August 7, 2008
Cruisin' to class on two wheels might be the new way to go at the University of Vermont this fall. A former Williston resident is bringing his officially licensed university bikes to the school this year.
Erik Camp's company, the Collegiate Bike Company, which he co-founded a year ago and based in San Diego, Calif., provides cruiser and commuter bikes in the colors and logo of popular colleges and universities. In a short time, the company has partnered with schools from California to Wisconsin to Florida. Locally, UVM is now offering the Catamount Cruiser, decked out in the university's signature green color and mountain lion logo.
Camp said he wanted to work with UVM because he grew up in Vermont and thought they might be receptive to the idea.
“They're trying to really promote their brand right now and license more gear out,” Camp said. “They want to get that Catamount logo out there.”
Chris McCabe, assistant vice president of athletic marketing and business development for UVM, said he was approached by Camp with the idea and liked it immediately.
“I'm always looking into things that will do well and meet a demand,” McCabe said. “It's certainly an original idea to promote the licensing of the school.”
Camp, a native of Williston, is an alumnus of the Williston School District and Champlain Valley Union High School. His parents still live in town and his brother, Scott, is a student at UVM. Camp went to school at Providence College in Rhode Island before traveling through South America and eventually settling in California.
Camp and his business partner, Jonathan Sobin, came up with the idea while both working at Bicycle Discovery, a bike shop located along the beach in San Diego specializing in beach cruisers.
“There would always be these college kids coming in and the idea just clicked,” Camp said.
Many of the bikes he saw come in the shop displayed stickers of local San Diego colleges and universities. He thought making bikes specifically featuring a university's logo would be a popular item.
For the first few months of his new business venture, Camp contacted numerous universities with his idea, as well as becoming associated with the Collegiate Licensing Company and the Licensing Resource Group – two companies that “license out” logos for colleges and universities.
In exchange for selling the university bikes on campus or in local sport shops, the schools would receive royalty payments from the company. McCabe said UVM gets a 7.5 percent royalty, which it collect on a quarterly basis. He said UVM works with the Licensing Resource Group with all of its logo products.
Many of the bikes the company sells are cruiser bikes, in both men's and women's styles, designed to get around college campuses with ease. The school's color and logos are represented on the frames. The cruisers retail for $299. Commuter bikes are also available and cost $309.
Camp said the bikes are available at the Collegiate Bike Company's Web site, or someone can check with a local retailer. The UVM cruisers are available at the campus bookstore and Earl's Cyclery on Williston Road in South Burlington.
Jay Menninger, the director of the UVM bookstore, said they have men's and women's cruisers available at the bookstore. He said they started carrying them a week ago and have already been receiving positive feedback.
“This is something new for us,” Menninger said. “It's a nice local tie-in for us.”
Todd Riordan, a salesman at Earl's Cyclery, said they started carrying the Catamount bikes three weeks ago. Like the UVM bookstore, Earl's also has men's and women's cruisers available. He said people have taken notice and have had nothing but positive comments.
“For kids looking to commute to classes and bike around Burlington with them, it's a nice novelty,” said Riordan, who will be entering his senior year at UVM this month.
Riordan said if there were wide interest in the bikes, Earl's would be opening to ordering more and in different styles.
Camp said he's always been a cycling enthusiast, growing up biking on the Burlington Waterfront Bike Path or at the Catamount Family Center. He said he tries to get home to Williston three or four times year and he misses the change of seasons in Vermont – even the cold winters.
Camp said interest has been increasing from universities across the country. At first, the company cold-called schools to talk about the bikes. Now colleges are calling the company, Camp said.
“It's been a lot of work, but I think we're doing a good thing,” Camp said.
To see the bikes of the Collegiate Bike Company, including the Catamount Cruiser, visit www.collegebikes.com.