sTories About Chris
Chris loves stories and we'd love to collect them to share.
Chris Kegel is truly the most caring and generous man I've know and can't express how humbling it is to have spent time In his life. Chris truly represents the good in humanity and has touched so many people with his unending kindness and generosity. People will never begin to understand how big of a heart this man has nor why this man worked endlessly to make a difference in this world. Chris Kegel's legacy is truly a fairytale on the surface, his endless work to sacrifice for others is legendary. I don't think the guy knew the word "no" and his spirit will live on. I know Chris would like us to celebrate his life and believe in the good in all people. He has such an amazing family and they need our thoughts and strength through this difficult time! Wheel & Sprocket will miss this man.
Some tough news late this week. Chris Kegel the owner of Wheel in Sprocket in Milwaukee is in the hospital battling an aggressive form of liver cancer. Owner of one of the Best Bike Shops in America, Trek Legend, People for Bikes Board Member, former Chairmen of the League of American Bicyclists, former IMBA board member, board member of the Bike Fed of Wisconsin, the list goes on and on and on. Chris has one of the biggest smiles in the world, for sure the biggest head of hair in the world in the plus 60 year old male category, an incredible sense of humor, and a multiple year winner of the nicest person in the world competition (last year he beat out my mother!).
I drove down to Milwaukee this afternoon and spent an hour with the legend. He had just gone through a five-hour surgery yesterday, but he was vintage Chris. It was a priceless hour. He talked about the bike business, he talked about advocacy, he talked about friends, and as always he talked about his family. He told a story of how at the age of 19, came up with one of the goals that defined his life. “At an early age, I decided that I wanted to be a positive force in the world. I realized that I could not change the entire world. Too complicated, wars, disasters, etc. But, I figured I could focus on my world. The people who I knew, and I could create my own little world and I could be a positive influence on people. Over time, I figured that as I got to know more people, I could expand my world and I could be a positive influence and effect more and more people.” Chris has changed the world for the better over his lifetime and over the past 32 years I have watched Chris help to create a more Bicycle Friendly America, I have watched Chris help to change Trek and make it the success it is today, and I have been lucky enough to have been part of Chris’s world and it has had a positive impact on me.
If you have been lucky enough to have had your life touched by Chris over the years, I know that he would love to hear from you. He just LOVES people!!
For hundreds of miles riding for Juvenile Diabetes Researchh Foundation or hundreds of miles training there he was...always seeing Chris with a smile! Whether climbing a triple in Jasper National Park or coping with 100F in Death Valley, having Chris along riding his recumbent was always a treat! A kinder more gentle man is hard to find. Generous with his purse, his business and most importantly his time and passion I know no one more giving than Chris.
Loving him is easy, being with him even easier. Milwaukee and our bike world are better because he is a part of it.
Looking forward to seeing him tomorrow to tell him how awesome he is, to tell him how proud I am to know him and thank him for sharing his love of life!
Love you Chris Kegel
Motobecane tandem purchase 1982,shared midwife 1983,parent stories ever since.Love ya man!
Can you go through life without saying anything mean about anyone? Can you get things accomplished without ever seeming to complain about anything? Chris is one of those guys you actually find frustrating, because he proves you can and sets the bar at a seemingly-impossibly-high level.
What's his angle. How does he do it. Those thoughts last a year or two, until you realize that's just the way Chris is.
Nice guys can do very well indeed. I see a lot of Chris in his kids too. What he's built is built to last, and the world is a better place with him here for us.
In sixth grade, our class at USM went to a local park for a winter fun day. I went cross-country skiing, but not being the most athletically gifted person, fell way behind the rest of the group. Mr. Chris Kegel, who was chaperoning, stayed with me. Towards the end of the route, I slid down a moderately slick hill, and then fell face first. I may or may not have been knocked out, but when I got up, the snow was spattered with blood. When I was finally sturdy enough to stand, he knocked clean snow over the blood, and helped me back to the lodge and stayed with me until we all left on the bus. On the way home, the bus stalled on the freeway and we were stuck until a new bus came to get us. My face was horribly cut up, but after seeing the doctor I learned that no bones were broken and I didn't need stitches. Though my face looked like hamburger at the time, we had a four-day weekend ahead, and after rubbing antibiotic on my face regularly, everything mostly healed by the time school started again. Though I had no lasting scars, the kindness and concern he showed me has stuck with me for over twenty-four years.
Chris makes everyone feel special After meeting a person once, he remembers their name and the conversation they last had. That makes everyone (me in this case) feel pretty special and part of the biking community.
Today, we remember this specialness that Chris has and are praying for it to last forever.
Chris, thank you for making me feel like you had nothing better to do than to talk to me in the wee hours of the morning -- and share some of that famous Kegel wisdom (you were right, as usual) xoxo
The Aloha Spirit Part 1: So several years ago Chris brought his team (family) out to the Big Island of Hawaii to share 10 days with my team in a group house. Our vision of our leaders learning from each other while biking, preparing and eating food together, hiking, management and sales training had come to life. On one of the first nights there Chris and I were sitting on the lanai chatting about business and life. One of my managers was sitting with us listening to Chris talk about what I'm sure was an important business "pearl", that's my term for the little nuggets that are the small hinges that swing big doors. Chris was Chris, as he beautifully choreographed how to be amazing with customers and succeed. His answer to my team member was fantastic and sounded a lot like the very same thing I had said many times to my team. Later that manager came to me and said "WOW, that Chris Kegel is an amazing guy and so smart, I loved what he said out on the lanai". So as Chris and I sat at the table I said, "you know Chris, I know you are amazing but I've said the exact same thing to my managers a million times and now coming from you it's like they never heard it before". I got one of those Chris Kegel laughs, you know it, a super happy Santa. Chris looked at me and said, "earlier tonight one of my guys came to me and said how smart Mike Hamannwright (me) is how much he learned hearing what I had to say". Chris and I both started laughing out loud, Chris looked at me and said "I think it's the Uncle thing, they know a lot more than Dad". I'm told I'm smiling and laughing while typing this, now that is a memory.
Mary Kegel Wolfgram
Hi cousin. Just wanted to let you know that since I retired this past winter, at the age of 65, I have begun biking for the first time since I was a kid. My step daughters provided me with a bike and a helmet. I'm showing increased endurance every day. And more important finding joy in this new sport. I'm enjoying the bike path in Muskego, New Berlin to name a few. Chris, we are all praying for you for a full recovery. You are such an inspiration to everyone.
I remember going mountain biking with Chis Kegel, and Noel in Kettle Moraine. The first time I had been on an off road trail. This was about twenty years ago, but I can still picture this amazing experience vividly today. Thank you Chris Kegel.
Back in 1994/5 when Geoff Valent was looking for work he paid him to create a series of cartoon strips promoting Wheel & Sprocket. Geoff used those as part of his portfolio of work to get a job here in Australia! Thanks Chris!
I think I might be a rarity. I am in the bike industry and my Chris Kegel story doesn't involve him giving me advice or mentoring me. Why do I love you Chris, what stands out about You? It's simple, EVERY interaction I have ever had with you, you make me feel like I am important to you. You have a warm hug, a big smile, a "how are you doing?" You are bigger than life, so full of love and joy that your presence brings me joy. I think your presence brings everyone joy. Chris, you are a rare gem of a man, infectious with radiating positivity, hope and love! No doubt these qualities will come in handy as you face what's next. I love and adore you Chris Kegel! I am better for having known you.
Thanks for all the smiles Chris and the encouragement along the way to keep on trucking. Scott got a start in the ski business way back when with you when you were just XC (the low ceiling in Hales Corners) and promising refunds if it didn't snow that (or any) winter in WI; pretty brave move! I got a start along with Scott selling ski clothes and...you were a good friend and helped feed a lot of mouths. Thank you. May God bless you with a loving family and many friends to help you heal in all ways needed. Love my friend!
The first time I met Chris I was helping with the tent sale @ Brookfield. I was talking to a man about a recumbent when a man came up and joined the conversation. Later I asked if he would like a hotdog, he said very politely "Dave, I own the store,but thank you". Can you say OOPS! ☺️ lol
I have fond memories of the first bike shop in Hales Corners! That was 40 some years ago. I still talk about how you and Frank sold me my first bike that I bought on my own. Soon after that my Girl Scout troop rode our bikes to Springfield Illinois from Milwaukee. I found that love of riding a truely great bike! It brought me great joy, a joy that I still feel today when I ride my electric bike! You are a legend, you are a legend from being such an amazing kind man, friends to many, loving father and husband.....your love always shine through!
My first business call on Chris was in 2008 to talk about our plans to launch Tour of America'a Dairyland, but as a new father, I had my 1 yr old daughter with me. While sitting in front of Chris, it became evident Lucy needed a diaper change. More than slightly embarrassed, I asked if he could direct me a bathroom and he said "just use one of the work stations, Bill, the guys will understand!" Crazy, unique, total Chris Kegel!
No one puts people first better than Chris Kegel.
While many of our opportunities to cross paths have to do with working in the bicycle industry trenches together, my favorite time was when I got stuck in the Milwaukee airport on my way from Minneapolis to Atlanta.
I had posted on Facebook in the wee hours of the morning about my plight. Chris reached out to me right away. My "layover" was going to be a while, but he didn't even hesitate to put work aside, pick me up from the airport, and give me the grand tour of several of the Wheel & Sprocket locations, as well as a lovely scenic drive around Milwaukee.
After dropping me off at the airport, he called to see if I had been fortunate enough to catch the next flight. Sadly, I was bumped again and killing time at the lounge talking to the guy next to me (didn't know him but had introduced ourselves and caught his name).
Told Chris I was taking to Parker, and he said, "OH, tell him I said hello - he used to work for me." Talk about surprising us BOTH - haha!
Chris never meets a stranger and has a knack for making people feel special. I am glad be on that list. Chris is a gift to us all.
Hugs and Happy thoughts, my friend!
I got to meet Chris for the first time on Father's Day! The entire family was so happy to welcome me into their celebration, and I felt honored to be a part of his day. What an amazing family you have Chris. Thank you for raising the perfect spouse for my friend. I had such a great time getting to know all the Kegel's over the wedding festivities. Their love and admiration for each other is something I'll never forget. My heart is with you.
Several years ago I got a call on the Saturday of the Expo sale that credit card processing was down. Lines of people were backing up and we were having a hard time figuring out the problem. I rushed over to the State Fair grounds to help. Chris was one of the first people I saw when I walked in the back door. I expected him to be justifiably upset and to give me an earful. Instead I received a smile, a warm handshake and this lesson: "You know, mistakes happen to everyone. What matters most is how you handle them. Just do your best to fix it and to keep it from happening again. I know you'll do that." I really appreciated those words in that moment and it's a lesson I've shared many times since then. I truly admire Chris' ability to blend business and compassion.
Mary Hanley Kegel
Chris' favorite musician? No, not ABBA - but close. Can the category be Musicals in General?
The right answer is Weird Al Yankovic.
This last fall Chris was brainstorming for a jingle for the fatbikes and I played along with substituting fatbike-ish lyrics for the Milkshake Song, You know,
My milk shake brings all the boys to the yard,
And they're like,
Its better than yours,
Damn right its better than yours,
I can teach you,
But I have to charge - -
. . .
My Fatbike brings all the boys to the yard,
You know, honey. No. Show me. So we get the beat going and he records me singing it on his phone,
"and it's better than yours,
it's better than yours.
And I'll have to charge."
I'm no Kelis.
I do know what my song for Chris is - I don't even have to change the lyrics - "I love him, I love him, I love him"
My very favorite place to be is following right behind Chris.
I have only met Chris a time or two on his vacations to Alaska, he always greeted me with warm smiles. He gave me the gift of friendship in his son Julian, and for that I am forever grateful. My thoughts are with you.
I attended the National Bike Summit again this year and for the first time brought my college aged son. While finding my way to the next summit seminar I ran into Chris and we started chatting which led to sitting down and skipping the summit seminar and having our own seminar, the Chris Kegel seminar of worldly advice. Those that know Chris know what I mean. I just try to sit and listen and catalog all the great tidbits that come from his brain. An hour went by in and instant, and my son who was in another seminar, came to find me and pry me away from Chris. I could have sat there the whole day. Those are the most important moments of building a great business when you can learn from a legend and Chris is the king of all legends in the bike business.
Later that evening my son asked me who that was and I explained where he was from and the business he created but in short I explained that Chris is a legend.
I actually don't know Chris, but have been a Facebook friend of Julian since he led a group of my friends and I on an awesome "backcountry" camping/hiking/ice climbing trek in Alaska. Having spent some time reading these stories about Chris, I believe I have seen his adventurous, generous and bouyant spirit embodied in his son. It's a sign of a great man that he leaves his legacy in his children as well as in his own life! My prayers to Chris and his family- this is when your spirits will shine the most!
For a little over 6 years I was involved with the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes. Chris, and his kids, were fixtures at every ride. There were many long nights in the bike room, but at one of my last rides in Whitefish, Montana I sat and talked with Chris for a while. His philosophy on people, what music he listened to on his iPod, and general Kegel wisdom has stayed with me. Such a calm, kind, generous man with that ever present smile. Thank you, Chris, for all the hours spent giving a piece of yourself to others. You've increased the greater good beyond measure.
Our visit yesterday (Saturday) was very powerful. Chris was VERY wise and accepting. I told him to keep fighting. He said he has never been much of a fighter however, he has quietly moved mountains with never ending persistence.
I am digging deep to give Chris Kegel and his family quiet and never ending power.
Chris thank you for always being so kind to me, the parks, and always saying "yes" !!!! You give so much and make our community a better place. The most outstanding attribute is that you give without expectation. You are the best.... Keep spinning!!!!
About twelve or so years ago I approached Chris with a concept - a cycling team with Wheel & Sprocket as the title sponsor. Of course, Chris was all in! His generosity to me personally, and to the team over the years is something that I will never forget. That's who Chris is. An astute businessman who works tirelessly to give back to his community. I know that this is just a bump on the road for Chris in his journey through life. Keep pedaling my friend.
There are no words to describe how much Chris Kegel has impacted my life. Still, I'll give it a try.
I wouldn't be anywhere near the man or father I am today without Chris Kegel touching my life. I am flabbergasted at how much time and attention Chris has invested in my personal growth and success.
But what makes Chris Kegel a truly special, unique and wonderful person—an absolute titan of a human being—is that I am but one of the thousands of people Chris has invested in. Chris has an unlimited capacity to nurture and support others.
Chris has taught me:
- It's an obtainable and crucial ideal to get along well with everyone.
- An enthusiastic and positive attitude is the basis for creating a meaningful life.
- Change happens slowly but it happens. Be patient, be persistent, be cooperative.
- Enjoy each day. Life is the party that you invite people to.
- Serve others first before others serve you.
- Fatherhood is an intentional, deliberate and supportive act.
Chris Kegel lives a life of love: love of his work, love of his family and friends, and love of life. Loving Chris Kegel is one of the true honors in my life.
Chris is just an amazing person, professionally and personally. I first met Chris when I served with him on the Board of Directors for the League of American Bicyclists and I learned a lot about Board management from Chris. He was always carrying that little Robert's Rules of Order with him to every meeting and if he didn't use that thing like a wizard. He was an incredible Board chair, but more importantly always a model for doing the right thing. Chris is the epitome of a servant leader - always leading to support others to achieve the impossible and always with that ever present smile. He was always looking to contribute wherever necessary, and always supporting bicycling wherever he went. Just a wonderful man who has made more contributions to bicycling than any of us will ever know or even begin to recognize. Chris, we owe you much, but you never did this for recognition, I believe your heart was always set on leaving a mark because it was the right thing to do. God bless you brother, may you and your family be comforted during this difficult time, may God grant you healing, and may you return to doing great things in life. My thought and prayers will be with you.
Kelly and Henry Roberts
Henry and I met Chris on a Raleigh incentive trip 30 plus years ago? Feel certain we did at least three trips with him and Frank? Chris was a young man with great aspirations. I will always fondly remember that he showed up with a tie for everything. The loudest, most outlandish ties he could find would be around his neck. His passion for the industry is something I have never forgotten! God bless u Chris and know we are praying for you in Deep South Texas!
I first saw Chris in the funny papers, when I moved to the area years ago. Later, I had the great fortune of getting to know Chris while working together at W&S. Early on, I came to admire and respect Chris for his business success and leading national reputation in the bike industry.
A little later, I became aware of the powerful qualities that characterize the person Chris is- humility, dignity, kindness, fairness, respect, generosity and love for all, regardless.
Chris has made a profound and positive difference in the lives of so, so many- including me. I'm very grateful to know him and the wonderful Kegel Clan.
Chris simply has the biggest smile in the room and gives off the best energy of everyone at Trek World year after year. Love his approach at making the world a better place and has clearly driven bicycle advocacy in Wisconsin and beyond. Thank you for leading by example and best wishes in a full recovery. Best, gd
Lisa Joachim (Lou)
It was a dream of mine in my 20s to own a bike shop. I remember when I moved to Milwaukee and I was finishing college, I had signed up for a bike race. I stopped by the bicycle tent and there was a man with wild hair repairing the bikes. It was Chris, all by himself, wrenching at the race. We got to talking and I found him super fascinating as was chatted for a super long time about bikes, repairs and shops. I remember walking away and thinking if I ever own a shop one day I wanted to be just like him. I always had "him" in my mind's eye of what I wanted to be and that was my goal. Fast forward, while opening my shop, I would always think in the back of my head "I wonder what Chris would do?" before I would make a lot of my decisions. A few years later, I felt honored to be serving on the NBDA board with him as well as being a part of Mann P2 group. I remember thinking, wow, I've learned more in 2 hours with Chris about business than I have in my whole life. Over the years, I would often run into Chris at various meetings, DC Summit, IB, TW. He would always ask in his calm, soothing voice and Santa smile "how are you?" And he always truly meant it. He genuinely always cared more about how other people were doing. If you needed advice, he also would spend as much time needed and never be distracted. He was always focused on the person that was in front of him in that moment. Chris was always my bike dealer hero. But now he is more like a human hero. There is nobody like him. I've never crossed paths with a person that is more kind, compassionate and loving person to so many people all. Thank you Chris for all that you do. I realize I have a really long way to go to even be an ounce of your essence. But you inspire me not just to be a better bike dealer but rather to want to be a better person every single day. You have touched and reached far more people that you will ever know. I've thought about you every day and I still often still say to myself "I wonder what Chris would do?" We all love you so much. Please get well soon. xxoo
I first met Chris through the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes. He was supportive and helpful to all the riders. He helped make the program great and to turn what I thought was a once in a lifetime experience into a life long passion. Thanks for all you have given Chris.
Chris sets the bar really high for being a great human being. He has this "always giving attitude" about him. As the GM of Penn Cycle, I have known Chris for well over 30 years and I consider him a good friend. There is nothing that I like more than seeing that great big smile coming towards me at any given cycling event, bike show or dealer advisory meeting. He is always one of the smartest people in the room and is always the voice of reason for as long as I known him. I have had the opportunity to travel to France, Canada and Japan with him and where ever we go, that smile lights the way with his friendly, out going personality. I can't recall ever seeing a photo of him, where everyone in the photo is not smiling as well, because he just makes you feel good just being around him. One of my fondest memories was trying to ride up the Alpe-d'Huez in France next to him and having to give up shortly after I started. I don't know what I was thinking. Of course, I found out later he made it to the top, even after having flat tire. Determined? You bet, in everything he does. I got to spend a lot of time with him; walking around Quebec a couple years ago and I learned so much from him on that trip. He is always there for you, what ever you need. I am sharing my story, sending my thoughts and prayers to you today my friend.
In 1998, we were thrilled when Chris joined the International Mountain Bicycling Association Board of Directors. Chris had a great reputation in the bike industry as CEO of Wheel and Sprocket and his work with CABDA. He had a great reputation in the advocacy community from his work with RIDE and WORBA and the struggle to provide mountain bike opportunities in Kettle Morraine. I followed that from far away and I remember the triumph of the Kettle Morraine MOU. (Some time later, I almost crashed my car when I heard a promo on Public Radio saying "brought to you by Wisconsin's Mountain Bike Trails".) Chris gets things done.
Besides this great expertise he brought a wisdom, humanity and generosity to all of the Board and Staff dealings. I learned so much from Chris. His experience was so wide. We advocates can be an opinionated bunch. Chris shares the passion but he listens so carefully and spoke so thoughtfully, he always was a positive force in our discussions. More often than not, his insights were right and his predictions came true.
Others have talked about Chris' philosophy of life. It's worth noting that most people don't even know they have one. Chris has one, knows it and lives by it. His success, the relationships he's forged, and the many people who love and respect him are a testament to this man who does good and lives well.
Thank you Chris. Take care. We're all with you.
Tim St. Clair
Chris and I met at the JDRF "Ride to Cure Diabetes," where he and his family wrenched bikes and rode year after year. As coaches, Chris and I would always start at the back, just to make sure the riders got off smoothly and there were no early issues. So we usually ended up leap frogging each other at the back of the pack for the first 10 or 12 miles, cruising with riders taking their time or dealing with whatever came up. I can't tell you the number of times at those rides where I was stopped beside the road with a rider and, regardless of the problem, Chris would pull up on his recumbent and tell me, "You go ahead. I got this."
Chris, you got this. Best to you
More than 15 years ago I had the privilege to work with Chris while serving as director of the Miller Lite Ride for the Arts. What struck me then most along with his generosity was his easygoing demeanor, how he was beloved by all and his passion for cycling. Whether it's seeing him cruising through the city on his recumbent or recently at a Marquette basketball game, he's always had a smile on his face. You are an inspiration, Chris, and know we are sending strength your way..
Many years ago I was struggling through a JDRF century ride in the Canadian Rockies. It was misting and pretty miserable. Insufficient training left me largely on my own most of the ride. With three miles to go, almost done, of course, I had a flat. Well, Chris rolled up on his recumbent and offered to help. We then rode together to the finish line and I got to know what a smart, kind and successful person he is. I have always been impressed with the staff at all of his Wheel and Sprocket stores. He and his family are truly remarkable, wonderful people.
When I was in law school (and obsessed with bikes) my classmates frequently gave me a hard time about my future career as a bike-lawyer. Today, I regularly use my law degree at Bublr Bikes (Milwaukee's bikeshare system). Basically, I've got the dream job that I didn't even know existed and I know I wouldn't be here if it were not for Chris's support of me and his and Wheel & Sprocket's support of biking and Bublr. Thank you Chris.
One of my first I like to call "real world" job was helping plan the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure. I met Chris and he and a few of the Wheel and Sprockets crew would provide bike tuneup help at the ride. I remember meeting Chris for the first time. I was nervous at first. You see I grew up in Brookfield and got one of my first bikes from Wheel and Sprocket. His cartoon image was on posters all over the place. This image of curly haired, glasses guy on a bike with a large smile. You meet people and become disappointed because they weren't who you thought they where. After meeting Chris I realized he was that cartoon version of him. Someone who had a passion for bicycles and always had a smile. No matter how busy he was throughout the year he always made time to help the tour de cure. Get better soon Chris.
Where do I even start when talking about a man who has treated me like another daughter for the past 22 years? How do I thank someone enough for always allowing me to be my true self whether that meant musical performances in his living room or never really learning to ride a bike (blasphemy, I know!). When I think about my favorite L-K family memories, it's some of the every day moments that I keep going back to. I remember him staying up late to drive me home after a play date with Amelia. I remember him helping me pick out my first bike at the annual bike expo and feeling like I was with a celebrity. I remember him singing the loudest right next to the piano at the annual Christmas party. But most of all I just remember him always being that reliable, steadfast force in my life who I could guarantee would give me the biggest hug and smile every time I saw him.
When I got married, Chris was having heart troubles. He had been in and out of the hospital the weeks surrounding my wedding. I was also going through a difficult time having lost my Dad to cancer six days before I walked down the aisle. I was so worried that Chris wasn't going to be able to make it to my ceremony but Amelia assured me he would be there no matter what. As soon as I could, I beelined for him and once I saw that great smile, I knew I'd be able to get through the rest of the day. The next day Amelia told me he went straight to the ER from the reception but had insisted on being there for me, my mom and my new husband. Because that's what Chris does. He's just always there for you.
All that being said, my favorite part about Chris Kegel is his family and the incredible people his children have become. They are all the kindest, most generous, loving people I know and that is because of the amazing role model they have in Chris. Amelia, Tessa, Noel and Julian - I am honored to be included as an honorary member of your family and to be witness to the incredible things you've accomplished and know the future will lead to even greater things for you because of your Dad.
Love you all so much.
Emily Kegel Barber
It was the winter of 2012, when my Uncle Chris orchestrated a family trip to the big island of Hawaii. Three of his brothers and their families were able to attend, as well as the matriarch of the family, Audrey Bethe.
Thinking back, this trip was loaded with great memories but one particular night stands out in my mind. We had been invited over to my Uncle Chris' beach house rental. It was a stunning home located on the Hawaiian coastline. Walking up to the front door, I remember seeing shoes! Sandals, flip flops, tennis shoes, heels, all worn by my relatives. It was a Hawaiian custom to remove your shoes before entering a home.
Curtesy of my cousin Julian, and his wife to be Stephanie, we dined on a huge feast. I remember a long dining room table covered in fish, meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables. I remember people walking counterclockwise around the feast, loading up their plates, and heading outside to a beautiful scene. The backyard overlooked the ocean and the sun was just about ready to set on the ocean horizon. Everyone found a place to sit.
I remember my Uncle centering himself among the circles of family members sitting before him. He stood straight, with his hands clasped in front of him. Swiveling his head to make eye contact with different pockets of people, he thanked everyone for coming. He then talked about the importance of family. He turned and made eye contact with my mother. He continued his speech saying that he learned the importance of family from a man named Benjamin Peters. I quickly remember looking at my mother, as tears welled up in her eyes as she thought about her late father. Benjamin Peters was my grandfather, and my mother's father. My Uncle Chris said through the years of watching Ben and witnessing his love he showed his family, he learned the notion of being generous and creating family moments.
I remember raising my glass and truly appreciating that moment, appreciating his tribute to my grandfather, appreciating that vacation, and truly appreciating the family I was born into.
I love the idea of learning from your ancestors and carrying on traditions, just like my Uncle Chris was doing for the Kegel family.
Thank you Uncle Chris for bringing us together on the Big Island and making beautiful family memories.
Love your niece, Emily Kegel Barber
Chris (and Mary) are wonderful beyond words. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world because I got to cycle over 2,500 miles with them crossing the US in 2013 and then riding to Key West in early 2014. Chris is the kindest, gentlest man I know and his wife Mary is the perfect complement.
Chris relished the challenge of repairing an ailing bike on the road. Early on the ride BBBRAA in 2013 the fairing on my recumbent came loose - one of the upper rubber mounts broke off and it could not be found. I thought my cycling day was over, but Chris pulled a screwdriver out of his bike bag along with a spare tube. He somehow used the screwdriver to align the fairing and tied the whole shebang up by cutting/stretching the tube. And I thought I was creative!
I met Chris Kegel in 1993. I grew up in the Milwaukee area, read the Sunday comics and watched his television ads. He was celebrity in my mind. .
I started at the MACC Fund on June 15, 2003 and four days later I was at my first Trek 100 bike ride where I was introduced to great people serving great people all working together to help kids with cancer.
In 1996, I became the ride director for the Trek 100 and I was pretty sure we were all going to die
Every spring, I would seek Chris out at the Expo. I had no idea what I was doing and Chris always took time for me. He had semi-trailers full of bikes being delivered and hundreds of moving parts making all of it happen and he was the coolest cucumber in the room.
'Surround yourself with good people and let them do their jobs,' he said.
(Insert ten years of issue-free bike rides thanks to Wheel & Sprocket mechanical support at rest stops)
In 2009, we moved the bike ride from WCTC in Pewaukee to Trek's Headquarters in Waterloo and I was pretty sure we were all going to die.
Chris knew we would not. He'd forgotten more events than I've ever coordinated.
We had meetings every three weeks and Chris drove from Hales Corners to Waterloo because the success of the ride was important to him. Never mind that he had retail locations of his own to run and was opening more stores at every meeting.
Even so, he took on coordinating the bike mechanic placement from me…..and eventually, turned it over to his kids. No matter what I needed, Chris was there to fill the hole. And I gave him a lot of holes.
Eventually, we settled into Waterloo.
'Why are you always the calmest guy in the room?' I asked him after the final riders went off last year. He said that he had learned a long time ago that, 'there will be things left undone. A half an hour before the starting bell….and ten minutes….and one minute…..and then the bell will sound. And you should be the only person who knows that there's something left undone after the bell goes off.'
This part April I saw him at the Expo and we talked about his wedding to Mary, his amazing honeymoon in New Zealand and no matter where he travels, how Milwaukee is home
At the Trek 100 this past June, we talked about his amazing kids, our little but challenging kids and how much he enjoyed his grandchildren. Despite having hundreds of moving parts, we could stand around and shoot the shit about the truly important stuff because I had learned to surround myself with good people and they were doing their jobs.
And then Chris got in a sag vehicle and drove off into the sunrise with a HAM Radio Operator by his side.
I grew up in a Jesuit family and working with you and seeing your kids grow over the past twenty-four years reaffirms for me personally the importance of raising your children to work in the service of others.
Thank you, also, for the incredible gift of hope you have given to children with cancer and their families.
How blessed am I to know a celebrity like you?
With great love, Colleen
I've had the great pleasure of spending time with Chris in France. We watched the TDF riders fly by while enjoying a beer/glass of wine and the amazing scenery. His smile and enthusiasm for life is amazingly infectious and these memories will always hold a special place in my heart. Fight hard, dear friend.
I first met Chris about 2 years ago when my best friend married his son, Julian. From the moment I met him I could feel his energy and zest for life. I have never seen him without a smile on his face and exciting adventure to share. Chris lives for his family and friends, would give any of them the shirt off hia back. He has the fight of his life ahead of him, but there is no better man for the job. Chris, we love you and are praying for your upcoming battle. Love & peace my friend!!
MRS. FUN had the privilege to play for Chris and Mary's wedding reception. Afterwards we were talking to Chris about what a great time we had and how happy we were to be a part of this wonderful event. Chris said " you know, you are now family." What a generous and loving thing to say. I am so honored to be a member of the Kegel family! I love you my brother and I am praying for you.
While I never really was aware of it Chris had been in my life since I knew that the newspaper had comics and at the bottom were these homemade comics about this bike shop. FFW, 30 years and I was working with this man to make Milwaukee a better place. He was on a mission and he meant business. Chris, your passion and enthusiasm is contagious and inspiring. You have made a difference and will continue to do so. Thank you for all that you have done. Get well.
Chris Kegel is a biking fool, yes he is. The first time he was coming to our home for dinner, I got a call the day before. Would I mind if Chris used our shower when he got to the house? He was biking from work.... well, sure, why not. He is the ONLY dinner guest we have ever had that showered upon arrival!
He biked in the heat and he biked in the cold. It was the middle of January, and I sat at the corner of Brown Deer and Port Road, in my nice warm car, waiting for the light to change. Two lanes over was Chris Kegel, on his bike. If I had been closer I would have given him a piece of my mind - you are crazy man! The light changed, I shook my head, and he drove off.......
Well I first met Chris back in 1987 at the USM new parent meeting. His son Noel and my daughter were going to start school, he mentioned what a great kid Noel was, and yes he is. Now fast forward to 2014 and I step into Wheel and Sprocket in Fox Point to get an old bike tuned up. I meet Bunkie and the rest is history, in include 3 new bikes for the family, HUB classes, group rides etc. I have been turned into a huge biking fan and it is mainly because of the staff at Wheel. The staff is a true reflection of what Chris wanted his stores to be: friendly, welcoming, well versed in all aspects of biking, enthusiastic, encouraging and just plain nice people. I have come to truly appreciate the work that Wheel does in the community with their support for so many if not all the bike events. Chris has made the biking community the main goal for Wheel and Sprocket. I have become friends with Amelia (what a wonderful person) and friends with several other riders through rideMKE, Bike with Bunkie and the store employees. Chris, you have left your mark on the biking community and I will always be a Wheel customer. I am saying prayers daily for you.
My fondest memory is of several of the famous Kegel/Lukic Christmas Parties when we gather to sing carols and Chris and Russ and I group together, and Chris puts his arms around us and looks at us with his huge, warm smile and I can feel the love that he shares with us and his friends and family.
What a fine man! and friend.
Chris-- I am most privileged to be your friend.
My mom Mary began dating Chris after I had moved away from Wisconsin. While I hadn't met him in person yet I knew she was crazy about him, I could hear it in her voice. Chris has changed our whole family's life. It's been such a gift for my sister and I to see our mom fall deeply in love with someone at their age. Chris treats her the way anyone would dream their mom would be cherished. They have traveled the US and world together by bike and I've never seen my mom so happy since she met Chris.
Chris is all about teamwork and making family priority. He made it work so that my mom is able to watch my nephews (before my mom met Chris she was working 3rd shift and trying to make it work watching my nephew during the day) and have her dream job of being "Mamie". During my fathers death Chris was such a solid support for my sister and I. A current phrase for clare and I is "what would we do with out Chris".
I have many memories with Chris it's hard to pick one ... Chris teaching me how to ride a recombent bike at the school parking lot by their condo. It made me feel like a kid again and that afternoon was the first time Chris really felt like a dad to me. Watching Chris and my mom walk down the aisle at their wedding both crying the whole way to alter out of love and happiness. Our sushi Monday's we do when I'd fly in town for work, I always get the best business and career advice from Chris over edamame. Bicycles and hair & makeup have a lot in common actually.
My favorite memory of Chris (so far) was during our family trip to Alaska this summer. We were making a family dinner and discussing our first day of riding 40 something miles. He was just checking in to see how I was doing. I admitted I had only started crying once when my gear broke and I got way behind. I was alone, exhausted and saw a pile of fresh bear or moose poop. As a city girl out of her element it terrified me enough to make me start crying. He laughed and said "it's okay I cried twice today". He explained being there with all the kids seeing us experiencing this as a family made him so happy it made him cry a couple times. That's Chris. Chris is a rare species, a unicorn, you hear of people like him but don't know if they really exist. Chris is endlessly patient, loving, generous and selfless. I'm lucky to call him a dad.
In 2013 I had the privilege of biking from Portland OR to Portland ME with a group of 13 baby boomers/almost baby boomers. It was the trip of a lifetime and every day was a miracle and has a story but I'll pick two that exemplify to me the person that is Chris.
1) I started long distance riding in my later 50s. I was a competitive runner in my early 30s so I adapted well to the aerobic and endurance aspects of biking but certain skills like cornering and descending were challenging. Climbing was and is still very hard work for me but if I pace my self I get there. But descending was another very scary story. When I first trained on Beach Drive for a TNT Lake Tahoe ride our coach joked that I was the only person he knew that went up faster than they went down when doing repeats.
With that background it's no surprise that the thought of descending mountains as we crossed the country caused me some anxiety, but Chris assured me that he'd find the best route each day and I'd be fine. And I was fine until Day 4 when riding along the Columbia River we were faced with a long steep descent and extremely strong cross winds. It was almost impossible to keep my bike upright and I didn't think I could bike down. I wanted to call the SAG to come and get me but Chris said NO, that he'd ride right next to me. Being on his recumbent he could have flown down that mountain but he babysat me all the way down until finally we safely reached the bottom. On one of our last days of the trip he told me he was so impressed with how fast I could descend and how I'd overcome my fear. Riding with Chris that summer I always felt safe on the road. That was a gift he gave all of us.
2) As the trip was really a big deal for me all four of my children wanted to share in the adventure. Each of them joined us for part of the trip and Chris even rerouted our itinerary to pass through Kitchener where my older son works for Google so that we could see him and tour Google. Chris on many many occasions told me how wonderful it was that my children could be a part of our ride and he even arranged for one of my daughters to use one of his girls bikes, which of course involved some mechanical adjustment which he gladly did. His love for his family was evident in every aspect of his being and his appreciation for mine was extremely special. I've grown to know his children over the years of doing numerous organized rides and always look forward to seeing them and Chris and Mary and their white W & S trucks along the route and at the rest stops, most recently at RAW.
Throughout our ride I wrote a daily blog with comments and photos, many of Chris, if anyone would like the link please let me know and I'm happy to share.
I remember being a board member of Tri Wisconsin and at a time were the club was in the red. I went to Chris and asked for a large sum of money to get the club out of the red and also a 30% discount granted for all team members. He asked me to come back and when I did the check was for the full amount and club members received the discount also. Thanks for your generosity during that sticky situation.
I joined the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) a year ago and quickly learned about the significant contribution Chris and his family has made to helping raise millions of dollars to support the performing arts through Chris's long-time involvement in the UPAF Ride for the Arts. The Ride is the largest recreational ride in Wisconsin and it has grown in stature thanks to Chris. As recently as a few weeks ago Chris offered us great suggestions on how to make the event bigger and better next year. The biking community, UPAF and the arts community send our best wishes and prayers to Chris and the entire Kegel family.
Within days of opening Wheel & Sprocket eons ago I realized I was in over my head. I had little business knowledge, knew almost nothing about bicycle repair and didn't even own a bicycle. I did have an inventory of about 50 bicycle and a competent mechanic named Pat Horcos so at least repairs were being done. But at the end of May that first year, after being open for just three months, Pat announced that he was leaving on a summer-long trip to Florida. I was devastated. My only mechanic was going to leave me without a repairman.
But Pat arranged to have a friend of his, who was working as a bicycle assembler at Boston Store, come in during the evenings to help me out. That's how I met Chris Kegel. He showed up and immediately went to work assembling and repairing bicycles. It didn't take long for me to realize that Chris was an asset to the business. So one day I asked him how much he made working at Boston Store. He told me and I said, "If I pay you the same amount would you quit working there and come to work for me full time?" Fortunately he agreed to do just that.
That summer we did pretty well, considering that we carried no name-brand bicycles at the time. And we had no back-up products for the rapidly approaching off-season during the winter months. That first fall and winter were tough, with literally no business walking through the front door. I took a job driving school bus and left running the store to Chris, who worked that entire fall-winter season on a few dollars I paid him in cash when I had it, which wasn't very often.
But due to Chris's diligence and hard work for almost no pay, I felt it was important to compensate him in other ways. So I awarded him with a piece of the business, which eventually led to a partnership that lasted nearly 18 years. we had our ups and downs … Times of plenty and times of want. But we were both dedicated to the success of the business which we gradually built piece by piece from a single strip mall location to four stores. And when it became evident that the company had grown enough and I needed to step away, the logical choice for new ownership was the kid who showed up that June to help me out after Pat Horcos left for Florida.
Chris and I became friends, We learned from each other, worked side-by-side, and made out mark. I am so proud at what Chris has accomplished after he took full ownership of Wheel & Sprocket. He has grown the business beyond what I had ever imagined. Chris you are never far from my thoughts. My prayers and good wishes are with you always.
I was lucky enough to work for Wheel and Sprocket at the Brookfield store in the late 90's. I knew very little about bikes but was eager to learn. I worked there for a couple of summers and when I told Chris that I was moving to California, he made a phone call and I had a job at a bike shop in California that same day. A couple of years later I returned to Wisconsin and I was welcomed back to work at the store along with my dog. We worked there for two more years until another opportunity moved me to St. Louis. I always cherished my time at Wheel and Sprocket. There was an intangible difference that I could not find elsewhere.
When I first started, I was excited about the experience of possibly selling a high end bike to a racer, or mountain biker. Chris told me about how too many bike shops just wanted to be cool and sell cool stuff to cool dudes. He always talked about how he built his business on dealing with the customers that the other bike shops were not interested in helping .. The tough customers, the uncool, the uninitiated. He sold bikes to people who hadn't rode or rarely rode a bike. The bike business wasn't about the bike, it was about the experience. "Put the bike in their hands, Kyle, and get them excited about riding, the rest takes care if itself." I took that lesson to heart and off I went.
When you learn to ride a bike, it helps to have someone's hand on the seat until you find that balance and off you go. Chris Kegel was definitely one of those people for me. Helped me find that balance and off I went. I worked as a bike guide for a tour company and always found myself wanting to be at the back of the group giving a little push up a hill or encouraging someone who was feeling tired or discouraged. It was their experience and sharing in the moment with them that motivated me. The experience that I had of being welcomed, included and encouraged by Chris and the Wheel and Sprocket crew always stuck with me. It was an experience that I knew I was lucky to have and I felt it was something that I needed to share with others.
Too often in life we get focused on the object , the shiny new bike, instead of the experience of where it can take us. We enviously watch successful people at the front of life's race whiz by instead of helping the people at the back of the pack struggling to get up the next hill.
I thank you Chris Kegel for years of experience and life lessons simply learned through the example of kindness and warmth that you showed to me and countless numbers of people, For the countless little pushes and encouragement along the way.
The outpouring of encouragment, praise and love that I see in these letters and stories is proof that your effect on this world is great indeed and that we all would like to give back and help you up this hill. Thank you for teaching me to cherish the experience.