Although I worked for Chris, my favorite stories are on the Charity Rides. My friend Sue Stringer and I were medical help and we were riding in our car looking for Blood when we ran into Chris. He was laughing at us because we had our windows open and were blasting Psych Up tunes to get the riders moving. We were playing Violent Fems hits . " When I was walking, I strut my stuff, and Im so stressed out. I'm high as a kyte , I just might, Stop to Check You Out. Let me go on. Like a twister in the Sun . Let me go on. Big Hands I know your the One." He came up to the car and asked" Your Favorite Group?" I said Yup. Then he said " I never met a person who loves The Fems who wasn't just a little Off." So we cranked it. When I was riding in these rides I was so happy to know he was behind me in a Sag Wagon. If you had a break down he could keep you riding. We also knew he would check your bike at the end of the day and never went to eat until everyone was ready to go the following morning🚲
In the fall of 2013, as a new early-retired music teacher, I expanded my LinkedIn contacts, of which Chris was one. One of my passions for a long time had been adventure travel, and I was starting up a small company called Second Spring Adventures. Chris, whom I did not personally know, met me for coffee (he paid!) and spent 90 minutes talking with me about starting up a business, what to do, what to avoid, who to connect with. When I got home from this meeting, I told my husband I had just spent time with one of the most gracious human beings I had ever met. As it turns out, I tabled Second Spring Adventures because the music performance part of my life has kept me busy. But Chris's encouragement, wit, humor, willingness to share successes and struggles with me, until then a stranger, was a breath of fresh and truly inspirational. He is the epitome of a life well-lived.
I never actually met Chris until last year when he and Mary joined our St. Matthias church choir. However, as a lifelong Milwaukeean I certainly knew his face...and heard lots of stories about him and his siblings from mother Audrey who sat directly behind me in the choir for many years. I was blessed to be asked by Mary and Chris to be one of the cantors at their wedding last December. I've sung for lots of weddings--but this one felt really special. Chris and Mary are, quite simply, pure love! I've been so impressed and inspired by their attitudes towards life, even in the face of adversity. I'm blessed to know them both. And, this spring, I actually dusted off my bike and began riding again after hearing their stories and seeing photos of their spectacular trips overseas. I keep returning to a lyric from the musical "Wicked" as I think of Chris and Mary: "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good." Oh yes....
Chris was always visionary in providing outdoor opportunities to residents of Metro Milwaukee. A memory I always treasure and share is my purchase of a Kayak through Wheel and Sprocket. Back in the early 80's Wheel and Sprocket also offered Kayaks for sale! Additionally Chris and his team offered lessons. A creative way to close a sale! The lessons were offered at the Schroeder Aquatic Center in Brown Deer. Chris would get into the pool and fly around like he was floating in space. He took the time to give everyone in attendance attention, advise and inspiration! Mind you, the classes were in the beautiful conditioned waters of the Schroeder Pool. My first outing with my Kayak was in Milwaukee's inner Harbor on a warm spring day in May....I had built up my (indoor) kayak skills and wanted to show off to my family how cool this Kayak was and my new acquired skills learned from Chris's instructional class. That's right, my first eskimo roll was a complete disaster, as the cold and frigid waters of Lake Michigan shocked my body into complete numbness. I had to bail out of my kayak in front of family into the freezing cold water of our inner harbor. I never appeared with my kayak again in the waters of Lake Michigan!! Truly an event I or my family will always cherish to this day!! Thanks for the memories Chris!! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.. God Bless You, Steve Brill
Thanks Chris for the ride for past 30 + years. Can't be with you because finishing 335 mile GAP and C&O ride from Pittsburgh to DC with two other Milwaukee couples, Gurdas and Brachmans. Ride was brilliant thanks to you and staff for the-inspiration. Over the years you put me in my first salmon colored trek 900, then in trek 800 and 820 for the family and friends as well as the haluzak I have been riding for past 15 years. Thank you for all you've done for Milwaukee Healthy living and HAST and good living in milesukee
I've known Chris for 20 years as a business owner and friend. I've known of Chris for as long as I can remember from the Wheel and Sprocket adds in the funny papers of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal. From those cartoons you saw a man working with his family and promoting his business sometimes dressed as a super hero. When thinking of a hero in cycling names like Jens, Fabian, Lance, and Greg come to mind. My cycling hero isn't known for pinning a number on or crushing his competitors on an epic climb. My cycling hero worked long hours putting people on bikes. My hero put in long hours and raised millions of dollars to make sure we all have a great places to ride. My hero did all these things while raising some great kids who are becoming the next generation of heros (if they haven't already). My cycling hero is Chris Kegel. Thank you Chris for being a wonderful business partner, leader, father, employer, and mentor. I pray for smooth roads and tailwinds ahead.
I had the pleasure of meeting Chris about 3 or 4 years ago at the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure in Grafton, WI. I oversee the Milwaukee Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes. My soon to be step-daughters were volunteering that day at the Step Out Walk Table when Chris had asked them if he could have one of the Red Strider caps (a special red cap that is handed out at the Step Out Walk to individuals living with diabetes). The girls knew that you couldn't just give a cap away or buy one and we proceeded to explain that to Chris. Mind you, I did NOT know who Chris was at the time! My oldest than informed Chris that she had a team for the upcoming Step Out Walk in October. Chris then asked if he made a $100 donation to her team if he could have a cap... SUCH a generous man, SUCH a beautiful memory. Thank you for the unbelievable support of the American Diabetes Association!! Thank you for helping us Stop Diabetes! Thank you for being you...
Susan Spoerk, President of The Park People
Chris and the W&S family are supportive of The Park People of Milwaukee County and annual sponsors of the Oak Leaf Discovery Tour Trail Passport program. Thank you Chris for your generosity.
I was so honored to be a part of the Chris Kegel slow roll.
So happy to see so many fellow bikers in the ride community show up to show their support.
Just to let you know, the return ride was NOT a slow roll.
So grateful for the many volunteers who marked and controlled the route, manned the bike parking corral, served me endless Oktoberfest beer, awesome food and screened the winning game at Lambeau Field.
Most importantly, was so great to see Chris there. It was obvious to me that he was receiving so much love from those who were impacted by what Cris has done for this city and state.
Thank you Chris and to your generous family and friends.
After the party ends, and the cleanup is over, please know that my thoughts and prayers continue on, for a positive direction in your current life challenge.
Christmas with Chris and the gang! Every year the season really begins (for me, anyway) when you and I continue our 35 year tradition of standing next to each other, in that huge throng, singing carols. And of course when we alternate verses, women are "even" because the men are "ODD"! I'm holding you in my heart xoxo xoxo xoxo.
I may have the only non bike Chris Kegel related story posted but there were a few of us that went on the trip to Austria in 1987 to ski. It was an awesome trip. I think it is fortunate for all that it wasn't during the digital photo age so no one had a camera at the disco club we all danced the night away. My brother and I went on the trip and would never of had the experience unless Chris/wheel and sprocket had decided to put the package together. always grateful for the memory!
Gary J. Boulanger
Chris and bicycling are synonymous, like bratwurst and beer. His outreach and love for people extend beyond Wisconsin, and in the 25 years I've known Chris he continues to evangelize bicycling with his genuine love for people. Taking on leadership roles to cultivate that love via Bikes Belong, IMBA, BFW, NBDA and other important organizations has sewn seeds of healthy lifestyles all around the world. You're an awesome man, Chris, and I'm proud to be your friend!
My daughter has dyslexia. Chris was her soccer coach. None of the parents wanted her to play. (The kids didn't mind but that's another story) She didn't know right from left and get very confused when everyone yelled at her. Chris put her in any way and encouraged her to try. I will never forget his kindness. He knew she would never be good but it was just a game. They were only seven years old. Thank you, Chris. I will never forget how you cared about the kids more than the win. God's speed
Jillian (Meyers) Biggs
I wish I had an epic hero story like many people have of Chris. What I have is more of an everyday hero type story (which can rival some of the greatest epic hero stories in my opinion). I grew up across the street from Chris and his family. I spent (literally) countless hours at Chris' house playing with his daughters Amelia and Tessa and annoying Chris' sons (yes, I know I did). I don't remember knocking or ringing a doorbell hardly ever. Regardless of how un-welcome I may have been Chris always made me feel welcome. Every morning (regardless of the weather) from my own house I would see him ride off before sunrise on his recumbent bike- flag up, lights on, and nearly every evening I would see the same figure, after sunset, riding back home. He was truly dedicated to his work. If anyone "walks the walk" in their business- it's Chris. Even more than dedication to his work, I saw dedication to his kids. He was and continues to be, a hero to them. As a side note- he always sang the loudest at the Christmas party :-). Of all the years I have known Chris- I had no idea how well known, well liked, and how successful he was until now. I think that speaks volumes to his humble, good nature character. I am lucky to know Chris!
Where to begin – honestly only one thought comes to mind that is "Chris is my friend" – Chris has had an lasting impact on both my professional and personal life which I never really had the moment to thank him – Chris, you continue to make a positive impact, as you have done so day after day with all who you have connected. Your thoughtfulness and actions continue to 1. inspire 2. Remind me of what one individual can do.
Sending kind thoughts and calm direction to you and your family during this time.
Chris – thank you, your friend Tyler
I met Chris in 1973 when he started working at Wheel and Sprocket in Hales Corners. He really was doing much more than "wrenching" at the time and seemed to be running the shop with Frank Tamel. Not only is he a friendly and knowledgeable person, but a savvy businessman as well. I was riding a heavy Schwinn at the time and Chris knew I had my eye on a fancy French bike, but was unable to commit to the high price tag. One late Fall evening I stopped in and he rolled out a Motobecane Grand Record and said he got it for me. I can still hear him saying "Tom, we aren't able to give you a discount on the bike, but I was able to upgrade the crankset for you to 5-pin Stronglight". The price was $287, which was a lot of money in those days and one of the other employees said "you know you can buy a pretty decent used car for that amount of money". I bought the bike, which I still have and it has tens of thousands of miles on it and a lifetime guarantee. Chris also sold me on bicycling. I bought two other bikes from Wheel and Sprocket that Chris steered me to.
As things turned out, I found myself on the Wisconsin Trails Council with Chris years later. Chris has a way of boiling down complex issues into very coherent pieces which you act on. It was always a pleasure spending time with Chris. Best of luck to you Chris!
I don't know Chris super well, and he doesn't know me super well either. But we both work in the bike industry and whenever I saw him and briefly spoke with him, he acted like I was his friend and was very generous with his time. Not many like him. You're a good man Chris. Thank you for your example.
I first met Chris almost 30 years ago at a Trek dealer meeting where he impressed me with both is knowledge, insights as well as his sense of humor. I've been lucky enough to have had his support during my years at Trek and beyond. My favorite story is while working for WD-40 BIKE I had this great idea for him-a talk on bike cleaning, lubrication and protection at the Expo. Chris said, "John that's a great idea-will you do it for us?" It's very hard to say no to Chris-and it made me laugh, on top of that I had a great time doing the clinic. I'm thinking of and praying for you and your family Chris.
I first met Chris 14 years ago while working for The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation as their Midwest Regional Director. Little did I know, I was about to embark on one of the greatest friendships in my life. I was seeking a unique way to actively get involved and fund raise for the foundation. In doing so, I reached out to one of our top Executive Directors, Wendy Hanicsh, who was leading the South Eastern JDRF Chapter. She highly recommended that I get involved with the newly founded Ride to Cure Diabetes. My reply was simple, "That's great Wendy, but I don't currently own a cycle and I have never biked ten miles let alone one hundred." She said, "That's not a problem, I have just the person to introduce you to." She immediately drove me over to Wheel and Sprocket's Corporate Headquarters in Hales Corner and introduced me to Chris Kegel.
From the moment we met, I knew that we would become great friends. Just how great at that time, I would have never imagined. To date, Chris and I have collectively cycled together over 5000 miles whether that be on 38 Ride to Cure Diabetes Century Rides, 3 Kegel Family rides, or one of our numerous cross country rides together. It was during those cross country rides that I learned many life lessons and what an extraordinary man Chris was. The one on one time we were able to spend together are some of the most memorable moments in my life. From the moment I met Chris, the first thing I learned about him is what a remarkable giving and caring man he is. In my experience with Chris, I have never heard the words no, I am too busy or I just cannot do that. He is always willing and able to help anyone. On many of our rides, Chris would always be pulling over to assist someone in need as we traveled from city to city. Chris has given countless hours ,days and months to, not only his community, but to the region as well as many national cycling and philanthropic causes.
On a national level, Chris has spent timeless hours lobbying in support for resources and funding to implement and execute bike safety, bike signage and trails throughout this wonderful country of ours. He has raised money and awareness for the importance of wearing a helmet, especially with children, while cycling. Here locally- He, his family and the Wheel and Sprocket team have graciously donated their money, time and efforts to support hundreds of rides throughout the years including United Performing Arts Fund, MACC Fund, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Multiple Sclerosis Society and many more. Most notably, Chris supported JDRF's Ride to Cure nationally throughout their 7 destination ride locations. Chris was well deserving of the coveted JDRF's Black Tie Gala Honoree for his generous support of the foundation and his community.
There are many ways to define a philanthropist: Giving of your time, intellectual property, donation of money, or volunteering. Chris truly embodies all of those characteristics. Chris's passion and excitement for biking has impacted volunteers and participants well beyond those charitable events that he has so graciously supported. If a man is judged by the size of his heart, and his willingness to help, in my opinion, there would be no scale large enough to weight the incredible accomplishments Chris Kegel has achieved and will continue to achieve. I consider it to be a distinct honor and pleasure to consider Chris as one of my best friends, but more importantly, I cherish that I am considered to be one of his closet friends and a honorary Kegel family member.
Chris, my commitment to you is I will continue to cycle and you, my friend, will always be by my side. Stay Strong, My Friend, Kegel Strong.
Mike La Budde
A bunch of years ago - perhaps the summer of 2009 - I was riding with my buddies (Tom, Joe, Ray, you know who you are) and we caught up to Chris on the road riding his recumbent. Tom said he knew Chris and invited him to stop at the Milwaukee Ale House for brewskis with us. Chris did! We chatted and I was struck by how down-to-earth, easy-going, and just plain nice he is. What an easy guy to talk to! I asked him about his recumbent and he told me that a couple of the Wheel & Sprocket mechanics put it together from bits and pieces of broken bikes. What a unique bike! Chris told me he calls it "Trekosaurous". I was thinking maybe "Trekenstein" - but hey, it's his bike. :)
Each year after that at the Expo, if Chris didn't look too busy, I'd say hi and thank him for all he has done and continues to do for our cycling community. A couple of years ago, pointing at Jerry, I said something like "you Kegel boys all look alike!" Chris chuckled and proceeded to tell me how the previous year this guy approached him and said "Hi Jerry!" Before Chris could correct him the guy continues on "I know you're Jerry because I'm good friends with Chris." We both laughed. And you could tell Chris was simply amused - nothing but positive emotions coming from this guy all the time.
September 25, 2016 - I ride the Slow Roll with close to two thousand others. The day is both gorgeous and a great time for reflection. I saw lots of friends, signed one of the banners, and proceeded back to Kegel's Inn. While riding back I saw this really nice red Trek Madone. I know it's one of the higher end models because it says "Handbuilt in Waterloo Wisconsin" on the chainstay. I look up at the rider and, whoa! I say, "Hi Jerry! How ya' doing?" He replies - "I'm Bill". I laughed and said "you Kegel boys all look alike."
Back in 1979, Chris sold me a Zebra Kenko Golden Sports touring bike. I was a young teacher with a new family, but he convinced me that the extra cost of the bike would be worth it in the long run, as this was a quality model, suited to my needs, and would last for years. I'm pleased to say that, almost 40 years later, I still own that very same bike. And the Wheel & Sprocket label is still on the seat tube! Thanks, Chris.
Bryan R Alexander
Chris G. Kegel has done so much for bicycling…maybe a bicycle trail should be named in his honor here in Wisconsin, for example: The Hank Aaron Trail
I've known Chris for a long time. (I actually knew his brother Jerry even longer, meeting him in the mid-1970s, when Jerry was working for the Pearce brothers at Rainbow Jersey on Hampshire near the UW-Milwaukee campus.) Most likely we met Chris when we were doing SAAGBRAW tours sponsored by the Milwaukee Sentinel.
Chris and Wheel & Sprocket took over SAAGBRAW in 1992 and the tour was renamed SAGBRAW, meaning Sprocket's Annual Great Ride Across Wisconsin. A feature of the Wheel & Sprocket tours were the Super SAGBRAWs. These were rides for the hard core cyclists, back-to-back centuries, on Saturday and Sunday, before the week long riders showed up at the normal start location. For instance, in 1995 the Super SAGBRAW started in Superior, went to Spooner, and then joined the normal tour on Sunday afternoon in Eau Claire.
I worked with Chris developing routes for the rides in 1992-97 and got to know him very well, being part of the team. We had weekly meetings at his original North Shore store on the corner of Green Tree and Port Washington Roads in Glendale. Chris was always a gentleman, staying positive through the good times, and showing his concern during the bad times, always being ready to step in and help.
Later, in 2005, I worked for Chris at the Fox Point store and got to know his two girls, Amelia and Tessa. Noel and Julian worked as mechanics on the SAGBRAW rides so we already knew them. I sang in a choir and met Chris's mom Audrey. She and I were buddies and we talked a lot, sitting across from each other.
I'm so sorry to have missed Chris's Slow Roll; what a powerful demonstration of the positive affect you have had on so many people's lives, Chris. I'm definitely on that list and feel so grateful to know you and count you as a friend and colleague. During your tenure on the League of American Bicyclists' board of directors, you saw the organization through a critical and important shift in direction -- taking all kinds of crap from people with good grace, a sense of humor, and a steely determination that I am sure you are showing right now! And you have never stopped giving freely of your advice, wisdom, and support for pretty much every organization in the bicycling world (and goodness knows there are a lot). So thanks, sorry I couldn't be with you last weekend, but count me among the thousands of people around the country thinking of you and wishing you the best. Cheers, Chris!
I know Chris believes in the inherent goodness of people, and from here is where what I have learned from Chris has stemmed.
I learned from Chris how to meet people who are upset.
It's like there is a big balloon full of air and that balloon needs to be allowed to deflate. The person who is upset gets to vent, gets to blow off steam, and you need to listen and know that there is a very good reason behind their anger. And not until then, until that listening and venting and deflating has happened, can you start to work on a solution together – not just a compromise, but a win-win solution. I saw and experienced over and over again how people were so surprised when someone, at a retail establishment no less, was willing to listen to them, and then be more than fair.
I learned from Chris what it actually means to work for yourself. It doesn't matter if you have a boss or not. Self-motivated people do good work for the sake of doing something well. Good work is never wasted. When you have a boss like Chris, you come to work, and you are empowered to do your best every day.
Chris is also at his best in those situations when someone is not doing the right thing. Sometimes people steal, or are dishonest, or make other mistakes. I have seen him be forgiving in a heartbeat. I have seen him give people EVERY OPPORTUNITY to do the right thing. Sometimes they didn't. And he, with complete respect and dignity for the other, would draw the line. I believe that, too, is out of respect for the inherent goodness in people.
Chris makes it look easy to do the right thing. As many have said, he, like my own dad, makes a practice of being generous. But there is something else to say about this. Being moral, being kind, doing what is right, doing what is more than fair, takes daily practice and we can get better at it by practicing. I think he knows that and that is why he gives people every opportunity to try to do better.
I think teachers in our lives are those who make us want to be a better person.
Chris, you welcomed me into your family with open arms and I will always be grateful for that. You set an example of a loving authority that I seek to emulate every day. Through your example, you have made our world a better place. You have been my teacher.
If you know Chris Kegel, you are probably aware of his involvement with JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes and the countless hours in the bike room and thousands of miles on the road he has contributed in support of our mission. Over the last decade Chris has been instrumental in paving the road for our success.
Whether it was the Wheel and Sprocket van safely delivering our bikes at a Ride venue after driving cross country (all the way to Death Valley!), or the last minute mechanical tweaks, wrenching on our bikes to make sure we felt as comfortable as possible before heading out on Ride morning, Chris has been a JDRF constant.
But perhaps our fondest memories include Chris sweeping up the back of the course, letting the last rider know they are just as important as the first, regardless of their speed or ability, or how far they were planning on riding. I always remember Chris riding side by side, with Mary Brown, who at the time, was our oldest and most precious rider, promising to bring her back across the finish line safe, sound and smiling.
Chris has always been there JDRF and his generosity and genuinely is immeasurable. We are so fortunate to have him in our Ride family.
I'll be thinking about Chris next week when I am again riding in Death Valley.
All the best,
I have known Chris all through since high school. He is one of the most amazing people I have ever know. Kind,caring, loving, giving, someone who loved the outdoors and bicycling so much, he would do anything for anyone. I went to W&S one day to have him fit me for a special needs bike...it took some time but within a few months I had out grown it and was back trading it in for another one. Chris was so wonderful and helped set the bike up so I sat up right and could ride up to 20 miles on a day...for me it was a life saving gift. He gave me a gift I could not have done without him and his expertise. Chris was all about laughter, doing the right thing, giving , riding, and doing a business that he loved doing. He was so family oriented, I just cannot imagine what he is going through now, This is a time when life does not feel fair. Chris is one of best men I have ever known in my life. He will continue to be the best man I have ever known, an adventurer..wonderful husband, father, brother, son. I wish you all the best Chris, your in my prayers and for all you have done for others I pray that you do heal from this terrible ordeal. Much love to you and to your whole family...may God be with you daily and your family as you go through this struggle. God bless...
I live in Appleton and have always purchased my active gear from Wheel and Sprocket in Appleton. I was slightly aware throughout the years that Wheel and Sprocket had other locations in Wisconsin but to me the Appleton store was HQ. obviously, I was only slightly aware of Chris.
A number of years ago, I decided to participate in my first Race the Lake. I remember how much I enjoyed the first half of the race until I experienced a flat just outside the High Cliff rest stop. I was disappointed and rode/walked into the park. I saw a Wheel and Sprocket truck and I went there hoping to find a pump. There was only one guy at the truck but he jumped out when I approached. I think he saw my disappointment and he asked what was troubling me. I told him about my flat and that I was really bumming. Well, he took my bike, gave me a bagel and proceeded to repair my tire. As he did, he talked to me about the beauty of the day, the camaraderie of the all the bikers riding that day and the great vibes all around the lake that day. After he finished, he gave me a big smile and told me to "enjoy my ride." I finished the second half the race with a big smile on my race.
It wasn't until later when I retold my story to Pete at Wheel and Sprocket that I realized Chris Kegel was the friendly guy in the Wheel and Sprocket truck on that glorious late summer day.
I worked at Wheel & Sprocket many years ago. On my first day, in the middle of a conversation about bike sales, Chris said to me "Mark...we don't sell bikes at Wheel & Sprocket. That's not what we do here. What we do is help people find the tools they need to go have fun." I'm sure I rolled my eyes and probably even snorted some form of derision. It seemed like a cheesy concept at that moment. But slowly I realized that he was right. It's not about selling someone a bike, It's about the happiness that come along with that...thing. The miles and miles of smiles that we can help put on another person's face. That idea took ahold of me. The past twenty years of my career has been spent in the pursuit of putting the biggest smile possible on my clients faces. I have known so much joy as a result of allowing that once "Cheesy" concept dominate my daily life. A simple sentence. That's all it was. And it changed my life. Thank you, sir.
I climbed into bed tonight with my laptop. I needed a few parts for one of my old bikes--I still have 5--and, no surprise, I thought of Chris. I've been out of the industry since 2003. Until then, I worked for Burley Design Cooperative here in Eugene. When I first started at Burley in 1991, I managed sales in the Midwest. Yes, I've worked the fairgrounds sale many times! After completing my "research", I googled Chris Kegel. I wanted to catch-up with Wheel and see what's Chris is up to now. I often think of Chris's energy and enthusiasm for the industry and his humanity for all of of his partners in the business. During my years at Burley, I likely spent minutes with Chris--not even hours. And I still think of those experiences frequently. Thanks, brother. I hope to see you again soon.