Chris Kulawik ’16

February 29, 2016

After moving off campus, Christopher Kulawik ’16 was dreading waking up early for an 8am class. “It’s pretty funny, but I’m actually a big fan of sleeping in as much as possible,” he says. “I thought there had to be a better solution than waking up at 6am to get ready and walk over.”

Kulawik found an old bike in the basement of his house, and figured that since riding was quicker than walking he would have a little more time to sleep in. The only problem with using the bike, he remembered, was the uphill road near Shaffer.

“I connected the dots, and I decided to make my project a motorized bike,” Kulawik says.

An admitted “big fan of working on projects,” Kulawik learned as much as possible about engines, bikes, and tools. With a limited budget of a few dozen bucks, a Philips screwdriver, and pliers that didn’t close all the way, Kulawik knew he had to get creative in order to get the bike finished.

“Half the battle of the project was figuring out how to use these basic tools to perform seemingly impossible tasks that required expensive tools that I couldn’t afford,” he says.

Patience and perseverance were key in getting the bike working since Kulawik faced a number of obstacles and failures—from tire blowouts to engine malfunctions—towards his goal. Most notably—while getting ready for a test ride after restructuring the chain alignment—the derailleur, rear cassette, and part of the frame imploded, rendering the bike completely unusable. Tallying the man-hours of work in his head and the high level of failure in front of him, Kulawik walked away from the project for 4 weeks.

“As tempting as it was to just quit and not look at it, I got back to hard work after 4 weeks of inactivity and spent almost a week repairing the damage I inflicted on the bike,” he remembers. “Over the past year I dealt with moments like this several times, and I learned that the best way to manage them was to walk away from a moment of frustration and call it a day…Just sleeping on it a night or two without beating yourself up too much can do wonders for morale and motivation.”

He pushed on, eventually getting the bike up and running. Once it was working he kept wanting to improve it, from the torque to the speed to space for an additional passenger.

“The project kept on going for a year until I pooled up enough money from my birthday to build a new bike, this time with all new parts and everything so I wouldn’t have to deal with maintaining a rickety bike very often,” he says. “The new bike is almost done, with a lot of upgrades that I wanted to do on the original bike.”

While the project may have emerged from a desire for convenience, it served as a vital lesson in hard work.

“As frustrating as it was at the time to use pliers to screw in nuts without a wrench or any normal tightening device, I learned a lot about dealing with what I have, and how to use whatever my resources were to accomplish a piece of the project,” he says. “I had no other option but to figure it out or be dead in the water.”

Back to top