It's hard to miss the black and white swirly-painted VW van inside an O'Fallon bike shop. Anchored to a wall near the main counter, the vintage vehicle has a grass skirt attached on one side.
"Most people are amazed this is a van in here," said Mike Eschmann, service manager at Bike Surgeon. "When you tell them it's a dressing room, they are really blown away. It's unique."
A Lamborghini painted with a tribal art theme inspired co-owner John Greenstreet to set the project in motion. He found the van in a junk yard.
"He always had the idea of making a dressing room out of a van," said Mike. "We cut the back off and we rolled it through the front doors."
Mike's brother Ed, who works part-time at the shop, did the exterior artwork.
"That's all Sharpie on there," said Mike, 38. "Ed has a natural affinity toward doing lines and circles. He does this type of drawing all the time, just not on vehicles. When someone has a name in cursive, he will add to it. You don't know where it's going to end when he starts. It always comes out well done."
Ed worked three or four hours one day a week.
How many Sharpies did he go through?
Ed, 51, who is autistic, has been interested in art since he was a child. He previously won Best of Show at St. Clair County fairs and has had art showings.
He'll draw on anything that's available, from church bulletins to restaurant napkins, said Mike.
"One of the interesting things we have found about his art is he does really amazing circles. Try it. It's not easy. I think my brother has that ability."
The dressing room interior has a mural with Cheech and Chong, a hippie-style comedy duo, looking over from the front seat.
Employee Adam Harrell talked his mother Jillian Harrell, of O'Fallon, into doing the detailed painting that includes a dog, a kitchen counter and a sink full of dishes.
Mike's artistry is more in the mechanical line.
"My friend's dad introduced me to a bike shop (when) I was getting out of high school," he said. "I've worked in several bike shops since then."
We asked Mike a few bicycle questions.
Do you ever have a bike problem stump you? "It comes down to a good mechanic has to be willing to invest time in solving problems. You can't do a cookie cutter solution to each problem. Sometimes, it's taking notes on every change you make. Going down the line. you see, 'I didn't try this yet.' Lo and behold, that fixes it."
Any tips on choosing a bike? "You want to get a bike that's comfortable to ride. If it's not comfortable, you don't want to get on it the next day." For each bicycle, technicians such as David Rogier adjust the saddle, stem, bar, brake levers and shoes.
How much does a new bike cost? "The mid-$400s gets you a dependable bike. The sky's the limit. We do a lot of custom-builts."
How much is a skinny tire (road) bike? "$800 is the starting price point. (Prices depend on) the frame material, components on the bike and its purpose: endurance vs. racer or time trialist. ... The technology is into making bikes lighter, faster. A road bike (with skinny tires and drop bars). is more of a tuned machine, like a sports car."
What kind of bike is the most popular? "It depends on what the customer is looking for. We have a lot of interest in hybrids for recreational riding. We sell a lot of road bikes. Mountain bikes are popular as well. I ride mainly mountain bikes."
What are those little bikes without pedals? "They're called 'Striders.' The whole thing is teaching a child to balance. They start as young as 2. Trying to teach pedaling and balance simultaneously can be overwhelming. The Strider seat is adjustable and you can get a longer seat post. They sell for $115. If you bring them back, we'll give you store credit for $75."