The Face behind the Little 500

Little 500 Mechanic Greg Souder prepares for yet another bike race on the track this spring. Since 2019, Souder has fixed broken chains, adjusted handle bars and rented out used Little 500 bikes to rookie and veteran riders in need.

“Historically, our mechanics have been fifth-year seniors and someone who is hanging around and just helping out,” Little 500 Race Director Emily Carrico said. “To get Greg, he was just a breath of fresh air because he brought so much enthusiasm and care.”

But Souder’s enthusiasm and love for biking started long before he became the mechanic for the Little 500. Two to three times a year, Souder used to ride his old mountain bike 13 miles to his dad’s house.

“One year, I just decided, ‘You know what? I really enjoy this,'” Souder said. “‘I’m going to get a road bike.'”

Souder then went to his local bike shop in Fort Wayne, Indiana and picked out a bike that was on sale for $1,200. His wife didn’t know that $1,200 is a good price for a brand new road bike, and when Souder brought her to check out the one that he wanted, she was shocked to say the least.

“She was like – *gasp* – ‘$1,200?!'” Souder said, giggling as he portrayed her reaction. “I said, ‘That’s nothing, honey. That one over there is $5,000.'”

Souder is full of anecdotes like this one that he can tell the riders who enter his bike shop. His bike shop is located beneath the track on the far side of Bill Armstrong Stadium.

“Everybody that walks through that door — every rookie, every year — we already have something in common, because we all like bikes,” Souder said. “If we didn’t like bikes, we wouldn’t be here.”

From training in bicycle mechanics at the Barnett Bicycle Institute out in Colorado Spring in 2012, to opening his own bike shop, “Spokesman Cycling,” with a buddy of his, Souder has plenty of stories to tell the Little 500 riders.

“Whether the riders know it or not, they are so, so incredibly lucky to have Greg,” Carrico said. “He is someone that is willing to sit there and teach someone the very basics of bike maintenance, and each time he does it with patience, and then he does it again 50 times a day.”

Souder no longer works with “Spokesmen Cycling,” and he sold his share of the bike shop to his partner just a few short weeks after the grand opening. But even though his bike shop ownership ended prematurely, Souder said he is glad it happened the way it did.

“It all worked out good because I’m here,” Souder said. “This is the best bike shop in the world.”

Some of Greg Souder’s favorite stories to tell are of his granddaughter, Norah. Not only has Greg become a staple of the Little 500 community, but so has his family. Emily Carrico talks about how much Greg’s family, especially Norah, has grown to be a part of the Little 50o community.

His list of anecdotes doesn’t end there. Souder’s favorite stories to tell are of his family, particularly of his granddaughter, Norah.

“She understands the benefits of Papi — that’s me — working here,” Souder said with a smile. “We get to park at the Wilcox house to go to all the various soccer games and basketball games — she really enjoys coming up here.”

Norah’s name comes up in several of Souder’s conversations. He talks about Norah’s many visits to the “girls’ house,” a.k.a. the Wilcox house, where all of Norah’s girl friends in the IU Student Foundation come out to greet her. Even when he talks about his recent health issues, Souder finds a way to make light of the situation and tell a story about Norah.

“My son and his wife talked to her about it, you know, ‘Papi’s going to be in the hospital, he has to have an operation, he has to have his kidney taken out,'” Souder said. “The first time I saw her after that, she said, “Papi, it’s a good thing you have two of those organs.'”

Souder has found community within the Little 500 since his arrival in 2019. He feels comfortable sharing his stories with the riders who frequent his shop, and he has respect for all of the hard work they put into making the race happen each year. Souder loves watching the riders race in April, and he never fails to bring enthusiasm to his work.

“When I interviewed for this job, one of the few questions asked was, ‘What can you tell me about the Little 5?'” Souder said. “I said, ‘I’ve been to the race a couple times, but I can tell you that it’s as exciting as any form of racing in the United States, whether it’s cars, motorcycles, anything.’ That might’ve been what got me the job.”

After Greg Souder’s first year on the job as the Little 500 Bike Mechanic, the 2020 IUSF Steering Committee compiled a series of videos saying “thank you” to Greg for his energy and hard work he brings to the Little 500 community. Here are a few clips from the full “thank you” video, as well as a “thank you” from Emily Carrico.