Loving the Commute: Edition #2
This is Edition two of a series on bicycle commuting by guest contributor, Aaron Madrid. These posts are all about Aaron’s experiences as a newcomer to commuting, and he’s here to share it with you. We’re hoping this series will encourage you to become a commuter yourself? Be sure to check out Loving the Commute: Edition #1 as well.
Loving the Commute: An Interview With Mike Kumlin
by Aaron Madrid
Mike Kumlin is a New England resident that I met several years ago at my first New York Comic Con. We became friends thanks to twitter and other various social networking sites and eventually he gave me my first opportunity to try on my writing legs. Since then we have stayed pretty close. Mike’s decision to get off the couch and get back in shape was one that inspired me to do the same. Mike’s advice was invaluable when I got into cycling and his motivation was a big part of all my success. One topic Mike and I occasionally discussed was bike commuting. When I made the decision to work on this series I knew that his story and experiences were some that I would have to share. Thankfully Mike acquiesced to my request for an interview and we had a little chat. What follows is an interview with Mike “@WorldwarMichael” Kumlin that will surely make you as big a fan of him as I am. Enjoy!
1. When did you get in to cycling?
My cycling story starts in the summer of 2009, right around this time I decided it was about time I got back in shape. In college like most people I kind of let myself go, and not till a few years later did it really dawn on me how out of shape I was. So I scoured craigslist and purchased baby blue late 70’s Schwinn Le Tour, put some new tires on it and hit the road.
2. When did you decide to start commuting and what drove you to such madness?
Fast forward a year from when I first purchased my Schwinn. I was growing more confident on my bike and had some experience riding on roads as well as having a few 50+ mile rides under my belt. At this point I logged onto google maps to see just how far I live away from work. Turns out it was around 16 miles each way, I was up for the challenge. Something about the idea of ditching my car for the wind in my hair on my trusty bike was just so alluring not to mention on the days I commuted I could skip the gym and get my workout from the ride.
3. How does commuting differ in your mind from other types of cycling, or does it?
Commuting is my favorite type of cycling. Getting up early and being on the road before most people are awake lets me start the day off on a positive note which echoes throughout the day. Instead of dragging through those first few hours of the work day you’re already fully awake and buzzing, really can’t go wrong. Not to mention having the ride home to look forward to makes the day move just a bit faster. I ultimately found that the commute home gave me an opportunity to decompress and clear my mind so when I was finally home any stress from work had been left somewhere along the route home.
4. Like many commuters you have had some close encounters… to say the least. Tell us about your scariest moment on a commute.
Scary close calls are something you definitely need to get used to if you intend to commute to work, it is your responsibility to be fully aware of your surroundings because motorists for the most part do not have your best interest in mind whatsoever. Unfortunately not only have I experience close calls, but I have been struck by a car. My bicycle vs automobile was a classic “Right Hook” which is when you’re riding down the road next to a car and they make a right turn directly in front of you causing you to smashing into the front/side of their car. When this happened to me I hit the car hard enough to break their side view mirror off with my left arm, then upon hitting the ground my helmet cracked in half. I was scraped up pretty bad in addition to being briefly knocked out. It was a really scary moment to experience and I’m so grateful that I was smart enough to have a helmet on at the time. Even with the helmet on I still hit my head hard enough to cause bleeding and swelling around my brain in addition to some pretty gnarly scars which I wear with pride.
5. In hindsight, do you think that you could have done anything differently to prevent your accident or was the driver mostly to blame?
I replay the moment in my head often to think about how I could’ve rode smarter or safer to prevent the accident from happening, but honestly I’m not sure I could’ve. I was doing everything I was supposed to, had my reflective gear on, my helmet on, and was riding in the designated bike lane. Getting right hooked is something that Massachusetts law declares cyclists are not responsible for, it’s kind of like getting rear ended by someone, you’re at the mercy someone else’s negligence. One thing I am very wary of now though is to make sure I am not riding in a car’s blind spots, I’ll deliberately ride faster or slow down just to make sure I stay out of those zones so drivers can always see me on the road.
6. Have you gotten back to commuting since the accident? What kind of emotions were you running through your head that first time you got back on the bike after the accident?
At first I was VERY wary to get back on my bike and didn’t even ride it down the road for about a month after the accident. This was partly because of my anxieties and partly because my leg was so torn up that it hurt just to walk. But I refused to let an accident keep me from doing something I enjoyed so much, so about 2 months after the accident I was back on the road. But this time I made sure to have a buddy @megze to ride with me, two cyclists are easier to see than one, and it makes the ride more enjoyable to have someone to chat and pace with.
I don’t hold the operator of the car responsible for the accident; it was like the word implies an accident. It is the nature of commuting; you need to learn from your own experiences and stories like mine in order to be as prepared as much as possible. As long as you do that, commuting by bike is a really rewarding and enjoyable experience.
7. The next episode of Loving the Commute will be about good commuting gear. Do you wear any special gear for commuting?
Oooh good topic, I love gear, the very nature of gear gets me all excited. I’ve known to wander the internet and gaze longingly at all sorts of cycling goodies.
For me it’s all about my Chrome Citizen Messenger Bag. It’s tough as nails, water proof and you can fit a ton of stuff in them. Not to mention Chrome makes their bags with your comfort in mind, the straps are super padded and feel great even when you’ve got a ton of stuff loaded in it.
I also love my Nathan Reflective Snap Bands…think early 90’s slap bracelets but they’re reflective. You can put them on your ankles, your bike, or on your bag. I like to have a couple snapped on the straps of my bag to make sure motorists can see me even in low light settings.
Then there are IT Clips, they’re hooks that attach to an old tire tube so you can recycle and make a gear strap for your stuff. Not only do they work great and hold things in place on my rack but you’re recycling something that would otherwise go to waste. That’s called good karma, get on it.
Other than that it’s just the staples of bicycle commuting, flashers on the front and back of my bike, all the proper reflectors, and most importantly a helmet. If you don’t have a helmet on you have no place on the road unless you’ve got some crazy death wish. Yeah it’ll mess your hair up and you might think it makes you look goofy but it’s a hell of a lot better than brain damage or something worse.
8. When you aren’t on the bike, what kinds of things do you like to do?
When I’m not on my bike (2011 Surly Cross Check) I love to cook/eat and write about it. I would consider myself quite the avid amateur cook/food blogger. I just really love making and sharing healthy meals with people as well as experiencing the food culture Boston has to offer. It is a past time that closely parallels cycling in regard to when they showed up in my life and I value them both very much.
9. What advice would you give someone setting out to commute for the first time?
Don’t just buy a bike and hit the road the next day. Get comfortable and familiar with cycling before you get too ambitious. If this means loading your bike into your car so you can ride on a bike trail or a quiet road at first then so be it. Cause riding on a city road is a whole lot different than your leisurely bike ride. That being said, once you’re ready to start commuting via bike, make sure you’re aware or your surroundings specifically the vehicles around you, could they be making any turns? if the car in front of you slams their brakes do you have enough space to safely stop? do any of the parked cars have people getting out of them? Once you know what to look for it is far less scary and it really a lot of fun, just be safe and smart about it. I wasn’t kidding about helmets either, wear one
Be sure to check out Mike’s site www.Battlemouth.com for some amazing recipes and healthy living tips! You can also find him on Twitter (@WorldWarMichael) where he will no doubt be sharing his words of wisdom and general good cheer!
Aaron Madrid lives in Lafayette, Indiana and is a bike lover and cycling commuter. A lifetime geek he now spends his time with his family or out riding his bike…occasionaly finding time to read comic books and play video games. You can read his previous guest posts on Loving the Bike, “A Self Proclaimed Geek Takes on Cycling”, “#bikeschool: Bike Prices” and “Loving the Commute: Edition #1“. Also be sure to find him on Twitter (@Aaronthestrong) or at www.GuerrillaGeek.com.