Here is the latest installment of my Bike Blogger Q and A series. I got the distinct pleasure of getting some questions answered from one of my favorite bloggers, Stevil Kinevil of: SWOBO’s “How to avoid the bummer life.”
Check it out:
Name, Age and where you reside?
Stevil Michael Kinevil, 38, mid to Northern coast of California, transplanted from Oakland, and before that transplanted from Colorado.
What bikes do you own?
A Hunter geared mountain bike, Hunter geared cross bike, Gitane fixie, Circle A single speed cross bike, Blue Collar single speed mountain bike, Retrotec geared mountain bike, Soulcraft geared cross bike, Sycip road bike, Hunter 29er is in the works and a Redline townie.
Yeah, I know I don’t have any Swobo bikes. I’m working on it.
For those who don’t know, what is Swobo and how did you get involved with them?
Here is my canned answer as to what Swobo is about-
1992, Tim Parr made clothing in his bedroom. Decided that it was time for a wool revival. Set up shop in San Francisco. Became beloved by bicycle messengers world wide as he began a wool revolution. Simultaneously new products were introduced such as the wool technical knickers, and the ride-ready internal Chamois cargo short. People were taking notice. Momentum built, but money didn’t. Doors closed. People got sad, time passed and then doors opened again. People got happy. Brand new line of clothing and urban bicycles. 1% of all net profits are donated to environmental concerns, t-shits are made from organic cotton, the sheep that are raised for the wool are done so humanely in New Zealand where sheep are people too. Bicycle messengers rejoice, bicycle commuters rejoice, bicycle racers rejoice, bicycle people rejoice.
I was messengering in San Francisco during the early and mid ’90s, and became friends with the original crew in the Swobo office. After Tim closed the doors in ’95, JMac (former and now current Swobo manufacturing guru) introduced me to Rob (Roscopp of Santa Cruz Bicycles, who had bought the name, and remaining stock) and I told him “what Tim probably didn’t tell you was that with the purchase of Swobo, you get a whole bunch of dirtbags for free.”
Little did I know that I was one of the dirt bags to which I was referring.
What lead to the “Avoid the Bummer life” Blog? How long have you been blogging?
HTATBL was the brain child of Tim’s, who from this point forward will be referred to as ‘El Corpo’. I guess he asked me to do it because he couldn’t find anyone else. I was extraordinarily reluctant because I’d never really used a computer before, and I didn’t want to learn how. Finally I decided that no matter how much I was repelled by technology, it wasn’t going away, so I might as well embrace it, and maybe I’d learn something. That was three years ago next month. In three short years I’ve taken How To Avoid The Bummer Life from relative obscurity to just a little bit better than relative obscurity, and from here the sky is the limit. In two more years I think I can safely say that we will have achieved just over a little better than relative obscurity.
How does one avoid the bummer life on a bicycle?
Climb aboard one and go. Like my pal GenO says “Bicycles are freedom. Get some.” if you’re not enjoying yourself you’re either trying too hard or not hard enough.
Your blog has an uncanny knack of exposing so many amazing, hilarious sides of the bicycle world. Its kind of like the Huffington Post of the bike world. How do you find all this stuff?
Truthfully I think I can say that about 50% of the time, it finds me. I suppose I laid the initial foundation which first attracted all of the like minded ner-do-wells that tune in day after day, and we are all kind of on the same page, so alot of good folks send in some amazing stuff, but I also spend an unreasonable amount of time doing Google searches for things like “fat lady rope swing BMX clown banana bum poo.”
But to further answer to the same question, I think the bicycle world generally takes itself far too seriously. I’m more than happy to do what it takes to show folks how easy it is for us to laugh at ourselves. After all, we are a pretty ridiculous group.
With so many bike blogs out there, what makes HTATBL unique and what is it that inspires you to keep it going?
I have no idea what specific qualities make it unique. Recently I wrote a bit about how when The Bummer Life started it was just supposed to be a marketing tool, but in the time that I’ve been doing this, it’s almost become a bit of a journal for me. I don’t necessarily wear my emotions on my sleeve, but I’m not afraid to let the fact that I’m a human being show through in what I write and the response to that has been overwhelming. Obviously the Bummer Life audience has the fact that we all love bicycles in common. That was the catalyst that brought us all together, but I write about music, art, traveling, politics, food, cartoons, hopes, dreams, plans and schemes and of course Danzig.. We are a pretty well rounded and diverse group I think.
As far as what keeps the fires burning goes.. I definitely have felt like I was hitting the wall a couple of times. Aside from this, I have a full time job in the Swobo warehouse and have had several shows of my paintings in the last 10 months, plus I have to train like, 30 hours a week to retain my grip on the title of ‘the fastest of the slowest bike racers’, so when the burn out comes, it knocks me flat, but then I get an email from someone telling me that they really appreciate what it is we do, or that something I wrote affected them in such a way or another and it makes all of the exhaustion go away.
What was the biggest controversy about something you posted? What lead to the most comments?
Ironically it wasn’t even something I wrote. I copy and pasted a funny article that my friend Duncan wrote about fixed gears like, three years ago, and it’s still generating comments with around 60 to date, which is still half of what The Snob gets before 8:00 in the morning. Aside from that, politics is always a sensitive subject, but I never assume that what I convey is correct for everybody. Like my mom always used to say ‘everybody has a right to their opinion, no matter how ridiculous it is.” But seriously, I don’t care what your stance is as long as you have decided it for yourself based on well rounded information gathering, and not from say, a single news source, or what the fella down the street thinks.
What is the current scene like of biking in your area?
The weather is always nice, and there is a rich history of bicycle industry here. There are lots of independent frame builders, Rock Shox used to be here, Bell/ Giro is here, Santa Cruz Bicycles of course is here, Fox Suspension is just down the road, cross racing is wholly embraced in this region, and there is a long legacy of road, track and mountain bike racing, and like everywhere else, there is a huge influx of new blood on fancy track bikes which means there are alley cat races seemingly every other week.
Surprisingly though, the streets are not absolutely clogged with cyclists. I read a poll last year that one week said 80% of the people polled lived within 6 miles of their jobs, but the following week nearly an equal percentage said they don’t ride their bikes to work because they live too far away.
Who reads your blog? What type of postings gets people writing in the most?
I’m proud of the cross section that is attracted to The Bummer Life. Every color and creed of cyclist seems to contact me at some point. Everything from exotic dancers who love their road bikes to men of the cloth who love their mountain bikes and all walks in between.
I know I’ve completed something really special when such a huge spectrum of people have come together and found a middle ground. It’s all about the love of riding bicycles
. Nothing more, and nothing less.
Whats your take on the current state of bicycle culture from within and how we bikers are representing ourselves? Especially with the rise of popularity of fixed gears? The whole trendiness of it?
I know a former messenger who has repeatedly told me how he sold his beloved fixie simply so he wouldn’t be associated with the newer crowd of track bike enthusiasts, yet has dove head long into riding single speed mountain bikes and cross bikes. How is his new found affinity to this segment of cycling any different than the affinity of those he so openly scorns? I think it smacks of sour grapes and insecurity. Personally I think the more people on bikes the better, and when a 20 year old messenger (or messenger looking individual) looks down their nose at me because of whatever kind of bike I happen to be on, I think it’s kind of novel and sweet, because I’m sure at some point or another when I was 20 I probably did the same thing to somebody else. Anyway, one time a guy asked me ‘when was the last time somebody told you that they used to ride a bike but they decided that they didn’t like it that much?’ It almost never happens. Once someone has discovered the love, people rarely go back. At a cross race last winter I saw a huge contingent of fixie kids (hipsters, whatever) looking around, mouths agape, their minds being opened to a whole new segment of cycling. Road racing and road bikes have been enjoying a paralleled explosion in popularity the last 12 years or so as well. People in mass are opening their eyes to something wonderful that we’ve known all along and I couldn’t be happier about it. Of course there will always be those who feel entitled to the streets, and will physically or verbally attack someone in a car for looking at them wrong, but I just hope that the majority of people riding bikes will be more level headed and present a more positive view of what it means to share the road.
Finally, don’t get me started on Critical Mass. Critical Mass is a sociodynamic term used to describe the existence of sufficient momentum in a social system such that the momentum becomes self-sustaining and fuels further growth.
To date I don’t think there has been a single politician or city planner who has taken this to heart and said “say, I guess we need to make some bike lanes for these people”.
The real changes have occurred because of the hard work and tireless involvement of the bicycle coalitions working from the inside. As far as I ever saw, all Critical Mass did was piss a bunch of drivers off, who’s residual anger was left for the messengers to deal with the following Monday morning. When I was on the road I almost got doored by some people who had obviously driven into San Francisco for the event. “Excuse me” they said to me as I fumed, “do you know where a good place to park for Critical Mass is?” Just then my co-worker Sarah rode by and screamed “your house!”
It began as a worthy cause, but devolved into an infuriating quagmire.
Beyond that how do you think the cycling world is evolving in this world of “green chic,” where suddenly the bicycle is seen as cool. How is the industry developing with all that is going on?
You can always gauge what’s happening nationally by what is showcased at the trade show every year. First there are a few small companies that bring something in, then the bigger companies take note and follow suit. We saw it with single speed mountain bikes, carbon fiber everything bikes, women’s specific bikes, cross bikes, and now utilitarian bikes. Everywhere you look there is a bit of a green revolution taking place and bicycles fit into that trend perfectly. The market tends to follow step with what the consumer pays for, and right now, consumers want inexpensive, and reliable bikes, so that is more and more what we are seeing made available.
What would you like to see more of? What are you sick of?
The short answer is I would like to see more people riding bicycles. 40% of U.S. urban travel is two miles or less, and 90% of those trips are made by car. It’s summer time, and for the price of 15 tanks of gas, you can buy one nice bike that runs on burritos. There are no more excuses.
I’m sick of people identifying themselves with what they own. You know, like Fugazi said “you are not what you own”. Of course this isn’t exclusive to cyclists. This can be seen in all aspects of our society, but within the confines of the bicycle world especially, I’ve grown very weary of it.
You often take some stabs at the Pros…if you could ask any pro cyclist a question who would it be and what would you ask them?
I take stabs at anyone who takes themselves too seriously, and again, this isn’t exclusive to the bicycle world, but if you are so obviously incapable of laughing at yourself, I’m more than happy to do that for you. As you might know, one of my all time favorite cyclists is Andre Tchmil. If I could ask him anything it would be what is it like being able to eat a bag of nails for breakfast and then proceed to tear the legs off all comers who dare step into his shadow.
What Muppet do you most identify with?
I would probably say Gonzo, because he was always very eager to please, yet at the same time he is a bit of a loner and an emotional train wreck who never did anything about his personal appearance. He’s got a pretty good heart but the guy is a total mess. He also had a thing for Debbie Harry which I’ve always been able to relate to.
What are your future goals with HTATBL? Cycling goals?
There has been talk about doing a Bummer Life book for a while, but it would seem as though I’m the last person to know anything about those plans. At the present I’m quite content with the idea of doing this for at least a couple more years, and continuing to hone my skills with the written word, which is a brand new medium for me, and then at that point I figure the truck load of beautiful women pushing wheel barrows of money will arrive at my house and I can move on to other projects.
As far as cycling goes, I made a run of stickers that simply states ‘the upper echelon of mediocrity’ which describes me to a T. I’m quite content racing occasionally and being the guy who used to be pretty fast, but is now just sorta fast, and being able to get on my cross bike and disappearing into the woods for a few hours at a time. In hind sight that is all I ever wanted anyway.
Anything I should have asked you?
“What’s it like being friends with Loudass?” It’s a curse and a blessing all at the same time.