MIPS Athlete of the Month

Long time Nutcase fan, Mike Cobb, was picked by MIPS to be their Athlete of the Month.  We reached out to Mike and asked him to share a bit about who he is and what it means to be the Athlete of the month.  We were blown away by his thoughtful response.  We hope you enjoy...

Moving around in the world primarily under my own power isn't about austerity or selfless burden. It's about living large and true. I don't differentiate bike life from work life from real life. It's all life, it's fleeting, and it's for living deeply. Two wheels, legs, and heart: I move through life while fully engaged with it. I'm never waiting to get somewhere. When riding my bike, I'm always "there."

I've grown up American and therefore have a keen understanding of how established Americans are supposed to interact with transportation technology: bikes are for kids who are too young to drive or for privileged fitness enthusiasts.  I failed to follow the prescribed cultural progression. When I was supposed to "age out" of the bike phase, I kept liking bikes. I recognized an essential truth: bikes work. Being self-consciously off-culture, as a high school bike commuter, I made special efforts to hide my ride: it was always parked a block from the school, behind a church, under a tarp.
I'm a big boy now and I don't care whether my car-free bicycle lifestyle "fits" into greater society or not. How nice to grow old and grow wholly disinterested in what behavior society deems normal. And what do you know - as I get older, western society continually expands bicycle acceptance. I don't need the acceptance to support my convictions, but it's nice to be ever more "seen" as legit. There is a flow to culture and it's easier to go with it.
In the early 2000s, I started making money moving things by bike. My lifestyle was de-facto training for bicycle courier work, so the transition was easy. I spent four years as a co-owner of Pedal Express Berkeley, a cargo courier company. I maintained our fleet of cargo bikes and trailers and gained deep expertise in cargo biking. We hauled up to 1000 pound loads and defied other bike courier stereotypes too: sustainable and courteous transportation advocacy was always mixed with professional courier services. We paid ourselves by the hour, not by the job, so every right-of-way-respecting stop at red lights put more money in our pockets. Other messengers, famously, make more money by blowing red lights and scaring other road users. In our bizarro world, 100 times per day, I developed my track standing skills at red lights. I was inadvertently training for the Cycle Messenger World Championships. So, each year for quite a while, I'd travel across the country or globe to display my otherwise fairly uncelebrated, invisible skills. Seattle, New York City, Edmonton, Tokyo, Chicago: one 2nd, two 3rds in the cargo bike race and 4 track stand victories resulted.

As I transitioned vocationally from courier work to bike mechanic work and contract welding, I started to dream bigger about how important cargo bikes could be to mitigating/slowing/healing the environmental and community destructiveness of modern society. I got hired on as "expedition mechanic" for a few Pleasant Revolution tours: basically a rock-and-roll tour without destructive travel. Developed by Xtracycle co-founder, Kipchoge Spencer, these tours through Mexico and western Europe and western United States were comprised of musicians hauling music and stage equipment from gig to gig and using integrated pedal generators to power said stage equipment. We were a rolling visual statement of possibilities and we had fun doing it. Revolution can be pleasant. Around the same time, Haiti experienced a horrendous earthquake and subsequent horrendously inadequate relief efforts. It was painful to watch and prompting to action. I was sufficiently embarrassed for our species that I felt obligated to act. I developed Disaster Relief Trials competitions to display, test, and refine decentralized citizen-led cargo bike-based relief possibilities. Described as a drill to simulate a Day 4 supply run, the event captured the imagination of FEMA and many communities throughout the United States. We now have seven cities who host Disaster Relief Trials and emergency managers down the line from FEMA to neighborhood fire stations have taken notice.

I'm a professional bike mechanic, a welder, a tinkerer, and a good design enthusiast. These trade passions are married to my sustainable transportation passion and the result fills me with purpose and love. This is to say, I'm irrepressibly compelled to use equipment tailored to the task, whether that task involves cargo-hauling, errand running, fast commuting, mixed terrain rambling, or heading out on a date. As anybody who has biked on city streets knows vaguely or all-to-intimately, street survival involves eliminating all threats we can control: lane positioning, situational awareness, collision evasion skills, well-designed equipment. The helmet one chooses plays a large roll in stacking odds. My helmet is always fresh, well-adjusted, and MIPS-enhanced. I have a limited attention budget that must be dedicated to dangers that I cannot control. I do NOT worry about an under-protected skull. I focus on co-existing with distracted drivers and errant potholes, not under-developed safety equipment. If the worst happens, a minimized possibility, my survival odds are maximized.
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