Stevil Kinevil: Bikes, Booze, and the Art of Heckling

Photo by Forrest Arakawa. All images courtesy of Stevil Kinevil.

I’m excited to kick off The Bicycle Story with All Hail The Black Market’s Stevil Kinevil, an industry insider, racer, professional artist, wild man, and, in his own way, outspoken advocate. I first came across Stevil when he was working at Swobo and writing How To Avoid The Bummer Life, a regular journal dedicated to bikes, beer, mustachioed men, art, music, and everything in between. Stevil went rogue a little over a year ago and started his own venture with All Hail The Black Market. AHTBM continues the Bummer Life tradition documenting cycling culture at large, Budweiser, bacon, fine art, and most importantly the riding and racing exploits of Stevil and his friends.

I’ve been curious for about four years now, where’d the name Stevil Kinevil come from?

Years ago I messengered with a friend named Sarah. She had a knack with word play and nicknames. She gave me that moniker after I rode a recycling bin down a long flight of stairs and got blasted out the front door of our house, landing face first on the sidewalk.

The name went into hibernation for a few years, and when Tim Parr first approached me to do How To Avoid The Bummer Life, it seemed as good a time to dust it off as any.

I would guess that most of your readers know you from your days writing the Bummer Life (or maybe even just through AHTBM), but you’ve been slumming around the bike industry for far longer than that. How’d you get your start in the industry? Where has it taken you?

As a bike messenger in the early 90s, I met the guys from the original Swobo brand and through them I met a huge array of other colorful characters. Due to a background in fine art, I was given the chance to do everything from lowbrow art direction to illustration jobs to trade show booths and everything in between. When I quit messengering I got a job wrenching in a shop, which then transitioned into a gig working for Tioga on the domestic mountain bike World Cup circuit for two seasons. After that I guess I was just sort of a gun for hire and if anyone needed something drawn or written or their gutters cleaned or whatever, I was the go-to guy.

It’s clear from the stories you tell on your blog that you and your friends wholly embrace the dirt-bag school of cycling where beer, booze, and antics are requisites even on the hardest rides. Do you just naturally gravitate towards the world of racing in orange-jumpsuits and offering beer hand-downs, or is it a somewhat conscious response to the anal type-A athletes that cycling tends to attract?

It is both. I never set out to join forces with other people who had the same general disdain for the jockish attitude we all experience in the bike world. We all just found each other in a very organic progression, which is still occurring to this day. I very much appreciate that people love to race bikes, for whatever the reason, and any hazing that occurs from any of us is good natured. If someone gets bent out of shape about it, that is more of a reflection of their personality.

If type-A racer guy gets pissed that he was beat by a person in a painfully underwashed jumpsuit, then they just became the punch line to our joke.

Photo by Chris Patterson

As cyclocross continues to grow in the U.S., it’s attracting more family-friendly participants and audience as well as some deadly serious racers. The growth of cross is certainly a good thing, but beer-fueled heckling seems to be taking a back-seat to polite encouragement to some extent (I heard an anecdote after Starcrossed this year that a spectator asked some Portlanders to “stop ringing their cowbells so loud” next to him). As someone who’s been accused of ruining races on several occasions, do you think there’s a balance to be struck between cross’ traditional wildness and it’s continued growth, or is it doomed to be as self-serious as road racing?

I suppose time will tell, but this question reminds of an anecdote that may or may not adequately answer the query. Several years ago I re-established the “50 yards of Hell” at a Pilarcitos race in San Francisco. Dozens of us met up and donned jumpsuits graciously loaned to us from a friend who works for CalTrans (with the exception of my own personal team issued one). We found a spot devoid of any other people and proceeded to unleash all manner of hi-jinx, primarily on our friends, though we were also giving hundreds of dollars away in primes to any racer who wanted to grab a 20 spot out of buttcracks and open flies as well. Over the course of the day, tons of spectators ended up where we had posted up because that’s where the action was.

The next day forums lit up with people complaining about our antics and how their “boyfriends wanted to beat us up” and so fourth. We were having a blast and all of our friends who were racing and ultimately became the focus for beers in the face and whatnot loved it.

To clarify, we weren’t hassling anyone we didn’t know–and those who we weren’t friends with we were giving money to–but as outside observers, people were all bent out of shape. I even heard that an email had been sent to the promoter from another race promoter we’d had similar run ins with, to bar us from gaining entry.

We’ve never hurt anyone, or their chances to achieve victory. Heckling is an art form and despite outward appearances, we are very methodical and precise. As the sport’s popularity grows, so will the numbers of people who liken us to little more than thugs who have no understanding of the skill and dedication that it takes to race bikes. Truth be told, a number of us have raced professionally, or at the very least at an elite level. We know exactly what is transpiring in the racers’ minds, which is why we’re doing what we are. I hope that the legions of good-natured hooligans continue to grow, because that is, after all, a large aspect of what makes the cross community a unique and special thing.

You mentioned on Twitter that you were kind of hoping this year would be the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships’ (an event about as far from self-serious as possible) “swan song.” What’s your reasoning?

That was based simply on having watched the [mountain bike] Single Speed World Championships go from a beautiful and intimate little event to one of ridiculously large proportions. At the last one held in California, someone actually slashed a buddy’s car tires, presumably for the reasons stated above. I just don’t want to see an event that is supposed to be one of commonality and camaraderie become a washed out version of itself that is populated with knuckleheads who think that mean spirited vandalism is an appropriate response to harmless razzing during their race.

You worship at the altar of Danzig, Cycling Inquisition’s Lucho moonlights for a metal blog, the dudes at Bike Jerks love metal, as do many, many other cyclists; what is it about metal and bikes?

I grew up immersed in a world of punk rock, and all things noisy and guitar driven. Heavy metal ended up just being an extension of that. I don’t know, depending on who you ask, maybe it’s just because we all have crappy taste in music.

Back in the early Bummer Life days, you used to regularly defend the “sweet fixie” trend saying essentially, “the more cyclists the merrier.” Now that we’re a few years down the line and the trend seems to have peaked, what are your thoughts? Do you think the influx of PBR-guzzling, skinny-jeaned fixsters benefited the industry in a long-term, meaningful way?

Yeah, I still think it’s fine. I know a few people who got into bikes because of that trend and now have a full blown love affair with all manner of bicycles. Very few folks I’ve ever known have started riding bikes and then decided that it wasn’t for them. Once you discover how great it is, it’s hard to go back. I don’t really care what inspires that realization, as long as it happens.

Do you have the same all-inclusive love for the fixed gear freestyle trend, arguably the evolution of the fixie trend?

The fixed gear freestylers are a funny bunch. It seems like the only people who realize they’re not doing anything new is them, but again, I give it a big “to each his own”. Personally, I could give a fig that another edit of so-and-so doing the billionth fakie wall ride just ‘dropped’, yet I could watch Rob Ridge (of Standard Bykes) and his absolute mastery until I’m old and gray.

But, that’s just my preference. I certainly don’t expect anyone to else feel the same way. If that’s what they want to do, that’s fine. My guess is that that I look equally silly to them wearing stretchy pants and tap shoes.

Then again, I look ridiculous in stretchy pants and tap shoes to just about anyone.

Bringing it back to the present, All Hail The Black Market recently crossed the one year mark, you continue to regularly document your exploits, you’re selling clothes and stickers and swag. Where’s AHTBM going from here?

The short version is I don’t know. Honestly I was shocked at how quickly this year has passed. As far as long term plans go, in a perfect world, I would load up a motor home and do a tour to visit people and events that so far I have only gotten to enjoy from a distance. There is also a fantasy that I have where I launch sort a Dave Attell Insomniac flavored web cast where I get to experience all of the people and events I have ‘met’ and promoted from afar.

At this stage in the game, it’s just a pipe dream. I never thought I’d see the day where I was able to keep my head above water by doing this, so as far as I’m concerned, every month that passes is a gift. Keeping one foot in front of the other … that’s as concise a plan as I currently choose to stick to.

3 Responses to Stevil Kinevil: Bikes, Booze, and the Art of Heckling

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