When you’re a cyclist on deployment in Afghanistan, there’s no local bike shop to visit to grab a bike. What do you do? You rely on the next best thing: your network of fellow soldiers. That’s what former Marine Ed Kulbis did.
“You couldn’t take your bike over on deployment,” he recalls. “But in Afghanistan and Iraq, with a little work, you could find a bike to get around on base. When one unit was leaving, you could just buy a bike from another service member, use it for six to eight months, and then pass it on when your deployment ended.”
Kulbis, a recent production specialist with American Bicycle Group—parent company of Litespeed—and a current performance and execution process planner for GE Aerospace is one of many service members that maintained their activity on two wheels while serving in the military. For Kulbis, that was a 23-year service that concluded in 2017, including 10 years as an enlisted Marine, rising from the ranks of enlisted to officer ranks.
It’s a good thing he could get creative because a bike is like air and water to him: it’s necessary.
When Kulbis enlisted for the U.S. Marine Corps in 1994, he was a young man with tons of energy. Lucky for him, one of the first places he was stationed was Camp Pendleton, in North County San Diego. For an active athlete, it was nirvana.
“I used to run a lot but I realized that running beats your body down, so I picked up cycling. It started with mountain biking.” He’d hit the hills on the rideable areas on base (away from the inland sections where bombing takes place) or leave the base and hit the many trails that dot the inland San Diego landscape.
Kulbis’ service as a logistics aviation officer—working on or managing the maintenance of military aircraft—took him around the world, and that opened his own riding world. From Camp Pendleton in San Diego, Kulbis was then stationed at Camp LeJeune in Jacksonville, N.C., Yuma, Arizona, Norfolk, Virginia, as well as Japan and seven deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Add Med float (medic training) and WestPac deployments, and you see it all. “I essentially sailed around the world on a Navy ship,” he says.
Through it all, he managed to find a bike. “I’d use it to get exercise, as well as to get around,” he says. “I’d have to cobble parts together to keep it going, and sometimes email friends back home to get some cheap bike parts to replace a derailleur or chain. But what I loved was that no matter where I was in the world, the cycling community was always welcoming."
When Kulbis retired from the Marine Corps in 2017, he left the rudimentary bikes behind and booked it for the hills of eastern Tennessee. His newest toy is Litespeed’s newest gravel offering: the Ultimate G2. “I’ve always loved the outdoors, and my employer at the time wanted to relocate me to Indiana or Florida. I negotiated with them to be located to Chattanooga, where I could ride the hills and gravel roads… I’ve been happy with that decision! Most weekends, he can be found on his G2, well, anywhere.
“I took mine [G2] this weekend from pavement to Suck Creek Mountain over gravel roads, then on six miles of mountain bike singletrack,” he says. “So happy to have a bike that can just do everything!”
And no need these days to email for small parts.
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