In cycling, a jersey’s color tells the story. If it’s yellow in France or pink in Italy it means “success,” “glory,” or “winning.” Consider this: our profile subject for this story - Michael Jager - named one of his startups Maglianero, Italian for “black jersey,” which says a lot about the man and his interpretation of what success looks and feels like.
Michael might be the most fascinating person you’ve never heard of. He’s the Chief Creative Officer of design studio Solidarity of Unbridled Labour who turned Maglianero from a concept into a café that serves as a lasting connection point for creatives and cyclists in Burlington, Vermont.
Michael is a dedicated commuter cyclist committed to spreading awareness of the modern mobility movement. His email signature reads, "'When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.’ - H.G. Wells.” He’s the embodiment of the true progressive and thrives on the incredibly challenging work that goes into designing the things that move and change culture.
Where are you from?
I was born in the woods of Maine, way back in 1959. My family then moved to Vermont and I’ve lived here most of my life.
What keeps you in Vermont?
Vermont is a very compelling place. There’s a freedom of thought here that’s really unique, so that’s been a very magnetic pull for me. A lot of it is because of its orientation, triangulated between Montreal and New York. There’s a very intriguing intersection of people that come through here, whether its for music, art, or technology.
Burlington has a very progressive culture, which is why Ben and Jerry’s happened here, Burton snowboards happened here, Seventh Generation happened here, and many others.
Tell us a little more about yourself and your role at Solidarity as Chief Creative Officer.
My role blurs the boundaries between strategic thinking, design, and direction. I studied design in Montreal and lived up there for a while. I started out as an illustrator and graphic designer, but I was always fascinated with strategy, not really knowing that planning and conceptualizing ideas was called strategy. My interest in sports products, skis, and snowboards also led into my interest in objects and form factor, color and graphics on products.
I was addicted to music and the punk rock scene. I always wanted to design album covers. In a sense, designing snowboards became my album covers.
Punk rock music has always influenced you?
I’ve always really loved The Clash. Joe Strummer was absolutely brilliant. He really taught a lot of people a lot of things through music and art. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people like Iggy Pop and Joe Strummer.
Does biking influence your creative work?
Yes, in a lot of ways. I’ve come up with so many ideas while biking, it moves you into another space and time. The rhythm of being on a bike definitely clears your mind for creative thought.
What’s your opinion of bike commuting in the U.S.?
The awareness is starting to spread with people participating in community decisions about where investments are being made and grants are being given. But there still exists this dynamic tension between cars and bikes, which is frustrating because the tension doesn’t need to exist. There’s a lack of respect on both parts which perpetuates it. If the commuter cycling community really respected the rules of the road, advancement would come much faster. Having a mutual alignment around the rules and using technology could be very helpful.
How long have you been commuting by bike?
I’ve had a relationship with bikes my whole life, but I’ve been using bikes as my primary form of transportation for about 15 years. My commitment to cycling is multi-dimensional. It’s partly health, partly environmental, and partly having three children and wanting to lead by example and show how you can change culture by the way you participate in it.
Once you start bike commuting, you don’t really want to stop. Once you understand how it works you never really want to go to back. I can get to any meeting on time, and I win back so much time in my life not looking for parking spaces. I never want to go back.
You can change culture by the way you participate in it.
What bikes do you ride?
I have two bikes. One bike I ride year round. It’s an old Kogswell that I built up from a used frame at the Old Spokes Home [a bike shop in Burlington]. I’ve been rolling on that for about ten years. Four years ago I got a Model No. 1 Budnitz Bike that I absolutely adore. I’ll have it for the rest of my life.
Budnitz Model No.1
RELATED: Get to know Paul Budnitz, founder of Budnitz Bicycles.
What are your top commuting essentials?
My Ortlieb saddle bag is indestructible. And I always have my little collection of tools with me, anything that I would possibly need, no matter the weather, whatever the breakdown.
Your favorite example of a smart solution that gets people biking?
It’s important to support things that create an aspirational space. We have an annual Turkey Chase ride here, which not only generates a good cause for the community, but it creates this aspirational awareness where progressive families and influential individuals in the city participate.
Biking is doable, acceptable, meaningful, cool, social, sexy, and interesting.
They show that biking is doable, acceptable, meaningful, cool, social, sexy, and interesting. People need to feel like, ‘I need to do that with my girlfriend, or my family, or whatever.’ If you can get influencers in your city to support and participate in biking, it’s incredibly valuable.