Commuting to Whirlpool: St. Joseph cyclist bikes to work in rain, snow

Rain or shine, Max Tunnicliff bikes to work at Whirlpool Corp.'s Riverview campus every day. Tunnicliff says he rides more than 600 miles a year combined on his trips to and from Whirlpool. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Rain or shine, Max Tunnicliff bikes to work at Whirlpool Corp.’s Riverview campus every day. Tunnicliff says he rides more than 600 miles a year combined on his trips to and from Whirlpool. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON HARBOR — Max Tunnicliff has worked at Whirlpool Corp. for eight years and already has the best parking spot at Riverview campus.

In winter, Tunnicliff doesn’t have to brush snow or ice of his vehicle or wait for the engine to heat up. That’s because he rides his bike to the Benton Harbor facility every day – regardless of the forecast.

“It takes me literally two seconds to get off my bike and walk in,” Tunnicliff said. “I don’t have to pay for those United Way parking spots. I walk 5 feet from my parking spot to the door.”

The 38-year-old estimates he rides more than 600 miles a year to and from work. That number does not include the times he rides to other locations, or bikes home for a lunch break.

The bike Tunnicliff rides to work is what he calls his commuter bike. The green Specialized Stumpjumper mountain bike has been putting in work for about 20 years. The Specialized bike was bought used by Tunnicliff while he was still in high school.

Tunnicliff has 12 bikes between himself and the rest of his family. Most of them belong to Tunnicliff, as he has a different purpose for each one. In addition to his designated commuter bike, he has a bike for trails, roads and even the beach – one that has fat tires to move through the sand.

The St. Joseph resident has kept all the bikes he’s collected over the years through good care and maintenance.

His normal route incorporates the multi-use golf course – about a mile from his home – in the morning and afternoon.

“All of our locations in the Twin Cities are within riding distance,” Tunnicliff said. “No matter where I’m working, I can ride there. I used to work at a building on Hilltop (Road) for two years and I used to ride the 3 miles there and back.”

More snow, no problem

Wherever he needs to go, he rides to it. His Jeep hardly sees any sunlight.

“It sounds like a lot for a full year, but it’s not significant,” Tunnicliff said. “I’m never fueling up. I’m never getting oil changes. I’ve got a Jeep that’s super old (1999) and in mint condition that’s just sitting in my garage. I don’t mind driving, I just like to ride more.”

When he began working at Riverview, Tunnicliff thought he might walk to work. That changed once he realized biking would be more efficient.

At first he began riding on nice days only. That progressed to a habit of buying gear to ride through the rainy days. Tunnicliff then limited himself to riding in weather above 30 degrees, until he eventually rode everyday. Through each incremental change in the weather, Tunnicliff bought the right gear.

When it rains, he wears the same clothes but with a rain slicker and covers for his pants and shoes.

“I’m essentially waterproof,” he said. “I walk in here, walk in a locker room, hang up my wet stuff and walk to my desk. It only adds a couple of minutes to my commute when it rains.”

During the winter, Tunnicliff puts on his metal-studded tires to accommodate the ice and snow. Through this and extra clothing, Tunnicliff was able to bike everyday through winter.

When he’s not suiting up for Whirlpool, Tunnicliff said he and his wife try to bike everywhere they can. Even on date nights.

“We live in a town where things are nice and close so we enjoy it,” Tunnicliff said. “There’s not many excuses for me not to commute by bike.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on May 20, 2016)

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