Technology. It’s something that I definitely like to step back from and remind myself that there’s a whole wide world out there beyond what’s on some tiny little screen. One of the reasons that I love being on a bike is that I have to pay attention to everything around me all the time, and there’s no way I can engage with my phone and stay safe and alert. So the phone stays securely tucked away, and I ride fully attuned to what’s around me. That’s not to say that there aren’t some sweet ways to utilize smartphones and other gadgets and websites. I’m going to expound a bit here on how I’ve utilized such modern wonders to enhance my life on a bike.
Dero Zap --An incentive to commute! A couple of years ago, my partner and I stumbled on a Dero Zap table while at an event at Freewheel Midtown. At the table, I chatted with a representative who explained that I could mount a tag on my wheel, and as I biked around town past one of their stations, I would be “zapped.” I could register my tag online, and there I could input the distance of my commute. From then on, the website will take care of recording my miles and adding up fun facts like how many miles I’ve commuted or how many gallons of gas I have saved by commuting. I enjoy the “zap.” I have been known to ride out of my way to find a zap station. (There are many by the U of M, but many parts of the metro don’t have them. Luckily, I have several on my commute from Northeast through downtown to Kenwood.) Note that this program is free, and you can get multiple bikes tagged, so no matter which one you’re riding, your commute will be recorded.
Map My Ride: I know there are several GPS-related apps that are available and can be run on Android and iPhone. I happen to use MapMyRide. It’s free (although they like to remind you that you can pay for the MVP version and your life will be complete). It works well, and you can choose to either use the phone app and have it “live map” you while you ride, or you can go onto the website after you’ve done a ride and map it with the map feature. I don’t know why I’m so entertained by doing the latter, but I love to go in and map where I’ve been and then name the route. MapMyRide also syncs with your FitBit (yet another tech gadget, not so great with biking so I’m not going to discuss it here). You can “friend” people on MapMyRide, and then it will let you know when they’ve ridden, if they’ve won awards (usually based on their own Personal Records) and you can “like” what they’ve done and tell them they’re rad. I find this to be very inspiring and I love the simple little exercise of entering my rides after I’ve completed them. It tallies your miles so you can have a neat little total at the end of every week.
I feel a little silly about how much I can be inspired by these little details. But I like to know that I’ve logged some significant miles on my bike. It makes me feel really good to know that I’ve moved myself almost 3000 miles in commuting since I tagged my bike.
What moves you? Do you have favorite applications or technology that help inspire you to ride your bike? Share them in the comments section! Let’s inspire each other.
I have always enjoyed turning a wrench and seeing how things work. When I was a kid, my brother and I would tinker around with our bikes, changing the seat configuration, learning to patch a tube (with a match! Do you remember those patches that you burned in place?), etc. My dad had a very precisely organized and well endowed machine shop. I’m pretty sure we never put one thing back where it was supposed to go, but we had a great time “fixing” our bikes.
A couple of years ago, my partner and I were new to the “empty nest.” Our youngest was away at college, all of the others had fledged, and I was really thinking seriously--for the first time in a LONG time--of getting back into bike commuting. I had heard about Grease Rag, and I was intrigued. (I attended a Winter Skill Share at the YWCA!) I studied the calendar and the shop hours, and I decided I really wanted a dedicated “Project.” So, I went on Craigslist and found the perfect bike to work on, a ‘79 Fuji Gran Tourer. It was listed for sale at $30. I called, arranged a time to look at it, and offered the seller $20. Deal!
The bike was in pretty bad shape. It had a registration badge from Cedar Falls, Iowa. How had it made its way to the Twin Cities? Only the bike knows... It had rust on the bottom bracket, and the previous owner had tried to convert it to a single speed. Luckily for me, he had saved all of the parts and put them in a shoe box, which he included with the sale.
I was so excited! I started dismantling the bike with the tools that I had. My wrench set helped me remove a lot of the parts, but I couldn’t get that crank off! I started perusing video tutorials for certain parts removals, and realized that I would need to purchase some bike-specific tools. I had many parts soaking in solvent and I learned how to clean rust off of chrome with aluminum foil. I salvaged as many parts as I could, and took the frame to Grease Rag for my first shop night. It was at Sunrise, at the old location on Lake Street. Everyone was friendly. Shane was amazingly helpful, and we started doing things like removing the headset and assessing the various parts.
I decided, after I had the frame stripped down, to have it bead blasted and powder coated with a new shade of baked-on goodness. I discovered Anthony Peterson (local powder coat specialist) and picked “almond” as the new color for my old frame. Anthony had my frame for a week, and returned it looking pretty spiffy!
Then began the fun part of re-assembling the “new” bike! I ordered a pretty brown B-17 Brooks seat for it, and bought a set of old 27” Campagnolo wheels, again from Craigslist. At Grease Rag (Sunrise), I learned how to overhaul the hubs with new grease and bearings, and Low showed me how to true the wheels. Jamie helped me reinstall the front and rear derailleurs and install new cables. I decided to get rid of the old “suicide” handbrakes and we put on a set of more modern Tektros on the drops. The old quill stem was replaced with a used--but in better shape--stem from the parts bin at the Hub on Minnehaha. I rebuilt the headset with help from Janne at Grease Rag at Recovery, and fine-tuned a bit at Grease Rag at the Hub on University. Finally, back at Grease Rag Sunrise, Jamie helped me put the finishing touches on by choosing some retro pedals from the parts bin and wrapping the handlebars with some fresh tape! She was done!
I rode the bike a couple of times. My son admired it a lot, and I ended up giving it to him. I have since acquired a number of bikes and have set up my own mini-shop at home to maintain my “fleet” of three. None of the bikes I have purchased since then has been rusted and old like the Fuji, either. However, I am truly grateful for the experience--and the help and camaraderie--that marked the completion of that first bike project. That was my introduction to Grease Rag. I found a wonderful place to learn and grow. I encourage anyone who has the itch to try this! I know you can do it! And you will be very pleased and satisfied with the results!
I love attending Grease Rag shop nights. It’s so fun seeing rad WTFs (women/trans/femme) working on their bikes, networking, and sharing their stories. I am so grateful for the help so many gave to me, and for the safer space that Grease Rag is for us non-cis/het* types.
So, what are you working on?
Calling all old/new bloggers on the greaserag.org site for a meet up! Let's put our noodles together and encourage one another to contribute or share our skills and ideas! At this meet up, we will collaborate and coordinate around the blog as well as walk through the blogging tool (as a refresher or a "how to" for newcomers).
We will meet up THIS WEDNESDAY (22nd) at my home (contact firstname.lastname@example.org for info), at 7PM - bring your laptop if you have one, but just a notepad works too! I will provide some snacks and beverages and you are welcome to bring something to share.
Introductory, FIRST BLOG entry!!!
Bicycles and cycling hold a special place in my fondest memories. As a determined five-year-old, I taught myself how to ride in an afternoon, on the gravel road driveway around my farmhouse. I graduated to the BEST bike I ever rode as a kid (I'm so glad that best bike was mine!), a wonderful blue Schwinn Stingray. Single speed, coaster brakes, banana seat and ape-hanger handlebars, that bike was my constant companion during a solitary childhood growing up on a farm in the middle of "Nowhere," Nebraska.
I incurred my first concussion on a bike. Spying a massive hill while visiting some family friends who lived in the sandhills of Nebraska, I decided to take one of the family's adult sized bikes and see what it would be like to bomb down. I had never experienced a hill of much consequence, and this one was a doozy. I trudged up the hill with the enormous (for me) steel relic of a bike. Once at the top, I mounted, realizing that my legs weren't even long enough to reach the pedals on the downturn of the crank. Undaunted, I focused on the bottom of the hill, and let 'er go. Somewhere around halfway down that hill, I had completely lost control of the runaway cycle, and I don't think I knew how to use hand brakes. I was on gravel and in a terrifying moment, I crashed. I don't remember how I fell. I certainly wasn't wearing a helmet. I remember being taken to the hospital in my parents' car, blood dripping out of both of my ears. However, after they checked me over, I was declared whole, and sent on my way. The incident didn't deter me one bit from biking.
I was very jealous of the "city kids" who could ride their bikes to school. "LUCKY!" I thought with bitter longing, wishing I could ride some sleek beautiful Schwinn Varsity in some cool color and secure it to the bike racks with a matching cable lock with some awesome secret number code. Thane Osterberg did. I was jealous. His lock was "8008," which, he explained, looked like "boob."
When I finally grew tall enough, my grandma, who lived in town, let me ride her Schwinn (seems like that's all there were back in 70's Nebraska) Suburban. When I asked if I could ride her bike, she didn't think to put a time limit on how long I'd be gone or how far I would ride. And DID I RIDE! I went all over town, from one side to the other, downtown, through many different neighborhoods, euphoric at the feel of smooth pavement under my tires and the wind in my (unhelmeted) hair.
Those memories mark some of the best times of my childhood. On the farm or in the city, on gravel, dirt, blacktop or cement, riding my bike was how I felt free.
Fast forward many decades, I am off the farm and a dedicated Minneapolitan. (Northeast, but 15 years in South make me fond for that neighborhood as well.) I still love the feeling of flying on two wheels and the freedom of getting from one place to another on my own power. I don't necessarily fit the demographic profile of a "typical" cyclist. Some terms that come to mind when I think about my identity: teacher, parent, partner, queer, white, able-bodied, middle-aged, assigned female at birth, survivor, queer, genderqueer, tall, big, introvert, musician, bilingual, privileged. Who cares? Welp, maybe some of those traits will play a role in how biking fits in my life.
In this blog, I will share more of this love affair with the bicycle. Maybe you and I have some things in common. I look forward to writing. Hasta pronto.
Greetings Women / Trans / Femmes,
Your friendly GRNE Co-Facilitators want to invite you to the Grease Rag NE of today, happening TONIGHT. (Sorry for the late blog entry... sometimes the day just gets away from you, you know?)
Join us tonight at Recovery Bike Shop (2504 Central Ave NE) at 7pm for our discussion and open shop night! Tonight we'll be briefly talking about the bike seat! Bring your bike and your butt to share and talk all things saddles, including what's worked for the group, what hasn't, and to see a few options on display. Open Shop begins at 730p, so come with your ride and let's get you running right.
Oh, and you know there will be coffee.
Hope to see you soon.