17 Sep


My Bikeland, 2014


on September 17, 2014   comments 0

Babes in Bikeland is the largest all-WTF (women, trans*, femme) alley cat race in the country. (And probably the largest race of its kind in the Universe, we just can't confirm that.)

Through the PA, Kat asked, "ARE YOU READY?" and I'm straining to hear the magnificent rumble of 400+ BABES ready to rock and roll!  And yes, that is a Grease Rag flag!  Photo by Brian: Fanelli.Brian@gmail.com

My Time in Bikeland

September 13, 2014 marks the eighth Babes in Bikeland, and the first Babes I have not raced since 2009. Babes 3 was my first alley cat, first bike race, and first bike event ever! I did it with my new found friend Buzo, and we bonded during the experience and now we do gross stuff like send each other postcards and hug a lot and declare publicly on Facebook how much we love each other. And I've felt that way about every person I've raced Babes with since, too. Which tells me it's not really about the act of racing. It might not even be the event. There's just something different about Babes in Bikeland.

This year, I didn't race because I was given the honor and privilege of organizing Babes with these fine people.

Babes organizers Karyn, Kat, and Jess. Photo by Bjorn

Each year when I do Babes I try to have a goal. A goal besides, "Have fun," because that's a given! I've used, "Go to all the stops before close," "Drink a beer and chill out for at least one stop," and "Finish in the top 50%." This year, as an organizer, my goal was to work really hard at making a safer space for all WTFs to have fun while racing, riding exuberantly, and bonding with WTFs at the after party.

With the help of our sponsors, stop and party hosts, a whole group of dedicated volunteers, and some rad, take charge Babes, I achieved my goal. Thank you to every racer, especially the rookies, who came out and did their thing, and had a great time. This Babes is for you!

I mentioned earlier that Babes in Bikeland is more than a bike race to me. But how is it different from other alley cat races in Minneapolis? Let me count the ways.

Eleven Ways Babes in Bikeland is Unique 

(I started with the goal to write about five things, but I couldn't stop!)

Pre-Wanderabout Group Ride
Organized and sponsored by Grease Rag, the Wanderabout is a social event meant to introduce people to each other, and the concept of an alley cat. The goal of the WTF-only ride is fun, helps with pre-race jitters, and makes sure that people get their questions answered. We begin the ride at the Babes race start location, and we conclude the ride at the finish line. So if you do the Wanderabout you'll know two stops on the manifest before the big day! Ginny, Julia, and I organized the ride this year, but many others pitched in to make it happen.

Saturday morning, Ginny hosts a brunch from 10-2 at the Seward Cafe for even more social time and hangs. Fuel up, meet up with riding partners, and spend time with Ginny at one of my favorite brunch spots.

WTFs to the front
Babes encourages self-identified WTF (women, trans*, femme) cyclists to race. We won't police your gender at registration, we won't police your gender during the race, and we won't police your gender at the after party. We gave you a nice big blank spot for your "preferred gender pronoun" on the manifest, so go ahead and fill in your favorite pronoun!

Designated Stop Captains
We had Stop Captains in bright pink shirts that had been coached to be as supportive as possible, and we held them responsible for the actions of volunteers at each stop. We did a pre-race mandatory meeting where we talked about gender identity, trans-inclusion, being supportive without using gendered language, and what to do in case of emergencies. Big shout out to all of our volunteers that took their role in the race seriously, and worked really hard to support our racers! You fellas are top notch.

Prize table
From coozies to socks, panniers to rain jackets, wool baselayers to skirt garters. Babes wants as many people as possible to walk away with a prize. Most races offer a prize to the top one, two or three fastest. But Babes knows there's more to being a winner than being fast.
Podium. Lots of chances to get up on the podium: Rookie, Out of Town, Masters, Best Costume, and every completed manifest earns a raffle ticket for a complete bike.

Safer spaces education
Not only did our volunteer Stop Captains get training on what safer spaces are all about, we started the conversation on Facebook and asked you to help Babes define what safer spaces should look like. Talking about safer spaces online, leading up to the event, is another way to get the word out about what Babes trying to do with the space. Your input shaped a flyer that was handed out to racers and allies at the after party.

Critical mass of Babes
There's nothing like lining up with 400+ WTF cyclists before the airhorn sounds to signal the start of a race. There's nothing like watching 50 Babes streaming by you in the opposite direction on the road. There's nothing like being in a sweaty gym with a bunch of your new WTF friends that just shared a race experience with you. A critical mass of Babes means there's no room for the patriarchy at this dance party. Our mere presence is powerful. It's as if 400 of us are saying to each other, "I got your back, Babe."

I love a good dress up party, and some racers brought their A-game.  Team Babe Lincoln, Team Sparkle Sass, and Team Crow were some of the ones that I remember.  I love the creativity and freedom represented by all of the fun, exuberant outfits.

Out of towners
I met new friends from New Jersey, welcomed the Denver crew, talked to some racers from Chicago, and reconnected with friends from Boston and Milwaukee!  Sure, some alley cats bring people from other places, but this is a race where a lot of my far flung friends come back home to roost.  And it is wonderful.

Helping hands
So many people stepped up to fill in the gaps to make the event run smoothly. This was the largest number of racers we've ever had, and it went the smoothest. At 12, when the party was supposed to end, several racers stayed behind to help sweep, mop, and clean the space. That is what community looks like.

I have never been thanked so many times in my life for putting on an event! It was intoxicating to feel the gratitude of a group of people that I care about. Such lovely manners you all have!

Your Stories and Images

ROOKIES! VETERANS! MASTERS! WTFS!! I need to hear from you. Send us your Facebook posts, your race reports, your narrative, your photos, your impressions. Please email greaseragmpls@gmail.com and I will compile your media, and we will be HEARD! Your voice will encourage others to partake next year, and your voice will show that we are active, supportive, biking BABES.

If you were able to attend Babes this year, you know how important it is to the vibe and energy of the event to pack the venue with amazing WTF presence. And if you are a WTF, you know how important it is to keep on publishing stories in our own words, and images of us being ourselves, and not sexualized, passive objects. I strongly believe that publishing what you write, photograph, record is important, regardless if it is an event like Babes or an account of your commute, or a cute photo of you and your kid enjoying bikes together. Let's show 'em how it's done.

(If you have feedback about the race itself, feel free to email babesinbikeland@gmail.com.)

Update 9/15: We posted thank yous and race results on the website!

Sveta took some lovely photos of the race start!


Check out these photos, mostly from the race start, by Brian, who also provided the free mechanical help on race day, courtesy of Recovery Bike Shop.  Fanelli.Brian@gmail.com


Please enjoy these photos from our friend, Bjorn, that really capture the event, especially the finish line excitement.


Photo by Ellie Kingsbury

Photo by Alex MacGillis

These photos are from Alex's camera, and he took some photos before and some really great photos after the race.  During the race, photos were taken by Ellie Kingsbury,  and show racers dressed up for the Three Bling Circus.  So much fun!


MPR interviewed our friends Annie, Kat, JJ, and Letta, and they did a great job capturing the spirit of the race.

"The men who are involved in the race are thrilled," Page said. "They're seeing their biking community expand, and they go on to encourage Babes in Bikeland riders to come join in other races, to take this as a moment of inspiration that shows them that they're definitely up to the challenge of joining in on any race they want."

Letta said the broader public sometimes just sees bikers as either spandex-clad weekend warriors or an activity for people with the most expensive gear. She said Babes in Bikeland offers another way of thinking about biking.

"Bikes are fun -- just because we're grown ups doesn't mean we can't just look at our friends and say, 'Let's go ride bikes,'" Letta said. "Races like Babes in Bikeland that emphasize fun and cooperation and competition help us reclaim the fun part of riding bikes."

09 Sep


Grease Rag NE is TONIGHT, September 9th!


on September 9, 2014   comments 0

Greetings Women-Trans-Femmes of the community,

Your GRNE Co-Facilitators are eager to call attention to tonight's episode of Grease Rag NE!

Join us tonight at Recovery Bike Shop (2504 Central Ave NE) at 7pm for our discussion and open shop night!  Tonight we'll be talking through giving your bike a once-over to ensure it is ready for a long(er) ride. We will also discuss what types of things we typically carry with us, both on short rides and long, to help with over-the-road incidentals that might stall the unprepared rider. Bring your bike in to add to the discussion, and stay for the open shop night to work on your ride and make it all that it can be.  Open Shop begins at 730p, so come with your bike and your questions and let's get cranking.

SPECIAL NOTE: Babes in Bikeland, the fantastic annual ride / race specifically for Women / Trans / Femme riders, is this weekend! This ride is particularly well suited for all types of riders, including those who have never raced before and are looking to explore it in a friendly, WTF-empowered environment. Have questions on the ride/ race itself? Swing through Grease Rag NE at Recovery tonight and we will help you!

Oh, and you know there will be coffee.

Hope to see you tonight!

Location: Northeast

08 Sep


PSA: Check Your Chains


on September 8, 2014   comments 0

Public Service Announcement

In addition to regularly cleaning and lubing your bike chain... Check your chains for wear! I always forget, and it is an expensive mistake.

What does that mean?

Over time, your chain will stretch from normal wear. There are a few types of chain checking tool. I like the Park Tool one, pictured here. Periodically, check your chain. To avoid replacing your chain rings ($$) and cassette ($$), as they get ground down by your stretched chain, spend the money on a new chain when you get to the .75 mark. If you wait too long, riding a really stretched chain for a long time, a new chain isn't going to sit well on your chewed up cassette and chain rings. The next step is most likely having to replace your cassette and chain rings... Ugh.

This is something you can do at any Grease Rag open shop, or at home if you have a chain checking tool.

How often do I change my chain?

I asked our friend Charlotte how often I should change my chain.

I too am guilty of not checking my chain frequently enough (and I have paid the price! literally!). Chain stretch depends on a few factors - how often you clean your chain, how well oiled you keep it, and if you are a spinny cyclist (like to pedal in an easier gear but pedal really fast) or a crusher (like to pedal in a hard gear, but pedal slowly). I think a good rule of thumb is to check your chain when you think you're hovering around 500 miles (I feel like I've heard you have to replace a chain every 600-1000 miles, but this TOTALLY depends on weather conditions. Winter kills chains. So does bike polo). I try to check mine every other time I clean my chain just to keep an eye on things.

Thanks, Charlotte!  

As a point of reference... I just checked my chain and I was OVERDUE!  I did an emergency chain change this morning, and it looks like I changed it at 1,045 mi., and I should have done it sooner. I would consider myself between spinny and mashy, and I give myself a 6/10 on chain maintenance. Meaning, I don't let it get squeaky or rusty, but I'm not constantly cleaning it or fussing over it. I only rode in the rain twice so most of those miles were in perfect conditions.

So do as I say, and not as I do, and check your chains regularly!

05 Sep


Moving On


on September 5, 2014   comments 0

After almost six years of committing time daily to learning every curve, bump and mood along those 9.6 miles... I'm breaking up with my commute.  It's not you, it's because I am starting a new job.  My friend LM has a saying that, "All relationship changes, job changes, and housing changes are good things."  Even when there are growing pains.  (Especially when there are growing pains!)  Like most breakups, I feel bittersweet about moving on.  But I know in the end, change is good and I'm ready to accept this.

This morning I did my last commute from Powderhorn to the St. Paul capital.  There was something in the air.  It is the beginning of September, and I'm sure autumn has gradually been presenting itself over the last few weeks, but for me, it seemed to arrive overnight.  The air was cool, making my nose was run, the river banks were fading from their vibrant green, I needed more illumination on the paths, and tons of kids on bikes with book bags and mother hens shepherding them to institutional learning facilities.  I embrace the changing seasons.  I'm falling for fall!

As an exercise in positive thinking and nostalgia, and to help adjust to leaving my familiar commute I spent my ride this morning thinking of all the things I will miss about my ride.  With a big smile and spinny legs, I made a mental list of things I love, as I dodged familiar potholes, shoulder checked and cranked up hills, and signaled turns and coasted into work.  Here are my top ten.

1.  Riding nearly ten miles each direction is a great level of exercise for me, and I sincerely enjoy the time spent outside.

2.  Frequenting the businesses on Selby, picking up treats for my coworkers.

3.  Passing my friendly neighborhood bike shop, Omnium, twice a day.  They're always there for me!

4.  Assessing how on schedule I am by who I see standing at their regular bus stops.  Cat eye glasses and high hair at Cretin, I'm talking about you.  Big portfolio and backpack at Cleveland, person with their face stuck in their smartphone, button up shirt and bowtie, face stuck in their smartphone on Victoria.  Parent and small child I've watched go from swaddled to their chest, to stroller, to walking on their own at Lexington.

5.  Crossing the river twice a day.  I have learned all of the gray moods of the river, from rippling and sparkling gray, to flat and dark mean gray, ice flows with deep gray slush underneath, and snowy banks with sharp gray slivers of melt.  Watching the trees catch on fire with autumn color, skeleton branches reach out of the snow-covered banks, leaf-out happening all at once.

6.  Using the Sabo bridge just because I like it, watching car traffic below and thanking my stars that I don't have to commute that way.  The sunrises and sunsets I've seen from this bridge fill me with beauty and gratitude.

7.  The games I play on my commute.  Counting stop signs, not rolling over paint, not putting a foot down, trying not to stop pedaling, spotting porch kitties, singing songs about squirrels, naming roadkill.

8.  My commute buddies.  I don't know who they are or where they are going, but we all have intersecting schedules and routes.  Tall mountain biker, always working hard.  Formal white button down shirt and black slacks and shiny black shoes.  Nice person that applied lipstick on me at last year's Babes in Bikeland.  Gray beard in a recumbent.  Couple on Civias on the Bracket Park ramp.  Euro roadie always returns my head nod.

9.  Climbing the hill by the Cathedral every evening.  I love trying to go up as powerfully as possible, and pedaling through the top, and needing a whole block to recover my breath and strength.

10.  A recent development, but all of the bikes I see on my commute.  When I first started I would go a whole day and only see a handful of commuters.  Now, not only are the racks full at work, but I encounter bike lane and bike trail traffic!  It's glorious.

Thanks for the good times, St. Paul!  Let's remain friends.

29 Aug


Fundraising Party


on August 29, 2014   comments 0

Our Spare Change Round-Up fundraiser was a great success!  We raised almost $1000.  Naturally, we decided to have a party, to celebrate.  We wanted to get together to say THANK YOU to all of our volunteers and facilitators for participating, and all of you for putting a little scrilla in the collection jar.

We started the evening with a Grease Rag Open Shop Tour Ride.  Kat lead a ride to all of our open shops, to meet the facilitators and see the spaces that host our open shop nights.

We met up at Sunrise Cyclery then rolled out to Grease Pit Bike ShopRecovery Bike Shop, U of M Hub Bike Center, and ended at Spokes for a pizza and beer at our Good Ol' Grease Rag Get Down.  We weren't able to see Venture North this time around, but it will be on our 

We took some family portraits, and I think they came out great!  Props to our photgrapher, Ben Hovland.

Beautiful people! Photo by Ben Hovland

Scramble face! Photo by Ben Hovland

BIG thank yous to Andrew and Spokes for hosting, Pizza Lucé Seward / University for the 'zza, Jamie Mcdonald of Sunrise Cyclery for buying our beer, Kristy of the Beez Kneez for giving us a tour of the honey house, Ginny for organizing the shop tour ride, Kat for leading, and our Grease Rag volunteers for hosting us at their shops along the ride. TEAM EFFORT!

Rolling with the keg, and a truing stand hitched a ride!

Major grattitude to all of our respectful and beautiful guests, for making our celebration a success!

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