Grease Rag Ride & Wrench


We encourage and empower FTW (Femme/Trans/Women, Non-binary, Two-spirit) cyclists in a collaborative and fun learning environment through rides, discussions, shop nights and educational seminars in a safer space.

 

Grease Rag Open Shops are the hub of our activities and happen multiple times a month in Minneapolis and St. Paul (Minnesota). Find an open shop on the map (below) or explore the events calendar for all of our open shops and activities.

Find a Grease Rag open shop night near you

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Connect to Grease Rag - Join this lively community in our Facebook group, organize and discuss Grease Rag on our Google Group, or follow us @greaseragmpls

Still have questions about what we do and who we are?  Read our FAQ!

03 Feb
2017

22 Comments

Day 3 of Loving Winter 2017

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on February 3, 2017   comments 22

I #lovemnwinter! 

This year, I love the fierceness of winter - the winds from the plains stinging my lungs and pushing back at me with every pedal forward. I love that no one can predict winter. We pretend to know what might follow today but really, who are we kidding. I love the dark on my commute, it is a quiet cloak I wrap myself in to think, plan, or maybe just be. I love the snow snarling and stopping the oil-guzzling traffic. I power through on my bicycle. Or perhaps my bike and I watch the chaos from a train window. The snow briefly gets the better of our cities. (Perhaps this a harbinger of things to come.)

I love the midwest winter because, more than ever, this is how I want to be: fierce, unpredictable in my tactics, disrupting the system so that there is space and fertile ground for new seeds to grow come spring.

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Read about last year’s collaborative challenge to love one thing about winter everyday in February, and post about it on this blog. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.

02 Feb
2017

19 Comments

Day 2 of Loving Winter 2017

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on February 2, 2017   comments 19

Day 2 of Loving Winter 2017

I #lovemnwinter!  Today, I love winter wear.

I grew up in a warm place. A very warm place. And I am a cold human. A very cold human. Some have gone so far to wonder if I'm a snake or some other animal unable to regulate their own body temperature disguised as a human. So when I thought about continuing to bike through the winter before I moved to the Twin Cities, the idea seemed foolish and impossible. But then, through posts on Grease Rag, I discovered it was something Actual People Actually Did. In an effort to prove I am the badass I imagine myself to be, I started my quest to bike through a MN winter by gathering clothes that made me feel confident.

First came a few that were legacy items:

  • My mom's snow pants from the 80's! She gave them to me when I was 12, and is shocked I'm still using them.
  • A bright yellow and reflective engineer's jacket from when I lived in Eastern Oregon, and my boss throught it would be funny to get a jacket for the AmeriCorps volunteer that shivered working inside all day. (Jokes on you, Bob! I still use the jacket.)
  • Yellow snow boots with furry tops that keep my toes warm and block the wind. A Christmas present nearly 10 years ago, they still haven't gone out of style. Minnesotans routinely ask me if they are Mukluks, and no, they aren't, because I don't know what those are!
  • Child's ski goggles from my dad, that one time my family ventured out of the South to go skiing when I was 10. I love the red lens!
Then came some less-obvious-to-the-outsider items I found in Minnesota:
  • Fleece-lined leggings! Bless you, oh toasty leggings.
  • Balaclava! Props to the fine folks in Midwest Mountaineering that helped me find one when I came in on a particularly cold and windy day exclaiming "MY FACE HURTS!"
  • Choppers! Thanks to whoever left these on the campus connector... (you'll be glad to know the forces of public transit karma took these choppers from me on the Green Line a year later.)
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Some may say that I look a little overdressed in all my layers, perhaps like the michelin man or that kid from A Christmas Story. "Don't you get hot and sweat?! EW!"

Well yes, I do get toasty, covered in a fine layer of my own breath, and it is GLORIOUSLY WARM. My personal bike-powered sauna! I love wearing all my layers not only because they keep me warm, but because they remind me of all the friends and family that helped me be the badass I am today. Thanks, Grease Rag!
 

Read about last year’s collaborative challenge [http://greaserag.org/user_blogs/lowrah/29-days-of-loving-winter-2016/] to love one thing about winter everyday in February of 2016. Tweet your own loves: #lovemnwinter @greaseragmpls.

 

 

 

01 Feb
2017

1 Comments

Day 1 of Loving MN Winter

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on February 1, 2017   comments 1

In 2014, Low (an amazing Grease Rag founder) created a project to get them through the brutal Minnesota winter. For 29 days they posted stories and pictures and poems about riding through the difficult month of February. In 2015 and 2016 it grew into a beautiful collective effort, with dozens of WTFs sharing what makes them #LoveMnWinter. Follow along for this year's #LoveMNWinter series — and add your name to this list if you'd like to contribute!

I #LoveMNWinter! Today, I love bundling up.

Carolyn_S_scarf.jpgWhen people ask me where I'm from, I generally pause and say, "Well, nowhere really." I was born in Chicago but have bounced around the United States, with a stretch of my childhood in Switzerland and a stint during college in Australia.

Part of that meandering stuck me in the Lone Star State.

Now, I could say many things about Texas, but during a recent 18 months living in Austin I realized how much I love winter.

Austin is indeed a great cycling city — bike infrastructure all over, a wealth of different riding groups and nary a day under 60 degrees. Even I thought the ever-balmy temperatures would be one of the best things about living in the South. But it turned out to be one of the things I hated the most.

As a car-free commuter, having spent the majority of my adulthood riding in Kansas City and Washington, D.C. I had grown accustomed to — and had the wardrobe to match — a four-season climate. About six months into our residence in Austin, I remember putting on a tank top for the umpteenth time in November and telling my partner, "Ugh, this is ridiculous. I miss my scarf."

I honestly don't remember when and where I got my blue scarf — a thrift store sometime in my late teens or early twenties. But I love it. Like, really love it. Like, when I put it on it feels like some sort of Harry Potter thing happens and I'm cozy and safe and protected somehow.

I don't know if it's moving through the world as a woman that makes me feel subconsciously exposed at all times, but I like wearing sweaters and mittens and two pairs of pants. Maybe the layers make me feel bigger in a world that often makes me feel small — or more protected from the hurled insults we all defend against daily when we ride.

But there's also something about feeling... bulky that reminds me to slow down. When I was living a perpetual summer I felt a pressure to go go go all the time. The gray skies of winter remind me that we mammals need moments of hibernation to recharge. The slick streets mandate I slow my cadence and sometimes tell myself, "You know what? If you're late, everyone will not hate you and the world will not end." 

Many people looked at us sideways when we said we were moving from Texas to Minnesota. Why would you choose to live somewhere with such brutal winters, they wondered? For me, the winter was one of the biggest selling points.

And if you could see beneath my beloved blue scarf as I ride around the Twin Cities for my first full winter, you'd probably see me smiling. 

17 Jan
2017

0 Comments

WSS8: Safety, Handling, and Routing

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on January 17, 2017   comments 0

Reporting by Tavia

Presenter's introduction: I’m Liz (she/her pronouns), and I’ve been winter biking for three winters now. I don’t make every trip in the winter on my bike, but I do usually bike to and from work. I ride a hybrid bike - a mix between a road bike and mountain bike, with flat bars and knobby/sticky tires.

Being Seen

Being seen is a crucial part of winter biking. There are fewer bikes on the road, and drivers are not as attentive and aware. Sometimes visibility is decreased, or drivers are distracted by other weather conditions.

Lights!

You should have a front light and a rear light, if possible. I like rechargeable lights, and I have a charging cord both at home and at work. Make sure your lights are charged before you leave, or have backup batteries just in case. If visibility is decreased because of snow or cloudy skies, I recommend having your front (white) light on the flashy setting, even in the daytime.

Don’t forget, twilight hours (which often end up turning into rush hour) are decreased visibility hours as well! And the sun sets very quickly! Better to have lights on just in case than have to stop and dig them out of your bag during the middle of a ride.

Hi-vis Clothing!

Lots of winter clothing is black, which is great for my inner goth but not so great for being seen. The best kind of hi-vis clothing is the kind you’ll use. If you’ll wear a crossing guard vest, they have them for $3.99 at Ikea. If that seems too dorky, there are lots of options on amazon. No judgement here regarding vanity - if you’ll use it, it’s worth the investment.

You have a right to the road!

If road conditions on the edge of the road make it dangerous, and you feel comfortable taking the lane, go for it. You have a right to be there. You are more likely to be seen in the middle of the lane than on the edge of the road.

Other things to have, just in case

  • Bus card or money for the bus: sometimes the weather changes for the worse, sometimes bodies and minds get tired. It’s okay to bail, you can always try again.
  • Handwarmers: if you have room, it’s nice to have a couple handy. I’ve never needed them, but knowing in the back of my mind that I could warm up my toes if needed is nice.
  • Helmet! There are lots of debates about helmets, but I think winter biking is a situation where helmets are a very good idea.

Handling

There are many different road conditions you might encounter while winter biking. The goal is the same for every road condition: connect your tires with pavement. Here are a few tips on how to do that when the elements make it difficult.

Low Gear

Coasting is not ideal for slippery surfaces. If you have a single or fixed gear bike, that’s great! If you have gears on your bike, I recommend gearing lower than you normally would.

If the chain on your bike is skipping teeth, try lubing our chain and cleaning your drivetrain before you replace anything. I usually lube my chain about every 2-3 weeks in the winter.

As much tire surface on the road as possible

You can deflate your tires a bit, or upgrade to wider/knobbier tires.

If you can see spots where pavement is visible (instead of ice or snow buildup), try to bike there!

If you feel yourself slipping or wobbling, try to hold steady and keep moving forward.

Slamming the brakes is something you do not want to do. Locking the wheels will cause your tires to disengage with the pavement.

I often sing a song to myself, a la Dory in finding Nemo: “just keep swimming” etc.

Steady and controlled movements are better than fast and reactionary movements. Try focus on moving straight forward rather than over-correcting.

Routing

There are usually two things to consider when routing - distance and traffic. Winter adds a third consideration to the mix: how likely the road is to be plowed. Caveat: I spend most of my winter biking time in Minneapolis. I know St. Paul is a lot worse at plowing, especially side-streets.

Most Minneapolis city streets with bike lanes will eventually plow the bike lane, but it’s likely to be the last thing plowed

The greenway also gets plowed, but later than would be ideal. The grease rag facebook page is a good resource to check! This open source-map is also useful, though only as good as its updates/frequency of use.

  • Trails that get plowed very late: Johnson NE overpass, Loring Greenway, Minnehaha Trail
  • If you see conditions that are dangerous, call 311 and report the info to the city.

Side streets get plowed after snow emergency routes.

Later in the winter, ice berms often build up in the biking part of many streets. Don’t be afraid to take the lane if it’s too dangerous to be on the side of the street.

Ultimately it’s a matter of personal preference and priorities. I prefer to take the most direct route and would rather deal with traffic than icier roads. Some people prefer to take it slow and deal with roads that might be worse, but where there are fewer cars.

  • If you are biking a regular route for the first time after it snows, leave your house earlier than you normally would. If I’m taking a trip that I would expect to take 30 minutes in normal conditions, I’ll give myself 40 minutes in “new winter weather” conditions. (Not always fresh snow - sometimes it’s fresh ice!)
  • If it’s your first winter biking and you and want to commute to work but are worried about timing, one thing I recommend is taking your bike on the bus to work and then riding the route home. Roads will be more plowed and there will be less pressure to arrive on time.
  • Other ways to ease into winter biking: short easy trips! Ride to your favorite local coffee shop or restaurant. Ride to your favorite lake and go ice skating or take a walk around the lake! Trips with no pressure/time constraints are a great way to get a feel for winter biking.

Other Odds and Ends

If you go out and have to bail, that’s okay! I believe that you should do what makes you feel happy and safe. If that’s a few leisure rides in the winter, awesome! If that’s trying it one day and switching to the bus in the middle of the ride, that’s fine too! No one is obligated to bike in the winter. There’s no wrong way to ride a bike.

Feel free to lean on the GR community! Asking questions in the facebook group is a-okay. No question is too silly. If you want a riding buddy, posting in the GR facebook group is a great place to start.

Tips!

  • Stay loose and relaxed! Tightening up will just cause jerky movements.
  •  If you wear glasses, consider goggles that go over your glasses or a brimmed hat to help guard against precipitation.
  • Keep your center of gravity low - consider lowering your seat, and think about your movements when biking
  • Use your feet when going around corners if it helps you feel more stable
  • Don’t forget sunglasses if it’s sunny outside
  • Your own personal preferences will be the most comfortable - if you get a chance, practice biking around a low-traffic area after it snows

17 Jan
2017

74 Comments

WSS8: Self-Care with Ali

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on January 17, 2017   comments 74

by Lauren J

We gathered together to share tips on how to care for ourselves through the winter. Here are some of the helpful things we learned from Ali and from each other!

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Preparation & Cold Training

Allow yourself time to get used to the changing temps.  After a long summer, 40 degrees may feel really cold, but our perceptions of the cold will change.  Try things like waiting longer to turn up your heat or not turning it as high as you may like to help yourself get acclimated to colder temps.  As you are getting used to being out in colder temps, remember to protect your skin from the wind and protect your extremities, since they will receive less blood flow as your body works to keep your core warm.

Food & Hydration

Hydration is super-important in the winter, even though you may not feel like drinking as much as you do when it is hot outside.  Stay fueled with seasonal foods when you can and be sure that you are getting enough Vitamin D, whether it be from supplements or the sun.  See Ali's Chicken Ginger Soup recipe below!

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Body Conditioning

Pay attention to your body to help conserve energy while biking.  Notice if you are tense (shoulders, neck, grip) and try to stay loose and maintain a comfortable natural posture.

Get plenty of sleep and allow yourself time to relax and repair from being out in the winter.

Magnesium and minerals are helpful in restoration, which you can get through dietary supplements or absorb through an epsom and dead sea salt soak.

Use creams and balms to protect and heal your skin. Ali's skin care salve recipe is below which can be tweaked to your liking. (Sub Olive Oil for Almond, if you have a nut allergy.) You can also add essential oils like Mint, Rosemary, or Eucalyptus.
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Home Environment

Pay attention to the humidity level in your home. Aromatherapy!  Boiling dried citrus on the stovetop can help brighten up your home and keep a comfortable level of humidity.

Restoration

Stretching can help you to release tension and restore your warmth throughout the winter!  Ali led us in some great stretches especially ones that focus on loosening tense arms, shoulders, and neck.  Find a stretching routine that works for you and remember to take it slow.

Session Handouts

Self care tips (pdf)

Stretching tips (pdf)

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