Grease Rag Ride & Wrench


We encourage and empower women/ trans/ femme (WTF) 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!

17 Jan
2017

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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

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WSS8: Self-Care with Ali

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on January 17, 2017   comments 0

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)

17 Jan
2017

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WSS8: Choosing a Bike + Maintenance

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on January 17, 2017   comments 0

by Anna S.

Winter biking can feel like it comes with a lot of “have tos.” You HAVE TO get a bike with fat tires. You HAVE TO ride a mountain bike. You HAVE TO get a studded tire. You HAVE TO ride a single speed.

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This year’s skillshare session did the much-needed work of demoting some of those “have tos” to “can dos.” Janni led the half of the session focused on finding the right bike, and she underlined the fact that every bike option you choose from will have pros and cons. Fat tires can provide more stability and ability to roll on snow… but you lose some speed. Riding single speed will mean less maintenance… but you might miss your gears when you’re powering up a hill.

Check out her amazing flier for more of the nitty-gritty details of upsides and drawbacks of various approaches! Putting the Bike in Winter Biking by Janni

Tina took the lead for the second half of the session, and talked about setting up a regular maintenance schedule for your winter ride. Most of the maintenance that she recommends can be done on a speedy daily/weekly/monthly season--all of which can be made even easier by coordinating your maintenance needs with the Grease Rag open shop calendar.

Here’s Tina’s flier with the full details of what you can be doing to maintain your bike throughout the year. Winter Bicycle Maintenance by Tina Cho

Tina also shared the contents of her travel tool bag and her home tool bag. In her travel tool bag, she keeps: a multitool, and a flat fix kit. In her home tool bag, she keeps: a multitool, and flat fix kit, and degreaser, chain lube, two toothbrushes (taped together to makes a chain cleaning scrubby tool), a paintbrush, Windex, and T-9 bike lube.

Tina also had some amazing BIKE HACKS! Photos and descriptions below.

Bike carrying strap: Tina created this strap from an extra camera strap that she had lying around the house. You can use it by grabbing the strap and easily hauling your bike from place to place.

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Pill bottle light mount: Want to light up the path in front of you without blinding passing bikers? Tina mounted a pill bottle to her front fork with zip-ties. She then mounted her front light to the pill bottle. That meant that the beam of light is low enough to avoid the eyes of passerbys, and also focused more directly on the path ahead of her.

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12 Oct
2016

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8th Annual Winter Skill Share and Gear Swap

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on October 12, 2016   comments 0

Curious about winter biking? Looking for advice on how to ride a little longer into the cool weather this year? Want to ready yourself to hit the slippery streets like a polar bear hits the ice? Do you like door prizes? Join us for the 7th Annual Winter Skill Share!

Sunday, November 6th, 11am - 4pm
Blake School, 511 Kenwood Pkwy, Mpls

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Print and share this flyer!

This event is FREE and open to all women, trans, and femme bike riders!

RSVP to the Facebook event

#WTFwinter8

Grease Rag peeps will share their experiences of winter biking from different WTF perspectives. Topics covered include bike setups, safe handling, bike maintenance, and clothing strategies. We want to see you out there this winter, so please stop by, eat a cookie and drink some cider, and maybe win a prize - there will be prizes! Come with questions and leave feeling confident and ready to take on Minnesota's most challenging and glorious season!

We are always adapting this annual event, so it is a little different from last year. We listened to your feedback and are trying longer sessions to allow for more in-depth skill sharing and discussion on the topics, with a longer Q & A session and a group ride scheduled in November!

Schedule

10:30 - 11am Sign In and Snacks

11am Welcome, Small group go-arounds

11:30am - 12:30pm
Session 1 (one hour)
Room 1: Bike Maintenance (Tina C) and Bike set up options (Janneke S)
Room 2: Self-Care (Ali R)

12:30pm BYO Lunch, quick post lunch stretch

1:15 - 2:15pm
Session 2 (one hour)
Room 1: Safety, handling, routing (Liz N)
Room 2: What to wear (Luci R)

2:15 - 3:30pm
Panel Q&A (JJ, Monica, Bri, Ana) and Community Announcements

3:30 - 4:00pm
Gear Swap

4:00pm
Group ride (Kat) OR tear down

The program starts at 11 and the gear swap will begin at 3:30. You are welcome to come and go as you please.

Gear Swap

Featuring many wonderful items created at our craft event and gently used gear/clothing! Go through your closet, your gear stash, and your bike stuff to find some gear, winter clothing, or other bike stuff that you are willing to part with and that would be useful for winter biking. Bring these treasures to the Winter Biking Skill Share. The Gear Swap is free and everyone is welcome to participate, even if you don't bring anything to swap. Anything leftover will be donated to The Exchange. See information below. Everyone's a Winner!

Bring a donation for The Exchange Queer Community Food Shelf!

Grease Rag will collect non-perishable food items (including gluten-free, nut-free and vegan options) to support this important organization. The Exchange is a Queer community space in the Powderhorn neighborhood of South Minneapolis. The Exchange is a partnership of three non-profit organizations, Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition/Trans Youth Support Network/RARE Productions, that came together to open The Exchange space three years ago.

Popular items include proteins, snack items, fruit and items that can make a whole meal. PRIZES will be awarded for she/they/he who brings the most weight in donations!

Related Events & Activities

Looking for more ways to participate in the #WTFwinter8? A craft night is being organized for October and theFull Moon Ride in November will be designed especially for first time winter riders. Watch for details in the #WTFwinter8 Facebook event/group pages!

Volunteers

The winter skill share is an annual event where we share stories, give away small prizes, swap gear, replenish The Exchange Minneapolis's food shelf, and inspire each other as we head into the winter biking season.

VOLUNTEERS!! You make Grease Rag happen. We need you, in order to have a successful winter skill share. 

We have shifts that are 30 minutes long, we have shifts where you greet people, and shifts where you write a recap. Something for everyone! Please pitch in. We need you.  Volunteer here


Questions?  Please ask in the comments!  And we are still looking for volunteers.

14 Sep
2016

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Lead a group ride! By Lauren Haun

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on September 14, 2016   comments 0

Grease Rag friend Lauren Haun wrote this guide to leading group rides!  Thank you for the knowledge, Lauren!

Ever been sitting on a patio, sipping an icy beverage and then all of a sudden a noisy, joyful herd of bicyclists whiz by, bells ringing and smiles flashing? Or scroll through the social media feeds and see tagged photos of friends in their underpants biking around a lake on the 4th of July and you can’t help but wonder: WHY AREN’T I DOING THIS?

Group rides are a great way to get a bunch of riders together for a bit of fun. Most of the time, you come away from a social cruise with new route ideas, places to visit or dance partners. These rides help keep the bike community vibrant by scooping up different types of riders and mixing them together. Hosting a ride can seem intimidating for those who haven’t done it before, but I really recommend it. It is very similar to throwing a party except on two wheels. You provide a welcoming atmosphere and maybe a theme and then all the people fill in the gaps. It is where chemistry collides and beautiful things happen…

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Pre-Babes Wanderabout- Photo by Siege Afidelia

PLANNING STAGE

  • – A theme and or/purpose (bakery tour! water balloon fight! polka dot outfits!) are a good idea especially if this is your first time since it provides a focus for your creativity and route. It also helps keep the ride casual and lets potential riders know that they don’t need to slide on spandex in order to participate. Anything food or beverage related is usually popular since WE’RE HUNGRY, but I also like costume rides. I still dream of having a “menagerie” ride so that we can all dress up like different zoo animals….but I digress. Don’t afraid to do something a bit different.
  • – Simple is always better. More than three stops and it is hard to keep people moving.
  • – Don’t plan more than one ride at a time. It’s like planning three or four dates before going on the first one. It’s a bit….forward.
  • – Keep in mind the practicality of getting lots of people in and out of a location at once and in a somewhat timely fashion. A doughnut ride wasn’t difficult to pull off since bakeries try to get you in and out the door, but a macaroni and cheese ride might be a bit more tricky since you adding bowls and forks/hot cheese/table seatings into the equation. But if you have a way to work around some of these logistical obstacles, go for it! Prove me wrong!
  • – To cultivate a social vibe, I recommend getting some speakers and blast some tunes. Demolish awkward silences with loud Missy Elliott beats. I use a cheapo mini speaker that I stuff it in my bag, pointing it outward towards the dancing masses. It isn’t the most sophisticated system but it works. If you have friends with a more advanced system, it never hurts to try to loop them in.
  • – For larger rides that are heading to specific bakeries/restaurants/bars, it is always polite to call a few days ahead and give a heads up to the business owners. It is up to them how to proceed, but it is always nice to not bombard them with helmet clad, sweaty weirdos.
  • – Spoke cards: I haven’t even made spoke cards for a ride yet because of the $$$ and design work involved, but many people like ‘em. If you have a creative bent and some extra time, get together with a group of buds and crank some out. Create a design and repeat it 4 or 6 times on a 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper. These can be front/back or just single sided. Make copies of the master sheet and then sandwich each one between contact paper and cut them out. TA DAH! Pass them out and people can slide them in between their spokes for a bit of style and a nice momento of your epic ride.
  • – A little help from your friends never hurts, especially if you have a larger group (15 or more riders). I recommend assigning one of two people to be ride marshals. Ride marshals are people that block traffic during busy intersections where there isn’t enough time to accommodate all riders through the area. To block traffic they just need to stand politely with their bike in the middle of the lane and waving beauty queen style to the cars with a goofy smile. It is the most effective tactique that I know. The ride marshals can also help deal with broke down bikes or make sure that slower riders aren’t left behind. After leading a few rides lone-wolf style, I have begun to really appreciate having a few people that can back me up. If you don’t know anyone of the top of your head that could help out, feel free to ask on the BIKEFUN/Grease Rag pages or the event page. I’ve always lucked out with having more than a few bike scouts taking the lead at the last minute, but it helps to, ya know, be prepared.
  • – Create a ride that you would want to do even if nobody showed up. Be excited about your ride. Talk it up to your roommates, coworkers, the cashier at the grocery store, your date, the neighbor cat. Let it ooze from your pores. Enthusiasm is infectious. GET PUMPED!

CREATE AN EVENT PAGE

  • – Invite your friends and if you are a member of any sort of bicycle group/social group on Facebook, share it there as well. Indicate that the ride is social and mellow and extend a warm invitation. There are SO MANY people that lurk on these pages, just waiting for an opportunity to hang out. Don’t forget to be bold and reach out to people on your social media that aren’t the typical bike person. Your event is gonna be so rad, they may just hop on that dusty cruiser in the garage and join in just to see what all the hubbub is about! Threaten them with a good time.
  • – Make sure that you have some solid details settled before sending out an invite. You don’t have to have a set route but at least have your stops in mind. I really recommend riding the route a day or so before the ride, because there is always some last minute hiccups like construction or closings that are best to not drag a rolling party into.
  • – Feel free to cultivate discussions on the event page about routes or playlists or anything at all. Your guests may have untapped knowledge about where the best pizza slices/chill swimming spot/cheap beers are. Give them a chance to pitch in! People love to contribute and even if they can’t attend the ride, it gives them a nice community vibe so that hopefully next time they’ll make it out.
  • – Make sure to define ROLL OUT time because bikers traditionally don’t show up on time (I am guilty of this). Give people 30 minutes to arrive and hang out before heading out. A nice central location is great, especially one that won’t mind loiterers of a bike nature (like parks or bike shops or people’s houses).

DAY BEFORE THE RIDE

  • – Keep an eye on the weather and feel free to modify the ride accordingly. If it is pouring rain, you may not want to go through with a karaoke bar crawl. Just make sure to give as much of a notice as possible, so people don’t show up to the meeting spot in their hurricane-proof finest while you’re sitting at home drinking cocoa.
  • – Remind people to bring cash if you’re heading to restaurants/bars just because it makes paying a bit speedier. Don’t be afraid to state the obvious and remind everyone on the event page to dress warmly/bring water/lights/helmet etc. These things aren’t as intuitive for some and it will make their ride a lot more comfortable.

DAY OF THE RIDE

  • – Greet everyone! Smile, say hi and introduce yourself to each person as they roll up. You are the host! These lovely people are showed up to your ride and that is pretty damn special. Treat them with the enthusiasm that those bike lovelies well deserve. They could have stayed in bed or went to that hot tub/bouncy castle party but instead they are here to ride with you. Incredible! Also, don’t be shy in introducing people to each other as sometimes it is just the little spark needed for a conversation to start.
  • – You should be wearing some spectacular outfit or something that at least indicates that you are the leader of the ride. Perhaps a cape/neon helmet/anything “showy”. Not everyone on the ride knows who you are yet!. Shine, baby, shine.
  • – Before roll out, stand on a bench, grab a megaphone or just shout and address the attendees. THANK them for their presence and give an overview of the route. If you want to remind everyone about specific rules or tips for how to ride as a group, present these now. But be nice about it. Again, these are your fabulous guests. Now ROLL OUT! Loud bell or booming voice works to get everyone moving. Now is also the time to press play and kick out the jams.

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

  • – Be prepared for the unexpected! Tires can get punctured, riders can tip over and you could get lost. I’ve have yet to participate in a flawless ride, so don’t let it trip you up. Keep up communication with your marshalls and fellow riders and take things as they come. You won’t be able to plan for everything, but that is the thrilling part!
  • – Bring a trash bag, multi tool and some paper towels if you are really going for gold stars.
  • – The ride ends when it ends. Sometimes that may be a stop earlier than planned or the party keeps rolling or splits off to different locations. Some people arrive at the second stop or leave early or just crash the party at the end. The social beast has its own ebb and flow and it is best to just feel it out.

Now go forth and make merry on two wheels!

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