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.

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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

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17 Feb
2017

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Day 17 of Loving MN Winter

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on February 17, 2017   comments 0

I #LoveMNWinter. Today, I love biking in the 'burbs.

By Melody Hoffmann

bike-burbs.jpgI have been winter biking for about 10 years now. When riding around the city, I tire of all the exacerbated reactions. “You biked here?!” “How did you stay warm?!” “Aren’t you worried about a car hitting you?!” (FWIW, I am but that isn’t my responsibility. I stay in my skinny lane.)

Recently I ventured out to Coon Rapids with my bicycle and had a much different attitude about the whole thing. It wasn’t anything I prepped myself for. I just desperately needed some activity at the end of a cold snap. And a positive attitude followed.

I took my bicycle onto the 852 (thanks bus driver, for letting me on with it due to the full front bike rack) into Coon Rapids. The other bicyclists on the bus and I engaged in some chit chat (instant community when you carry bike gear). I requested a stop a few miles from my end destination. I hopped off at an intersection (the bus stops aren’t plowed in Coon Rapids) and enjoyed a leisurely ride to my errand destination.

I enjoyed the very generous road shoulders that allowed me to ride safely next to cars travelling 45 mph (the posted speed limit). When I rode onto skinnier sections of the road, drivers were surprisingly courteous. I was surprised because I just assumed suburban people who don’t interact with bicyclists would be less aware of the need to give me space. You know what they say about assumptions.

Then I pulled up to my errand spot and locked my bike to itself (I wasn’t too concerned about a fixed gear bike walking away in a car-centric shopping center). I carried my helmet in and engaged with the customer service worker. When they asked me if I biked, I affirmed but then added in something I usually don’t — a reason why. I said something like: “Yes, I did bike. It feels nice to get some exercise! It is such an easy way to get some activity in. And I stay warm because it’s like running. You get hot!” And I repeated this reasoning to the next person who asked me.

For some reason, I felt the need to be a bicycle ambassador that day. If I want more people to bike and more people to respect bicyclists on the road, then people need to hear why it is so beneficial. A lightbulb went off in my head. If I want people to give me space on the road out in Coon Rapids, it is best for me to smile and share a positive story. My hope is that it produces some empathy and that the next time that person passes a bicyclist they can put a symbolic face to the bicyclist.

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.

15 Feb
2017

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Day 15 of Loving MN Winter

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on February 15, 2017   comments 1

I #LoveMNWinter. Today, I love surprise nice weather!

By Colleen Detloff

Biking in the winter is an awesome, exhilarating, sometimes unpredictable experience. This is my first winter back in the Midwest after spending the last few years out in California — and I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. I had heard of the magic of riding through fresh powdery snow, and was excited to experience it for myself. I was hoping to write a long post about winter bike magic after being inspired by a snowy ride, but as I look out my window, I don’t think it will happen tonight. So instead I’ll just post a few of my favorite pics of the past few months and go enjoy this balmy spring weather. Happy (bike) trails!

 

Colleen1.jpg

Thrilled it's light enough to take a joy ride after my commute home!

 

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All bundled up for the wind chill

 

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A wintery wonderland

 

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Sheila, my trusty pink commuter

 

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.

14 Feb
2017

11 Comments

Day 14 of Loving MN Winter

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on February 14, 2017   comments 11

I #LoveMNWinter. Today, I love persistence.

By Kadence Hampton

Picture of author with beloved bicycle, Dale, set against snow

As a year-round bike commuter and winner of Babes in Bikeland 10 short course, I want to share with you my not-so-special-secret for How to Be a Bike Babe Badass, so that you, too, will become the Bike Babe Badass That You’ve Always Wanted to Be. First Action: Acquire Bike, Any Bike. Second Action: Show Up - Anywhere, Everywhere. Final Action: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. And that’s it – you don’t need the best bike equipment, although it’s nice to treat yourself; you don’t need to be brave, fast, or fearless in all of your bike-related endeavors – all you need to be bestowed your Bike Babe Badass badge is persistence.

If this process seems like an absurd oversimplification, you’re right, but it’s also how I became the winter and bike racing enthusiast that I never thought – or intended – to be. My journey begins in my hometown of Austin after winning a road bike in a game of black jack nearly seven years ago. Only after I moved to Minneapolis (and sold my car) in 2012 did I muster up enough confidence to be a fair-weather bike commuter. Still an inexperienced cyclist and intimidated by winter, I never even considered winter bike commuting as a possible, much less wise, course of action during my first three winters in Minnesota – until I found myself participating in cyclocross racing events in 2015.

First known picture of author participating in a cyclocross event

Wait, what? Yeah. I still find myself wondering what happened. As a person whom considers themselves a quiet, timid, risk averse, unathletic academic for whom trying new endeavors, especially Any and All Remotely Athletic Activities, requires ample external encouragement and several attempts, seeking out off-road and fast-paced riding opportunities has taken me by surprise. But something happened in 2014 that sparked a curiosity and desire to Try Something New. After watching my partner race (and petting lots and lots of dogs) at Green Acres, one of the state’s premier cyclocross race weekend events, my partner inspired me participate in That Thing Looks Fun: all I needed was a bike and a desire to start. 

Equipped with a bike and a desire to start, it took me almost a full year to build my confidence before finally participating in any cx-related activities. I nearly backed out of my first “race,” the All-City Championship bandit cx, due to a suffocating lack of self-confidence on a bike, but was encouraged by complete strangers to at least start. That was my first introduction to DFL > DNF > DFS, which translates into Dead F!@king Last is better than Did Not Finish which is still better than Did Not Start. It was the Hardest Thing I Had Ever Done.

The next chance I got to participate was at a beginner’s race as part of the Wednesday Night Cross (#WNCX) series. The following week, I threw up in my mouth before pulling off the course on my last lap. It was also the Hardest Thing I Had Ever Done, and it hated it. I was nearly convinced that the sufferfest that is cx wasn’t for me, but again there were those who encouraged me to keep participating; I would not have stuck around the cx community if not for the support of the Freewheel Bike cx club and members of the All-City X Fulton team among countless other folks.

Author smiling while shouldering bike up a sandpit during a cyclocross race.It took me four solid attempts before Something Clicked and I felt like I had broken through my biggest mental barriers. As it turns out, Cx Is Fun, and You Learn Stuff, too. Having the opportunity to test the waters by riding through mud, sand, dirt, gravel, dry grass, wet grass, beer and occasional donut handups in an auto-free environment surrounded by a supportive community was paramount to building enough confidence in my bike handling skills to try winter bike commuting.

Last year, this Texas transplant found a love in winter bike commuting that did not melt with the arrival of spring or evaporate on enjoyable hot summer days as I found myself craving the challenges presented by snow, ice, cold, and darkness long before this past winter solstice. It’s a weird feeling to me to crave winter, and an even weirder feeling to crave a physical challenge beyond the utilitarianism of bike commuting. In 2016, I participated in Riotgrrravel, took the track class at the velodrome, and raced (as opposed to just participating in) my first alleycat, the Koochella Classic, and came in 6th WTF!

But Babes in Bikeland was the ultimate test. Fueled only by fried State Fair food on zero hours of sleep due to a traumatizing ordeal involving online harassment and doxxing from Some Random, But Also Some Known People in the Ill-Defined Twin Cities Bike Community, the person I surprised the most when I came in first for short course was myself because I almost #DNS that day. I had just enough time to reach the race start until I became stranded at the fairgrounds post-volunteer shift with a flat tire and fading determination. I walked myself and my bike as close to MPLS as I could before the weight of not sleeping and feeling unsafe pushed me into the ground outside a gas station where I sat down, and cried. At a quarter to 4 p.m., I was rescued by the world's best partner with a hug, a ride, and a spare tube. Needing to Feel Something, Anything Else Other Than This Crushing Weight, my singular goal was to simply finish the BIBLX course. I did that, and more.

I won BIBLX not because I am Relatively Fast Compared to Those Who Are DFL But Especially Faster Than Those Who DNS, nor did I win the short course due to routing skills alone - I won BIBLX because I am persistent. This weathered persistence, cultivated with each desire to show up, exercised with every attempt on my bike, reinforced by the support of a community, is what kept me going through the emotionally exhausting days and moments leading up to BIBLX when I almost Could Not Even.

I’ve already achieved my 2017 Hardest Thing I Have Ever Done with what was also my first fat bike race, and then crossed it out and replaced it with the Dumbest Routing Mistake I Have Ever Made racing my first Speed Stupor Bowl, followed by That Was Truly the Hardest Race I’ve Ever Almost Quit a Dozen Times at the Loppet fat tire race

So, I encourage each and every one of y’all to find what fuels your desire and need to be persistent, and to let that persistence permeate all areas of your life. You already have so many tools, so what things will you show up to in 2017? Challenge yourself, but also be patient and kind to yourself and others.

Just remember: Be persistent. And if you want to get more involved with the racing community, join me and my team, @allcityxfulton on our community rides starting in April or check out Minnesota Cycling Federation on Facebook for training, ride, race, and clinic opportunities. 

Animated GIF of author as cat wearing cycling cap with #purrsistence

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.

13 Feb
2017

14 Comments

Day 13 of Loving MN Winter

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on February 13, 2017   comments 14

I #LoveMNWinter. Biking saves my life.

By JJ Kahle

(Content Warning: Childhood sexual abuse)

JJ.pngI am a survivor. Specifically, I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (CSA). As a result of the abuse I survived, I have a condition known as PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder.

Trauma is a dark passenger. I developed a number of symptoms that I have experienced as a result of this trauma. These shame-based manifestations include intense self-loathing and hellish disdain for my own body. I’ve worked hard to rewire my reactions and impulses. Healing from trauma is hard work.

Riding my bike brings me joy. I don’t know if I can really explain why that is, but cycling brings me great pleasure and it’s good for my body! It helps remind me what a wonder my body is, how strong it is, and how I can propel myself using my own strength. This autonomy is something I crave and is a tremendously positive way to start and end my work day.

Cycling has tremendous benefits in addition to the way it makes me feel! Since I enrolled in the Dero Zap commuter incentive program, I have commuted over 9,000 miles by bike. I have become much more fit and physically healthy. I have saved my family thousands of dollars by eliminating a second car and all of the costs of insurance, maintenance and gasoline that go with it.

I know I’m not telling you anything new. The health and commuting benefits are obvious and you’ve heard it all before. But I continue to marvel at the least quantifiable but most crucial aspect of commuting by bike — the way it makes me feel. As a survivor, cycling plays a key role in my healing. I can feel the power of my body. As far as winter biking is concerned, it’s all just part of the adventure. I wouldn’t have it any other way and I love riding in winter. 

If you’re a survivor of sexual assault, I stand with you. I hope that you’ve found ways to fight against the shame and rage that may haunt you as they do me. If you think cycling could play a role in your healing, please check out Grease Rag events, whether they’re Open Shop Nights, Full Moon Rides, and the Winter Skill Share or others. Check out the Grease Rag blog, read about other amazing WTF (women/trans/femme) folks who are creating safer spaces in the cycling community.

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.

12 Feb
2017

17 Comments

Day 12 of Loving MN Winter

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on February 12, 2017   comments 17

I #LoveMNWinter. Today, I love finishing my first-ever fat bike race.

By Anna Schmitz

Anna_1.pngSometimes community means getting a lot of help to do something really stupid. For me, this year, that was finishing my first-ever fat bike race. I’ll be keeping a running tally throughout this story every time someone helped me, using numbers in parentheses.

I had fat biked exactly zero times before signing up for a race, which is pretty similar to how I’ve done all my bike racing thus far. When I showed up for my first track class at the velodrome, I had literally never seen it before. With that as my standard, I was actually ahead of the curve for the fat bike race.

My teammate Brenda posted a Facebook status asking for literally anyone to teach her how to fat bike before the race we had both signed up for. Before we knew it, three of our friends had arranged to meet up to fat bike that weekend (1), and one of them was hooking up both me and Brenda with free fat bike demos from CAKE Bikes (2).

This was ridiculous, in that it’s sort of like giving your 15-year-old neighbor the keys to your Jaguar. We spent the afternoon zipping around on the bikes, with the friend who connected us with the bikes also giving us tips for steering and remaining rubber side down (3). Brenda and I spent most of the day shrieking and making monster truck noises while cruising over snow in the sun, and felt at least somewhat prepared for the imminent race.

Because the world is rapidly coming to an end, the bike race we signed up for came in the middle of a January heat wave. There was more grass than snow visible on city boulevards. I biked to the gym in a wool sweater without a jacket. The website for the race informed participants that the race would go on regardless of weather conditions.

A day before the race, the race organizers sent an email telling riders that, despite the fact that every other fat bike race within 100 miles had been cancelled, this race would still happen. I did not find this particularly reassuring. If your entire family wants to throw away the moldy bread in the fridge, it’s not necessarily worth bragging if you decide to make a sandwich with it, you know?

My concerns were confirmed upon arriving at the race, after a carpool spent scream-singing along to Blink-182. (I had called Brenda in a panic when I got to my house to drive to the race and realized my boyfriend had our car keys and was in Saint Paul. Our friend Blake, who she was riding with, picked me up at home at the last minute and threw my rented bike on his rack (4)). We rolled up to the start with a solid 10 minutes before the race began. Chelsea, an employee of The Hub, cheerfully informed us that the snow conditions were the worst she had ever experienced. The race had been shortened from a 13k to a 10k to its final form: a 5K.

Anna_2.pngChelsea checked the pressure on our tires, and immediately let air out of them in an attempt to better prepare us for the conditions (5). We arrived at the starting line at the last possible second, joining a small crowd of racers — and we were off. Sort of. I hopped off my bike within the first minute or so, opting instead to run-push it through the sloppy mess of snow-slush.

This was more or less indicative of the entire race. I walked, jogged, pushed, wobbled, crashed, and occasionally rode my bike through the course. I passed Fuerza teammates and we woo-ed each other on, laughing at the total dumbness of everything (6). I commiserated with the middle-aged dude riders near me, and also with the photographer. (Me, sweatily pushing my bike past him: “So glad you’re catching all of this.” Him: “Oh yeah, it’s been great to see all the high-speed action.”) My chain dropped, and a friend asked if I needed help with it as she rolled past (7). I somehow made it to the finish, and two friends who had already crossed the line were cheering me on (8). I finished in 49 minutes. The winning woman finished in 42 minutes. It was a three-mile race.

After everyone had finished, we headed to the food tent to stuff our faces with mini donuts, and another teammate offered me some of her cheese and salami (9). My boyfriend arrived a bit after the race had ended to drive me home (10). He asked how the race had gone, and I told him it was one of those things that’s so dumb that it circles back to fun again. It’s the kind of dumb fun that’s so much easier to have when you’re helped every step (or bike push) along the way.

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.

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