Bloggers

Aliya Watson

I hail proudly as a Minnesota transplant from the far-away land of the stereotypical South and fully embraced not only the diversity and inclusion that I've found here, but also the consistent opportunity for growth and empowerment. I'm currently in a variant phase, where I'm shedding what I thought defined me, and instead am on a mission to discover what truly makes me happy. I daylight as a professional nanny and moonlight as a lovely combination of queer, activist, law student, writer and student of all things I come across. I have a voice, and I have every intention of using it.

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Emily Wade

Emily lives in Minneapolis where she enjoys commuting, racing on the track, and indulging her many cravings for dairy foods. You can find Emily's other work on Planned Parenthood Minnesota Advocate, Feministing, and the Nice Ride, Better Bike Share, and Koochella Racing blogs.

18 Feb

1 Comments

Day 18 #lovemnwinter 2016: #trackiscoming.

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I #lovemnwinter! Today, I love #trackiscoming.

2016 only marks my second winter commuting by bike. Last winter I rode a borrowed 29er a mile and a half to work and back. This winter I ride seven and a half miles each way. Clipless. On studs. With a fender. And without anything covering my eyes. I never would have dreampt my personal preferences would change so much in such a short period of time. 

In the past twelve months I've learned a lot about myself as a cyclist. But nothing has taught me more than my newfound obsession with racing on the track. Here are just a few of the ways track cycling, and training for the upcoming season, has made me love winter riding even more. 

** If you're at all interested in riding on the track stop right now & check out the intro classes here. Finish later. This is more important.**

Just keep pedaling. 

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It's the first rule of track cycling. Because on that fixed gear bike (& on that banking!) if you do stop pedaling, you're going to be in trouble. Before track I would mash, mash, coast. While I still do that from time to time, I've noticed that I have more control when I'm pedaling. I'm still a little too scared to ride my fixed gear bike on the street, let alone in the winter. But my habits from the track have me pedaling through icy patches and large clumps of snow rather than coasting. The momentum of those pedal strokes makes me feel much safer. And I've fallen considerably less this year. 

Riding with intention.

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Photo by me. Smile by Renee.

Following a training plan has forced me to think carefully about how I structure my time. Just one late night at work can throw off my etire week enough that I might not be able to get everything in. Over the past two months I have become much more in tune with the people and practices that are most important to me. It helps when some of those people are willing to fuse friend time & training time. 

It's (usually) better than the trainer. 

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It doesn't matter how many succulents I put on my windowsill, how loud I blast Dixie Chicks Pandora, or how much I love binge watching Jane the Virgin & Law & Order SVU. I will always prefer riding outside. And I'll push myself way out of my comfort zone to get in those outdoor base miles - even if it means I have to spend extra time on my bike in the cold, dark, snowy ice to feel confident that I'm putting in enough pedal strokes to match what I would do inside. Sorry, trainer. It's not you. It's me. 

It's not (always) a race.

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Photo by Kat McCarthy.

Some of my teammates last year referred to me as an aggressive commuter. While I admit I have a *bit* of a competitive side, I'd like to point out that I almost always announce my passes with a courteous, 'Coming up on your left!' Since I started competing in sanctioned races, however, I've found myself treating the greenway like a speedway less and less. I've also ditched my need to be competitive with myself in alleycats, finding that I have more fun when I choose to let go of zipping from checkpoint to checkpoint and ride around with friends. 

The anticipation is better than ever. 

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Photo by Anna Schwinn.

I thought I was excited for summer last year. But compared with what I feel right now, it's no contest. 

 

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

Winter Biking, #lovemnwinter, Track, Races/Racing

Anneka

I've been bicycling around the Twin Cities since 2004 and I love it. I am grateful to be a part of a community that works to make bicycling empowering, inclusive and welcoming.

03 Feb

1 Comments

Day 3 of Loving Winter 2017

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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.

lovemnwinter

Grease Rag Guest

This is a guest account. For information about contributing a piece, or opening your own account with us, contact greaseragmpls@gmail.com.

17 Jan

0 Comments

WSS8: Safety, Handling, and Routing

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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

Safety/ Self-Defense, Skill-Share, Winter Session Recap

18 Feb

0 Comments

Day 18 of Loving MN Winter 2017

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I #LoveMNWinter! Today, I love sundogs.

One of my favorite things about moving to a new region is learning things new to me that either didn't exist or weren't part of the culture where I lived before. Moving to Minnesota has meant learning about, among other things, neck gaiters, meat raffles, ice houses on frozen lakes, booya, and sundogs. For some reason it took me until my fourth Minnesotan winter to actually see sundogs.

One morning in January last year, it was -6F outside with a wind chill of -26F when I went to check the condition of my adopted site for the City of Minneapolis biking and walking winter maintenance conditions survey. 

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"Sundogs!" I shouted in excitement as I looked south of the Ford bridge. I finally saw sundogs!

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.

lovemnwinter

Hilary Lovelace

Aside from biking, Hilary is passionate about homes, her dog, and writing postcards. You can follow her online @hilarylovelace

02 Feb

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Day 2 of Loving Winter 2017

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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.)
Hilary_L_WinterWear.jpg
 
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.

 

 

 

Winter Biking, Clothing, lovemnwinter

Holly Santiago

I like practical rides at a casual pace on a thrifty bike. I commute on my bicycle, participate in and build community bike activities, and have toured/camped on a bicycle. But usually, I just like to "ride and smile".

05 Feb

1 Comments

Day 5 of Loving Winter 2017

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 I #lovemnwinter!  Today, I love slowing down to speed up.

Staying active in an MN winter is a solid trick for keeping a body warm, bikes upright, and mental health in functional order through very dark months. When facing a super cold front or snowstorm, the #LOVEWINTER smarts kick in and you know to store that energy and stay put. Slowing down to rest, to evaluate options, to strategize your route… when you set out, you know you’re gonna be stronger and equipped with valuable energy to fortify your journey.

I recommend using this technique, slow down to speed up, before facing a particularily mean snowstorm, OR any terrible shitstorm, as you see fit.

This winter, I’ve been “hunkering down” as an opportunity to find my way out of a personal shitstorm of burn out and avoidance. I'm starting by catching up on some reading, ready to strategize a new route forward and it starts by sticking to the work of WTFs and POC authors in my #lovemnwinter reading list:

Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America - by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States (ReVisioning American History) - by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement - by Angela Y. Davis

Palante - by Young Lords Party

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness - by Michelle Alexander

I’ve also taken some time to examine my financial influence divesting/invest accordingly:

http://www.ussif.org/sribasics

And most importantly, I’ve been plotting that path forward with leadership from my community.

Native Lives Matter

Anti-War Committe

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis

15 Now Minnesota

In these cold months of winter, how are you slowing down?  What are you plotting to do?

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.

Pedal Stoke

Focused on getting at least one person to ride more.

17 Feb

1 Comments

Day 17 of Loving Winter 2015

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Day 17 of Loving Winter 2015

I #lovemnwinter!  Today, I love new places during the winter months in negative degree weather! *And the handmade hat that makes it possible!

 IMG_2491.jpgThis last weekend was planned around being outside. Lake Itasca, Mahnomen and Detroit Lakes were my destinations and three places I've never been. Yahoo! I don't know why I expected pleasantly warm winter days but I was not looking forward to the double digit negative degree windy weather that was forecasted in northwestern Minnesota. 

I've been participating in CheckpointMN this winter to experience more places in Minnesota. Part of the struggle with winter is that many people retreat into their cozy home and don't want to go out on adventures. Luckily, I have a few friends and boyfriend with similar interests as me so we can explore and get fresh air!

My adventures this winter have lifted my spirits and have strengthened bonds with my friends. It has also helped me see the beauty of Minnesota winter scenery and sometimes just appreciate the emptiness in-between the trees.  For example,  in the summer it's not as easy to see the 20 bald eagles perched in the branches or the fluffed up blue jays looking down over the finches feeding bird seed.

Above photo: Stickworks at Saint John's Abbey 

Today, I'm also in love with my clothing/accessories and the knowledge of layering to get me through negative degree winter biking. Without this I would not be able to take long bike rides in secluded forest trails.

Look at those frosty eyelashes? How cool!? Also, speaking of clothing see the bright green peaky out? Anyone recognize that? Someone from Grease Rag made it ( Please let me know who! ) and I was the lucky one to nab it! 

Below photo: Wilderness Drive at Lake Itasca State Park

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This will be my quick review of this amazing hat! This hat, with my very ventilated Bern helmet is perfect for very very cold weather! It actually can be too hot sometimes. With winds at 20 mph I can feel a bit of wind but after my body temp rises this is a pleasant and welcome feeling.  It covers my ears perfectly and goes down far enough on my neck as to not create too much bulk or heat with my face mask. The bright color makes me very visible (even though I don't have an issue with that with my new bright blue jacket), but it still helps!  Thank you thank you for whoever made it!

Below photo: Mississippi Headwaters.How cool is that!? Beginning of the Mississip! It was cooold and windy but the trees provided lots of great protection. Thank you foliage!

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Below photo: Fat Biking on Detroit Lake with some light snow and lots of wind.

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


Winter Biking, #lovemnwinter