15 Feb


Day 15 of Loving MN Winter


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!



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



All bundled up for the wind chill



A wintery wonderland



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.

13 Feb


Day 13 of Loving MN Winter


on February 13, 2017   comments 30

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


Day 12 of Loving MN Winter


on February 12, 2017   comments 37

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.

11 Feb


Day 11 of Loving MN Winter


on February 11, 2017   comments 33

I #LoveMNWinter. Today, I love feeling powerful.

By Joy Elizabeth


I feel powerful when I walk into work in my winter cycling gear and co-workers tell me that they admire my strength or that I inspire them to brave the cold.

I feel powerful when I pass another powerful winter cyclist and we give each other the all-knowing nod. To me the nod says, "I see you. We're doing great. It's damn cold."

I feel powerful when drivers yield to me even when they don't have to. We both seem well aware that they're sitting on that plush seat with the heat blasting.

I feel powerful when I push myself hard up hills and then feel my blood rushing to all my cold spots and sweat soaking through my layers.

I feel powerful when my body quickly thaws in a hot bath and my newly toned leg muscles begin to release.

The importance of being active and feeling strong was not instilled in me when I was young. I envied athletic people from a distance and slowly accepted that I'd never enjoy exercise.

Biking changed that for me. Feeling powerful in my body is really new to me and it feels SO GOOD!

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.

10 Feb


Day 10 of Loving MN Winter


on February 10, 2017   comments 25

I #lovemnwinter! Today, I love a Wintry Checkpoint.

By Judy Kerr

Judy2.pngWhile I am not an avid winter cyclist, I do have my moments. My awesome partner and hero (JJ Kahle) is the epitome of a dedicated cyclist. I admire and wish I could feel that same level of love for bikes that they do.

To coin the creed associated with the organization from which I’ve recently retired, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” These words can also be applied to my partner and their love of cycling. I, on the other hand, sometimes have to drag my sagging self onto the saddle and force my legs to make the revolutions to propel me along, albeit slowly.

I have a bit of the naysayer in me, but usually after a few minutes of sucking in lungsful of fresh air, the oxygen reaches my brain and reminds me that riding my bike is a good thing.

What I love best about Minnesota winter is the random adventures, sometimes involving our bikes, that JJ and I set off on. New Year’s weekend was one such adventure. We loaded up the bikes and drove north… way north… to Grand Marais. Icy roads and snowy conditions be damned! After more than five hours on the road we reached our hotel on the shores of the mighty and wondrous Lake Superior.

We offloaded our bikes, the grey underbelly of the sky hanging over us, and rode through mushy brown snow to reach the park where the CheckpointMN site is located. The short ride was akin to pedaling our bikes through peanut butter. After only one minor mishap we reached our destination.

We miscalculated where the actual checkpoint was, though, and ended up not only riding/walking on the mostly unplowed road, but then locking our bikes and scaling an ice-coated barrier wall that led to a lighthouse on the shoreline. We were not the only ones brave (?) enough to skate along the wall toward what we thought was the checkpoint, a foolish decision perhaps, but still we embarked with determined caution.


About halfway across the wall, with the light fading fast and the steely waters crashing into the barrier below us, we decided that it wasn’t worth the risk of a broken limb or cracked skull, not to mention an ice bath, so we did an about-face to head back to solid, snow-covered land. Along the way we chatted with some people who were kind enough to clue us in that the checkpoint was across the parking lot from the Coast Guard Station and not at the end of the icy precipice on which we were slip-sliding along. We thanked them and slowly retreated from whence we came (sometimes on our butts because the surface was glassy and the icy claws of water reaching for us were a bit frightening).

Once back on the snow-packed trail, we unlocked our bikes (thank god we hadn’t tried to walk the bikes along the stony skating rink) and walked up the path to the little park-like area you see in the photo above. Nice solid ground well away from the chilly waters. I am hunched against the brisk breeze (thanking all the higher beings in existence for guiding us back to shore safely) and I’m fairly certain my face is about to crack with my attempt to smile, but we made it to our destination and snapped photos to prove it.

As evening descended upon the town, we churned through the brown squashy streets back to the hotel and stowed the bikes. We bundled up and walked two blocks to an awesome restaurant, “My Sister’s Place,” and enjoyed tasty burgers and beers. We’d survived another adventure and lived to ride another day.


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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