18 Feb
2016

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Day 18 #lovemnwinter 2016: #trackiscoming.

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on February 18, 2016   comments 1

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

22 Aug
2015

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A Type 'A' First-Timer's Guide to Powderhorn 24

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on August 22, 2015   comments 15

A Type 'A' First-Timer's Guide to Powderhorn 24

Powderhorn 24 is an annual 24 hour community ride that celebrates the Powderhorn neighborhood of South Minneapolis. Riders participate solo or in teams to complete laps around four check points at any pace they please. Bonus stops earn riders extra lap points while engaging local businesses and organizations. Last week marked my first Powderhorn 24, revealing my most neurotic side to the cycling community I love so dearly.

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Photo by France Barbeau

One month before

Register team online. Fantasize about future glory.

One week before

Have planning brunch.  Wrangle as many teammates as possible, though inevitably not all will be able to make it. Discuss strengths, weaknesses, strategy, & supplies.  Make a google doc summarizing what everyone committed to bring. 

Put in t-shirt order. Choose tank based on stock availability. Bemoan last-minute rush; rejoice in teammate’s clever design. 

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Photo by France Barbeau

Day of event

Wake up earlier than expected because everything is just so gosh darn exciting. 

Meet teammate to set up tents (plural) at 10:30 in the morning to ensure the perfect spot in the shade equidistant from porta poty clusters. Text other teammates who have the day off multiple times to see when they can come to base camp.

Realize tents will be totally fine for a few hours.  Go to Cub.  Get way too much food.  Take a nap. 

Arrive back with supplies at 4 PM. Double check everything. Realize you forgot THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. Anxiously await teammates’ arrival so you can run back without having to bring everything with you.

Register team. Distribute numbers. Zip tie numbers on to bikes of riders arriving later. Eat dinner. Organize. Lay out sleeping bags. Organize again.

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Photo by France Barbeau

The ride

Rally teammates at riders’ meeting earlier than necessary. Listen to instructions. Mostly. Coordinate who will grab the sheet of bonuses at the start/finish.

Roll out on neutral lap.  Make sure teammate who will ride first lap is in the front, not hanging with the team. Because priorities. 

Chat with other WTFs on the ride. Amp up comradery, feel the love. Because priorities.

Route bonus stops on a Nice Ride map. Develop numbered system to record who will do each bonus when. Tape both items under written out rider order hanging from tent. 

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Photo by France Barbeau

Ride. Experience two hour cycles of anxiety, drive, manic euphoria, hunger, exhaustion. Try to be chill. Fail. Sleep only when the other hyper-organized person on your team is lying next to you. Because that makes sense. 

Find dread in hair. Revel in hard-core-ed-ness for 30 seconds before brushing it out.

Check-in with team you have a big crush on. Tell them how awesome they are. Anticipate social media friendships.

Split volunteer shift with another teammate. Cheer for everyone who rolls through, but mostly the WTFs. Coordinate with teammates to change strategy for final laps half a dozen times.

Aggressively seek shade. Reflect for a moment on how rad your teammates are for coming together and embarking on this adventure for the first time together. Feel proud, loved, affirmed regardless of rankings. 

Hustle. Hard.

Do last lap as a team pursuit because you’re fancy. Drink champagne after cleaning up base camp because you’re fancy. Lay down on ground and wait for awards because you’re fading.

Cheer, laugh, get sprayed with champagne. Look in awe at the incredible humans around you. Feel privileged to know more of them better after the past 24 hours. Hug everyone. Cry. Hug everyone again. 

Think about doing it again next year, maybe.  

03 May
2015

14 Comments

Five Reasons to Try a WTF Group Ride

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on May 3, 2015   comments 14

Five Reasons to Try a WTF Group Ride


Going to your first group ride can be intimidating.  Getting in the saddle with a bunch of strangers takes trust, courage, and sometimes a friend to tag along.  Whether you’re new to cycling or you usually hit the road alone, here’s a few reasons to give a WTF group ride a try.

A group of riders taking a break on a WTF gravel ride this spring.

  1. It’s a fun space.  Really.  I haven’t ever been on a WTF ride that wasn’t chocked-full of toothy grins.  From trying out polo at Babes in Bikeland to literally howling at the moon at a Full Moon ride, a WTF-only ride offers an opportunity for people to be silly with each other without having to worry about a cis male gaze.
  2. It’s a safe(r) space.  Riding in a WTF group doesn’t always mean there won’t be egos, microaggressions, judgment, or assumptions.  But, it does mean that everyone involved sees value in having a separate space for WTF riders.  A WTF ride recognizes there is something about cis male-centered cycling spaces that doesn’t work for everyone.  Many rides even start by setting an intentional tone and laying down some ground rules.  While a separate space isn’t everything, it can be a great jumping off point for larger conversations.    
  3. You will be setting an example.  Visibility means something.  It can be hard to break into a new activity or community when you don’t see yourself in it.  Don’t think for a second the person coming out of the global market and the youngster on training wheels don’t notice when you have fun riding with your friends.        
  4. You will meet some truly rad people.  I used to be the kind of girl who hung out with mostly guys and had a few close WTF friends.  In the past year I’ve met dozens of jaw-dropping-ly incredible WTFs and re-learned what it means to be in supportive, empowering, non-competitive friendships.  I owe most of my current relationships, and all of my new-found babe love, to the Twin Cities cycling community.        
  5. It feels awesome.  There’s nothing quite like riding in a group of WTFs.  I first got into cycling through a dude.  It took me a while to see the community of people who ride bikes as my own space.  It still feels novel every time I ride down the greenway in a group of four or more WTFs without a male ‘escort.’  But it feels awesome.  Like euphoric awesome.  I recommend it.  Highly.

Finding a Ride in Minneapolis and St. Paul

Interested in finding a WTF ride in the Twin Cities?  Lucky for you, it’s only May and we have months and months of excellent riding weather ahead of us. 

This Week

Group Ride and Open House for Cycles for Change Grease Rag – Spend Tuesday night with the movers and shakers at local non-profit Cycles for Change.  Join a ride leaving from downtown Saint Paul or South Minneapolis and learn about Grease Rag’s open shop nights at this stellar shop on University.

Wednesday Weekly WTF Ride at the Hub – Bring your bike and water bottle to the Hub’s Minnehaha location for a 20 mile, 15 mph no drop ride every Wednesday this summer.

Surly CycloFemme Ride 2015 – A free, supported bike camping trip leaving Sunday, May 10th and returning Monday, May 11th.  Join the group for all or part of this no drop, adventure-filled event.  Register here.

This Summer

Full Moon Rides – Hang with the Grease Rag crew on these low-key social rides occurring every full moon.  Check the Grease Rag calendar for updates on Full Moon rides and many others.

Women’s Track Clinic at the NSC Velodrome – Okay, so this isn’t exactly a ride.  But it’s a great place to start if you have a need for speed, or want to learn a new Olympic sport.  No track bike necessary (you can rent one for free!).  Check out the Facebook event here.

St. Paul Women on Bikes – Check out these advocates on wheels for rides, happy hours, and a chance to get involved in making St. Paul a more bike friendly city.  Head on over to their group ride page for a glimpse at what’s next.

Riotgrrravel – This year’s WTF Miesville gravel adventure will take place on June 20th.  Follow the event’s community Facebook page to stay in the loop.

Babes in Bikeland – Spend August 29th with hundreds of the coolest WTFs around.  Babes in Bikeland is part race, part scavenger hunt, all awesome. 

Nothing up your alley?  Not in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro?  Reach out to your friends, put your feelers out, and start your own ride if you want!  Every WTF ride was started by a person, just like you. 

Know of a group ride you would like to share?  Let us know in the comments!  

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