17 Jan


WSS8: Safety, Handling, and Routing


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.


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.


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.


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.


  • 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


WSS8: Self-Care with Ali


on January 17, 2017   comments 74

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!



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!


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.

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.


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


WSS8: Choosing a Bike + Maintenance


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.


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.


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.


22 Apr


Together a More Inclusive Cycling Scene


on April 22, 2016   comments 65

Together a More Inclusive Cycling Scene:
QBP Women’s Mechanic Scholarship Experience at United Bicycle Institute

By Cali Jirsa

For over a decade I have dreamed of mechanical certification.  My bicycle repair education began at a community shop where advanced techniques for high performance materials were obsolete - working to promote safety by doing things such as installing hardware in lieu of duct tape.  My love of teaching bicycle repair eventually became a career path.  I was confident about my skills gained through books, experienced acquaintances, and hands-on education.  Despite seven years in the industry, I never thought of myself as a professional mechanic.  Now at five years into being an owner of a shop, I was given an opportunity to gain expertise, confidence, and a sense of greater legitimacy through being awarded the QBP Women’s Mechanic Scholarship for Professional Repair and Shop Operations at United Bicycle Institute and become a certified bicycle technician.  Now, I will pair this honor with the responsibility of sharing my knowledge and vision for inclusivity.

United Bicycle Institute has two locations, over 120 years of combined experience in the bicycle industry and 35 years of teaching—and justifying—their methods to students.  Having personally taught a great number of individuals bicycle repair, I know that many people approach teachers with skepticism.  I have a deep respect for UBI and wholeheartedly encourage anyone and everyone interested in bicycle repair to attend.  I value the education immensely.  I found much value after having had many years of experience, but people new to mechanics learned a lot as well.  All the women at UBI passed the course AND test!!! Over half of the women had very limited bicycle repair knowledge and our class marked the third time in 35 years that an entire class passed!!  UBI was undeniably professional.  It was a very productive learning environment because the instructors were knowledgeable, patient, kind, attentive, professional, and energetic.  Last year’s scholarship winners were so engaged and positive about learning it left the instructors counting down the days to our class like kids at Christmas. All of the UBI instructors showed their encouragement offering assistance going forward, should come in handy.  I learned an immense amount and I now have a network of support.  If you are curious about bicycle repair or are an experienced mechanic, UBI is the perfect place to find support and hone your knowledge.

All 16 scholarship recipients were so appreciative of this opportunity and excited to meet each other.  The enthusiasm in the classroom far superseded my apprehension for interpersonal dynamics and residual fear of academia.  There were no bad attitudes, exclusivity, or elitism that I often perceive in groups.  Some women led rides, others taught classes, a few had blogs, and some had Girl Scout troops.  There were no negative attitudes, only collaborative energy.  They offered support and advice freely.  Outside of class hours I studied hard so that I understood the material and could ask questions during school.  Despite this, I still had opportunities to connect, share stories, and learn from the others who are also working to provide support and space for women.   I now can connect with these women and work to promote each other’s goals and more equity in cycling through sharing struggles, recommendations, and successes.



QBP Scholarship Winners - 2016

The owners also voiced their support!  Through conversations with the owners of UBI, I learned that they see the gender disparities in the bicycle industry, as well as the need for shops to focus on creating welcoming environments for all individuals, regardless of race, religion, orientation, gender, ages, abilities, interest, or bicycle type, quality, or condition.  We agreed wholeheartedly that shops should have the mission to show respect to all individuals.  The owner even mentioned that studies showed that a mechanic with better customer service retains more customers than one with more technical experience and that female mechanics in shops encourages female clientele.  Currently at UBI there are no WTF instructors. However UBI voiced their support, and encouraged the class to apply when a position became available.  Having accurate representation within their organization may push their curriculum to include more about mechanics’ conduct, safer spaces, and communication methods to teach mechanics a culture of respect that will be reflected in the industry and cycling scene at large. If you are a WTF who is experienced in bicycle repair education, please consider applying: www.bikeschool.com

While the lectures taught me the finer points of repair, the hands-on experiences were valuable in learning how to teach these new methods to others.  My education will be shared at a course offered to Grease Rag facilitators and participants for free, a nominal fee, or volunteer time.  The Cherry Cycling Club and Vanguard Racing Team will also be learning through these courses in order to prepare us in our goals of working with the community in North Minneapolis to start a do-it-yourself open shop.  If taking these courses, joining the club, or collaborating in this project appeals to you, no experience is necessary, please contact info@cherrycycles.com!

Three years ago women at SRAM components and Quality Bike Products started a scholarship to educate women who are already in the industry continue to advance and strengthen their skills.  Many companies came together to support women in the industry by providing free education at the United Bicycle Institute, a bike school which offers courses and certifies mechanics.  Last year had around a thousand applicants, so this year’s application was geared towards those applicants who  help increase women in cycling.  I want to work with the women organizing the scholarship to offer financial support more equitably and to include more trans, femmes, and WTF’s of color.  I hope to do this through being involved in the application writing process, working to promote the scholarship opportunity to a more diverse audience, and to offer to be a mentor, editor, and advisor to potential applicants.  Please consider contacting Quality Bicycle Products to offer support of these initiatives and APPLY if you would like to continue to grow and support women/trans/femme in cycling by becoming a certified bicycle technician!

While half of my heart lays in scraping away the layers of grease embedded on derailleurs, the other half is motivated to expose and alleviate the limitations and prejudices that I see encumbering the cycling industry and community.  I am working with individuals and organizations to foster a more broad and interconnected cycling scene. If you want to get involved, you can find me, wrench in hand, grease on face, and a whole lot in mind, at Cherry Cycles:  www.cherrycycles.com

I am now proud to have the qualification of years of experience PLUS professional mechanic certification.  This is weight off of my shoulders and justification that I am on the right track.  Many businesses came together to contribute to this scholarship fund.  I am incredibly grateful for all of the sponsors and want to encourage you all to support the business that are encouraging more equity in the cycling community:

Surly Bikes
Park Tool
Dero Racks
Saris Racks
Ergon Bike
Rock Shox
Michelin Bike US
Liv Cycling

To read more about the scholarship recipients and their experiences at UBI: qbp.com/womensscholarship

Anna Maria Diaz-Balart: www.prettydamnedfast.com

Cassandra Habel: https://spokehaven.com/2016/03/15/adult-summer-camp-for-bike-nerds/

Kyla Saucillo Forsberg: http://www.greenrivercyclery.bike/#!QBP-Womans-Scholarship-Kylas-experience/c105o/56ed8fa20cf29acca8a3a72d


29 Feb


Day 29 of Loving Winter 2016


on February 29, 2016   comments 1

I #lovemnwinter!  Today, I Love Ulu’s Joy.

By Stephanie

I’ve thought a lot about this post. What’s the best theme? Should I write about winter biking? Oh no! I signed up for the 29th day! Does it have to be extra special!? Ahhhh! I’ve been racking my brain… What do I find most joyful about winter? I keep coming back to the same thing. Ulu. My darling, winter-loving puppy, Ulu. (Shout out to Mariah LaQua for having the same idea!).


This is Ulu (pronounced oo-loo). An ulu is a type of knife used by Inuit women.

Let me preface this proclamation of love and joy by saying to those of you who are not dog owners or don’t quite understand why people are so obsessed with their pets, I sympathize. But I can’t empathize. This ode is simply not for you. However, I am not alone and I offer an interesting scientific fact to justify myself just a little bit.

Research shows that human-dog interactions elicit the same type of oxytocin positive feedback loop as seen between mothers and their infants. This means that when I look into Ulu’s eyes or pet her, I release the same bonding chemical that is released when a mother breastfeeds her baby. To make things crazier, Ulu also releases this chemical! Wut? I find this evolutionary fact astounding.


I loved the idea of this collaborative project. I struggle big time in the winter and by February I’m usually at my lowest point. I find it hard to get motivated, but over the last three years Ulu has served as my inspiration.

This is how Ulu has always felt about the winter:

She is more than obsessed. For Ulu, it’s a full body experience. Her joyful energy seems to burst from her body at the sight of a fresh snow. Or any snow really.

One of our favorite places to go, that I’d have never discovered if not for Ulu, is the Minnehaha Dog Park. It’s an amazing set of trails through the forest along the Mississippi. Ulu loves the water, no matter how cold, and we often follow deer paths up the bluffs to discover new places and sniff out new things.  

Since Ulu entered my life, I’ve been inspired to get out more all year round, but especially in the winter. She inspires me to embrace the cold, move, see new places, and connect with nature.   





But Ulu is good at being lazy too.


The winter is a constant battle with my depression, which is worse this time of year to be sure. I’m trying to do a better job giving myself permission to be lazy and take days to myself to be unproductive without feeling guilty. Ulu is always down for a late morning full of cuddling.


And she encourages me to have fun, chase her around the backyard during a snow storm, and embrace the Minnesota winter.




About this author: Stephanie grew up in rural Michigan and currently lives in Minneapolis, works in St. Paul, and loves the Twin Cities. She likes riding her bike, eating cucumbers, and amateur giant squid researching.

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.

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