31 Mar


Grease Rag Partners with Local Shops in Listening Session


on March 31, 2015   comments 0

Participating in a Grease Rag open shop is about safer, inclusive and welcoming spaces for WTFs who want to spend some time learning and wrenching on their bike. At shop nights and Grease Rag events, WTFs have the opportunity to surround themselves in a friendly atmosphere and shine in bike love and know-how. But what about the cis-dominated bike culture outside of Grease Rag that WTFs experience in bike shops and at bike events around the Twin Cities? It's not always so friendly and shiny for us out there.

Grease Rag host shops asked Grease Rag to help them create better spaces for WTFs.
While these spaces cannot guarantee safety, they can help us to feel welcome, included, and safe. This is not about "How do we get WTFs to spend money in shops," but more about, "How do we support WTFs so they feel welcome in our space?"

Without even really thinking about it, I’ve been avoiding bike shops for years. I’ve come to expect a shop full of exclusive, spandex-clad, know-it-alls who are waiting to talk my ear off about a product that I don’t even care about and probably suggest an over-priced hot-pink jacket that was precisely NOT what I wanted. It was probably just a few bad experiences that have stuck with me, but they leave lasting impressions. I was excited to sit down with shop employees/owners who recognize this problem. I’m ready for a change. - Holly

Where else to turn but towards the experts?!

Shop owners who host Grease Rag open shops asked Grease Rag to help them discover ways that would help them bridge the gap between a cis-normative culture, and the safer spaces Grease Rag is working towards. Brian Fanelli (Recovery Bikes) and Low (Grease Rag World Headquarters) teamed up to host a “listening session,” where WTFs would have center stage in describing their experiences and suggesting ways that shops could help them to feel safer and more welcome.

I, being a trans who defines myself as she/her pronouns, was happy to see that Laura had set up this meeting of bike shops and women, trans, and femmes. The format with Laura and Brian was so professional and warm. The desire of the bike shops to have a warm, safe and a nonjudgeable shop was so great to see. I was also happy to see women state what they wanted and expected. After 5 decades of being scared, its great to have a nice safe place. Now only if other places can be the same. - Tina

This discussion took place on Sunday, March 22nd, at Recovery Bikes (thanks for coffee donations from Aki’s Bread Haus and delicious treats purchased from Durango Panaderia). Recovery, SPOKES, Hub, Venture North and Cycles for Change were all present and represented for this discussion. Twenty WTFs answered the call from Grease Rag. Not enough chairs. Not. Enough. Chairs.


So, what’s a listening session?

Because talking about sexism and transphobia is personal, Grease Rag knew it was important to limit power dynamics and intimidation in this conversation. So, Low and Brian led a facilitated discussion format that allowed WTFs to share without being challenged, interrupted, or confronted with hostility. The focus of this discussion was on the experiences and expertise of WTFs. Shop representatives listened.

This is the outline of that facilitated discussion:

  1. Introduction of facilitators and building ground rules for communication
  2. Shop representatives introduced themselves and shared one thing they do to serve WTF customers, and one thing they do for WTF employees
  3. A “go around”: each WTF participant introduced themselves and shared one thing that they are excellent at
  4. To guide the WTF sharing portion, questions from submitted by shop owners were asked. These questions were submitted prior to the event. During this portion of the event, shops did a lot of listening and gave priority to WTF Expert voices. Note cards were available for shop representatives to write their clarifying questions.

Detailed notes about this discussion format and this meeting’s content can be found here.


What shops are already doing

It was important to recognize that our partner bike shops/organizations who are participating in the sustainability of Grease Rag open shops are in some cases, already taking steps to help foster safer spaces for WTFs. During the introduction of shop representatives, the following way that shops help WTF customers/employees feel safer were shared: making all-gender, single occupancy bathrooms available; informal training about gender/sensitivity/equity/cis-male-awareness; asking employees and customers what their prefered gender pronoun is; asking the same questions of all customers (not assuming ability, interests, knowledge, etc.) without shame or condescension; and hiring WTF staff (acknowledging that is is much easier to teach someone about bikes than it is to teach them how to be a respectful person).

Moderated Listening Circle/Discussion

As it turns out, 20 or so WTFs have plenty to share about their experiences. During the discussion time, the group was able to cover four question sets:

  • How do we have the conversation about preferred gender pronouns in spaces, especially where people are not familiar with the need to be intentional to think about pronouns or trans* inclusion?  Why are preferred gender pronouns so important.
  • What do we do when we make a mistake?  Are we expected to be perfect?
  • How do we create spaces where we can be called out on our mistakes?
  • We have to talk with women about their bodies with regard to bike fitting, etc.  Is there a best way to talk about this?

While this is not a summary of all that was described, explained, and suggested in that discussion, it is the author's notes on themes that came from answers to shop representative’s questions:

  • Respect my represented and prefered gender identity by not making assumptions about what that might be. Respectfully ask me what I prefer, or introduce yourself with your prefered gender pronouns so that I understand that you are not reinforcing gender binaries.
  • Saying something “wrong” is okay if you remain friendly, own it, and move on by promising me that you will do it differently next time. Remember the power-dynamic in our relationship, give me space to correct you.
  • Start our interacting by not assuming anything about why I’m in the store, what I know about bikes, or what I’m interested in. Remembering power-dynamics, ask “what brings you in today,” rather than “how can I help you.” Have a friendly and fair conversation with me!
  • When talking about products, don’t assume that all women fit the “women-specific” merchandise in body or mind. Ask before you touch, talk about, or examine my body.
  • Shops and customers expressed frustration about the quality, limited variety, marketing of women-specific products.

Full notes from this discussion are captured here.

There were two things I really loved about this discussion. First, I finally got to share the "bike shop dude offers unsolicited advice with me that was both condescending and gender-blind idiocy" with some bike shop dudes. I've been carrying that resentment around as a grudge for a decade, and maybe I can now let it go. Second, while I hope some of the stories got through to the crew from the shops, even if it didn't it got through to me. I learned new things about what I can do to be more welcoming and respectful in my own life. - Janne

Implementation and accountability

Following the discussion, shop owners were asked to share steps they would take, as a result of this discussion, to make their shop safer for WTF customers and employees. A list of actionable goals were noted, and some suggested another event to continue the discussion. Shops should know that ‘secret shoppers’ may check in on the progress of these goals, so they were encouraged to share what they learned and promised with their colleagues.

We closed the event with each participant sharing one word that described how they felt. The most common word? “Incomplete”.

03 Mar


WSS6: Clothing (The Layers Breakdown!)


on March 3, 2015   comments 0

What to Wear: How! Why!

These are my notes from a presentation about dressing for winter cycling, shared at the 6th Annual Winter Skill Share 6 (2014). You can read a bit more about the Winter Skill Share here, and more about Casey and Christina’s presentation on clothing options here.


Base Layer (the tightest fitting clothes you'll wear - wear your size or a bit smaller if it's still comfortable)

  • • Moisture wicking ("Under Armor" recommended)
  • • NO COTTON UNDIES - trust those who have suffered before you
  • • Consider modifying tights/pants with tight bands by cutting off ankle cuffs if they are too tight & swapping the waistband for a wider band
  • • Extra base layer options and tips:
    • • "Base hoodie": use a thin, snug, hoodie for the extra layer + the comfortable head/neck/ear coverage
    • • Old Cashmere is awesome!

Warmth Layer (clothes that are your size, that fit you, and you wear comfortably)

  • • All about warmth, fluffy, cozy
  • • Wear shirts that are long in the back to cover the gap betwixt pants/shirt
  • • Extra warmth layer options and tips:
    • • Vests: keep the core warm
    • • "Swants": Reusing large/wool sweaters by cutting off the sleeves and wearing them on your legs!

Outer Layer (these clothing items should be larger than what your clothing size is - too tight is un-com-fort-able)

  • • Coat
    • • wind breaking material
    • • long, to cover the thighs - warning: long jackets can get hung up on the seat
  • • Carhart or snow-pants
  • • Extra warmth layer options and tips:
    • • Go for bright colors - be visible!
    • • Skirt to go over thighs and butt - avoid "ice butt"!


Base Layer

  • • Hoodie up! Get started on the brain layer!
  • • Cowls: neck ring that can be pulled over nose/mouth/ears
    • • easy to make
    • • make sure you can breath easily through the fabric
  • • Baklava (SP or hungry, I can't tell): face/head/ears/neck wrap
  • • Thin/synthetic hat layer
  • • Headbands that are also ear covers

Outer Layer

  • • Ski goggles - YES!
    • • To prevent fogging, make sure they "breath", or tilt them off of face a bit with base layer fabric
    • • To prevent fogging, check out "Cat Crap" (a de-fogging substance, not the literal cat crap)
  • • Helmet
    • • presenter/audience seems to prefer helmets with more vents and hat layers, rather than the full covered helmets... because we get hot when we're pedaling!
    • • Warning: some ski/snowboarding helmets are NOT safe for bicycling - they have different impact ratings/designs
  • • Knitted ear covers that attach to the helmet straps - coming soon to a Grease Rag craft night!


Base Layer

  • • Synthetic/wool, thin, moisture-wicking

Warmth Layer

  • • Thicker, warmer, wool
  • • Lots of info from the audience... ask about brands on the FB page or website/blog

Outer Layer

  • • Boots (Recommended, but pricey: "Mucklucks")
  • • Boot covers (go over pedal clips too!)
  • • Think water proof/protection
  • • Platforms (see note below)


Base Layer

  • • Synthetic/wool, thin, GLOVES (so that you can still use your fingers for little things like adjusting your helmet or (un)locking the bike
  • • Wrist warmers: make this will old/holed socks
  • • Tip:  Carry a pack of hand warmers with you in case of emergency (I.C.E.)!

Outer Layer

  • • Mittens!  BIG Mittens! (Patterns are available online)
  • • Handlebar covers!  (Recommended on a set-up: "45 North")

03 Mar


WSS6: Maintenance and Cleaning with Angie


on March 3, 2015   comments 16

Love your bike thoroughly and often this winter.

This is a session re-cap from Grease Rag’s 6th Annual Winter Skill Share (2014). Too see more about this event, or individual sessions, read the 6th Annual Winter Skill Share Re-Cap here.

There were two big take-homes for me in Angie’s presentation: preparing your bike; and maintaining your bike. Angie explained that no matter how careful you are, riders will have to consider the likeliness that salt, wet, and grime from the roads are sticking to your bike’s insides, and outs. Knowing this, riders can prepare their bike with proper lubrication, and maybe even using a “frame saver” (frame saver is a spray that goes INSIDE the frame for protection).


Angie’s basic instruction for daily care is wiping grime from the chain, the frame, and other easily reached areas. Follow this up by re-lubricating the chain and cables (there are different products to consider for all of this - see handout!). If you can, do both of these things every time you ride. For weekly maintenance, try a little extra care to clean the entire bike, wheel rims, nuts/bolts, and moving parts with “Simple Green” or other bike-care cleaning product. Repeat lubrication! At the end of the season, Angie recommends a full bike overhaul. Hint: excellent Grease Rag project!
Read Angie’s notes about maintenance & cleaning.

A question I hadn’t expected to hear, but was glad I did, was about storing your bike inside vs. outside… which is better?
Both!  However, consider the melting/freezing of water on your ride’s cables and moving parts. If your bike is brought inside and ice thaws, causing water to drip into tight spaces, this could re-freeze when you go back outside. This could easily happen

The best tip for bike cleaning that knocked my socks off?
Toilet bowl brush. A quick brush with a long handle and lots of bristles to get between the tight parts. Thanks to the person who shared this!

About Angie: I've been wrenching and teaching in bike shops in Detroit and the Twin Cities since 2009. When my car was stolen the first year I moved to a new city, I began to ride year-round out of necessity. It was a humbling and empowering experience to get through a winter completely relying on myself and my bike. My presentation demonstrates tools and maintenance methods for you to keep your winter commute rolling through the winter.

03 Mar


6th Annual Winter Skill Share Re-cap


on March 3, 2015   comments 13

Way back in November 2014, on a balmy sunshiny afternoon before a single snowflake fell, Grease Rag hosted their 6th Annual Winter Skill Share at the beautiful Upper Blake School.


We heard the experiences of winter biking from different WTF perspectives, sharing excitement and confidence with riders, gearing up to get us out during Minnesota’s toughest season. Along with several hours of winter know-how, we also shared snacks, hot tips, prizes, and even hosted a clothing/gear swap.

In the sessions, we highlighted four important aspects of winter cycling:
Click on the titles/links to read the details of each session!

“Bike Setups and Options” with Janni
"Safety, Handling, and Routing" with Kat
“Clothing” with Casey and Christina
"Maintenance and Cleaning" with Angie

After the sessions, presenters gathered together to answer questions from the audience. An active back-and-forth between the expert audience and expert panelists exposed a range of experiences, interesting perspectives, and creative solutions to some of winter’s common challenges.





Finally, we wrapped the Winter Skill Share up by collecting feedback (intel for future events). Filling out the short questionnaire was a participant’s ticket into the gear swap. Newbies lined up first, those who were about to tackle their first winter of cycling, followed by everyone else who filled out the feedback form. Everything from gently worn snow pants, to hair ties. Something for everyone.

This event, in it’s 6th year, is more than just winter cycling skills and a technical approach to maneuvering and surviving a rough cycling season. It is SO MUCH SHARING of homegrown experiences and wisdom from WTF riders who have mastered their layering, routing, handling, maintaining, and choices for getting out in the winter. We are out there every day… high fives!

03 Mar


WSS6: Bike Setups and Options with Janni


on March 3, 2015   comments 15

Where else to start than picking your ride?

This is a session re-cap from Grease Rag’s 6th Annual Winter Skill Share (2014). To see more about this event, or individual sessions, read the 6th Annual Winter Skill Share Re-Cap here.

So is it better to have a fixed-gear, or a lot of gears? How about the style? Do I choose a mountain bike or just keep riding my sleek street bike? I’ve hear that fenders are a great idea… are they? What about investing in studded tires, is it worth it?

This presentation covered these questions and much much more. What we learned was that every choice comes with its pros/cons and it is up to US to determine the best setup for ourselves!  Read Janni’s handout about bike set ups.


The session’s follow up question/answer portion included queries about panniers…
Some riders prefer keeping the weight on their backs for a better center of gravity. Others thought that a little extra weight in the back was helpful for tire traction in snow. The key with panniers is to keep the load balanced on either side.

And tire “hacks” such as drilling screws through the tire to create cheap studs…
100% fail-rate was the quick answer although one person in the audience seemed to know the perfect screw and vouched for it’s reliability. The “zip-tie” option was largely considered inconvenient when changing flats.

About Janni: Janni fell in love with bikes the minutes she moved to Minneapolis, riding around the city with her brother for work and fun. She fumbled together her first road bike in her garage in 2009 and has since convinced a wonderful local bike shop to let her work part time.  She began attending the GR last year in NE and simply cannot stop telling everyone how great it and cycling are!

Rendered archive in 0.30506706237793 seconds