03 Feb
2016

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Day 3 #lovemnwinter 2016

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on February 3, 2016   comments 0

Day 3 #lovemnwinter 2016

I #lovemnwinter! Today, I love early mornings.


I'm an early riser. Maybe you can't take the farm out of the farm girl... I'm a high school teacher, and the students begin arriving as early as 7:00. Since I have to change from biking gear to school teacher get-up, and I like to have my day well organized as part of my daily practice, I leave home around 6 am, and bike my half hour ride in the quiet solitude of the morning.

There's something magical about the dark. The crunch of ice and snow under my studded tires. The slap of cold that makes my eyes water as I pick up speed to the first major intersection. Traffic is light, and I ride the first 15 minutes on city streets. My body warms, I settle in, and then I drift down to the Stone Arch Bridge, and the rest of my commute is on trails. 

I see my fellow early risers on my way. Cordelia (mother of one of my students) gives me a low 5 as I wish her "Buenos días!" The nice condo dweller with the large poodle is always cordial. As I pass the commuter train on the trail, I spy the human in the khaki parka, sleeping in the train window--just like always. Then it's under the stadium and out past the buildings. Magical thinking time. I run through conversations that I've had, or that I'd like to have. I think about my partner, my children, my siblings. Maybe a song niggles its way into my thoughts.

I love the peace and quiet of early winter morning. I love the swoosh of my wind pants, the rhythm of my cadence, the distant chattering of birds in a parking garage. I love that I get to have my thoughts and to really concentrate on my day. I'm so grateful to breathe fresh air, have a sip of brisk water upon my arrival to school, air-chilled from the ride. I sit on the same bench every morning, and I'm grateful for being here, grateful for the air and water, for my healthy body powering my commute to school, and I'm ready to start my day.

 

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.

03 Feb
2016

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Day 3 #lovemnwinter 2016

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on February 3, 2016   comments 0

Day 3 #lovemnwinter 2016

I #lovemnwinter! Today, I love early mornings.


IMG_1277.jpgI'm an early riser. Maybe you can't take the farm out of the farm girl... I'm a high school teacher, and the students begin arriving as early as 7:00. Since I have to change from biking gear to school teacher get-up, and I like to have my day well organized as part of my daily practice, I leave home around 6 am, and bike my half hour ride in the quiet solitude of the morning.

There's something magical about the dark. The crunch of ice and snow under my studded tires. The slap of cold that makes my eyes water as I pick up speed to the first major intersection. Traffic is light, and I ride the first 15 minutes on city streets. My body warms, I settle in, and then I drift down to the Stone Arch Bridge, and the rest of my commute is on trails. 

I see my fellow early risers on my way. Cordelia (mother of one of my students) gives me a low 5 as I wish her "Buenos días!" The nice condo dweller with the large poodle is always cordial. As I pass the commuter train on the trail, I spy the human in the khaki parka, sleeping in the train window--just like always. Then it's under the stadium and out past the buildings. Magical thinking time. I run through conversations that I've had, or that I'd like to have. I think about my partner, my children, my siblings. Maybe a song wiggles its way into my thoughts.

I love the peace and quiet of early winter morning. I love the swoosh of my wind pants, the rhythm of my cadence, the distant chattering of birds in a parking garage. I love that I get to have my thoughts and to really concentrate on my day. I'm so grateful to breathe fresh air, have a sip of brisk water upon my arrival to school, air-chilled from the ride. I sit on the same bench every morning, and I'm grateful for being here, grateful for the air and water, for my healthy body powering my commute to school, and I'm ready to start my day.

 

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.

29 Nov
2014

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My Favorite Things--Winter Edition

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on November 29, 2014   comments 0

My Favorite Things--Winter Edition

Well, the weather has certainly been challenging in November! I know that it caught a few of my fellow cyclists by surprise. That first heavy wet snow that created stubborn icescapes was a challenging big wet raspberry to potential winter bikers. Lucky for me, I was (somewhat) ready for it.


MY RIDE:  After a great deal of contemplation and several test rides, my winter bike of choice is a singlespeed All City Nature Boy. I just want to acknowledge my privilege here right off the bat; I have three bikes and I love them dearly, two of them were purchased brand new and the Casseroll was a Craigslist find that has turned out to be my favorite fair weather long ride choice. In other words, I have the ability to spend more money than a lot of people are able to on my bikes and gear. Still, I'm not in the multi-thousands of bucks club. I bought the Nature Boy in the fall of 2013 for a little less than $1000. Prior to that year, I had been riding a heavy hybrid 21-speed KHS (lovingly dubbed “The Warhorse”). That bike was fine while I was dabbling with biking and still relying mostly on a car to get me around. But an empty nest, Grease Rag and an intense desire to get rid of the car had spurred me to hunt for better (for me) bikes with higher-end components, and after riding my Vaya and Casseroll during the less inclement months, I decided to purchase the Nature Boy for my winter commute. The NB is a great bike. I am just not confident enough to ride fixed--in fact, the thought terrifies me. I need brakes. I need to coast. Without the complications of derailleurs and shifters, I like the single speed option. [Note: When it got sub-zero last year, my factory-greased freehub froze up. I had to limp in to Freewheel--where I purchased the Nature Boy--to have it repacked with extreme cold-tolerant lube. They did it quickly, with a smile and at no charge.] After a winter of riding with drop bars, I replaced them with flat bars this summer. (I replaced the brake handles as well, going with some Pauls.) I use platform pedals, and I ordered some Xpedos that are nice and grippy. That’s m’ride.

A LI’L WINTER ACCIDENT:  I mentioned before that I test rode a lot of bikes before deciding on the Nature Boy. I tried HARD to like fatbikes, and I was prepared to go that route. But I just didn’t enjoy pushing so much rubber around. I guess it’s because, as much as I’d love to be a rad river bottoms adventurer, I’m more of a point A to point B commuter. Down deep, I’m scared of falling. I took a BAD spill last winter. Looking back on my DeroZap account, I can see exactly when it happened. December 4. Hellacious ice storm. Several inches of frozen glare ice cemented to the street, with brown sugar on top. I decided to stand and pedal--and that’s when I ate it. My bike and leg careened out from under me at a crazy and unnatural angle. I stretched things and had crazy deep tissue bruising that didn’t show up for a week. As the back of my leg turned angry purple, I hobbled around, barely able to do stairs. That taught me. SLOW AND STEADY. That’s my mantra.

SPECIAL GEAR: There are just some things that make life so much more liveable, you know? Here’s a list of gear that I have come to love and count on to make riding outside in the Minnesota winter a veritable JOY!!!!

STUDDED TIRES: Kenda Klondike K1014, 700x40 with 100 studs, steel bead clincher tire. I really don’t know how they compare to other tires, as I’ve used them now for 3 winters. Upon inspection when I installed them this year, there were STILL no studs missing. Impressive. I feel secure when riding on these. Still, I take it easy. (These were the tires I was riding when I took my bad fall last winter, but I don’t blame them for my bad judgment. I should have gotten off and walked up that hill.) Around $50 a tire.

POGIES: 45NRTH Cobrafist bar mitts. These are so amazing. They are huge and install directly onto your (flat) handlebars, with bar end caps that secure them on and in place. It seems like in winter, you either sacrifice warmth in your hands or nimble handling of your bike (including signalling and braking while negotiating icy ruts and distracted drivers). With these pogies, I have the best of both worlds! I don’t have to wear huge mittens to stay warm, and they allow for easy signalling without too much hassle of getting your hand back in. They were spendy ($125), but that’s your VEHICLE for the winter. I love them.

45th Parallel monument

Tidbit: Minneapolis is the only major metropolitan area on planet Earth at the 45th Parallel. To the right is the 45th Parallel plaque at Theodore Wirth Park. We are exactly halfway between the equator and the North Pole!

BOOTS: 45NRTH Wolvhammer platform boots. If you’re aware of winter gear at all, you’ve heard of these super-expensive but totally worth it boots that keep your tootsies warm during winter at the 45th parallel. I didn’t pay the full retail price of $325, possibly because they were from last year. Look around. Maybe you’ll find a deal.

BALACLAVA: 45NRTH Lung Cookie. I know, I’m starting to sound like a 45NRTH groupie. I may or may not be obsessed with their products… But I’m telling you, for a person who wears glasses and can’t do goggles, the fact that they DON’T FOG UP while keeping one’s face warm is a really great thing. Also, you can pull the loose-fitting face cover away easily when you get warmed up, as inevitably happens. Merino wool goodness abounds. $45.

GLOVES: Gore Bike Wear Radiator Windstopper Lobster Gloves. These are pretty good when combined with the pogies. Not the warmest when you’re just walking around in the cold. That’s the trick with winter active gear, right? If it’s warm enough to stand/walk around in, it’s probably going to guarantee overheating about 10 minutes into your ride. Here’s the deal: I have--like--8 pairs of gloves. Usually I have 2-3 pairs of varying warmth/type that I carry around, because my hands are PICKY. I have my eye on these (you guessed it) 45NRTH Sturmfist4 (four finger) gloves, which I was able to try at a promotional event a couple of weeks ago. Here’s some info on those gloves, if you’re interested. Again, spendy ($130) but promising!

BUFF: I have this merino wool buff that I love because you can do almost anything with it, and it keeps you warm and yet it stays relatively clean and dries quickly. It’s light and easy to stow. I don’t know how much it costs because I won it in a monthly prize raffle of my school’s Cycling Wellness Group. People make them. Get crafty! Get thee to a Grease Rag craft-making event.

HELMET: I wear a Bern helmet during the winter. I wear it as much for falling (thrown) ice and snow (Greenway goblins) as for the potential hard fall on the ice. It’s heavy and doesn’t have much venting, which is perfect for me in the cold.

BASE LAYER (LEGS): I bought this merino wool blend long underwear from Costco, at somewhere around $15 for a two-pack. I wear it under everything, every day. It’s super sheer and yet warm, and I don’t notice it under the pants I change into at work.

SOCKS: I wear knee-high ski socks from Smartwool. I raid the bargain bins and closeout sales from REI and Midwest Mountaineering and stock up. They work great and aren’t too heavy. They keep me warm, because I wear riding knickers year round.

KNICKERS: I have an arsenal of Bontrager riding knickers that I wear year-round. I don’t miss the longer pant legs, even on the coldest days. I like them because they have a pocket for each important “thing” that I need to be sure I have before going out the door. (Cell phone, keys, u-lock, hankerchief.) They were pretty spendy, but I got many on sale from the interwebs and sales at Freewheel.

BASE LAYER (TORSO): I have picked up several long-sleeved wicking jersey-things from REI sales. They are good. No idea on price. I have 3 or 4 I rotate through.

WARMTH LAYER (TORSO) : PhD SmartLoft Divide Full-Zip Jacket. From manufacturer: has a front nylon panel quilted with wool insulation to keep cold and wind at bay, while merino wool next to skin breathes, insulates and wicks moisture naturally. I LOVE THIS THING! It is light but cozy, is great in less frigid weather by itself, and when paired with a wind-resistant shell, it’s perfect for me.

WIND-RESISTANT SHELL: A NorthFace jacket I totally got for super cheap (like $50 or so) on clearance from REI. It has plenty of venting to open up if you get too warm, but does a good job (when combined with warmer layers) of being “just right.”


As Forrest Gump said, “That’s all I have to say about that.” What are your favorite pieces of gear to make winter wonderful on two wheels? Chime in here!!!


Keep the studded side down.

04 Nov
2014

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The importance of trans/GNC safer space

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on November 4, 2014   comments 46

The importance of trans/GNC safer space

At each Grease Rag Open Shop night, usually near the halfway point, the facilitator(s) asks everyone to gather and do a “go around.” That go around includes saying your name, your preferred gender pronouns, and your response to a prompt (like, “What’s your favorite bicycle tool?”). The concept of “preferred gender pronouns,” and asking people to name them, is a component of best practices when being intentionally inclusive of gender identity. It de-centers the notion that gender can be read and is a constant. It allows people the rare opportunity to tell those around them how they wish to be referred to when someone speaks about them in 3rd person.

Just this past weekend, I had the great privilege of offering my school as the setting for the Grease Rag Winter Skill Share. It took place last Sunday, and happened on the day we set our clocks back an hour. I woke up that morning, ready to drink my coffee and eager to get to school and ready things for this amazing event. I think that part of my excitement is due to the fact that the Winter Skill Share was my first Grease Rag event a few years ago. It’s an anniversary, of sorts, and now I have the honor of hosting it in my work space.

I got to school early, following the procedures for security. (Schools are so weird when they’re empty and quiet.) I had thought a lot about the space, and I wanted to be sure to be mindful about welcoming people into it. One of the things I made sure to do was to print out “All Genders Welcome” signage. With a little tape and a few pieces of paper, one set of “men’s” and “women’s” bathrooms became a judgment-free place to pee. Why all the fuss?All genders welcome

People who are cisgender--that is to say, whose identity aligns with the gender they were assigned at birth (or during an ultrasound, as most babies are assigned before birth now)--have the privilege of using gendered spaces without giving them a second thought. It is this luxury of normal --enjoyed and taken for granted-- that is at the heart of all privilege. Gender non-conforming (GNC) and trans people can be traumatized by the simple act of entering a “gendered” space. They worry, “Will I be safe?” “Will people be upset by the way I look?” “Will I be told to go to the right bathroom?” By creating All Genders Welcome bathrooms, the categorization of gender is removed from the process, and people can attend to their bodies’ needs in peace. I have heard many stories of trans/GNC people who have developed chronic bladder infections in junior high and high school because they simply refused to enter a gendered bathroom space. For these same reasons, many trans/GNC students quit participating in the highly gendered experience of school sports as soon as they can. Because of this, many trans/GNC youth stop exercising and don’t hydrate or eat in a healthy manner.

Think about how WONDERFUL a community like Grease Rag is for trans/GNC people. On top of being deliberate about de-centering gender norms, Grease Rag encourages WTFs to get out there and ride their bikes. This is such an empowering and potentially life-saving connection for trans and GNC WTFs. Through Grease Rag, people are encouraged to think of themselves as completely deserving of the opportunity to ride their bikes, take to the streets, be independent and meet other people who welcome them and stand in solidarity. According to the findings of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, titled Injustice at Every Turn, “health outcomes for all categories of respondents show the appalling effects of social and economic marginalization, including much higher rates of HIV infection, smoking, drug and alcohol use and suicide attempts than the general population.” Taking the step of intentionally including trans/GNC people and truly welcoming us to be part of a community is empowering and very encouraging. The fact that trans/GNC WTFs are being encouraged to cycle and be active in the community certainly is helping trans/GNC people see themselves as active, athletic people who can get around independently and confidently, on their BIKES!

I have been with queer students many times when they have had their first experience with All Genders Welcome spaces. They are always exhilarated by the notion that they don’t have to betray themselves, put themselves at risk or “hold it” all day. It feels so welcoming in a way that is so simple but powerfully symbolic.

I was heartened to see a post online about the temporary “All Genders Welcome” bathrooms at the Winter Skill Share event. I enjoyed reading how people reacted to the space. I’m also proud to say that the temporary nature of those restrooms will soon change to permanent at my school. We see it as a necessary step, putting our money where our mouth is. If we say we value and welcome trans and GNC students, parents and faculty, then we need to provide a place for anyone to use All Genders Welcome restrooms. It’s a simple but necessary step.

So, the next time you’re at Grease Rag, and you are asked to state your preferred gender pronouns, you might think about how important it is that you’re answering that question. Try to avoid the “I use female pronouns” answer--that’s gendering and assumes a norm. Just say, “I use she/her/hers,*” or, if you’re like me, say “I use they/them/theirs.” And then, use those pronouns and respect the person’s identity. Smile and be proud, because you are doing some revolutionary, vanguard-type intersectional work. Keep on being rad at Grease Rag. And, thanks for the safer trans/GNC WTF space!

 

*or whichever pronouns are the ones you prefer!

22 Oct
2014

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There's an app for that!

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on October 22, 2014   comments 0

There's an app for that!

Technology. It’s something that I definitely like to step back from and remind myself that there’s a whole wide world out there beyond what’s on some tiny little screen. One of the reasons that I love being on a bike is that I have to pay attention to everything around me all the time, and there’s no way I can engage with my phone and stay safe and alert. So the phone stays securely tucked away, and I ride fully attuned to what’s around me. That’s not to say that there aren’t some sweet ways to utilize smartphones and other gadgets and websites. I’m going to expound a bit here on how I’ve utilized such modern wonders to enhance my life on a bike.


Dero Zap --An incentive to commute! A couple of years ago, my partner and I stumbled on a Dero Zap table while at an event at Freewheel Midtown. At the table, I chatted with a representative who explained that I could mount a tag on my wheel, and as I biked around town past one of their stations, I would be “zapped.” I could register my tag online, and there I could input the distance of my commute. From then on, the website will take care of recording my miles and adding up fun facts like how many miles I’ve commuted or how many gallons of gas I have saved by commuting. I enjoy the “zap.” I have been known to ride out of my way to find a zap station. (There are many by the U of M, but many parts of the metro don’t have them. Luckily, I have several on my commute from Northeast through downtown to Kenwood.) Note that this program is free, and you can get multiple bikes tagged, so no matter which one you’re riding, your commute will be recorded.Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.09.07 PM.png


Map My Ride:  I know there are several GPS-related apps that are available and can be run on Android and iPhone. I happen to use MapMyRide. It’s free (although they like to remind you that you can pay for the MVP version and your life will be complete). It works well, and you can choose to either use the phone app and have it “live map” you while you ride, or you can go onto the website after you’ve done a ride and map it with the map feature. I don’t know why I’m so entertained by doing the latter, but I love to go in and map where I’ve been and then name the route. MapMyRide also syncs with your FitBit (yet another tech gadget, not so great with biking so I’m not going to discuss it here). You can “friend” people on MapMyRide, and then it will let you know when they’ve ridden, if they’ve won awards (usually based on their own Personal Records) and you can “like” what they’ve done and tell them they’re rad. I find this to be very inspiring and I love the simple little exercise of entering my rides after I’ve completed them. It tallies your miles so you can have a neat little total at the end of every week. Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.21.34 PM.png


I feel a little silly about how much I can be inspired by these little details. But I like to know that I’ve logged some significant miles on my bike. It makes me feel really good to know that I’ve moved myself almost 3000 miles in commuting since I tagged my bike.


What moves you? Do you have favorite applications or technology that help inspire you to ride your bike? Share them in the comments section! Let’s inspire each other.


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