Each year since 2009, Grease Rag hosts a Winter Skill Share and Gear Swap share for FTW bikers (Femme/Trans/Women, Non-binary, Two-spirit) in the Twin Cities to learn about Winter riding and get to know one another. Our Streets Minneapolis got in touch with Patrick (they/them or he/him) and Annie (she/her) of Grease Rag to learn more about the upcoming event.
Patrick has been riding with Grease Rag and helping with the Winter Skill Share for the past 5 years. Annie started cycling in 2018 and has been riding with Grease Rag since the beginning of quarantine. Keep reading to learn winter riding tips, what to look forward to at their Winter Skill Share, and about the importance of FTW cycling spaces.
For some, the cooling temperatures this time of year are a sign to store away their bikes. For Minnesotans, it’s time to start preparing for winter biking! Winter comes with its own challenges for cyclists - ice, freezing temperatures, uncleared paths- but, with some confidence and planning it’s possible to keep riding. You can stay active, get where you need to go, and reduce your carbon footprint all year-round.
Patrick has been Winter riding for 5 years now. “I spent a while bussing - I got really good at it. But I wanted more independence over my travel so that’s when I really started biking more.” After starting a job where they could bike to work, they decided to winter-proof their summer bike and keep biking in the winter. They haven’t gone back since. Annie started Winter riding after last year’s skill share, so this will be her second year Winter riding. They shared their tips and what they’re most looking forward to at the Winter Skill Share:
Annie emphasizes that if you’re just the tiniest bit curious about winter riding, you should attend the Winter Skill Share. “Even if you aren’t sure if you want to ride in the winter, it will be a good chance to learn what to expect and meet other riders.” Learning and getting to know more people is her favorite part of the skill share. Beyond that, her winter riding tip is to give yourself extra time to get to your destination. “A 10 minute summer ride can easily become a 30 minute winter ride. Leaving early will help you be safer and less stressed about being on time.” The Winter Skill Share will have a “Plan Your Route” workshop full of tips and tricks for planning your rides year-round.
Patrick’s winter riding tip is to avoid over-layering. “You think you’ll be very cold, but your body is generating heat while you ride.” Many new winter riders find themselves shedding the extra layers throughout their ride as they warm up. Instead, Patrick recommends wearing a moisture-wicking base and layering just enough to feel comfortable outdoors. Warm gloves and socks are essential for protecting your hands and feet. The Winter Skill Share will have a What To Wear booth where you can ask an experienced winter rider for tips on preparing for a ride.
The Winter Skill Share and Gear Swap
The winter isn’t the easiest season for anyone, but FTW cyclists have additional barriers to getting started. People who aren’t cisgender men are often talked down to in cycling spaces or have trouble accessing the resources they need to grow. The Grease Rag Winter Skill Share started as a way to combat those barriers. For the past 13 years Grease Rag has hosted this space to facilitate knowledge sharing and introduce people to winter riding.
The first skill share was hosted in 2009 at Sunrise Cyclery, then hosted at the YWCA and The Blake School in later years. The skill share started as a loosely scheduled knowledge sharing space and gear swap. More structured workshops began as even more people got involved. Last year, the event was hosted both online and outdoors to account for the Covid-19 pandemic. Patrick described that sharing resources around winter riding is especially important as people are continuing to seek more distanced modes of transportation.
This year’s Winter Skill Share will be hosted on Sunday November 7th from 2:30PM - 6:30PM at Solcana Fitness. The workshops will be the same as previous years with some being held outdoors to accommodate for physical distancing. One workshop will be on handling and winter bike maintenance, including an outdoor obstacle course at the nearby Matthews Park. Another is on route planning and safety. Workshops sessions will run concurrently at two time slots throughout the day so people can choose their own skill share adventure. Between workshops there will be refreshments, a What to Wear booth, self care handouts, and a raffle drawing for prizes from local organizations.
The day ends with the gear swap. Patrick shared this as one of their favorite parts of the event. Individuals and organizations donate their gear so other folks can make use of it. It’s a great way to try out new gear that you might not have had access to before. It’s also perfect for passing on unwanted gear to someone who would appreciate it. (Grease Rag will be accepting day-of donations from individuals or businesses for the gear swap.)
Grease Rag: Creating Space for Femme/Trans/Women Cyclists
Grease Rag is a lively community beyond the single Winter Skill Share. There are group rides, events, and opportunities year round. The group first and foremost is a space for FTW cyclists to be in community with one another. FTW is an umbrella term to include Femme/Trans/Women, Non-binary, Two-spirit people, and essentially anyone who does not benefit from cisgender male privilege. Men centered cycling culture can make others feel unwelcome at shops and events, which makes spaces like this all the more important.
Patrick got involved with Grease Rag after hearing about it from queer events in the cities and being introduced by their sister. While not a queer specific group, Grease Rag is strongly inclusive of queer and trans folks. “Every meeting or group ride starts with introducing our names, pronouns, and a fun question. It’s nice that there’s no assumptions around identity or bodies” explains Patrick.
For Annie, the importance of Grease Rag comes from the opportunity to be with other people who often aren’t featured in the cycling community. Annie shares the concept of unlikely bikers: “People who don’t fit the cookie-cutter mold of cycling. Coming together with other people and just being on bikes can be really powerful. Whether it’s group rides or sharing knowledge to people who might not have access otherwise, that’s what it’s about to me.” Annie was introduced to Grease Rag by her partner and started going on group rides. This past Summer, she started Moxie Mondays to have more fun, social rides within the group.
Grease Rag also hosts an open shop every 2nd and 4th Thursdays at The Hub. The open shop is a space for FTW to work on their bikes and socialize in an accepting environment. There’s a range of bike tools and guides available, but you do the work yourself. While many bike technicians mean well, there is a tendency to underestimate the skill level of FTW cyclists. This FTW-only open shop seeks to avoid that by empowering folks with maintenance skills.
Both Patrick and Annie enthusiastically invite more folks to get involved with Grease Rag. The group is not a nonprofit or business, it is entirely volunteer run. Anyone is welcome to join in on a group ride or even plan their own. They’d especially like to see events in North Minneapolis or Saint Paul. Here are some of the main ways to get involved:
- Join the Facebook group, Grease Rag Ride & Wrench: The Facebook group is the best way to get updates on events and connect with other members.
- Group Rides: There are monthly Full Moon Rides and Moxie Mondays. Many are at a social pace for all-levels of cyclists.
- Open Shop at The Hub - 2nd and 4th Thursday
And of course, attend the Winter Skill Share and Gear Swap!
Thank you Annie and Patrick of Grease Rag for sharing about this event. Stay in touch with the group via Facebook, Instagram, and their website.