Have you raced in Babes In Bikeland before? If so, how many times? If not, do you plan to race this year? Why does Babes In Bikeland excite you?
I raced in Babes in Bikeland in 2014 and 2015. The first year I raced with my friend Marisa who was working with me at Nice Ride at the time. We rode Nice Ride bikes and had an absolute blast hammering all over Minneapolis. The next year I slow rolled with a group of friends.
To me, Babes is most exciting as a point of entry into Grease Rag & the different communities of people who ride bikes. I always wanted to learn more about racing, but was too afraid to go to a No Name or just jump in on an alley cat. I thought I would be too slow and that I would be marked as an outsider. Babes helped me to meet new people and get over those fears. At first, riding a Nice Ride was a crutch to give me an excuse for when my finish results didn’t match my inner competitive edge. But as the race went on the other racers made me feel like a total badass.
A few months later when I applied to be on the Koochella race team I built up my experience in Babes to make it sound like I had a ton of alley cat racing experience, when really I’d only raced that one time.
There’s really nothing like seeing hundreds of WTFs out on the course with you. Now I try to replicate that experience every chance I get in sanctioned races.
Describe your bike (or favorite bike)! What makes it special to you?
I have a few bikes, but if someone were to ask me to describe ‘my bike’ I’d go with my Surly Cross-Check. I got it from the Hub in May 2014, just a week before I graduated college with some money I won for a very dorky philosophy paper. It was my first ‘big girl bike’, or new bike I spent a lot of money on. At the time, I felt like it was the coolest, lightest, fastest bike around. It symbolized my commitment to my own independence.
A lot has changed in the past two(ish) years. We rode our first season of crits together & half a season of cyclocross. We commute all through the winter. When I carry it up the stairs to my apartment I now bemoan its weight instead of rejoicing it. I wear that bike to the ground. And I don’t always take care of it the best I could – or even know how to take care of it. But, at the end of the day, I love it. For better or for worse, that bike is me, through and through.
What was the BEST day of biking you’ve ever had?
The best day of biking I’ve ever had was Northern Spark 2012. I had just bought my first bike maybe two weeks before & secretly taught myself how to ride it in a series of alleys in Saint Paul. One of my good friends was working the ARTCRANK booth in front of Midtown Freewheel & I convinced two of my friends to bike there with me. I didn’t have a smart phone so I jotted down some Google directions & we set off from the Mac-Groveland neighborhood.
The ride was, in many respects, a bit of a disaster. Within a few minutes I locked up my chain. Thinking I knew better than the directions I tried to go from West River Road directly across the Marshall/Lake Street bridge (we ended up carrying our bikes up the stairs). I had no idea how to get on the Greenway. We biked right past the entrance and ended up all the way at the U of M Westbank Campus before I let go of my stubbornness and let one of my friends look up directions on her phone. By the time we got to Midtown, ARTCRANK was packing up. I was sweaty, exhausted, and embarrassed.
But I did it.
That night was the first time I biked more than two miles. Though it was rough, I learned that I could use my bike to get around the cities. To me, that was powerful. & I’ve been trying to challenge myself on my bike in new ways ever since.
What does your typical commute look like? Do you consider yourself an avid biker? A novice? What about biking in Minneapolis is special to you?
I feel like I have a couple different bike identities. On the one hand, I feel like a master commuter riding from Steven’s Square to University & Cleveland in all days in all weather. On the other, I feel like a total novice in the racing scene – both sanctioned & unsanctioned.
What’s special about Minneapolis, to me, is that there are so many ways to have fun on your bike. You can be serious, casual, race, fool around, and you are bound to find other people who welcome you into that mode & celebrate your love of biking with you. And it all comes together on the Greenway, which is still my favorite place to ride because of that unifying, ‘this space is for everyone’, quality it has.
How does biking intersect with the rest of your identity or person? This could be age, ability, race, gender, sexuality, life passions, etc. Basically, how does biking contribute to you being you?
Woof. To me, biking is so huge. First, my bike is my independence. I can go anywhere, I can do anything, and I can do it myself. I feel like I especially rejoice in this independence as a woman who grew up being constantly told not to depend on anyone. But, sometimes I take this too far. Sometimes it’s okay to ask for help, okay to accept a ride. This is something I’m still learning, and it’s really hard. When I ask for help I feel weak. I feel like other people will see this weakness as stemming from my femininity–a femininity I express loudly in other ways.
I am still struggling to see my womanhood outside of the social lens that makes me sometimes feel like my gender is a trap. Most of the times my bike empowers me. More than anything, it challenges me, humbles me, and pushes me to be better.
In most spaces I feel like femininity and strength exist at odds with each other. Or are at least ironic or novel when expressed together. Babes helps take away that notion by removing the cis male gaze. I’m super grateful to spaces like Babes that help me experiment with and realize the person I want to be. Cheezy, but true.