Thursday, February 28, 2013

Minneapolis Bike Mecca

I have been thinking a lot about the bike culture in Minneapolis. Where I live in Nordeast, the “urban” cyclist projects a strong cultural identity. I was in a bike studio downtown the other day that even sells Levi's skinny jeans instead of spandex. You see bike messengers and artists mixing into a “bohemian” bicycle sub-culture around here. I like to check out these types of places because I like bikes, I like art, and I like the vibe when they mix. But I don’t fit in. I am the guy that these bohemian bicyclists never talk to because when I do stop by the elitist bike studios, I often stand out wearing a neck-tie and khakis (I would normally stop in during a break, and skinny jeans are not yet dress-code compliant at my job). But when I do get a listening ear, it is fun to swap stories. Homer, my brother-in-law, worked as a designer in Minneapolis across the street from One on One Bicycle Studio for several years, and I have heard him complain that they don’t have time for you there unless you are a Bike Messenger or the like.

You also see a bit of the Green movement claiming some serious turf in the Minneapolis bike scene. Mix reducing your carbon footprint, expanding green spaces, and limiting urban sprawl and you have some effective leveraging for bike legislation. Add in public health advocates and you bring in added weight to increasing the number who bike commute and ride for health. And it has paid off in the form of some nice bike lanes, trails, and bike share programs around town. So I thank them for that, and hope to contribute in a small way to the cause.
However, I am not one to say that the bicycle will solve our social ills, and I certainly don’t claim to bleed pedal grease when cut. As anyone reading this blog can see, I am a casual cyclist who just likes to get out and ride and talk about it on the side -- not that anyone is listening.

I suppose cycling takes me back to care-free summer as a kid, when biking was our primary mode of transportation. For my brothers and me and our neighborhood group of friends, an endurance race was riding our BMX bikes 3 miles to the Civic Center in Brooklyn Center and back on a sunny afternoon (probably not something I would allow my boys to do in those same neighborhoods these days; it is unfortunate how things have changed). I remember each summer, being one with my bike and riding all over the area for my baseball practices and games. I never owned a bike lock, and my bike was always there when I needed it.

I still have a scar and a small lump on my forehead, which I got popping a wheelie when the front tire of my older brother’s red Schwinn wasn’t correctly attached. I remember seeing the wheel rolling away while I was midair and then feeling the sting of my forehead as it hit the speedometer and handlebars when I came crashing to the ground. I shook it off, put the tire back on without the help of a wrench, and almost repeated the same blunder a block later (Riding wheelies was my favorite).

My point is, that I like to idolize the bike messengers for their grit, green folks for their passion, and competitive cyclists for their discipline and determination. But I really just wish I could pull out that old BMX and go for a sunny ride with my old buddies, ball gloves hanging from our handle bars and bats on our shoulders on our way to an empty lot. 


  1. I really like the end of your post. It makes me think back to when you and Chuck made me learn how to ride a bike. I remember crashing into the pine tree at the end of the driveway on Grimes and falling over a lot. I was mad and I didn't want to do it anymore. Then, suddenly, I got it, and he feeling as I rode was an amazing sense of freedom I hadn't experienced before. A whole new world opened to me. I should start riding again.

    1. Thanks for the note. Love that about the pine tree, I totally remember that! I am organizing a family Brooklyn Center Civic Center ride when Chuck is here in June. Dust off your bike(s)!

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