Biking gives me a point: An interview

Dana

Last weekend, Dana hosted me at her home. We drank coffee and chatted in the shade on her deck, while her kids played in the yard. I connected with Dana through the Grease Rag Facebook group, so this was our first meeting.

Biking in Mpls: What do you do on your bike?
Dana: Ride it. For the most part we’re transportation cyclists. We don’t do many big group rides, we don’t do any organized big things. It’s mainly to get to school, get to work, get to daycare, get to the grocery store. It’s a cheap transportation option, of many that we use. It’s probably the primary, but we have a car and I’ve got a well-used bus pass. And we walk a lot, especially with the kids.

Biking in Mpls: When did you start biking for transportation?
Dana: I was living in uptown in 2002-2003. I thought it would be nice to have a bike to get around. It was kind of a revolutionary idea to me. I saw people with bikes and I was like, well maybe I could [bike] to go up to the coffee shop or go to the video store or things like that. I specifically remember wanting to bike up to the video store near Rainbow on Dupont. My dad gave me this cheap Target bike from his garage, and I was really uncomfortable and I hated it and I was embarrassed on it. I rode it, like, twice before it got stolen. I didn’t even care that it got stolen. I was like, well whatever I felt stupid on that bike.

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A Schwinn Corvette.

Some time went by and then I was like, I still think it would be a good idea to bike. I’ve been walking more, it would be faster to bike, and I could get more distance. Then my mom was like, well I have a bike in my garage. I was like, great Dad tried that and gave me this cheap old Target bike. She’s like, no no you’ll like this bike! I still have it in the basement, it’s a 1952 Schwinn Corvette that had been hanging in her neighbor’s garage for 40 years and it was in perfect condition, untouched by rust. That, I felt cool on. I could wear a sundress and a straw hat and be sexy and cool and ride around uptown on my old cruiser. That’s how it started.

Then my sister ran Grandma’s marathon. I was like, well I don’t want to go run marathons because I think running is kind of stupid unless you’re being chased. However, it would be fun to do some longer bike rides. The MS 150 was one I’d heard about before, and maybe it would be cool to do something like that. You can’t do that on a ’52 Schwinn Corvette. Mark and I, we weren’t married we were dating, he had a BMX at the time, so we were getting around on the Schwinn Corvette and this little tiny BMX. Keep in mind we were in our late 20s early 30s at the time. We went and got touring bikes. That was the start of actual daily getting around, more than a mile or two. That summer we actually did our first unsupported bike tour. We decided group rides weren’t our thing, but we got camping gear and we went on a bike camping trip by ourselves, which is more our speed to be by ourselves than with other people.

Biking in Mpls: When you had kids, did you know you wanted to bike with them?
Dana: Quinn is 6 and a half, so by the time I was pregnant with him, we’d been biking as our main form of transportation for a long time. We discussed getting rid of the car and weighed those options. We purposely chose to live in this neighborhood, Hamline-Midway, because we knew no matter what happened, in terms of our jobs or other things we needed, we could have a car-light lifestyle because of the bikeability and transit and proximity to everything. It wasn’t like, oh we’re having kids let’s go get a station wagon and a second car! It was more like, we’re having kids how do we continue these aspects of our lifestyle that we like and are important to us.

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Daphne riding a tiny bike.

It wasn’t like, we’re going to continue biking or not continue biking. It was like, how do we figure out how to fit biking. We have a lot of friends who don’t own cars at all or who bike with their kids, so we have a lot of good examples. It’s not like we had to make everything up. Friends of ours who have kids a little older than us give us advice and give us equipment and that sort of thing.

Biking in Mpls: What was the hardest part to figure out about biking with kids?
Dana: It’s not like there’s one thing that’s hard, and it’s not hard, it’s more like kids keep changing. They grow and their needs change, and your needs as a family change. It’s constantly having to reinvent what you’re going to do. When Quinn was an only child, we had a trailer. As a baby we’d put him in the carseat in the trailer and we were off. That trailer lasted us until I got pregnant the second time and it was like, well we can’t fit an infant in a carseat and a three-year-old in a trailer, so what is the next option? That’s when we got the Bakfiets.

Our daycare is half a mile away. Daphne’s in daycare right now and Quinn is in kindergarten. So he takes the bus to kindergarten and I take Daphne in the trailer to daycare because I can leave it there. My husband picks her up. The trailer stays there during the day, versus the Yuba, the cargo bike, you wouldn’t be able to do that. The trailer offers flexibility, so we still use it. This summer, Quinn needs to go to daycare. He doesn’t fit in a trailer, he’s 60lbs and almost 4 and a half feet tall, so he’s going to ride his own bike. That’s another change for us. He’ll ride alongside me and Daphne on his bike to daycare, and then we’ll leave his bike at daycare.

The Yuba Mundo, one of the things in Dana's biking with kids toolbox.

The Yuba Mundo, one of the things in Dana’s biking-with-kids-toolbox.

There’s nothing hard. The things I hear from people are like, oh my kid hated the trailer so we just gave it up. I’m like, dude if your kid hates your car, do you just give it up? No, it’s how we get around. If he didn’t like the trailer it would be like, oh well, baby, this is how we get around. I’m glad he liked it and that they both love this bike, but if they didn’t it would be like, this is how we get around get used to it.

The biggest challenge that’s ongoing is time. Time is a harder factor than anything else.

Quinn coming back from a loop around the block.

Quinn coming back from a loop around the block.

Biking in Mpls: How did you get involved in Grease Rag, and how involved have you been?
Dana: I write occasional blog posts. I lead rides occasionally, more family centered, I’m one of the go-to moms. I’ve been friends with Laura and some of the organizers for a number of years. I’ve never been to a Grease Rag night, since we have all the equipment here. We registered for our wedding for a bike stand and tools and all that, so we’ve got a little shop in our basement.

Biking in Mpls: What’s your favorite thing about biking?
Dana: I like the freedom it avails you. You’re not stuck with having a car you have to find a spot for and all that. I think people who don’t bike are always amazed by that. The freedom to go where you want and not be tied down. They’re like, a car gives you freedom! But no it doesn’t, you have to be on the road, you need to go where there’s gas, you have to find a place to park that thing.

It’s fun, there’s a really good community in the Twin Cities. St. Paul has a really great bike community that we don’t always share with all you Minneapolis people. We have a lot of fun over here that you guys don’t know about.

There’s something about the rebellious nature of it, that you’re bucking a societal norm. You can still be really punk rock even though you’re almost 40 and a homeowner and a mom. I hope it becomes more mainstream, as more people see it makes sense to bike the mile to the store or to make those choices as part of their transportation options.

I like that I stay thin and healthy and exercise without having to put much effort into it. I can eat a lot. I’ve never set foot in a gym. I won’t exercise for exercise’s sake, it’s just not something I would do. Biking gives me a point.

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Dana DeMaster is a cyclist and mom living in St. Paul.

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