You know when you follow someone on Instagram and every time they post a photo you love it so much you wish you’d taken it? That’s how I feel about the photos Brianna Hope Thompson takes of her bike. Her bike, named Gerty, appears in photos leaning against murals, lounging in nature, or roaming the city streets. Brianna tags these photos with her custom hashtag #btstwowheels, which features over a hundred posts so far. Gerty is cute, quirky, and totally identifiable on bike racks around town. I asked Brianna a few questions about her bike, and you’ll find some of my favorite photos of Gerty below.
Biking in Mpls: Tell me a little about Gerty.
Brianna: I got Gerty 4 or 5 years ago. My bike had recently been stolen, and I started seeing my friends riding single speeds with fun colored bar tape, pedals, chains, etc., and decided I wanted one of those. I went into Two Wheels in uptown, and they didn’t have any frames in my size in stock. When they got one, it was blue, and I just thought it was perfect because CKYM is my favorite color scheme. At the time, Gerty was actually fairly understated – baby pink handlebar grips and pedals, a white seat, and fenderless. It was just in this year, when I started biking three times as much as before, that my bike found its identity as Gerty. I added the yellow fenders, changed to drop bars with neon pink tape, and got new and brighter pedals.
Biking in Mpls: Do you have any other bikes?
Brianna: I don’t have any other bikes. I’m joining the Peace Corps in January, so I haven’t been able to justify buying bikes that would be in storage for 2 years. I have a couple in mind for when I get back though!
Biking in Mpls: Where and why do you ride your bike?
Brianna: I ride my bike all over Minneapolis (and sometimes even outside of it) because it is an affordable way to get around while also being fun and healthy. I rode the bus to work almost every day for a week recently, and it was the worst. By the time I had walked to the stop, waited, and sweated it out in a box with a bunch of strangers, I could have biked to work and back. Now I’m back on my bike.
Biking in Mpls: Your hashtag #btstwowheels contains 110 posts, is your bike your favorite photography subject? Why?
Brianna: I think my bike became my favorite photography subject because it’s a model with an open schedule, and it’s almost always with me. It pops against neutral backgrounds, and it coordinates well with bright backgrounds. I love the murals around the city, but I think a photo of a mural without someone or something in it is boring; Gerty adds a bit of interest. I suppose if I think about it more than I probably should, I have built Gerty in a way that expresses my personality, so every shot of Gerty is almost a self-portrait. You see where I’ve been in the city because you see where it’s been.
Biking in Mpls: What’s your favorite thing about biking?
Brianna: I love the way biking feels, particularly on summer nights with friends, when you can feel the air all over your skin while enjoying the best company around.
Angie and Sean racing Riot Grrravel in 2014. Photo by Kate Lockheart.
Angie and Sean organize the Miesville FiftySix, which happened for the first official time this year in April. I talked to them about what gravel riding is all about, and why they like it so much. Biking in Mpls: How did you get started organizing the Miesville FiftySix?
Sean: We were supposed to ride a little ride called the Miesville Gravel Grinder. The first year it happened, it was a really crappy day that morning so we probably laid in bed and ate ice cream instead. The race director, Marsh, is his name, decided to put together a gent’s ride. Same course, two or three months later. There were maybe 25 people that rode. It was a blast, it was a really good course. It was a fun ride. It was a really nice day too. So we rode that. It was all really good gravel.
Angie: Bicycle riding and gravel, in particular, is primarily men. My good girlfriends are really good mountain bikers. They were at Leadville this last year, there were 1800 people who rode Leadville and I think 147 women, so not very many. I’m one of the few women that ride it. I don’t know why, because it’s really fun. Marsh told me a couple months later, “I want Miesville to be something a little bigger, more structured, but I don’t have the time to do it. Would you like to take it over?” I said, “That sounds fun but I’m really busy.” I asked Sean, “Do you want to do this with me?” He said yes. That’s how we came upon the Miesville Gravel Grinder.
Sean: So now that’s our ride and it’s not called the Miesville Gravel Grinder anymore. We don’t like that term: crush gravel. It’s kind of the hashtag of gravel. It’s kind of like when people say “you rock” or “you killed that.” We’re tired of that. We said, let’s keep it Miesville and it’s 56 miles, so now it’s the Miesville FiftySix. That was just this past year.
Angie and Sean at the headwaters of the Mississippi.
Biking in Mpls: How’d it go?
Sean: It went great.
Angie: It went really well. It’s free so that’s the great thing about gravel. It’s supposed to be a community party. Everyone get together and ride your bikes. That’s part of the reason I really liked it. Not because I don’t like to pay for races, I think there’s value, but you get a wider variety of people if an event is free. You get the people in the denim jeans riding their old Schwinn taking breaks to smoke a cigarette. It’s funny. People are taking pictures, you have people that are really really serious, and you have people that are really serious about just having a lot of fun. Usually, unless somebody has a mechanical problem, or gets sick, or the weather’s bad, everybody finishes. They just might not finish until dark. It’s cool that it opens it up to everybody. It’s an interesting crowd.
Sean: I think there are a lot of people who are intimidated by racing a bike. We press the fact that it’s not a race, this is a ride.
Angie: I’d really like to get more women into it. That’s my goal. It’s really hard to.
Biking in Mpls:Have you ever talked to women on rides and asked how they got started?
Angie: The woman who gets DFL (dead fucking last) a lot, her name is Ellie Skelton, her husband is a really good cyclist. She just really liked to ride bikes but she’s not fast like him. So she just rides. It might take her 10 hours to do 100 miles. That’s a long damn time. She has a ride in June out of Hastings and the only people who get prizes are women, to draw more women into it. It’s a gravel ride. It’s only 32 miles, and it’s in the middle of June. I was the first woman in on the 32 mile and I won a large Pizza Luce pizza.
I actually crashed. I was in the ditch, it was a bad crash, 35mph bombing a hill. I ended up in the ditch and Sean comes running over because it must’ve looked really bad. And I was like, “Is the bike okay, can we keep going, we’re ahead.” All for the pizza.
I think women are intimidated, they think that they aren’t going to know what to do, they’re going to be last, or they’re going to be alone. Part of gravel too is navigating. It’s cue sheets, so you have to figure out where to go. That’s another thing I really like about it. You have to pay attention, you need to pay attention to road signs and how long you’ve gone. I don’t know. Unfortunately, I don’t think women are confident enough to go, unless they have someone to go with.
My second gravel ride was called the Heroic, in Hastings, you had to have a wool jersey and it was 40 miles. That was really bad weather. It was snowing, 23 degrees, I’m the only girl that showed. I don’t know. Do you know why women don’t go?
Sean: I do think it’s an intimidation thing. You get a lot of hot-headed dudes.
Angie: Right, that’s why I won’t ride mountain bikes.
Biking in Mpls: Are there shorter gravel rides? You said that one was 32 miles, are there any that are 20?
Angie: I don’t think so.
Sean: Not really. You could do it. We could easily add a 22 mile route to our route. Once we get this whole thing off the ground more, maybe that’s something we could do.
Angie: Ellie claims that a bunch of women dropped out because of childcare, they didn’t have anyone to watch their kids. So there’s that. I think it’s more that women get intimidated.
Biking in Mpls: I spend a lot of time thinking about behavior change. One huge hurdle for people to get over is doing something for the first time. That’s why I was asking if there were any shorter rides. I feel like if you did a 20 mile race, you’d be like, hey that wasn’t so bad I can do that. It builds your confidence that you can do it. And then you can tackle something a little bit bigger and a little bit bigger.
Angie: I think that’s a really good point. People start their running career doing a 5K never thinking they’ll do a marathon.
Sean: You don’t jump right into a marathon.
Angie: I remember the first time I ran, it was like three blocks and I thought I was going to die. I’ve done marathons. That’s a good point. I think it would be good to see more women. It builds confidence.
Biking in Mpls: What do you like best about riding gravel?
Angie: It’s a fun, different thing to do. Part of the great thing about gravel is that historically gravel roads aren’t busy, there aren’t people on them. You get the feeling of being on roads that aren’t very habituated. You get to see things that you wouldn’t necessarily see on the road. That’s why I like it. You get to see different stuff.
Sean: It’s like a mini-adventure.
Biking in Mpls: What kinds of cool things have you seen?
Angie: We see cool things every time we ride gravel. You see deer and you see turkeys. I’ve seen a big fox that walks back and forth. Everything sounds different, it’s really quiet.
Sean: Nature is some of the coolest stuff. You might see parts of a river that you’d never see in a car. The little town of Welsh on our ride and then turn around and go back, and that’s just like a throwback to 1820. That’s what the little Welsh village feels like. It’s Little House on the Prairie for a split second and then you move on. I had an eagle fly with me for about 100 meters one day when I was biking by myself. We see people hunting. You just take it in and stop to smell the roses.
Angie: It’s not a trail. Gravel is fun because you can just go find other gravel roads.
Sean: It just opens up a different world.
Sean Pease and Angie Hop are avid bikers and the organizers of the Miesville FiftySix gravel ride.
Biking in Mpls: Tell me how your relationship with biking has changed in the last couple years.
Brandon: A couple years ago, I had my single-speed Long Haul Trucker with flat bars that was my go around town, sometimes get groceries, sometimes force myself to bike around the lakes bike. Instead of getting fat, sitting on the couch, eating Cheetos, and watching the Wire, like I would usually do instead, I decided I would go biking. That shifted a little when I wanted to start riding in the winter, so I bought a fat bike. I wasn’t comfortable riding on the snow with my single front brake and too high gears. I got a fat bike and I spent the most money than I’d ever spent on anything on this bike. I rode a bit in the winter, it was really fun. I started taking it on a lot of social rides. The next year after getting that fat bike I did a century with it. I ended up doing all these little events. That Pugsley’s had a lot of history, I could never sell it because it has more history than anything I’ve ever owned. That’s why I got it custom painted. That thing is mine.
I got another bike that I started taking on long rides. I started racing cyclocross. I started doing alley cat races. With my Pugsley I started mountain biking and I started doing adventure rides. Throughout that year I got really into mountain biking. Around the time of Powderhorn 24 last year, I had an interview with what became my current job at QBP. I remember specifically talking to my future bosses. They asked me what cycling meant to me. It was much like the question you just asked, “Tell me about bikes and Brandon.” I’m like, “You have all day to hear this?” They laughed and I told them a ten minute story about all the different biking things I’d started doing. They were like, “Oh man this guy is really into it.” I ended up getting the job. I would like to think it was my absolute undying passion, but maybe it was also some qualifications. From then on I just started collecting bicycles.
Instead of having my flat bar, single-speed, Long Haul Trucker that just gets me everywhere and I force it to do all the things I need it to do even if it shouldn’t, this week I’m finishing the build on my seventh bike. They span the entire gamut. I have bikes for bike trials, I have a BMX bike, I have a hard tail mountain bike, I have a rigid mountain bike which is also my camping bike, I have a geared townie cruiser, and I have a drop bar gravel bike. And a single speed/fixed gear mountain bike. I have everything.
Biking in Mpls: Why do you have so many bikes? Brandon: Because I have so many interests. Every time I get a bike it’s specifically to fill a goal I have with biking. The only reason I got a BMX was because I couldn’t afford a trials bike. The reason I wanted a trials bike was because I saw people doing all these things I could only describe as parkour for bicycles. I looked at that and said, “I could do that! I mean it would take a long time and it would take a lot of hurt but I would absolutely love to do that.”
Biking in Mpls: Why do you like doing so many different things? Brandon: I can’t stick to a specific genre of anything, be it music, or bikes, or activities in general, or films. I feel like once I get a handle on something and I get what it’s about and I understand where the ceiling is, I find myself running out of creative options to make it even harder or even more cool. Then I’m like “Well okay, I’m over it, I want to try something else.” Like this year I won’t be racing cross because I raced cross last year, I really liked it but it isn’t fresh and new. I already do all that stuff on my mountain bike. Doing it on a cross bike with a bunch of people doesn’t make me any more excited.
The idea I had when I was a skateboarder was to take one thing and do it on something else. With bikes, as soon as you learn a thing, like a wheelie or a front wheel pivot, you’re like, “Okay I can do this on a curb, but can I do it over three stairs? Can I do it over a three foot ledge? Can I manual down nine stairs without crashing?” Those risks become more comfortable and as you push that you can do way more cool things. As you get better at that you start looking at things differently. With the trials bike the possibilities become endless. With the mountain bike my bike likes to eat everything within its path. They’re both like, maximize your adrenaline, maximize your fun, maximize your control of the machine you’re operating. But, do it with finesse and do it with somehow at the same time with reckless abandon. It becomes fucking cool.
Biking in Mpls: Why do you like biking so much? Brandon: I like it because I have to be tricked into exercise. I’ve tried to get a gym membership or take classes. It’s bullshit. That stuff is garbage, I hate that. I cannot do it. I don’t feel good after. I feel exhausted but I don’t feel like I accomplished anything. I feel like I picked things up and put them down and that was as far as it went. And running? I hate running. No one is allowed to do running and enjoy it.
But biking, firstly you’re going somewhere. You get to see the sights. I get to practice skills. The reason I skateboarded for so long, and the reason I gained any muscle on any part of my body, was because in trying to learn tricks or trying to do a maneuver, you’re also teaching weird parts of your body fine motor control. You’re building this muscle mass in a way you wouldn’t have otherwise. Not only are you tricking yourself into exercise, you’re tricking yourself into being a well-rounded athlete. You get this transportation element out of it, there’s a social aspect to it.
Biking is the best way of going outside that I can think of. I’m not going to go for a hike, I’m going to jump on my mountain bike and go for a hike. No I’m not going to walk along the path, I’m going to bike along the path. I don’t want to go slow, I want to go fast. I want to negotiate some weird obstacles on the way. If there aren’t obstacles I’m going to take curbs, I’m going to jump over manholes, I’m going to wheelie over construction. It’s stupid but it’s fantastic.
Biking in Mpls: You’ve said before that sometimes you get so into something that you forget to eat, like you forget your body. Do you think that feeling translates to bikes? Brandon: Yes, absolutely. Much to my detriment. Every single time I’m on a bike I get so focused. I get so lost in the adrenaline and in the next thing, the next obstacle, the next cool/rad whatever. I’m only thinking about that. It becomes a form of meditation. I empty my entire head.
That’s another good thing, one of the reasons that I like to bike is my brain is always moving. It’s always thinking, it’s always considering the next thing. It’s always overthinking something from the past while also planning something for the future and trying to deal with whatever’s in front of me at the moment. When I’m on a bike all I’m worrying about is the thing I’m doing at the moment. I have no time to think about anything else. That just fuels more. You get this endorphin rush and you get to empty your brain in this guided meditation that you have control over and you get this sensation out of.
Yeah, only when I stop pedaling do I go, “My stomach hurts like crazy, what’s going on?” There have been so many times where I’ve tried to pinpoint why I’m not feeling well or why I can’t sleep. I’m like, fuck it I’ll just go on a bike ride. Then I go on a bike ride and exhaust myself mentally and physically and emotionally and I come home and I feel so good. I sleep like a baby. When I wake up I feel refreshed and I feel emotionally whole. It’s the best therapy that I’ve ever had. I can’t ever remember to do anything besides biking when I’m biking.
Biking in Mpls: Tell me about your shins. Brandon: My shins? I have a poor abusive relationship with my shins. That extends far back into the recesses of my past from when I was a skateboarder. The BMX has been the worst offender. Since then my trials bike which has metal claws on the bottoms of the pedals, they just kill you. Because of my love/hate relationship with the shin guards, that seem to just flee at the first sign of danger, I have all these marks, dozens of marks.
Biking in Mpls: How do you feel about all of your scars? Do you think of it like, “I earned this from doing cool shit,” or do you think of it like, “Aw man, my shins have a lot of scars on them”?
Brandon: If I’m noticing them at all it’s because they’re annoying. Most of them are still healing. Most of the time when I notice them it’s because I bump something and then it hurts for the next 30 minutes.
I think it’s amusing because I get a lot of questions about them. From old ladies at weddings. From your friends. When I told Marijke when she asked “What happened to your shins!?” and I said, “Eh, bikes.” She looked at me incredulous like, what are you talking about I ride a bike all the time. Now I’ve realized what I need to say is, “because I ride bikes aggressively” or “because I ride bikes improperly.” I need to add some sort of qualifier, that’s like, I’m not just going to the store. I need some sort of way to say, “I know you do this too, here’s the difference.”
You convinced me a couple months ago that it was badass. When I heard that I was like, “Are you serious? That looks terrible!” I own two sets of shin guards now, does that tell you how I feel about the shin problems? I’m trying. I want them to get better, but I’m also not going to stop putting them at risk.
Biking in Mpls: Regarding community, what has biking brought into your life that wasn’t there before? Brandon: Last year, 2014, I was in kind of a weird place. I’d devoted a lot of time to personal projects and working on things that were super personally valuable. They were things that were incompatible with socialization. Unless you know someone who plays music, it’s hard to play music with people. Unless you know somebody who wants to go shooting photos, you don’t really go shooting photos with people. I didn’t know anybody who rode bikes, except for my girlfriend at the time. So we rode bikes. I rode a lot more bikes than she did, and then we started riding a lot more together. Then she moved away. A couple of my friends had moved away across country. I had no real community.
From Brandon’s 30 days of biking photo journal.
In April last year I finally committed to 30 Days of Biking for real. In order to commit myself I decided to do a photo journal. It was the fourth day or something like that, that Calhoun Cycle was hosting a pastry ride. It changed my life, in such a small way at first. I remember going and thinking, “Oh, I’m going to be really weird. I won’t know anybody there. I’m going to show up, look around, and once I’m uncomfortable I’m going to leave.” I went, I stood around. There were 15 people on the ride maybe. We went to A Baker’s Wife. I was riding my fat bike and I gravitated towards these ladies who also had fat bikes.
Biking in Mpls: Was that Kate and Victoria? Brandon: It was. They were riding their Mukluks and they’d ridden them all the way from St. Paul. I started talking to Victoria and I started talking to Kate, I was really timid. We started talking and I did a couple more small events during that week. I talked to Kate that weekend about how I was looking for a new bike because I didn’t like my Long Haul Trucker. She said she had a Cross Check she was selling, and I ended up buying the bike the next week. I loved it. I still love it. I’ve put thousands of miles on it since. That fostered a really cool friendship with Kate and Victoria. Those two alone are like my best friends in the bike community. I wouldn’t have them if it weren’t for Calhoun Cycle.
Biking in Mpls: What’s your favorite thing about biking? Brandon: I think it’s competing with yourself. I’m not a competitive person. When you’re on a bike, your improvement of yourself is going a place you’ve never been before or doing a thing you’ve never done before or going a distance you’ve never gone before. There’s a lot of opportunity to improve yourself on a bike. Even if that’s just emptying your mind and not worrying about the things you need to improve. There’s so much potential there and I get a lot out of it. There’s a competition with my former self. I want to do better than I did, because I feel better now than I did, and I think I’ll feel even better if I keep pushing myself further.
If you want to see what getting rad on bikes looks like, check out Brandon’s video.
Biking in Mpls: When did you start riding bikes in Minneapolis? Tony: When I was five.
Biking in Mpls: Did you grow up in Minneapolis? Tony: I grew up in St. Paul. It’s the typical story. I rode my bike wherever I went. It was the complete instrument of freedom for me. And when I got to be sixteen, I bought my first car and never looked back.
Biking in Mpls: When did you go back to riding bikes? Tony: I went back to riding probably 2008. So 7 or 8 years ago. I lived in Seattle for a year and I really started to bike a lot when I lived there. It’s such a great biking city.
Biking in Mpls: When you moved back to Minneapolis, were you still riding your bike? Tony: Yeah, I lived downtown in the North Loop and it was really an easy way to get to work and to ride around the neighborhood.
Biking in Mpls: How did you start getting more involved in the biking community? Tony: In addition to my work for Nice Ride, I have a sales and marketing consultancy. My wife is a teacher so she has summers off. I was managing my consultancy and I was working about 200-300 hours a year, mostly between January and April. I didn’t need to work for the rest of the year, so I was home all summer. I was still going out on my bike ride every day and I was in and out, but I was still home a lot. My wife said, “Next year you’re getting a job, I don’t want you around the house this much.”
I thought, what could I do that dials into my passion and is related to my history and my work life? I was an architect, I’m an urban designer, I have a passion for bikes, I have a passion for cities making infrastructure, so why don’t I try to start a business around that concept? So I started Minneapolize and I started the blog. I started to create a level of expertise in the world, naive as I was I thought that would be the way to do it. I opened up a Twitter account mainly to feed readers into the blog. Within a little bit over a year, I got a gig in El Paso, Texas to help them set up a charrette for a bike master plan. That was June 20th, 2013.
Two days later I saw the ad for the position Greater Minnesota Strategies person at Nice Ride. On a whim, I went after it and met with Anthony Ongaro who I’d met a couple months before and knew from Twitter. I convinced them it was okay to keep the consultancy alive and to work for Nice Ride. It’s been a dream job. One week into the job I had a meeting downtown Minneapolis and another one at the state capitol and had to be back in the office by Brackett Park. I’m riding down Summit to the capitol and think, what the fuck I’m riding my bike and I’m being paid to ride my bike! This is cool!
It was not a completely surprising trajectory of going from architect, urban designer, consultant, bike enthusiast, bike advocate, bike activist, to bike professional. I keep telling them at Nice Ride that they’re stuck with me until I retire.
Biking in Mpls: Have you gotten even more involved in biking stuff since you started working at Nice Ride? Tony: Oh my god, yeah. I have a strong sense that advocacy is necessary. I can put two sentences together pretty well so I can put a presentation together in front of the city council or the Mayor or public works department or the county or the city or whatever it is. I kind of became an advocate with Nice Ride when it was appropriate to be the voice of Nice Ride in an advocacy environment. Or not, when it was more appropriate for me to be Tony Desnick, citizen of St. Paul.
It’s really become a passion. What’s really interesting to me is I was biking for exercise more than anything, it made me feel good. I’ve kind of evolved from thinking about biking as exercise to, in no small part to what Blue Cross Blue Shield is doing together with Nice Ride, to thinking about it as a health thing.
Tony as a semi-professional racer. Photo courtesy of Tony Desnick.
Biking in Mpls: You have five bikes and you just got a Bakfiets, how much do you ride your bikes vs. driving your car? Tony: I would say 90-10, bike-car. You need to know I come from the dark side. I was a car guy for my whole life. A couple of cars, but I was a semi-professional racer for about 10 years. I was completely hooked. My dream car was a yellow 1995 Volvo 850 T5R. When that car came out in 1995, I had to have it. It was wildly expensive even for its day. But I finally bought one three or four years ago. I bought it, of course, used at 16 years old, but it was in really wonderful shape. I spent a whole bunch of money and made it in even better shape and I just sold it this spring. Last year I used it five times. I said, you know it doesn’t make sense to own this anymore. I felt like I’d really been cleaved from the dark side.
Biking in Mpls: You came into the light. Tony: Yes. Part of buying the Bakfiets was to replace the Volvo.
Lucy Limo. Photo courtesy of Tony Desnick.
Biking in Mpls: You needed a dogmobile? Tony: We have a car that the kids and my wife share, and it’s an electric car so we can’t drive it more than 100 miles. If we want to travel we have to rent a car.
It was easy to justify. We’re down to one car, I don’t even use it. I bike to work every day. When the kids say, can we use the car tonight? I say, ask your mom it’s her car. Tonight, I was tired, I was hot, I thought maybe I’ll take the car. But then I got home and the car was being used so I got on a bike.
Tony: I have to tell you a story. My niece Meeri, she’s Finnish, she was in town last September visiting us, we were going to go from our house in St. Paul to Smack Shack in the North Loop. We get on the freeway and the freeway is backed up. I said, fuck this. I got off at the exit ramp at the U of M. I was going to cut through the U to go downtown. Well a Vikings game had just let out, that’s why the freeway was jammed up. So I go from the frying pan into the fire.
I’m on Oak Street coming up to where the bike center is and there’s a Nice Ride station. I can just feel the stress hormones pumping. I’m getting totally stressed out. I said to my wife, do you mind if I get out and grab a Nice Ride for the rest of the way downtown? She said, no please go. She didn’t want to be with me when I was like that. I’m getting out of the car and the traffic cop is looking at me quite askance. I said, I can’t do this anymore, I’m taking a Nice Ride! He says, good idea. I beat them by a half hour.
Biking in Mpls: No kidding. One time I met a friend near St. Anthony Main and we were going from there to First Ave. It took me like five minutes, it took him like 30 minutes. I was on a bike, he was in a car.
Tony: It’s easier, it’s more fun. It’s the first job I’ve ever had that I feel like there’s nothing wrong with it. You make tiny compromises in your life with every job that you have about a moral thing or an ethical thing, but this is something that’s completely without that for me. It’s cool. I feel so bad that I had to wait this long to have it.
Biking in Mpls: What is your favorite thing about biking?
Tony: The fun I have getting from A to B. What has always been kind of a chore, is now fun. It doesn’t matter how hot I am or how cold I am, I know I’m having more fun than I would have getting where I’m going any other way.
Biking in Mpls: Why do you feel compelled to be involved in bike advocacy?
Tony: I learned very quickly when beginning to dip my toes in the water that there was something there. There was something that was really able to capture my spirit and my desires.
Tony Desnick is the Director of Greater Minnesota Strategies for Nice Ride, he’s also an avid cyclist. He lives in St. Paul.
Biking in Mpls: How long have you lived in Minneapolis, and when did you start biking here? Jessica: I’ve lived here since 2006, so 9 years. I started biking about a year after I moved here.
Biking in Mpls: Did you bike before that, or how did you get started? Jessica: I lived in Florida which is not very bike friendly at all. Other than riding around as a kid, and in college I rode my beach cruiser around to class sometimes, I didn’t really ride. I didn’t own a bike when I moved here. Not a real bike.
Biking in Mpls: What was the thing that caused you to get started biking? Jessica: Seeing how many other people were doing it. At first I thought it seemed unbelievably impractical to ride your bike downtown and then after awhile I was like, I think I could do that. Then I started trying to ride downtown. After that I saw people riding in the winter and I was like, no way. A year later, I was riding in the winter. Once I started doing it I realized how much faster it was and I could leave when I wanted and get where I wanted to be when I wanted, and not have to wait for a bus, and not have to wait for someone to come get me. It made a lot more sense to do that.
Biking in Mpls: When you started biking did you buy a bike right away or did you just use what you had? Jessica: I rode my beach cruiser downtown with its big awkward handlebars that would almost hit the sideview mirrors of all the parked cars. Then I got a used bike from Craigslist and rode that. I don’t even remember what it was now, just an old vintage frame.
Biking in Mpls: What sorts of things do you do on your bike besides getting from point A to point B? Do you do any group rides or racing? Jessica: I used to, this year I’ve kind of scaled back. I like doing long adventure rides or gravel races, like gravel centuries. I don’t really race race, I more do them for fun. I’m not particularly competitive. I do it more for the challenge and the scenery, and for personal improvement to see if I can improve on my own times. Last summer I did a ride called Oregon Outback, which went across Oregon on off-road, dirt trails. I like doing casual racing but not anything serious.
I like general group hang-outs with my friends, ride to breweries, ride to each others houses. Last year I led the women’s weekly Hub group ride. This year I think my friend Loretta is leading it, but last year I led it. It’s just for women, it’s a road ride, and I think it’s Wednesday nights. This year I decided I’d take a year off from that.
Biking in Mpls: I see you’re riding a road bike, have you been able to ride in that position even though you’re pregnant? Jessica: Yeah, it’s very upright for a road bike. It does work very well right now with my condition. It’s getting to be a little uncomfortable. I’ve had some really sweet friends offer to put upright handlebars on it, so I might take them up on that pretty soon, but for now it’s working. I thought about buying a cheap step-through frame so I don’t have to throw my leg over, but I’ve made it this far. I only have two more months, so I’m going to try to tough it out. If I do have to do more transit and walk a lot the last month, that’s okay.
Biking in Mpls: Has anything changed since you’ve been pregnant with regard to bikes? Jessica: Yes, I haven’t been doing any of the long endurance rides. I was hoping to do it up until my third trimester but I found that I’m way more winded and tired than I used to be. I think I had some really awesome role models who led me to believe it would be a lot easier than it’s been. A couple of my friends who’ve had babies and continued to ride bikes were just such badasses. It turns out I’m a little more tired than I thought I would be.
Biking in Mpls: Has being pregnant affected the way you feel when you’re riding around town at all? Jessica: I’m a lot less risky. I wasn’t really risky before, I was always a very conservative rider, but now I’m extra, extra, extra conservative. If a light’s about to change, I’m stopping. I won’t take certain roads that I never would’ve worried about. If it’s raining I don’t really like to ride. The drivers are a little more unpredictable when it’s raining and it’s more slick. Rain didn’t used to bother me at all, now I’m just a lot more careful.
And I’m a lot more angry at cars when they do more assholey things. I’m like, “I have a baby!” I’m sure drivers think I’m being irresponsible by riding but I don’t see it that way. I don’t see them as being more entitled to the road than I am. I’m outraged when they’re careless because they’re not thinking about the lives they could be putting in danger.
Biking in Mpls: When you have your baby, do you know what you’re going to do to bike around? Jessica: We’re going to wait until he’s a little bit older. We’re playing with some different options. My friends have been really helpful posting links every time they see anything about biking with a baby. We’re probably going to get some kind of trailer that we can secure the baby carrier to. Once he’s a little older we’ll look into getting a regular kid trailer, and a trail-a-bike when he’s much older like 3 or 4.
Biking in Mpls: What’s your favorite thing about biking? Jessica: My favorite thing is the feeling of complete independence it gives me. I don’t have to rely on anything but my own two legs and feet to go anywhere.