It’s just part of my lifestyle: An interview


James is a pal of mine, whom I’ve known for a couple years now. We didn’t meet in any sort of formal way, we just saw each other at Common Roots and at One Yoga enough times that we started recognizing each other. He works at Common Roots and one day, during happy hour, I ordered wine and he filled the glass nearly to the brim. That’s when I realized he was a pretty okay dude. You know when you find out someone you know, knows someone else? James and I had one of those once, and the person we knew in common was my grandma. That made my mind explode a little bit.

James bikes a lot, and volunteered to share some of his experiences with me, and via me, with you all.

Biking in Mpls: Have you always biked?
James: No. Biking came to me from, I remember being like 9, 10 years old and at the time my church was in south Minneapolis in Phillips neighborhood. In the Phillips and Powderhorn neighborhoods I’d see folks riding bikes and I just thought it was really cool to ride bikes. I never really got invested in it, I lived in Minneapolis but I was going to school in the suburbs. I was going between both of them and didn’t really have the time to bike. It was when I was in college that I realized people do really get around on bikes. I lived in Spain, came back from living in Spain, and I realized that I had lifestyle changes I wanted to make, but I didn’t make them wholeheartedly until I came back.

I had purchased a bike, a cheap Schwinn from Target, I was super excited about it. It had a cable lock and I thought it was set. I didn’t know anything about bike safety. I spent the night at my girlfriend’s house at the time and I came outside and my bike was gone. It was heartbreaking. It was the first bike I bought myself, and I felt a little violated because my bike was gone.

So then I was working at a restaurant downtown and my friend David was moving to Ecuador. He said, I don’t want to let my bike go by the wayside, if I left my bike with you would you hride it? And I was like, yeah. He had a fixed gear, and I’d never ridden a fixed gear in my life. He said, you’d probably need to come over and try it out for a second. I think it took me three days before I could ride it, because it’s a totally different riding experience than I was used to. He also said, James if I let you use my bike you have to ride it the entire winter. And I was like, what? It was crazy for me to even think about riding the entire winter. I had a car so I was like, why ride the entire winter? But he said, the only way you can use the bike is if you ride the entire winter. And I like a challenge so I was like, cool. He gave me a bag full of goodies, like gloves and jackets, to use.

The first winter was difficult, but not that difficult. I was mostly biking to work and I lived downtown and worked downtown, so it was only about a mile. I would take small routes and trips off from there. That bike he let me use I ended up purchasing when he came back. That’s the bike I still ride.


Biking in Mpls: Do you have any other bikes?
James: I’ve had other bikes. I had a collection of 6 bikes at one point, and it was really nice to have them, but then moving from place to place, it became hard to transport them and find places to store all of them when you weren’t using them. I ended up getting rid of all the bikes and I still only have the one bike.

Biking in Mpls: I remember last year we were talking and you said you were trying to bike some amount, was it like 8,000 miles?
James: 8,000 miles. I wound up biking 5,500. Which is still a decent amount, but it was way shorter than I thought. Biking that amount requires a lot of dedication. I see the people who attain closer to that amount and they go on treks like biking across the country and that will be a huge chunk of it. I don’t bike tour. I had a goal of riding four hundred-mile rides and I only ended up riding two hundred-mile rides. I had that goal but I fell short. I had to give up on it.

Biking in Mpls:That was also a really rough starting winter.
James: Yeah, it was just so cold and snowy that I couldn’t really get the miles in. What’s been nice about this winter is it’s been milder and there have been thaws, which have made it easier to bike.

Biking in Mpls: Do you have any goals for this year?
James: No. I’m trying not to. I do but I don’t. I know I won’t meet those goals. I’m going to a yoga teacher training so I’ll have at least a month in the summer, which is prime biking time, where I won’t be biking.

Biking in Mpls:Where’s that, where are you going?
In Pennsylvania. I will not be around to bike so that’ll be weird, a month without biking. But I want to be realistic with the goals. My crazy mind says that between middle of April and beginning of June, I’ve got to get a big chunk of miles in because once you have a base it’s easier to build on.

The All-City alley cat is a bike race I’ve ridden in for the past four years, and I’ve progressively gotten better, the first year I placed over 100, the second year I was in the top 70, third year I finished 52nd, and this year I finished 21st. So my goal this year, if I have a goal, is to break the top 20 in that race. That’s the goal.

Biking in Mpls: How did you go from not really having a bike to biking 5,500 miles? Was it just a natural progression or was it a conscious decision?
James: It was a conscious decision. Living in Spain planted the seed that I wanted to make whole lifestyle changes, what I wanted my life to look like. So it was a whole lifestyle where I was going out, partying and clubbing, and dressing real fancy. There was a whole different James. I had some Gucci things and Louis Vuitton and crazy shoes, it was a whole different time of who I was. That lifestyle and the way I was treating my body wasn’t good. I was working at Fogo de Chau downtown, the steakhouse, I was eating so much meat. I weighed the most I’ve ever weighed in my life.

I became a vegetarian, but that wasn’t good enough. David worked at Common Roots and was into healthy eating, and a girl I was dating around that time was really into local, organic food, farm-raised food, and I was like, I can do things a little bit better. And biking, I can do that a little bit better. I wanted to participate in these bike events. I knew of alley cats, and there was a bike race by New Belgium called the Urban Assault Ride. That was my first foray into an alley cat, there are just a few checkpoints around the city. Just because I was in that, I felt like I could ride a little bit faster and harder, I knew I could, and I wanted to know how to go about this. What everyone told me was that you just have to ride your bike more. That’s the only way you get stronger, is by biking biking biking. That’s just been propelling me.

Three and a half, maybe four, years ago I found yoga too and for exercise it’s an amazing thing, a lot of folks will make the assumption that I go to a gym or something but I don’t, I just bike and yoga. That’s my entire regimen.

Biking in Mpls: It’s the perfect combination, biking gets your legs and your cardio, and yoga gets your upper body and your flexibility and then you’re done. And both of them help me calm my mind.
James: Even in that regard, that’s another aspect of why I bike. When I bike I feel a lot better. I know I feel way better than when I don’t bike. You know, if you go on vacation and you don’t bike, I’m like what the heck is going on. 

Biking in Mpls: What is your favorite thing about biking? Do you have one main favorite thing?
James: The freedom and peace. I think it’s really peaceful. My favorite time of the year to ride, which is going to sound crazy, is when it snows.

Biking in Mpls: Oh, me too and it’s so quiet.
James: It’s dark, it’s quiet, everything is muffled. Cars have to slow down, you can go faster. Just being on your bike when it snows, it’s one of the most amazing things.

This is another thing, coming out of a yoga class and then biking, I get this profound appreciation for what I’m doing. I’m like oh my goodness I’m here, I’m on my bike, I’m alive. Or when it snows, the snow is hitting my face oh my goodness this feels really, really good. Just appreciating those small little things.

Biking to Minnetonka, when I go on longer rides, the headspace that it gives you, it’s clearing. No matter what part of your day. I meditate the whole time, meditating is really good for you, just to have the ability to get on my bike and put something out of my head. Or if I want to rock out to some music, is another great thing, cause it’s hard for me to sit down and listen to an entire album. But you go for a bike ride and I can put an album on and listen to it the entire way through.

It’s peace and calming. And the fitness benefits of it, like at first I thought of it as exercise but now I don’t even think of it as exercise, I’m getting to where I need to go and that’s it. But then, oh yeah I am getting exercise, but people have to remind me of that. It’s just what I do, I don’t think of it as crazy or extraordinary, it’s just part of my lifestyle.


What do you like best about biking in Minneapolis?

Bob and Hokan

I was appointed to the Minneapolis Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) this past summer as one of the citizen representatives for the Minneapolis Park Board. Today, we welcomed the new Minneapolis Bicycle and Pedestrian coordinator. As we went around the circle, we all answered the question “what do you like most about biking in Minneapolis?” I asked a couple of attendees if I could photograph them and recount their answers for this blog. Bob and Hokan agreed. We chatted as they unlocked their bikes from the bike rack at city hall.


Bob is the Ward 6 representative on the committee. He’s been on the committee for years and is a lifelong cyclist. He mentioned three main things he likes best about biking in Minneapolis. First, he likes the ability to leave his front door and have access to a transportation system that will get him all over town. Second, he appreciates the trail systems and how they allow for easy access to surrounding areas, like Stillwater. And third, he values that Minneapolis is a place where most drivers respect bicyclists.


Hokan is not an official member of the BAC, but he regularly attends meetings. His favorite thing about biking is that no matter what you’re doing, whether it’s going out for a leisurely ride or running errands, biking brings just a little bit of joy to your day. He mentioned that as a kid, he couldn’t wait to get his driver’s license because being able to drive meant freedom to him then. But now, he sees riding a bike as the embodiment of freedom.

Before we parted ways, Bob mentioned they were off to go grab a beer. Because “beer and bikes, they go together.”


A chat with Nick


Since I want this blog to explore different biking experiences, that means I have to actually talk to people about their experiences with biking. My first subject/guinea pig/experiment was with my friend Nick. I know Nick because he’s dating one of my best friends, Lindsay (yes she and I have the same name, and yes it’s adorable, and yes when one of our friends sees us he calls us collectively “Twinsies”). I met Nick on the night of Northern Spark last year. It was a very dreary day: rainy, cold, and just unpleasant. We got a group together and biked around and had so much fun. Northern Spark is probably my favorite night of the year.


As we drank beers in his Whittier apartment I said, “So we’ve talked about what I’m doing here, you know how this works.” To which Nick replied: “HI, MY NAME IS NICK SANDSTROM. I RIDE BIKES.” On that note, let me tell you a little about Nick Sandstrom. He rides bikes.

Nick beer

Some of Nick’s biking history

L: How long have you lived in Minneapolis?

N: I’ve lived here about three years. I lived two years about two blocks away, and I’ve been here for about seven, eight months now. It feels like I’ve been around here longer, though.

L: Where did you grow up? 

N: I grew up in St. Louis Park, pretty close to Calhoun, until I was eight, maybe. Then we moved on to Chanhassen.

L: Good ol’ Chanhassen.

N: Chan-happenin’.

L: You’ve lived in Sweden too, right?

N: Yeah, I moved over there, lived there for a year, came back here, lived with my folks cause I just had one semester left of school, graduated, worked for 6 months or so, and moved back to Sweden for another year. So when I came back in 2011, I wanted my own place right away but I didn’t really have enough money. Well, I had money but I didn’t really have a job yet and I didn’t want to risk anything. I got a job like right away at Wells Fargo. I saved up money and lived at home for like eight months and then was like, “I need to get out of here, I need to get into the city.” I was lucky enough to get a place for cheap rent, in a good location that was super close to work. I think I’d been living there for maybe a month and I realized I needed a bike. My friends had bikes. I hated driving in the city.

L: Did you bike before that in college or in Sweden?

N: In Sweden, there’s a huge bike culture over there, it kind of amazes me sometimes. You go to cities and the bike racks it looks like there’s thousands of bikes. I’m not joking, it looks like there’s sometimes a thousand bikes locked to one big rack.

L: Do people always lock them up?

N: Yeah. When I went to school it was different. We were on campus and let’s say we wanted to go into the city, it was very close. It was kind of like Duluth but a little smaller. We’d go on campus and people would try to find bikes that weren’t locked. And we’d ride them to this party in town and just leave them. If they were still there when we were leaving, we’d take them back and put them back where we found them. It was kind of this weird bike share thing we had going.

L: I’ve heard about that in Denmark or something, it’s like an informal bike share?

N: This was like a no-consent bike share. Which looking back on it, I would definitely not do that now. But at the time it’s like you’re in college, you’re drinking, well… I’ll bring it back if it’s there when I want to leave. Eventually I bought a bike and I loved it, and then I bought another one so I had several bikes. I sold one of them and the other one I never sold. I kept it locked up, locked but not to anything, in this bike storage shed on campus by my building. I went back two or three years later, and the bike was still in there. It hadn’t moved.

Figuring out a bike and biking schedule

L: So what’s your usual biking schedule, when do you start in the spring, when do you stop? Do you stop all the way for winter or do you keep going sometimes if the roads are clear?

N: Well when I first got a bike I wasn’t sure what kind of bike to get, I wasn’t really accustomed to road bikes. All the bikes I’ve had were…

L: Good Swedish bikes?

N: Yeah. Also when I was younger I had mountain bikes and I had a BMX bike. So this first bike I had was kind of a mountain bike type deal. I had that for awhile and I realized, I need a new bike. I needed to invest a little money, because I’d bought that first one for like $50 or so. I found [my current] bike on Craigslist. My friend was really pushing a single speed. I was like, well yeah maybe I want a few speeds. I definitely didn’t want a fixie, because I don’t personally care for those.

L: Why not?

N: A fixed gear it’s like, I feel like I’m a child again riding a huffy where it’s like I’m going to come to a skidding halt in my bike, “What’s up guys!?” Whereas the single speed at least then I can pedal backwards and who doesn’t like doing that?

L: It’s the best.

N: On Craigslist, I found this awesome bike, a Torker. I looked it up because I didn’t know what it was. Made in Seattle, based out of Seattle, really good bikes. It was half the price it should be, like half the price it retails for. The guy said he’d ridden it twice and then put it in for the winter and this was in April of the following year. I went and checked it out. It was a little short, a little small, so I was a little worried it wouldn’t fit me. But I didn’t care, I was like, I’ll just jack the seat up. It was almost brand new, you couldn’t even tell it’d been ridden. I just love the bike.

L: It hasn’t been a problem it was a little too small?

N: Yeah like I said, I raise the seat up, it’s fine. I try to bike as late into the fall as possible. Last year I biked into mid-November close to Thanksgiving. Then I put it in. This year, it was maybe a little earlier, maybe the beginning of November I was out. But then I did take it out in December. It was super cold but it wasn’t wet, so at least the roads were fine. I biked maybe a handful of times in December. But now it’s just been in the basement here, safe and sound.

About the importance of fenders

N: One thing I really need to invest in is fenders because that keeps me from biking when it’s wet out. When it’s shitty out. It’s a pet peeve, I can’t stand when it’s shitty, it might be nice out but the roads are all wet.

L: Get some fenders, I have them on both of my bikes. 

N: Lindsay gave me a pair but they didn’t fit her bike, but they didn’t fit mine either. So that was a waste.

 L: I have my road bike, which has a women’s friendly seat which has a hole in the middle. I don’t know, maybe it’s like ergonomic to your body…

N: Maybe like so your butt doesn’t get all sweaty, some air flow up in there?

L: Maybe, I don’t know?

N: When you fart, it goes out the hole?

L: [Laughs] Yeah, probably. So there was this one day in grad school when I was running late for class, I was going to bike, and I get on my bike and I start biking towards campus. By the time I got to Electric Fetus, I realized that because I didn’t have fenders the water was shooting right up through the hole in my seat. The rest of me was a little wet because it was drizzling, but my crotch was just soaked.

N: It’s dirty water too.

L: Yeah, I was getting like a dirt bidet. So I turned around and went home. Sorry class, I’m not going to make it to you today.

About Northern Spark

L: I was just thinking about Northern Spark and about how Frank had all his rain gear. I didn’t want to wear all my rain gear that night and I was thinking, No, it’s going to be the most fun night of the year I don’t want to look like a dweeb.

N: Same thing here, I was like, “I don’t care.” And then I realized very quickly that I was fucked. And then when we went back to my place.

L: Yeah, you changed your pants.

N: Oh, I changed everything. I put on shorts, I put on swim trunks, and I put on my sandals. I figured, if I get soaked now, I won’t mind.

L: The dumbest thing was that I have my usual gear: rain coat, rain pants, and galoshes, and I’m totally impervious to rain. But all I was wearing was the rain coat, so my top was dry, but the whole bottom of me was totally soaked, including my shoes and everything. I remember I put one or two extra pairs of underwear in my bag because I figured, if I can just change out of my wet underwear, that will make sense and then I will feel dry, even though the rest of me is soaked. But now I know.

N: That rain last year was epic.

L: Yeah, June monsoon.

N: The rain that night almost made it better.

L: It did, the thing I felt about Northern Spark the first year I went, the second year it happened, was that everything was connected. There were these huge crowds of bikes moving through downtown and I just felt like I was a part of this big thing I didn’t even know was there. When it moved over to St. Paul I still felt that way, but not as much because it felt like a smaller version of what it could be. And then that night, I was expecting it to feel like I was so connected with everything. Instead I felt extra connected with the few people we went with and anyone else who was out. Later, I talked to other people who said, “Man, I wish I could’ve gone to Northern Spark but it was so rainy.” I’d think, “I went and I had the best fucking time!”

N: Having fewer people out did make it better, things weren’t super crowded. I feel like if it had been nice out there would have been way more people. It wouldn’t be the same experience. You connected way more with our little group and with everyone because you’re in the same boat and everyone is getting soaked.

L: It’s like when there’s a big snow storm here and everyone’s out digging their cars out and just feeling part of it.

N: Like we were all in FutureKave together.*

Where Nick's bike lives.

Where Nick’s bike lives.


*During Northern Spark, we hung out in the FutureKave exhibit at the MIA even though it was malfunctioning. There was a time when I picked up a microphone repeated, “Futurekaaavvv” into it. They also put me in a suitcase and wheeled me around. We got yelled at and shared a moment.