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.
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.
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.*
*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.