Grease Rag is a group of WTF cyclists (that’s Women, Trans and Femme for the uninitiated) who get together to ride and work on bikes in Minneapolis. I talk about it a lot because Grease Rag has been the single most influential factor in my bicycle obsession. Today we’re celebrating the group’s third birthday, and it seemed a fitting time to write this long-overdue post about why I love it so much.
I first went to the shop night because my bike got a flat tire and I had no idea how to fix it. A friend refused to do it for me and sent me to Grease Rag to learn for myself. I started going back anytime my bike made weird noises or needed work.
Early on, I was just thrilled that I wasn’t paying someone else to do the bike maintenance for me. More experienced mechanics also helped me notice problems when they were beginning, before they got worse.
Grease Rag has been a great way to meet other people in my neighborhood. I got to know the staff at Sunrise Cyclery and they’ve been really helpful in keeping my bike rolling smoothly. I started going to the shop night even when I didn’t have any major projects, just to hang out with cool people and learn by watching them work on other types of bikes.
These cool people became my role models for winter cycling. As other women geared up for cold weather, I started thinking that perhaps I could do it, too. What had previously seemed like a fringe activity became a lot more mainstream when I saw women with office jobs commuting all year.
For those who can’t meet up with us in person in Minneapolis, the Grease Rag blog is also one of my favorite online resources for women cyclists. It features how-to’s, thoughts on gear, and is one of my major sources of info and articles about gendered issues in cycling.
Being introduced to a safe, non-intimidating space early on in my biking interest has cast gender bias in cycling culture into high relief. Other women have encouraged me to question this status quo, even as a new comer. I’ve also become more cognizant of my own straight privilege, though I’ve still got things to learn more about that. For people who are interested in hearing more stories from the movement for womens and trans shop nights, there’s a documentary film called Dudey Free Zone, in which Grease Rag is prominently featured.
Having regular access to dozens of more experienced cyclists who cheerfully answer my questions has steepened my own learning curve and helped me avoid a plethora of beginner mistakes. I’ve been joking that I could write a book called “Things I Learned Through Grease Rag.”
Instead, I’m kicking off a new category in my blog posts with the same name.
Number one: Almost every bike tool works as a beer bottle opener.
Happy Third Birthday Grease Rag! Here’s to many, many more!