Winter in the Shop

Adjusting brakes...

Yesterday was one of those great stay at home and spend the day in the shop days!  Darren and Nikki Miller stopped by with some bikes.  Nikki has recently returned to Bemidji and is a year round bike commuter.  She brought her trusty 1998 Trek in for some TLC.  She learned how to overhaul hubs, install cassettes, change tires, and adjust brakes!  Watch for her riding her blue bike around town and volunteering at the bike rodeo and other events.  Along with the bikes they brought a six-pack of home brewed nut brown ale – beer, the traditional and much appreciated gift for your bicycle mechanic!  Really good stuff.  What a fun way to stay out of the cold!

Diane and Nikki spend the day in the shop.

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Introducing Dan DeVault

Dan DeVault. The man at Shifting Gears Cass Lake!

Today was a banner day for Shifting Gears.  After weeks of email tag Dan DeVault and I finally got to spend the better part of a day together.  Dan is a young man from the Leech Lake rez who is currently studying Law Enforcement at the Tribal College.  He got into biking a couple years ago, is a dedicated bike commuter, and self taught bicycle mechanic.  He loves fixing up cast off bikes for family and friends and has done some bike fixing clinics on his own.  A man who hates exercise, he gets how biking keeps us active and fit while enjoying the outdoors, saving money, and getting where you need to go.  He writes Ditibiwebishkigan, a blog on all things bicycle and he has the most awesome Raleigh commuter bike you would ever want to see.  And here is the best part.  He is teaming up with Shifting Gears and Peoples Church to expand the mission of getting low income folks on bikes to the Cass Lake area!

Thanks to Dan and space in Peoples’ newly acquired building in downtown Cass Lake Shifting Gears is able to accept a generous donation of a couple dozen used bikes from Concordia Language Villages.  Dan will help organize workspace and fix up these bikes for distribution in the spring.  We are looking forward to bike clinics, bike skills classes for adults and children, expanding the adult trike program, and lots of other Shifting Gears activities in Cass Lake.  And who knows, maybe Dan will figure out a way to open a bike shop in Cass Lake to take advantage of all the out of town cyclists who show up to enjoy our beautiful trails and provide a boost to the local economy.

So we spent this beautiful January day checking out the bikes at Concordia, touring the home shop, and scoping out the digs in Cass Lake.  I am really excited about having Dan on board with Shifting Gears.  Welcome Dan!  I think we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.

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3d Annual Brrrrmidji (that’s with 4 rs) New Years Bike Ride

Nine brave riders showed up at the Cabin Coffeehouse at 1PM on New Years day to pursue cycling passion on the first day of the year!  Earlier in the week it looked like we were going to have warm temps and clear roads but Minnesota came through just in time with several inches of snow, 17 degrees, and a 33MPH wind driving the windchill to minus 1F.   After all it wouldn’t be as much fun if it was easy!

We started out on the nicely plowed trail by the lake to the Green Mill, the wind at our back, ahhhh!  Then things got interesting.  The portion of the trail from the Mill to Sanford had been used by fossil fuel powered vehicles and we quickly learned that snowmobile tracks make cycling nearly impossible.  Once we abandoned them and plowed through the snow we could at least make slow and steady progress.  I was very impressed with the performance of the 1970s Schwinn Tandem in the snow!  At Sanford the three young guys headed off around the lake.  They took to the road and made it around in less than two hours!  Way to go.  Sean Crampton got some awesome video of the feat.

The rest of us turned around into the wind and made it back, cold and proud, ready for the sugar cookies and half price beverages provided by Noemi Ayelsworth of the Cabin Coffee House.  (She and Harry did the ride too!  Second year for each of them!)  All riders received prizes from Shifting Gears.  Noemi and I took the opportunity to do some planning for an exciting upcoming event: In July Bemidji will be host to the The Ride Across Minnesota (TRAM) 2012.  More on that later.  Now, check out some pics of winter riding in MN!

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Noemi and Diane planning for the next Bemidji bike event...

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Last Bike Ride of the Year!

My winter steed. Heavy, lots of rolling resistance on those studded tires!

2011 was a great year for biking, not so good for blogging!  I’ll try to catch up during the winter which finally arrived today.  I parked at the C Store in Cass Lake this morning and biked the 6 miles to the hospital for rounds.  By the time I was done it had started to snow and the shoulders were greasy with a half inch of fresh, heavy snow on top of the usual shoulder grunge.  The trip back to the car felt like 20 miles and took me over an hour in embarassingly low gears.  No problems with getting cold.  The new winter bike was rock solid stable with great traction and as always it feels great to get where you are going on your own power.  Biggest probem (other than a worn out engine) was I couldn’t get going fast enough to allow my glasses to defog!  Looking forward to the 3d Annual Brrrrmidji New Years Bike Ride tomorrow, 1PM at the Cabin Coffeehouse.  See you there!!

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Smart Cycling and Bicycle Blenders

Natalie, the Striped Pedlar helps a youngster make a bicycle smoothie!

What a weekend for cycling in Bemidji!  Friday and Saturday the Rail River Folk School hosted Bemidji’s second Traffic 101 Smart Cycling course.  Nick Mason from The Bicycle Alliance of MN and I taught the fast paced 9 hour course developed by The League of American Bicyclists.  We covered bike comfort, basic mechanical adjustment and repair, safety, and principles of traffic law.  We drilled emergency stops and turns and practiced riding in traffic.  Maybe you saw us in small groups cruising the streets of Bemidji.  Eleva Potter, Lisa Boulay, Cody Bartz, Chris Kriener, Diana Kuklinski, Rocky Wimme, and Natalie Gille graduated on Saturday afternoon better cyclists than they were Friday.  Watch for more Smart Cycling opportunities in the Bemidji area.

Today was the Bike It! event at the Parks and Recreation Facility on 5th street.  An obstacle course with real traffic signals, the bicycle blender, helmets, bike check ups from The Bike Guy, and a Rover 8 trike for test rides, all with perfect weather.  Many thanks to the Traffic 101 graduates who showed up to help and Samantha Parker for putting on a quality free event.

Eleva, Lisa, Natalie, and Cody, new Traffic 101 graduates helping out at the Bike It event today.

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It’s finally spring and bikes are everywhere

What gorgeous weather the past two days.  It’s great fun seeing everyone outside and enjoying the sun.  Lots of bike opportunities coming up.  There are still some openings in the Traffic 101 class this weekend and Sunday the 15th will be a great time for families at the Parks and Rec center.  Check out the home page for details.  The paving project near the Sanford Center is underway and the only bummer is the last mile of the southern most part of the trail will be closed for a few week.  It will reopen at the end of the month and we will have a new route option for Lake Bemidji circumnavigation.  The neighborhood at Peoples is full of kids on bikes.  Here’s another picture of kids enjoying the bikes donated by people of our community!

Kids at Peoples enjoying bikes!!


So, wear a helmet, ride on the right, and get out on the roads and trails!  See you there.

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Bike Rodeo in Nymore: A fun event for all.

Chief Johnson displays his 3 Feet Please jersey, reminding motorists it is the law to give cyclists safe passing distance.

On Thursday Shifting Gears, Bemidji Community Education, and the Indigenous Environmental network, with the help of many volunteers, put on a successful bike rodeo for children in our area.  About a 100 kids had their bikes inspected, got free helmets, learned cycling skills, made bicycle powered smoothies, and won prizes.  Adults had the opportunity to try out the Rover 8, a newly designed adult trike by Terratrike, and hear about upcoming cycling events in the area.  Kirby Harmon, The Bike Guy, and his team aired up tires and made sure kids were riding safe equipment.  John Tibstra of The Home Place Bike and Ski Shop headed up helmet fitting.  Police chief Gerald Johnson and another officer showed up on bike patrol.  Shifting Gears awarded him a “3 Feet Please, It’s the Law” jersey in appreciation for his leadership advocating safe cycling in our community.  Check out the Bemdidji Community Education website for more pictures. Just click on gallery.  And how about the striking photo of volunteer Cody Bartz on the front page of The Pioneer yesterday?  Makes me proud to be a cyclist in Bemidji.  Now if it would just stop snowing!

Bjorn Eide helps a young lady make a bicycle powered smoothie.

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No matter what the weather: Kids love bikes.

Isaiah, Martin, and Cody celebrate a sucessful repair!

This was a busy day for Shifting Gears.  I taught a 2 hour basic bicycle maintenance class at the Rail River Folk School  this morning.  Six students attended and we had a good time talking tool, tires, and tuning.  The school is a perfect setting for a class like this with its big central room and historic warehouse ambience.  A bonus was the Art from Within show on display.  Folks seemed hungry for more so watch the home page for more opportunities to learn how to keep your bike running smoothly.

We finally pulled off a kids bike clinic at Peoples Church.  On arrival it was drizzling and then began to snow.  We started to set up the stands inside the church.  A few minutes later the sun was out and we moved outside only to go back in when the sky darkened.  The sun came out again but we held tight, a good thing since we missed getting hailed on!  Despite the weather a dozen kids got bikes and we fixed another half a dozen.  The pictures say it all.  Many thanks to Cody, Chris, and Thomas who did the lion’s share of the repairs!  We just keep on passing it forward!

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Passing it forward

Natalie Gille and her Trek 730

Shifting Gears is all about passing it forward.  When the snow hit last Friday and the Peoples bike clinic was postponed I took the opportunity to unite Natalie Gille with her “new” bicycle.  The Trek 730 Multitrack was purchased at the Home Place many years ago by a family in Bagley.  The bike was gently used and well maintained but lately has sat neglected in a garage while the owners pursue the joys of riding new recumbent bicycles and trikes in their retirement.  When they heard about Shifting Gears this winter they decided to donate the bike to the cause.

Enter Natalie.  I met her at a Bike Bemidji event last fall.  She is a refugee from the financial industry and urban life who decided to return to college at BSU and redefine herself as an “environmental leader”.    (Check out her blog, The Striped Pedaler.)  She emailed me a few weeks ago requesting some help with her bicycle as she is explores the feasibility of a bicycle messenger service in Bemidji.  We met over food at the Wild Hare and I was impressed with her commitment and clear headed approach to starting a new environmentally sound small business in our community.  Her mountain bike was stolen some time ago and she had been riding a borrowed bike with serious brake issues.  Furthermore the rear wheel of this bike had recently disgorged its ball bearings all over the garage floor.  She brought it out to the shop and we worked together to replace the wheel, cables, and housing and managed to get the beast back in riding condition.   While we succeeded in getting it working it is definitely not the fast, reliable, well fitting bike required by a bicycle messenger.  I had her try out the Trek and it fit perfectly!

Natalie signs her Pass It Forward contract.

Natalie will embark on her business venture riding a “new” bike and in exchange she will use her newly acquired bicycle repair skills to help others at Shifting Gears clinics and Bike Bemidji events over the course of the summer.   So when you see Natalie this summer delivering items for local businesses wearing her trademark striped socks think about what you might do to pass forward the good things that others have done for you.  And on this Earth Day weekend think about passing it forward to Mother Earth by leaving your car at home and riding your bike to work or to do the shopping.  It’s fun, it’s healthy, it’s clean, it’s economical, and it will help us pass forward a better environment for our children.  The earth will thank you for it.

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The Ditibiwebishkiganikwe is in!

I thought this post was going to be about the lovely spring weather and the first Shifting Gears bicycle clinic of the season but then mother nature played the old snowstorm in the middle of April trick.  I didn’t feel like wrenching in the snow so we’ve postponed the clinic to Saturday April 23 at 1:00PM, Peoples Church 824 America Ave.  Bring me your tires, your chains, your wheels yearning to spin free.  We’ll get you pedaling out into the fresh air and teach you a few things about keeping your bike in good working condition.

There is a lot going on in the bike world around Bemidji.  I’ll be blogging regularly and keep an eye on the Shifting Gears home page for event and opportunity details.  We can still use some volunteers for the Rodeo in Nymore on the 28th.

The folks at Peoples Church surprised me for my birthday.  I now have a new shingle to hang on my bike shop door:

It is birchbark, beautifully created by the Peoples Church wildcrafters and means “Bicycle woman” in Ojibwe!  Thank you my dear friends for a very special and treasured gift.

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