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Building Community Through Bicycles

Bicycles can be a wonderful tool for bringing people together, but that doesn’t happen without somebody putting in the effort! Today we chat with Patrick Stephenson about how 30 Days of Biking and the Joyful Riders Club got started, with tips for people looking to start their own group rides.

Episode summary

00:00 | Intro
01:40 | How Patrick got into bikes
06:08 | 30DOB origins
11:44 | Fostering inclusivity
14:56 | Shifting ride themes
22:06 | Tips for starting a group ride
28:31 | Logistics of a successful group ride
35:30 | Wintertime challenges
Tips for Utilitarian Cycling, Part 2
39:14 | “Final” thoughts
40:47 | How to find group rides
44:53 | Outro


Our theme song is Tanz den Dobberstein, and our interstitial song is Puck’s Blues. Both tracks used by permission of their creator, Erik Brandt. Find out more about his band The Urban Hillbilly Quartet on their website.

This episode was hosted and edited by Ian R Buck, with transcript by Tim Marino. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the show, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at podcast@streets.mn.


Patrick: [00:00:00] So along the way, people have said, “Why, April? Why would you do that to us and do it in April? Why don’t you do it in June?” And there have been other folks who have been like, “Why don’t you do it in January? That would be a real challenge.” So it’s almost like April is the meeting point between those two crowds, like this is where we all come together.

Ian: [00:00:20] Welcome to the Streets.mn Podcast, the show where we highlight how transportation and land use can make our communities better places. Coming to you from beautiful Frogtown St Paul, Minnesota, I’m your host, Ian R Buck. Today we’re going to explore how bikes can be used to create community by chatting with Patrick Stephenson, who organizes the Joyful Riders Bike Club and also started the 30 Days of Biking Challenge Event Thing Initiative. Initiative. That’s a good word.

Patrick: [00:00:53] Yeah. Challenge because I don’t want people to feel like. Sad or I don’t want to seem burdensome like that. I just want it to be fun.

Ian: [00:01:00] Yeah, we don’t want to be like gatekeeping either.

Patrick: [00:01:02] Yeah, it’s an initiative or a pledge. Make the pledge.

Ian: [00:01:07] There you go. Make the pledge. Take the plunge.

Patrick: [00:01:12] Maybe both in once. Yeah. Right. To a lake and take the plunge.

Ian: [00:01:16] So? So, yeah, these things are kind of. One of them is an organized, like, series of group rides in Minneapolis. One of them is a worldwide phenomenon where people make an effort to bike once a day, or at least once a day, every day through the month of April. And we’re going to we’re going to dive into both of them. But like Patrick, how did you kind of enter this world of of biking and like wanting to hang out with people on bikes?

Patrick: [00:01:48] Yeah, it all goes back to my friendship with my friend Zachariah, who I worked together in an advertising agency with and I started I was casually into biking like I’d always been really into biking, and I considered it a part of myself, but I never really seriously considered like bike commuting, like biking distances across the cities. And Zach was a bike commuter and I was really inspired by him because he used to bike from South Minneapolis all the way to Saint Louis Park on the Greenway. So I was like, Man, I want to try that. So I just started. I actually started in the winter. I started bike commuting in the winter and I rode and I remember the first ride and I had such a bad headache and I was like, This is horrible. But it was my helmet. It was because my helmet was poorly fitting. But that’s kind of where I fell in love with it. Just because I loved biking, I loved bike commuting. I love the the independence and resilience of being out there and having everything you need on your back, especially in the winter and, you know, like how it feels. It’s just so calming and so peaceful and it was amazing. And that kind of like that was the energy that filled me up with this bike. Joy First of all, just like biking into work and yeah, that’s about it started with bike commuting.

Ian: [00:02:57] So you already knew a few other people who bike commuted and, you know, got.

Patrick: [00:03:02] Around with Zach. Yeah, it was about Zach who inspired me.

Ian: [00:03:05] Yeah. Yeah. Cause when I first started bike commuting up on the east side of Saint Paul in, like, 2015, you know, I did not know anybody else who did it. And I like, so I kind of thought that I was the only person in the city. I didn’t realize there was a bike culture.

Patrick: [00:03:23] There’s a community that’s neither did I. And I think that was a more innocent time before I was like, There’s a bike community, there’s a community around this, and now I am not. I feel like I’m not as much a part of the community as I used to be. I’m kind of an outlier because I’ve become a dad. But yeah, it was very new to me and I remember feeling like when I was out on my bike, like I was aware that they were bikers who did it, who like up and down Summit Avenue in Saint Paul especially because that was my route. I would bike down Summit and then I would go to the Greenway and go to downtown Minneapolis and Loring Park. But I was aware of other bikers and I would be worried that they would judge me. They’d be like, He’s wearing a sweatshirt, he’s not wearing Lycra. And I would feel like worried that they would judge me and that eventually those feelings just went away because it was like, I am happy and how I’m doing this. And that fear of judgment never quite goes away as a person. I became just more confident about my biking and I yeah, I stopped worrying about that as much.

Ian: [00:04:23] Yeah. Yeah. I don’t think I even knew the word lycra when I started bike commuting.

Patrick: [00:04:29] Just like tight clothes. They just wear the tight clothes. Nothing against the tight clothes, but I feel like it can be the perception that you have to wear that to bike and be a barrier for a lot of people.

Ian: [00:04:40] Yeah. Oh, man. I was. I was so resistant to that. Like that aspect of the bicycling culture. You know, I remember doing the MHS 150 and I like, I kind of really didn’t want one of the bike jerseys that I got just from being at the event because I like I liked being somebody who’s just like, Well, I show up where I’m going and I’m dressed the way I’m dressed and like, this is who I am. And I did, you know, like I was never somebody who did bicycling as a sport, you know, there weren’t any mountain bike teams at my high school or anything like that. So I never really interfaced with it in that in that regard. But over the years I have kind of developed like, Oh, well, actually like a chamois is really comfortable and if I want to be able to bike to Duluth on my own, like it’s a good idea to not destroy my body by having poor equipment.

Speaker3: [00:05:40] Destroy your tape, Etc..

Patrick: [00:05:43] Yeah, I mean, that stuff has a purpose. It’s a tool like any other thing, right? Like, yeah, my wife, when she did the Powderhorn 24, she actually made a point to ride in a dress and with her Chuck Taylors on. So yeah, she did the entire thing with a dress and chucks.

Ian: [00:05:58] Oh, that’s intense.

Patrick: [00:05:59] She made a point of it. Yep. It’s hard. She’s a toughie.

Ian: [00:06:07] Ok So the Joyful Riders came first right before 30 days of biking?

Patrick: [00:06:13] No, it actually. Oh, so 30 days of biking came first. Technically, what came first was this thing called a bike gang ride. That’s where we met. It was me and some other people from Twitter. We met for a ride for my birthday and I had just gotten a camera that mounted on my helmet, so I was really excited about recording rides. So I have video footage from that ride. Watching it now makes me want to cry. But yeah, we did a ride for my birthday to celebrate and we rode from like the Bryant Avenue Greenway entrance all the way to over to South Minneapolis, over to get burgers and pop into angry catfish where the owner, Josh, gave us donuts for my birthday. And it was really sweet. Yeah. So we just celebrated and it was like this magic, like, spontaneous thing via Twitter because we’d be like, Hey, we’re going to meet for a bike ride. We’ll meet at the Bryant Avenue entrance at 6 p.m.. You’re like, Who’s going to show up? You never know who is going to show up. And that was like an exciting part of it, just to see who would pop in. So that was the first bike gang ride. And then that was where I was like, Wow, social rides are kind of awesome. I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t know how to lead one because I don’t know the geography very well, but the energy was very special. So then that was sort of a foundational part of it, just like biking with your friends from social media. And then in April, well, somebody a friend of mine actually on Twitter was searching for like she was doing 30 days of yoga. And I wanted to do yeah, it was like right before April. And I said, I don’t want to do 30 days of yoga, but I could do 30 days of biking instead. It just so happened that April was seven days away, maybe six days away, and I had 30 days. So I was like, Let’s do 30 days of biking in April. And I invited all my friends then to join in and people just started signing up and I put together like a table of names, and that’s how it all took off. And 300 people signed up for the very first one. So I would say that the community energy around that first social ride, combined with the power of social media, led to 30 days of biking. And it was a little scary at first and there was a lot of energy around it and it was really cool. But yeah, that’s kind of how it started. So just like 30 days of biking in short version is a pledge to ride your bike every day in April and share your adventures online. You can ride any distance, you can ride to any destination ride around the block, ride on your exercise bike, ride 100 miles, whatever works for you. It’s the idea is that it’s for people of all skill levels and all experience levels for their biking. And then you document your adventures on social media with the hashtag 30 days of biking. So very simple idea.

Ian: [00:08:43] So you came up with the idea one year, seven days before April started, and you managed to get 300 people to sign up that first year.

Patrick: [00:08:53] Yeah, that was a fun time for Twitter. That was like that was the I feel like that was the halcyon days of Twitter pre Elon Musk.

Ian: [00:09:01] Yeah, well, quite a few. Like what year was that. That was awhile ago.

Patrick: [00:09:06] 2010 So it’s 13 years ago. Yeah, yeah. It was interesting in those days with Twitter because everyone you met, like if you met someone from Twitter out in the world, you felt like you were meeting a celebrity.

Speaker3: [00:09:16] You’re like, Oh my God.

Patrick: [00:09:17] It’s nicicle. Or who else would we meet? Yeah, we used to have like tweet ups. It was basically a tweet up on a bike where you would have name tags and then hang out together. So that’s where it started. Yeah.

Ian: [00:09:30] That’s awesome. And of course, there’s there’s some spin offs now, right? Melissa Wenzel started the 31 days of winter biking in January.

Patrick: [00:09:40] Yep.

Ian: [00:09:40] Fun times. Fun times.

Patrick: [00:09:43] It’s very cool to see people doing in the winter too. Yeah, that’s a challenging one to do it every day in like January. Pretty cool.

Ian: [00:09:49] Well, and I think one of the things that I appreciate about the April version is that April is a month that is going to throw everything at you. You know, you’re going to have like really nice sunny days, You’re going to have really rainy days. You’re going to have like cold dips. You know, if you if you really take the pledge seriously and make an effort to, like, get out every single day, then you are going to build the skills, the habits necessary to be able to bike in almost any condition that that life is going to throw at you.

Patrick: [00:10:21] Exactly. Yeah, actually. So along the way, people have said, why, April? Why would you do that to us and do it in April? Why don’t you do it in June? And there have been other folks who have been like, why don’t you do it in January? That would be a real challenge. So it’s almost like April is the meeting point between those two crowds, like this is where we all come together and it is a huge variety of weather. Yeah, the snow, the rain, the cold, the sunlight. You can get it all in one month. The wind has sometimes been really intense. It’s different. Every year is a different experience. And I like to act like I’m in a control room, like changing the dials, Like just turn it up to a thunderstorm. Like we’re creating a Hunger Games type experience. I’m in the control room, changing the conditions.

Ian: [00:11:06] And. Yeah. Like it because. Because it’s all shared on social media. You know, you can search the hashtag, you can find other people who are doing it, you know, like I have bike friends now in like different cities throughout the world who I’m probably never going to see them in person. But if I travel to their city, you know, I’m definitely going to look them up. And and it’s also been great to like, you know, be able to to swap tips with people, you know, and like, what was your solution for today’s weather? How did you get out there?

Ian: [00:11:44] It’s such a welcoming community. Like, I don’t know what exactly you did to, like, foster that kind of thing, but like, it works. There’s some there’s like the people who do it are great.

Patrick: [00:11:56] I think it’s it’s almost like I started as a manager, like I moved into management and I work lately, the past two years, and I’ve learned that management is all about tone setting. And I feel like 30 days of biking is a very similar thing. Like we just set a tone that we strive to be inclusive and joyful and welcoming and people just get it, thankfully. I think it just comes from the fact I wouldn’t say there was much intention behind that at first because I had no idea what I was doing when I first posted those tweets. It was just about being silly and being a dork. So something about that energy I think clicks with people and I just don’t want people to feel left out. Like I inherently don’t want people to feel alienated or left out. And especially when we first started, like biking was very gatekeep-ey, right? Like people were like, This is our thing, this is our world. And I feel like there’s been a great expansion not only in Minneapolis but around the world since then of like, no biking is very it’s for everyone. We should make it more inclusive and welcoming because it improves our lives. So it’s less of like this thing that’s for people who want it to just be their thing. And now it’s more for everybody. We’re striving to make it for everybody.

Ian: [00:13:04] Yeah. Yeah. Whenever somebody like just out there in the world, like, finds out that I bike a lot, that like, a lot of them will ask me like, and how do you feel about e-bikes? Like, they’re trying to like, they’re trying to like gotcha, you know, like, oh, I’m going to force him to be a gatekeeper. And I’m like, I f***in love e-bikes.

Patrick: [00:13:23] I was just in a meeting today because I was at work and we were talking about organizing Bike to Work Day because that’s like I help with the, like the company wide effort for Bike Talk Day and someone, an organizer we were talking with was talking about how she went on a bike adventure in Sedona on a bike. And I could tell that when she brought up e-bikes, she was like, Are they going to shame me for it? And I was like, I made sure to say, I love my bike. It is the best because that is the thing that’s bringing more people into biking because it makes it more accessible. And also it’s really fun to go fast. That’s it.

Ian: [00:13:58] It’s it’s a it’s a magical feeling, just like starting to pedal and feeling it pull you along like, Oh, wow.

Speaker3: [00:14:05] Yep. I can tell that I don’t get as much of a workout for my heart out of it. So I like have to be more intentional while making sure I get some cardio so I get for good some good heart health. But yeah, it’s so much fun to ride on the cargo bike with my girls. I have two daughters for those who don’t know. And we it’s like my great family bike. We have a tern pink dragonfruit bike and it can fit my whole family on it. Even my wife, if she wants to ride, she wants to ride on there.

Patrick: [00:14:35] Yeah. So I think that’s, it’s like there’s, there’s been like a worldwide effort and I think 30 days of biking is part of this and Joyful Riders Club efforts like this to make biking more inclusive. And the mood is changing around bikes for sure. It’s working. We’re doing it.

Ian: [00:14:49] Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, the style of rides that the Joyful Riders do has shifted over the years as well. I remember when I first became aware of you guys, it was it was pretty exclusively like, all right, we’re going to meet at Surly, we’re going to bike around, we’re going to end at another brewery, you know, And it’s like like the drinking culture was definitely strongly intertwined there. You know, you also have hosted like some epic group camp outs going to Carver Park Reserve. Like that was that was one of my first like dipping my toes into bike camping and and I’m so grateful to have had that experience because, you know, having the van that followed us, you know, having the opportunity to just put one bag in that van allowed me to like pack 90% of the way to what I needed. And then like, and that allowed me to figure out, okay, what am I going to need to change about my setup to be able to do this on my own? Yeah. Entirely without a van and, and yeah, like, and now that’s all I want to do ever. It’s like I want to go bike carving.

Speaker3: [00:16:05] Yeah. It’s so much fun. Yeah, I actually, like that’s a whole other dimension of this because it kind of takes bike commuting to the next level, right. Because you’re carrying everything on your back or on your bike. And that’s not just everything you need to go to work. It can be everything you need to live in with your tent and your food and your stove and all that stuff. Yeah, there’s so much you can do with biking. Yeah. Amazing. That’s I love I love hearing that. That helped bring you into bike camping. That’s super cool. I actually remember I think I remember the first time I met you, which was at that Erik’s bike shop. Kind of like bike camping one on one where we did a Q&A with the the bonsai guys.

Ian: [00:16:39] Yeah, Yeah. I remember being super nervous about like, oh, they say that the trail is going to be like gravel, like is my or my tire is going to be too skinny for that. And it’s like, yeah, they were fine. They were 35. Cs It’s like, whatever.

Patrick: [00:16:53] Yeah. That’s so like the trail that we take out to the campsite or that we took because we haven’t done one in a while but is made of limestone gravel and it’s such a sweet ride and it’s such a sweet route right now. The, the opening part of the trail is under construction and has been for a while, but it used to just be we would get on the Cedar Lake Trail and take that all the way out to like, I think it’s Victoria where the campsite is and it’s such a sweet ride. It’s not even that long. It’s beautiful ride. You go right by Lake Minnetonka. You’re like, I’m I’m barely outside of the Twin Cities and it feels like you’re in the distant, remote wilderness it’s pretty cool. Yeah.

Ian: [00:17:31] And nowadays, of course, now that you’re a dad and like, that is a big part of your identity, a lot of the Joyful Riders rides have been like, Let’s meet up, let’s go to a playground and, you know, or a splash pad or whatever, you know, and like giving the kids opportunities to have stuff to do at the end of the ride.

Patrick: [00:17:49] And, you know, that’s a good point that you bring that up, because I think like where we started was very much within the brewery, like Surly Brewing was a great sponsor for us and we used to meet there every month on Thursdays at six, and it was about like that free beer is a big pull for people. And it was an amazing perk of the ride. Just like my life has changed though. Like I can’t really stay out late anymore. I can’t be out on bikes late. I want my daughters to be part of the events I do. And it is challenging sometimes to be a parent and also be a ride organizer. But yeah, it is changing the vibes a little bit. And one thing I love about a Sunday though, because if you’re doing it on Thursday night, you’re pretty much like by 9:00 you’ve got to be rolling into home right on a Sunday. We can stay out as late as we want. Till 4:00 if we’re feeling it. So yeah, it makes for a different vibe. Kind of like I like it a lot. I like the way the rides have changed and become a little bit more relaxed and open.

Ian: [00:18:45] Yeah. Yeah. Has has that kind of shifted? Like, who shows up for the rides? Because, you know, I’ve met people who have been going to like Joyful Riders stuff, you know, for ages and ages and like, everybody knows each other and everybody’s dated each other at some point. And it’s like, is that crowd still around or is it like, is it a lot? Is it pretty much all parents hanging out with other parents now?

Patrick: [00:19:12] Oh, no, I would say it’s not so much parents. We still get the same kind of crowd that we would get before. I have kind of found that people they come to the Joyful Riders Club at a time in their life when they’re looking for something like maybe it’s after a breakup or after a tough experience and they really want to, like, explode out of their reality and like, meet new friends and try something new. And it kind of it serves that function for people for quite a while. And then gradually people move away and like it’s tough to keep up a monthly commitment, I think. But we had a really strong community like that for a while that sort of gravitated around the Thursday ride and just moving to Sunday has naturally sort of changed that because people who can go to something on Thursday night can’t. Necessarily make something on a Sunday morning. So it is a little bit different crowd. I wouldn’t say it’s like all families. It’s kind of still a good mix of people, but it is different people. And then every so often we have people show up from the old crowd who can make it to ride and it’s really cool to see them. Or yeah, we have this week, this month we have this yearly ride called The Leftovers Ride. That’s sort of like.

Ian: [00:20:14] Oh, that’s a good time.

Patrick: [00:20:16] Yeah. So Leftovers Ride is all about. It’s the day after Thanksgiving on Black Friday. We bike somewhere and we build a fire and we all share our leftovers together. So that’s one of our kind of community hubs of the year. So people, even people who can’t make the Sunday ride necessarily try to make the leftovers, right? Because that’s one of our founding rides that it really started with The Leftovers ride when we moved to a monthly schedule. So yeah, that’s a really, really like hub for our people. Hub the.

Ian: [00:20:44] Hub.

Patrick: [00:20:46] A pedal hub, you might say.

Ian: [00:20:50] So the leftovers ride? Like posts always reference the like the traditional burning of the table. Where did that come from? What does that mean?

Patrick: [00:20:59] It’s silly. I want us to have our own burning rite of passage where we have our own burning man, where we like burn stuff. So the very first year we did the Leftovers ride, we wanted to go out and build a fire and it was in kind of a remote location and we didn’t have enough firewood. So Ninja Rita, Margarita and I went through the woods looking for some wood. We like some things we could burn. Like what can you burn? Some dry wood? And we found a frickin desk in the woods, and it was super old. So we pulled it apart and we burned it. So that was our table. And now every year since then, we’ve burned a table in tribute to that first desk. And it kind of is a nice symbol. It’s like Thursday, Thanksgiving. You eat around a table, you gather to the very next day, we destroy it, destroy the people. And it’s kind of cool because people will be like, Do you need a table this year? And then they show up with a table that we could burn. Like Jonathan is one of our regular riders, and he showed up at the table this year and we burned it together. It was pretty neat. Yeah. So it’s a little bit of a tradition that we have. It’s our own Burning Man.

Ian: [00:21:59] Nice, Nice. Mentioning, like some of the partnerships that you’ve had, you know, with like, like Surly. And everybody gets a free beer when they show up for the start of the ride or partnering with like Eric’s bike shop and Bone Saw to be able to have like the the the support, the mechanical van and everything following the group. Like how if if we’re if there’s somebody who’s interested in starting up, you know, like a group ride kind of thing, like what kinds of tools, what kinds of opportunities like that would you suggest people like, set up in order to be successful?

Patrick: [00:22:47] Good question. I would first say, like you establish the vision for what you want for your event. So let’s say you want to go on a camping ride, right? Like, what do you need for that event? You want to make sure that it’s more accessible to people who are less experienced as bikers who may not want to carry all their stuff. So maybe you want to have a truck or a van. Maybe you know someone like your best friend Mario Macaluso, who I should mention is the co organizer of Drift Riders Club. I haven’t mentioned his name yet. We have an amazing partnership together that we work together. So Mario works at Freewheel and he worked it out so that we could bring the freewheel truck along and the free little truck like drove alongside us with all our stuff and everyone’s bags were parked at the site. So I think it’s all about identifying a need and then asking someone who can help you make it happen. Another example of that is definitely like the Bone Saw Cycling Collective. They provided mechanical support. We have a good partnership with them. They kind of just show up to our rides and help support sometimes just because they’re awesome. Perennial Cycle is another example of that. They reached out to me like years and years ago now and about supporting the rides and they had this idea to do like a pastry ride where they meet up on Saturday mornings during 30 days of biking and bike to pastries. So I guess it’s about it’s twofold with 30 days of biking. It’s just kind of it’s out there in the world, right? People really like it. They know about it. What Joyful Riders Club? You have to do a little bit more outreach and ask for help. And so I would say determining that need and then not being afraid to ask for what you need from people in the community. Because ultimately even people at these big corporate entities like, say, a Surly or these big monolithic, amazing things are just people and they want to help out with cool stuff, too. So you ask them for help and they want to help you. So I think that’s what it really comes down to, is just making the ask and literally just asking them, Just send them an email and ask. Yeah, and it might be as simple as just getting the email from their their website and asking them, and I found it helps to craft a proposal. I was thinking about what we might talk about and I was like, It’s all about the proposal. Like you propose. You ask her what you need. You start with how they will benefit you get the ask in there and then you just say, This is what we need. Do you want to support it? And for the most part I found that people will be really into it. We asked surly bikes for a bike to donate based on like this is around 30 days of biking. So everyone who came to one of our rides, like if they came to all four of our rides in the month of April, they would be entered into a drawing for a bike and we asked them if they would donate a bike and they were like, Heck yeah. So it was all about making that ask and then just being patient and waiting for them to say, make their decision. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But overall it’s worked out great. Yeah. So I feel like it’s just like having conversations, making requests, determining what you need, and then not being afraid to ask for it.

Ian: [00:25:44] Yeah, Yeah, and I was going to bring up like that. You have been in a fairly unique position, you know, in that like, well, you were one of the hosts of the Pedal Hub podcast for a long time and you know, like you’ve, you’ve, you mentioned that you had a strong like connect, you know, connection with people on Twitter. You know, you knew a lot of people through through that. And I was I was going to say like, you know, do you think that like that any old person would be able to start up something like this? But then I realized as you’re talking like, oh, those proposals, those you know, that’s that’s how you make those connections in the first place, right? Yeah. Yeah.

Patrick: [00:26:26] I am an old person. I mean, I’m on Twitter and I have this, like, because of these things I’ve been attached to, I have maybe a certain status, but I didn’t start out with that. Like, it’s definitely something you build along the way and being attached to things that people love really helps. I’m not going to lie, but I don’t think that should discourage anyone who want people. If you tell people about what you want to do and what your vision is, they will attach themselves to that vision and want to help you. That’s just the nature of it, no matter who you are. That’s how it works.

Ian: [00:26:55] Yeah. Yeah. As long as you’ve got a vision that like that that they jive with, right?

Patrick: [00:27:01] Yeah. I mean if you, if you say I want a street. A man podcast. I want to make this work. There’s going to be people who gravitate toward it and want to help you put it together. There’s going to be people like Patrick Stevenson who really want to be a part of it, but just don’t have the time and kind of fade away, but yeah like  people are, it’s very mission driven stuff. Like I think especially our generation wants to be part of cool things and they’re drawn to things they believe in. And this is just one of those things, like biking is like that.

Ian: [00:27:29] Yeah, right. That’s a good point because yeah, like put, put the things out into the world that you want and that will give you more opportunities to make them happen. Like, you know, mentioning the podcast itself, right? Like I had been, I knew that Streets.MN had a podcast, it was on hiatus, but I never really thought about like, Oh, I could, I could do that. Yeah. So instead I had been talking with friends about like, Man, I really want to start up a transportation related podcast. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do with it, but like, but that was the thing that I was like, you know, mentioning and bringing up. And then eventually, like some of my friends who were on the Streets.MN board at the time were like, Hey, we want to restart the Streets.MN podcast, do you want to do it? And I was like, Yeah.

Patrick: [00:28:19] Perfect. It works out, right?

Ian: [00:28:21] Yeah.

Patrick: [00:28:22] Things just align sometimes. Yeah, Passion is a big driver.

Ian: [00:28:31] When it comes to organizing a group ride. Like what do you think? Like, you know, the day of during the event, what things do you need to keep in mind to have a successful, like, group ride? Um. You know, how do you how how do you make sure that, like, the group stays together and that people have what they need, you know, that you’re not like leaving people behind, etc., etc.?

Patrick: [00:28:57] So that’s where I can bring up really bring Mario Macaluso into the conversation and like what our partnership has meant to me. He actually connected with me at the end of the first year of 30 days of biking. And because we had gotten close, because I always used to go to Freewheel Midtown Bike Center where he worked and we became friends and he was like, I can sense that this has been a lot, a lot for you, this 30 days of biking. And I think it’s worthwhile. Like, I think it should stick around because I think it would be really good for the Twin Cities in the world as a whole. So he wanted to be a part of it. He really wanted to volunteer his time. So he was like, Where can I help out? And as I mentioned, I was not really like the most experienced ride leader. I didn’t know my geography very well. I just like getting people together and making people feel welcome and good. Like I just want people to feel good. So that was sort of the foundation of our partnership of organizing rides together, and that’s now been 12 years ago. So he and I started organizing weekly rides during the month of April as well. We would do these big gigantic kickoff rides that hundreds of people would attend, but also we would do the weekly rides where we would get together every Thursday night and bike somewhere and have fun together.

Patrick: [00:30:03] And where Mario really excels is he is so good at putting together routes and he’s so good at being at the front of the pack and talking to people and not getting distracted from his routing. Like he just knows the geography, He knows the territory. He’s really good at multitasking. I am very like, I can do one thing at a time, so I’m not as good at that kind of stuff. So I think a lot of the ride organizing is about knowing your strengths and knowing when you can’t do everything. So I’m good at the social media, I’m good at talking to people one on one. I’m good at being at the back of the pack riding sweep, as it’s called, making sure that no one gets left behind, that we’re all sticking together. So the day of a ride, I think it’s about knowing where you’re going to go and having people who complement your skills so that you fit together. So maybe you’ve got a sweeper, maybe you’ve got someone who’s in the middle, maybe you got a mechanic, you’ve got a ride leader. I think it’s about thinking through all of those needs that you might have. Somebody might get a flat tire so you want to have them have some help. Maybe you have a mechanic on the ride. And we’ve had rides where we’ve had mechanical support. You want someone who knows the route, who knows where you’re going. If there’s like, say, construction that gets in your way, who knows how to work around it, and then have someone who rides at the back like me, who keeps everyone together. And let’s say you have an e-bike, and if the group gets separated, you can race to the top like the front and let them know that we need to stop and gather for a second. That really helps too. But also, Mario and I have used walkie talkies so we can talk back and forth if we get separated, because sometimes on routes, you know, there’s like you get separated by a stoplight, you get separated out a hill. There’s all kinds of things that prevents you from sticking together. So that’s a couple of things. I think another thing is to think about speed and riding at a speed that’s accessible for everybody, and that changes depending on the group. There are some groups where we can ride pretty fast in some groups where we ride like kind of slow and that’s fine. We all want to stick together. So I think speed is a big part of it as well.

Ian: [00:31:59] And and managing the expectation for what that speed is going to be. Right. Making that announcement when people are seeing the initial posts about the event.

Patrick: [00:32:10] Some people have been disappointed when they come to our rides and been like, this is so slow, I want to go faster and I get where that disappointment is coming from. But we just want to ride at a speed that keeps everyone together because it creates more of a group feel. So if people want to ride off the front and speed away, that’s totally cool and then catch up later. Yeah, just a way, another way to be inclusive.

Ian: [00:32:29] Yeah. And I and I found that, like the the little speech that Mario gives right before the ride starts is very, very helpful in terms of like, Oh, I understand the basics of like group ride etiquette as, as a participant, just like, oh, okay. If, if there’s a car coming from behind like yell that forward so that you know, so that that message gets to the front of the group before the car does. Signal your turn so that the people behind, you know, like which way we’re about to go, etc., etc.. Yep. Yep.

Patrick: [00:33:04] Call it I love the one I love too is I want to do this something with my hand that you can’t see when you’re listening. But like if you see a pothole, do this little move where you like stick your finger, do a little circle pothole or some glass, you can call out glass. It’s a way that we all take care of each other. I think with this communication and something that we don’t want to do is make it all about like Mario and I are the controllers or the it’s kind of all up to us. I think when we put those communication ideas in, it’s all about, yeah, it’s a shared community vibe. Like, we’re in this together, we’re taking care of each other. Everyone has a leadership role in it because we’re all part of making this special. And people take leadership too, and the way they interact. Others on the ride and it’s pretty cool to see.

Ian: [00:33:48] Yeah, yeah. One of the one of the rides that I’ve never seen anybody complain about, the speed where the DJ rides and, and I think that a lot of that is because like having that music playing gives people the opportunity to like dance while they’re on their bike and get some of that like energy out. Even though we’re not going as fast as, you know, as you could be riding, right?

Patrick: [00:34:16] Yeah. So that’s you bring up something good to talk about is that this year, 2022 or actually last year now I guess I partnered with Perennial Cycle and DJ Dev Eric Moran to create these DJ rides. And what it, what it means is that we have a DJ like a live DJ who’s Eric on the back of a trailer and I use an bike and pull Eric on that. And so Eric is like live deejaying. It’s not just the speaker, which is its own special thing, but like live spinning tunes. Like is that the right way to say spinning tunes?

Ian: [00:34:46] He’s got the turntables and everything.

Patrick: [00:34:49] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s the full experience. It’s a live DJ on your ride and I still can’t believe that we do it. It’s pretty neat. And I’m always the one at the bike and I, I’m always like super nervous a little bit to ride with a full DJ because that’s so much equipment and a full human being on the back of your bike. And it’s kind of intense, but nobody else cares. Like, nobody’s like Patrick seems nervous right now. They’re just focusing on how much fun they have, which is exactly what it should be. Yeah, that’s been a cool experience too. Is doing those DJ rides. Yeah. The new dynamic for us in 2022.

Ian: [00:35:30] Yeah, the the DJ ride that we did during the winter that hit some slippery spots on some of the up hills and like having to having to get off and haul the whole DJ set up you know.

Patrick: [00:35:45] Yeah that was, that one was a little brutal. My like literally my face was frozen. Yeah. I couldn’t, you know how like sometimes in the winter when your tongue freezes and it gets hard to talk like that happened to me on that ride. I had no balaclava and I had the wind right in my face. I was working real hard. So Becky, my friend Becky, came along on the ride. She showed up and she was like, I’m on the ride, too. And she was asking me questions and I was like, I can’t talk it was so hard to talk. And I, like my lungs hurt. That was just a tough that was a tough ride. But it worked out. And then by the time we got to the party at Common Roots, rest in peace, I was so happy. And they had really good blue cheese there, which was delicious. That’s a good that’s a good reward for a ride. Blue cheese and crackers.

Ian: [00:36:32] Heck yeah. At the Streets.MN recently had a get together at the art shanties on Lake Harriet. Yeah. So I brought a traffic cone to that event because, of course, you have to have a traffic cone at a Streets.MN event. Yeah. And so, of course, I was like, loading that thing up onto my pizza rack on the front of my bike in order getting ready to go home. And some random strangers saw me and were like, ask me questions about it. And I had been outside in the cold for so long. I was like, yeah, it’s Streets.MN and they’re like, Streets.MN? And I’m like no, it’s just a bed. Like. Like my lips weren’t doing what I wanted them to do.

Patrick: [00:37:16] You got to be patient with somebody. But also, okay, that’s, that’s one winter biking thing if you don’t have a balaclava. The other thing if you do have a balaclava is you take it off to talk and your face is covered in snot.

Ian: [00:37:26] Oh, yeah.

Patrick: [00:37:26] So like biking in the winter is not pretty sometimes.

Ian: [00:37:29] Let me. Oh, I feel so bad for the, like, leasing agent who met me at one of the apartments that I like I biked and it was like -30 degree wind chill out.

Patrick: [00:37:40] What?

Ian: [00:37:42] And we get into the apartment and like, I take my balaclava off and I’m like, Oh, no, wait.

Patrick: [00:37:47] My face is gooey.

Speaker3: [00:37:49] Yeah, yeah.

Patrick: [00:37:51] It’s a lot. I showed up to a coffee shop to meet my friends one time, and I know that my face was covered in like goo, and I didn’t realize it till I was like 10 minutes in. Like, I’m so sorry. It’s gross.

Ian: [00:38:04] Well, yeah, that’s I mean, that’s one of the things about not just like, you know, group rides and whatnot, but, you know, just biking around utilitarian, you know, everyday biking is like when I arrive at a place quite often I’m like, okay, you’re going to have to pretend that I am not here yet for the next like 5 minutes while I go to the bathroom and just like, transform into myself.

Patrick: [00:38:27] Yeah, let me clean up. Yeah, for sure. That is when that’s a big obstacle for people when they first start biking is worried about hygiene. I think because I was just talking again, I was talking about Bike to Work Day today. Like the obstacle that you worried, you’re worried that you’re going to show up to work and be smelly. Wonder where the showers are. These are things that we have to think about, I think. And it becomes commonplace when you do it quite a bit. But when you first start, it’s a big obstacle, worrying about having a snot face.

Ian: [00:38:56] And we have an episode about tips for utilitarian cycling that I published sometime last summer with Melody Hoffman.

Patrick: [00:39:06] Aye, there you go!

Ian: [00:39:06] I can put a link to that in the show notes.

Ian: [00:39:14] Yeah. Any other any other, like thoughts about community building through cycling?

Patrick: [00:39:21] Good question. It is hard. I mean, when I first started doing it, I felt like I had to be somebody, like I had to be somebody special, like a big leader. And I think that was a really hard part of it for me. I was like, when I’m meeting people, who do they expect me to be? Do they expect me to be this big inspirational bike leader? And I felt like I had to live up to something. And more and more I’ve realized that I can just be myself and that’s fine. So I think coming to terms with who I am as a biker has been really good for me. I think in terms of confidence in myself, realizing that there’s many ways of leadership, there’s many types of leadership. So I think when people first start organizing like this, they might face a lot of insecurity because it’s putting yourself out there. It’s tough. So I would say that it’s a journey that you have to work your way through. Second is probably don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Don’t feel like you have to do everything yourself if you realize that you’re not the best ride leader, which is fine. Ask someone to be a ride leader and find your own way to do it. The key is that you have the gusto to like get something organized and then you have. Then you’ll form a great partnership out of it that might last to the rest of your life. There you go. So, yeah, it’s a challenge. All of this stuff is a challenge. I think any type of organizing is putting yourself out there and but you get stronger through it, for sure.

Ian: [00:40:47] How about on the on the other side of the equation? Like how do people find group rides that they enjoy? Because there’s, you know, group rides come in all kinds of different flavors and you know, and people like there’s different places that you can go to find out about them.

Patrick: [00:41:03] I’d say one of the main ways right now is definitely social media, like the the Twin Cities subreddit for cycling is a place where people ask about rides all the time. Yeah, and there is a big desire for all kinds of rides. Like some people want a really fast ride, some people want a really slow ride. So I think just asking the question, I mean, it’s true on Facebook too. There’s groups that you can ask. There’s like the Twin Cities Bicycle advice, Forum advice and discussion. Like that’s a good one for it. There’s all kinds of groups where you can just put the word out there and ask about group rides that are happening. So yeah, I would encourage you to just go out there and ask people on social media because there are people out there who are driven to organize things like this and they want you to come, so they’re going to tell you about it.

Ian: [00:41:46] Yeah, yeah. And sometimes, sometimes you just randomly come across them in the real world. Like I have a couple of friends who we met because a bunch of us were out on a group ride and we one of the the breaks that we take is on the number nine bridge, and there were a couple of people riding bikes past us as we’re just like kind of hanging out there. And one of them shouts out like, Oh, is that a group ride? And I called back. I was like, Yeah, come join us. And, and they did. And like they had just moved to the Twin Cities from Texas and like, we’re like trying to meet new people and, you know, and we’re fast friends now, you know, like we plan events together and it’s great.

Patrick: [00:42:32] Awesome. Yeah, that actually brings up a good point. The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, they have a big list of clubs from all across Minnesota. And I would just check out that list and see one that fits you. And I bet they would have rides that you could attend. So that’s a good place to start for sure. And obviously come to the Drift Riders Club, check out 30 days of bike rides, but there’s all kinds of rides for you to check out. Yeah, for all kinds of needs.

Ian: [00:42:57] Heck yeah. I think that that is a great place to end unless you have any other pressing thoughts.

Patrick: [00:43:06] 30 days of biking starts April 1st. Go on the 30daysofbiking.com to create your account and make the pledge. Joyful Riders Club is a little dormant right now, but we should be starting up in March again with social rides. So watch our Facebook page and come and bike with us and have a great spring and summer and fall and winter biking. Hello. I can’t wait to see people out there.

Ian: [00:43:28] I imagine that there’s going to be a 30 days of bike and kick off ride on probably that, probably the Saturday something like that.

Patrick: [00:43:36] Let me check my calendar here while we’re talking yet. So it’s April 1st, Saturday, 12:00 PM at Gray’s provisions and Libations in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Nice North Loop neighborhood. Yep. That’s kind of our new home base right now. So that’s a new partnership that we’ve partnered with this really nice food hall that’s in the North Loop. And they have great food, they have a great indoor space and they’ve been a great partner to us. So yeah, great shout out to Gray’s.

Ian: [00:44:02] And I imagine it’s a lot easier for you as the organizer living close to the meetup point.

Speaker3: [00:44:08] Yeah that really helps a lot. That was a big part of why I wanted to start to meet there. That’s another thing. That’s another wide tip. Make it work for yourself. You don’t have to go out of your way, like make it easy for yourself. So I made it easy for myself by starting the rides two blocks away. Done. It, smooths the process for me. Yeah.

Ian: [00:44:30] If you forget something at home. Hey, homes, right there.

Patrick: [00:44:32] Just go home. And then when you’re done, you bike two blocks home. You’re. You’re close. Yeah, It’s a benefit.

Ian: [00:44:40] Awesome. Patrick, thanks for joining us.

Patrick: [00:44:43] Yeah, you bet. Thanks for having me again. Good to be with you here.

Ian: [00:44:46] Yeah.

Patrick: [00:44:47] Double fist bump, double fist.

Ian: [00:44:53] Thanks for joining us for this episode of The Streets.MN podcast. This show is released under a Creative Commons attribution non commercial non derivative license, so feel free to republish the episode as long as you’re not altering it and you are not profiting from it. The music in this episode is by Eric Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet. This episode was hosted and edited by me and Ian R Buck with Transcript by Tim Marino. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the show, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at Podcast@Streets.MN. Until next time, take care.

About Ian R Buck

Pronouns: he/him

Ian is a podcaster and teacher. He grew up in Saint Paul, and currently lives in Minneapolis. Ian gets around via bike and public transportation, and wants to make it possible for more people to do so as well! "You don't need a parachute to skydive; you just need a parachute to skydive twice!"

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