Women Involved: Julia Winkels

When I started going about my search for people and organizations to interview for my blog I stumbled upon a group that is relatively local! Grease Rag is an organization that wants to provide a safe and positive environment for women/trans/femme where they can learn, experience, and have fun with bikes!

One of my interviews was with Julia who is a Facillitator/Volunteer at Grease Rag. As a facilitator she serves as the first point of contact, greeting new individuals and helping them feel comfortable and safe. Along with this she also helps to coordinate events for Grease Rag-Awesome!

One event coming up that Julia suggested I attend someday is called Babes in Bikeland; it’s an Alley Cat bike race that will be held in September.

What do you enjoy most about Grease Rag?
First and foremost I’m so happy to have found a group of like-minded riders! They are a colorful and lively group of people. When it came to events, Julia said “they helped fortify me and allow me to relax and unwind.”

How did you find out about Grease Rag?
On a bike tour in Southeast Asia. I had talked with my boyfriend and told him I was nervous about coming home to Minneapolis, since I’d been abroad for almost two years and my social circle in had really changed/dispersed.  he had mentioned the group, so I checked them out and became involved. I love(d) the open shop nights!

What would you like to share with others about Grease Rag?
Grease Rag works hard to make a safe space because the bike world is a “boys club” and we want women/trans/femme to have a spot in it.
They make a conscious effort for anyone of any gender to feel comfortable and safe while allowing them to be involved.
They hear your voice and put tools in your hands; they will challenge you and push you while being friendly and supportive.
Grease Rag makes inspires bike riding to be stronger, vibrant, and more diverse.

When did you first start riding a bike?
When I started going to college-it was fast for transportation around/to/from campus and made me feel healthy.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
Being around people who ride a lot- It’s fun and social.  I also like the challenge of pushing myself and testing my limits, trying to go faster or further.

Have you competed in events? If so, what are your favorites?
I haven’t done a lot of events - this will kind of be my first “season” as far as that goes! But in the fall I did a fun Halloween themed alley cat race called “Scaredy Cat” where people dress up in costumes and have grand time! I also recently did my first gravel event,  the Miesvill Grinder, which is more of a ride than a race. It was challenging, but I’m happy with how I did. I’m also going to try out Powderhorn 24 and maybe some other 24-hour races, not necessarily racing these, but seeing if I can do them.

What kind of riding is your favorite? (paved, gravel, mountain, etc.)
I just love touring! The whole concept of riding my bike for long distances and looking at cool stuff.

Do you remember how you felt on your first mountain bike ride? (If not a mountain biker, how about first commuter ride, paved trail ride, gravel, etc.)
I went on a century ride in the fall which didn’t go completely as planned. First off I wasn’t prepared or in shape mentally and emotionally. When I came to the 70 mile point I had some major knee pain and had to throw in the towel, which was a tough choice but ultimately the right one. Recently I did this same century ride again and finished it successfully! I was really happy with how it went this time. I felt much more relaxed and confident going into it.

If you had nervousness at all, what do you do or think to overcome it?
My tips for this are to find someone you trust to help fit you to your bike. I found that my reach was off and that tore my knee up. Be honest with your expectations and accept the limitations. (Yours and your bikes)
If you have mentally and emotionally given up on a ride, it’s over…go in with a good attitude and confidence.

Do you use clipless pedals? If yes, what are some tips/suggestions for beginners that you would share? If no, are you thinking of trying it out at all?
I’m fairly new at clipless as I started last season. A roommate gave me some pedals and I got shoes from a Grease Rag gear swap. I found someone I trusted to help me put the cleats in and have everything adjusted properly. I went to a parking lot to practice clipping in and out. I also have fallen over at least once or twice! First timers will fall over a couple times and that is okay!
I had the whole “Let me fall” conversation with my boyfriend. He’ll hover and try to help, to which I say “Let me make mistakes. Failure lets us learn.”
With Grease Rag, you get the opportunity to learn, work on your own bike-do all the wrenching. You get guidance and knowledge with the hands on experience. Also, all the bikes are checked over to make sure they are safe.
If you had any bad experiences on the bike or working with bikes, Grease Rag let’s you take the power back.
If you are a commuter what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
I’m a daily commuter as I live a few miles from my place of employment. Being that (this interview took place around 30 days of biking) it’s 30 days of biking; I’m much more conscientious of it. Where I live we have a great infrastructure….lots of dedicated bike paths and bike lanes.

Do you commute even if the weather isn’t ideal? Why or why not? If yes, what do you do to make it more tolerable?
I commute year round, which includes riding through the winter and now our cold and rainy spring. For commuting, layering is a must. Invest in a wool base layer, fenders, good lights, and a high visibility jacket/vest. Do not pressure yourself to go every day; you are fine going out just once a week to start. Start easy, practice and be patient. Find what works for you! Take time and take time to get your bike set up.
Be bold about taking the lane, your safety comes first and make sure drivers can see you.

Have you had a bike biff? If so, how did you recover on a physical/mental/emotional level?
I had one accident when I was in downtown Minneapolis. I rode through a one-way intersection and got clipped by a car. I flew over the car and hit my lower back, and had to go to the ER. I was ok, but I  was pretty sore for a few days. I’ve learned now that even if it is a one-way intersection, look really well to see if there is oncoming traffic. I always slow my bike and look. It’s good to be observant because often people aren’t looking for you-so look for them.
When it came to recovering, simple answer is get back on the bike and keep riding.

What do you love about riding your bike?
I love that it’s summertime! I love riding my bike, the freedom, joy and empowered feelings that it brings me. I don’t have to wait in traffic, I love how healthy it makes me feel, and how it makes me feel mentally and spiritually.
I love the community of riders; high-fiving strangers on the greenway and meeting new people.
I never thought I was a bike person, now it’s a huge part of my life.