10 Things I Learned Riding a Nice Ride in Babes in Bikeland

Share   |  Posted Oct. 8, 2014 by Emily Wade

“We could ride orange bikes if we wanna go a little faster,” Marisa texted me the morning of the race.  About a week before we decided to ride Nice Rides in Babes in Bikeland, one of Minnesota’s most celebrated alleycat races.  Though we both wanted to ride in the Women/Trans*/Femme race, we didn’t want our competitiveness to get in the way of having fun.  Taking Nice Rides seemed like the perfect solution.  But a couple hours before start time we were both having second thoughts.   

Neither of us one to back out of a commitment, we checked out two green bikes in front of the Birchwood Cafe later that afternoon and prepared for an adventure.  What lay ahead of us was 20 miles, hundreds of Babes, and countless bumps in the road.


 1.   The bikes handle surprisingly well on grass.  Downhill.  Our first obstacle presented itself before the race began.  As Marisa and I pedaled into Powderhorn Park, we discovered the Babes crowd at the bottom of a grassy hill.  Slightly annoyed that we would have to ride all the way around the park to get to the race, I paused on the sidewalk.  “Let’s just go down,” Marisa shrugged.  Skeptical, I followed her lead cutting a diagonal path down the hill.  “It’s like mountain biking,” she said.  She was right.  We made it down just fine.  But I wouldn’t try this one at home.  

2.   Nice Ride paper maps are the best commuter maps of the Twin Cities.  After we checked-in and received our manifests, Marisa and I hunkered down with fellow racer and Nice Ride employee Angie Coe and began plotting our route on a set of paper maps we brought from the office.  The maps’ bright red lines indicating on and off road bike infrastructure allowed us to mark bike-friendly paths with ease.  

3.   My seatpost should be at a 7, not a 5.  Marisa and I started the race by going to two checkpoints in South Minneapolis.  Heading up Park Ave after trying my hand at bike polo, my knees were already feeling a bit weak.  I cranked my seatpost up to a 7 from my usual 5 at the first red light we came to.  Though the change made me a bit wobbly at first, my legs couldn’t have been more pleased in the long-run.  

4.   There’s more than one way to use the handlebars.  Babes took a toll on more than just my knees.  To fight the soreness that rose in my arms after just a few stops, I rested my forearms across the handlebars, gripping the bars low toward the center.  Switching off between this position and a more conventional one I was able to stay comfortable longer.

5.   Items in basket should be adjusted every 5-7 miles.  Unless you’re a bungeegami pro, whatever you strap down in a Nice Ride basket is bound to shift as you ride—particularly if you’re racing over potholes the way we were.  I learned this lesson the hard way as my treasured BikeMN water bottle rolled into the Hennepin/Lyndale intersection in front of the Walker.  Too stubbornly competitive to stop, Marisa and I pedaled onward, one water bottle less.     

6.   Alleycats are better with kickstands.  As one of the Babes volunteers at the Saint Anthony Main stop pointed out, Nice Ride’s kickstands saved us precious moments each time we got on and off our bikes.  Instead of having to wrestle our frames up from the ground we simply kicked up the stand and pushed off into the street.     

7.   Hills aren’t as hard as they seem.  Coming in to the race I wanted to avoid as many hills as possible.  Marisa and I even planned our route in an attempt to climb only when necessary.  But hills were inevitable, and so was our ability to conquer them. 

8.   It’s possible to carry a Nice Ride up two flights of stairs.  The evening’s biggest challenge came in the form of the pedestrian bridge at Van Cleve Park.  Frantically searching the park for our checkpoint, we spotted it atop a series of steep wooden steps.  “Do we have to bring our bikes up?”  I shouted.  To my relief the stop captain replied that we didn’t.  “I’m going up,” Marisa said without missing a beat.  “It’s a good shortcut.”  Flabbergasted, I hoisted my bike onto my shoulder and trailed her up the stairs.  When we came to the foot of the Lake Street bridge two stops later, we carried our Nice Rides up from East River Parkway without hesitation.      

9.   Nice Rides can be faster than I thought.  The whole reason Marisa and I decided to ride Nice Rides in Babes in Bikeland was to force us to slow down and just have fun.  In that respect, our strategy failed.  From jumping curbs to pacing ourselves with cyclists on track bikes, nothing could stop us from being competitive.  Screeching into Spokes right after 7:30, we were proud just to finish the race.  Hearing we ranked in the top 100, we locked up our bikes and sank to the floor with joy and exhaustion.  

10.  Babes rocks.  From Babes organizers cheering “Nice Ride’s here!” when Marisa and I glided down the hill in Powderhorn, to warm smiles at checkpoints, to fellow racers asking to take our picture at the finish line, we couldn’t have asked for a more supportive space to ride in.  Sharing the streets with over 300 WTF cyclists was an experience unlike any other, and I look forward to racing again next year.  Whether I’ll ride on a Nice Ride, only time can tell. 

2 Previous comments:

(1) On October 9, 2014, dave () said:
I think the pedestrian bridge to Van Cleve has bike runners on one side. No need to carry when you can roll!
(2) On November 1, 2014, Paul (http://paulhellard.contently.com) said:
Visiting from Australia for two weeks for work til Oct 17. I have to get myself out on a bike while I'm here. Thanks for the motivational article. I'll stop by SPOKES

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