Twin Cities Cyclist Winter Commuter: Meet Greta Alquist

In case you haven’t noticed, we are now in the Salute to the Winter Commuter Week, here at CTC!

We believe that we have a great week of posts lined up for you, and also have some fantastic give-aways, so keep checking back.

Part of what we are doing is giving a winter commuter twist to some of our normal features here on CTC.  For those of you who have been with us from the start know that part of our goal with CTC is to help make the Twin Cities Cycling community, well, more of a community.  We are introducing people one at a time, and we won’t stop until we’ve introduced everyone.  Have some catching up to do?  Head over to the Twin Cities Cyclist page to see what we mean.

For now we have five days of winter commuters, all different, but with a common bond.

Up first, Greta Alquist, a cycling rockstar here in the Twin Cities.  We featured a picture of Greta before, in our post about Photographer Ellie Kingsbury.

Greta Alquist at Last Year's National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. Photo by Dave Kleinschmidt

Name: Greta Alquist

Age: (Mid-twenties)

Occupation: Transportation Planner

Bicycles: In total I have three bicycles:

1. Polo bike (Milwaukee Bruiser),

2. Beater/winter bike (70’s Schwinn fixed gear),

3. Cross/commuter bike (Surly Crosscheck)

Local Bike Shop: Local Bike Shops (I love so many for different reasons!): Behind Bars, Sunrise Cyclery, Angry Catfish, Midtown Freewheel, Lake Street Penn, One on One, the Hub.

Days I ride per year: Pretty much 365 days/year

Best part of riding in winter:

When I ride my bike in the winter, it makes me feel like I’m attacking the season instead of cowering from it. While on some level, I feel empowered,  I’m simultaneously pleased at how easy it really is. I like to show up on my bike to an event in below zero weather, and while people talk about how cold it is outside, I pull off my sweater because I’m hot, and I smile with rosy cheeks. Plus, like any other day of the year, I know I don’t have to go to trudge to the gym later.

Worst part of riding in winter:

It’s harder to bike to meetings without a wardrobe change. I miss biking in heels!

How far is your commute?

To answer the question directly, my commute is 11 miles each way. To really address the question, though, I’m forced to speak my mind for a moment.

I get a lot of questions about commuting by bicycle which, over time, began to irk me. Instead of getting frustrated by the question, I now see the question as an opportunity to get people to think about travel by bicycle.

I want people to realize that less than 1/3 of all our trips are for commuting purposes. That means that most of our trips do not involve commuting at all. The way I’d like to be able to answer this question?

I commute to my home from work by bike fewer than 50 times a year. I commute to work by bike fewer than 20 times a year. The bus is just so much faster (I don’t have to shower!) and is still very (pardon the term) “green.”

Now, that said, I travel almost everywhere else by bike which makes up more than 2/3’s of all my trips. Those include grocery shopping, visiting family in the suburbs, social events, doctor appointments, art openings, you name it. And those are also the types of trips people don’t usually think to make by bike. So, I have grown to dislike the question “did you bike to work today, Greta?” which I get every single day from people in my office. That question doesn’t ask about what’s really happening, and how people can change their travel behavior more significantly through the many other trips they make in their life. That said, at least they think it’s cool how much I bike. That’s a relief. Okay, I’ll step off my ‘travel behavior rhetoric’ soap box now. 🙂

Tips for winter biking:

I have two sets of recommendations:

1. Gear

I recommend you invest in a studded tire for the front of your bike, keep your bike clean (or ride one you don’t care about) focus on keeping your fingers, toes and head warm (your body WILL warm up quickly). Finally, layer! If a person gets stuck wearing sweaty clothes while they’ve stopped pedaling, it’s going to get cold fast. Layer to stay warm, layer to stay cool, and layer to stay dry! What do I wear in the winter? Wool – not cotton,

2. Technique

Take the lane if you don’t have enough space for a vehicle to safely pass you. This is what you should always do, but in the winter, you need extra space. If you hit a patch of ice, or need to avoid a tuft of snow last minute, you want to make sure the drivers behind you aren’t receiving the wrong message from your behavior. By finding a good line (clear pavement) you can ride predictably, and won’t have to swerve to avoid problem areas. Furthermore, if you take the lane and communicate through your body language (ie ride in a straight line), a driver is more likely to pass you with the same distance they would a car. Then if you do fall, you’ve given yourself a good buffer by riding farther from the edge of the road and you’re going to fall more safely.

Make your turns slow and wide. Similar to how you would in a car.

If you do hit a patch of ice or snow and lose control, embrace it. For one, the more you try to correct, more you’re going to lose control. If you keep pedaling, and let the ice guide you, you’ll probably stay up. You should also know that you’re probably going to fall at some point. Embracing the fall helps you go down easier, and you don’t get as scuffed up. Finally, sometimes it is fun to wipe out: you get to slide really far (without that pesky summer road rash or having to buy a slip-n-slide) and you get to tell people the story!


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5 Responses to Twin Cities Cyclist Winter Commuter: Meet Greta Alquist

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Twin Cities Cyclist – Winter Commuter: Meet Greta Alquist | Cycle Twin Cities --

  2. Dave says:

    Great pointers for winter biking, and right-on with the “commuting” tirade.

    FWIW, the original of the photo is available here: (and a link would be appreciated).

  3. Pingback: Top Five CTC Posts in January | Cycle Twin Cities

  4. Pingback: Twin Cities Cyclist – Winter Commuter: Meet Chris Warren | Cycle Twin Cities

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