Year in Review 2012: Bikes

Two wild and crazy riders at Cirque du So Gay
Two wild and crazy riders at Cirque du So Gay
Photo by Kendra Sundvall

What does it mean to be a cyclist in Minneapolis, one of the nation's top cities for bicycling?

It can mean you party in the alleyway outside One on One and play bike polo at Corcoran. It can mean you shotgun gel packs and obsess on your cadence. It can mean you pedal toclass in a U-branded hoodie and sweats, or rhapsodize about shredding Theo Wirth dirt in your nylon knickers. It can mean you simply  throw on a wool bodysuit when you want to take a snowstorm ride. It can mean you're a Dad who leads his brood around Lake Calhoun on Saturday. It can mean you're a rugged individualist who rides, but refuses to align with any cyclist genre because you just like bikes.

This year kept Minnie cyclists entertained in multitudinous ways, and I've compiled a list of my favorite memories from 2012. This list is subjective, and, admittedly, not comprehensive. (Unfortunately, I missed All-City, wimped out on Almanzo, and didn't show up to Nature Valley Grand Prix until the cleanup crew had descended on the granola wrappers.) However, what follows are some of the greatest 2012 Minnesota happenings on two wheels.

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Freedom from Pants Ride: Patriotic nudity at its best


Year in Review 2012: Bikes
Photo by Hilary Stein

This world-famous, yearly "poster party for bike people," spearheaded by mad man Charles Youel, is the pinnacle of a #bikelife in the City By Nature. Some of the coolest, most engaged crowds in Minneapolis -- artists, design creatives, cyclists, hipsters -- intersected at ARTCRANK 2012, which was both overwhelming and exhilarating. Thankfully, there was beer and artisan food-truck eats on the premises to chill everybody out as they soaked up the art. The bajillion ARTCRANK pre-rides to choose were an added bonus.

2. Powderhorn 24

Powderhorn 24 was an amazing communal experience. Hundreds of cyclists met at the Midtown Freewheel on a Friday night in midsummer, and literally rode for 24-hours straight -- or as long as they could. PH24 draws everyone from roadies to fixie-ists to unicyclists in celebration of one of the city's coolest locales. I participated this year, and wasn't quite up to the challenge; I rode only about 90 miles, and slept through the closing ceremonies. (I'll be better in 2013!) But PH24's partying basecamp atmosphere is entertainment enough if you aren't up to a full day of cycling but truly appreciate superhuman achievements.

3. 30 Days of Biking

Year in Review 2012: Bikes
Art by Adam Turman celebrating 30 Days of Biking

All right, as 30 Days of Biking's "man behind the curtain," I am admittedly biased. However, 30DoB, where participants pledged to ride every day for 30 days in a month-long celebration of velocipedes, blew me away in 2012. We had nearly 4,500 sign-ups, including three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond and two-time Giro d'Italia winner Marco Pinotti, as well as legends like Keith Bontrager and Gary Fisher. The highlight for me was the beautiful 30 Days of Biking poster that Adam Turman created. I also loved the end party at One on One Bike Shop, where chocolate milk with Jameson became 30DoB's signature beverage. We even won ourselves sinister rivals this year, Team Radish. Thank you to everyone who made 30 Days of Biking possible in 2012. [Editor's note: Patrick Stephenson is indeed co-founder of the 30 Days of Biking event. However, this event is awesome, and would have made our top list regardless.]

4. Alleycats Galore

A brave Babes in Bikeland rider heads out in heels
A brave Babes in Bikeland rider heads out in heels
Photo by Eric Shoultz

Minneapolis kicks ass at alleycats. Whether we're talking about the winter-themed Stupor Bowl on January's ice-laden streets; the Cirque du So Gay, a celebration of Minneapolis's LGBTQ cyclists; or Babes in Bikeland, the WTF (Women Trans Femme)-only extravaganza, Minneapolis offers plenty of free-form, non-traditional racing. And, no matter what, there's always a dance party at the end. This year even featured cool upstarts, such as the Halloween-themed Scaredy Cat. Meanwhile, mainstays like the No Name alleycat, a monthly gathering arranged on Minneapolis Bike Love, stayed strong.

5. Freedom From Pants

Year in Review 2012: Bikes
Photo by Patrick Stephenson

Cyclists love to show off their bodies. This annual ride, always held on Independence Day, extols the bodily benefits of bicycling with skin, skin, and more skin. Here, cyclists doff their duds, and ride through Minneapolis in a half-naked mob from the Soap Factory to Uptown and beyond. The nearly nude mass prompts cheers, not jeers, as everyone's happy to see bare skin in the middle of summertime. I absolutely love this ride, and dig riding my bike sans pantaloons. This year's round ended at Powderhorn. We rolled into the valley as fireworks smoke filled the air, and my unclothed state (flesh-toned underwear, 'nuf said) made a woman gasp, cover her eyes, and say, "Ew! Ew!" And that's what biking's all about, maybe.

6. Open Streets

Arranged by the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, Open Streets gives Minneapolitans a taste of the ciclovía, as thoroughfares shut down to accommodate only pedestrians and cyclists -- and block out poison-spewing automobiles. In cities like Bogotá, a ciclovía is a weekly occurrence. Minneapolis, meanwhile, got two Open Streets events in 2012: one on Lyndale Avenue in Uptown, and the other on North Lowry Avenue in NoMi. Bicycling down the middle of a normally crazy-busy street like Lyndale makes you appreciate what a car-less world would be like. Heavenly, man.

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