Local Heroes #24 - Brandon V

Meet Brandon an avid, year-round cyclist who has past professional experience includes working for the Secretary of Tourism in Queretaro, Mexico and later handling international relations for the tourism department of Meet Minneapolis.

Published by Guest on 19/03/2015

During his time at Meet Minneapolis, he led a wellness group on Nice Ride bikes - they rode 30 minutes out, had lunch for 30, then rode back to the office a different route. In his words: “It was a great way to introduce co-workers the art of riding in a group, in the street with confidence, to help them get familiar with the trail system and its beauty.”  I tagged along with him for a sunrise ride and I asked him about his thoughts on the cycle community we are fortunate enough to have here.

How long have you been biking in the city and how much of the infrastructure has changed for Minneapolitans throughout that time?

In the 8+ years I’ve been cycling in Minneapolis, I’ve noticed a great deal of change, all for the better! Now, versus 5 years ago, downtown Minneapolis has incredible bike share lanes allowing cyclist to go North, South, East and West in a designated bike lane. It feels safer and more accessible. Currently, there’s a large push for protected bike lanes, which will help encourage novice bicyclist to feel more comfortable commuting, or running errands in protected lanes, versus those that aren’t. Not only are there a LOT more people using the trails and bike share lanes/boulevards, but the community has grown. Currently, there’s a lot of active bicycle groups that are advocating for protected lanes, new trails, new events to encourage community and safer options for commuting. What I really love seeing, and participating in, is group rides. Strangers, getting together to ride their bikes, no matter what level of experience they’re at. As the city plans for the future, I think it’s important that they keep developing plans to make biking in the city safer, to encourage people to get on their bikes, not just for exercise, but to run errands and to use their car less.

"One of the largest changes I’ve noticed is winter riders, warriors. Each year I see more and more people ride throughout the winter. And, a lot of them are women! It’s awesome!"

Where's your favorite place to ride in the city? (OK fine, name a few)

Favorite?! That’s a tough one… it all depends on what I’m doing and whom I’m with. But, here goes!

1.East Bank River area by the U of MN. – I LOVE bringing new riders to that area. It’s gorgeous, you’re right along the Mississippi and its small rolling hills. It’s beautiful in the fall as there are many trees, the river flowing and the skyline in the background.

2.The Chain of Lakes/Grand Rounds – There’s nothing more amazing than biking for miles on trails by beautiful lakes, creeks, the river, trees and parks. The only caveat, it’s crowded! You have to be particular about if/when you ride the trails as you get all levels of experience. And, it’s public, so patience is a virtue. The best ways to enjoy it, in my opinion, is to ride it early in the morning, watch the sun come up over Lake Calhoun, late at night, with just your lights and at a steady pace, it’s so quiet and dark, and to get North of 394 and ride the North side of the Grand Rounds, where you can have the trails to yourself and it’s still beautiful.

Tell me about some of the sights, sounds, and smells of biking in the city, and how they differ between seasons?

This is one of the elements I enjoy most about biking, the sensory experience. It varies so much from season to season, and that’s magical! 99.9% of the time,

"I do NOT ride with headphones or music, but enjoy the breeze going by my ears, the sounds that are around me and the freshness in the air."

Spring: Observing the sunrise while the crisp air hits your face, refreshing after a harsh winter that’s still fresh in your mind. You can hear the birds chirping, see them migrating back and packing at the ground for breakfast. The smell of moisture, dew and freshness, but, as the season progresses, you smell the grass, flowers and cleanliness.

Summer: what can I say?! It’s summer! I LOVE late night rides to a full moon on Cedar Lake Trail, where you almost don’t need a light as the moon is so bright, glowing the path ahead of you. It’s always warm! You don’t need layers, the birds are always chirping, the breeze warm and the mood elevated. I enjoy biking to the beach, swimming and biking home in a wet swimsuit, which is inevitably dry by the time I get home.

Fall: Autumn has to be one of my favorite seasons! I’m always riding as much as possible as I know, just around the corner, winter looms. Each day, the leaves are more vibrant than the last and colors are everywhere. This is my favorite time to bike along the Mississippi river, as the reflections are beautiful, the trees thick and the air still fresh, but crisp. The fall of 2014 was incredibly beautiful, it was hard not to be on a bike when it’s in the mid-50’s/60’s, blue skies and the colors are straight out of a rainbow, mesmerizing.

Winter: A lot of people ask me, “how can you bike in the winter?! It’s so COLD!” Yes, there are days I’ve asked myself, “what am I doing out here?! This is brutal!” But, all and all, it’s incredible! You have to slowly build up to be a winter cyclist, but once you do, you feel you have the whole world to yourself. The trails are nearly empty, there’s no sounds, it’s as if you’re in space, and the air crisp and fresh, keeping you cool and comfortable. In winter, there aren’t many smells, as your nose will, on occasion, freeze to itself. But, a fresh snow, a light layer of white, looks beautiful and I enjoy seeing the trails left behind of riders, walkers, and dogs who were there before me.

All and all, biking year round really makes me admire the seasons. It’s fun to go from season to season, from element to element, and to prevail after a nasty rainstorm, brutal cold snap or hot and humid day. Biking in all seasons makes you appreciate the beauty of the here and now, of the moment you are in as tomorrow may be different, especially with Minnesota weather!

Speaking of weather, how cold does it have to get for you to NOT get on your bike?

Currently, 0F. Each year it’s gotten lower and lower. But, the past three years, I’ve stopped at 0. Below that, it’s just not enjoyable to me. I start to feel claustrophobic, as my face is so covered, it’s hard to maintain a core temperature, googles fog easier and I lose the enjoyment of it. At 0, the wind-chill is already an element, I don’t need to make it worse for myself.

Where do you like to go get parts, gear, etc.. Any local companies you recommend/are fond of?

I tend to get a lot of my gear from the Hub Co-Op. They’re a great shop with really friendly staff! I’ve never felt intimidated there and they’re very knowledgeable. Not to mention, it’s fun to rummage through their parts bin and see if you can find anything good! It seems you can always make some adjustments to a bike, it’s fun! But, I’m also a big fan of buying used parts from Craigslist or some Facebook groups I’m on, saving some cash and using products that are still reliable.

I’m VERY fond of “Q” (aka “QBP”, Quality Bicycle Products), will you please hire me sometime in the future (please!)! ;-)  Granted, it’s not a place you can buy parts retail, as it’s a wholesale distributor, but I couldn’t be more proud of having them be in Minnesota! They have an amazing culture, awesome products (Salsa, All-City and Surly bikes specifically) and employ some really rad bike people, like my good friend Mikey. He’s an incredible fit with that company and it makes me happy to see him working in a field he’s passionate about. Not many people know that the nation’s largest bicycle parts distribution centers is in Minnesota, Bloomington to be exact, but they’re rock-stars!

Is there anything else you'd like to share with readers about Minneapolis and our biking community?

I couldn’t be more proud of where our biking community is and how it’s growing. There’s a lot of niche biking communities out there too! There’s a big messenger community, alley-cat races, advocacy, group rides, Powderhorn 24, Fulton Grand Fondo, Stupor Bowl, rolling dance parties and so much more. But, all and all, when you’re on a bike and see someone else on a bike, there’s always a level of friendship, a simple nod and smile as you whiz past one another. It’s a good feeling to be a part of this. And, I encourage anyone who’s interested in participating in any of the groups that are out there, to do so! The Greenway Coalition is AMAZING and does so much for the Greenway, truly a gem of our city. But, there are so many communities within the biking community, it’s fun to see it evolve and I hope it only keeps growing.

Thanks Brandon for taking us along!




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