Often described as one of the toughest bike races in the lower 48 states, the Arrowhead 135 challenges even the most prepared riders. This is a journal by a non-athlete's participation in an event where starting is often just as much a challenge as finishing.

November 30, 2010
I am a freak. I know this because people keep telling me this. Well maybe not in so many words, but they think it. When I ride my bike to work, in the winter, in Minnesota, people think its freaky. They stop me and ask me about my bike, my gear, or the weather. They pull up along side me in their cars and roll down their windows and say stuff like "wow those are big tires!" or "is that harder than a regular mountain bike?" (I've had this bike for a week and this has happened twice, and it happened often last winter as well).

You have to understand Minnesota to know what it means when you have a stranger roll down their car window and comment. We're stoic. We're Lutheran. We're not talkers to strangers (except later when we'll talk ABOUT you). For someone to strike up a conversation or offer comment means that what you're doing has moved them beyond their normal sense of proper behavior. I means that you're sufficiently weird that they won't seem weird by talking to you about it.

There are classes and news stories about winter biking. How to dress, how to ride, what gear and equipment. It all points to something unusual, something extreme, something freaky.

However, this is part of the bigger plan. I used to be the freak just because I rode to work and back in the *summer*. This is now becoming more normal to the average person. In the last few years, there has been a growing acceptance of bike commuting that follows along the general trend of an increase in cycling. But even still, regular bike commuting still is the stuff of news stories. People who go to the next step and get cargo bikes or trailers also get the 'freak' treatment. Just last week my wife told me about a girl she saw at the liquor store loading up a 12 pack and a case of wine into a BOB trailer. Granted my wife knows I'm interested in bike-related things and I also have a BOB, so maybe this observation rated slightly more noteworthy to her than to other people. But I suspect that if you rode to Target or Home Depot with a cargo trailer you'd get noticed.

The idea here is to push out the idea of "freak" until the easy stuff isn't freaky any more. I don't want commuting by bike to be the subject of news stories any more than commuting by car; I want it to be non-news. See I think that its exactly this idea of being somehow "unusual" or "different" (i.e. a freak as reinforced by the simple fact that it can be made into "news") that keeps people from getting past the idea of a bike for something more than a weekend ride around the lake. I'm all for rides around the lake, for sure, but my real hope is to help change the car culture of America into something more friendly. Yes, this is a tall order, and I certainly don't expect to do it all myself. But by changing what is perceived as being freaky I might be able to help someone else feel more comfortable doing that commute or errand by bike. In other words, I'm willing to be the freak so that someone else doesn't have to be.

I'm not really looking at getting people out on to their bikes - though that is kind of the "first step". My goal is to get those people who've already taken that first step to take another. I suspect there a lot of people that will ride on weekends but wouldn't think to ride to work. Why don't they? There are a lot of reasons, and most of them are mental. But one mental road block I can help them with: by riding in the winter, I can recalibrate what is considered "freaky" so that riding in better weather doesn't seem weird.


I've finally got the hardware together I needed to mount the rear rack on the Mukluk. That will be nice as I was getting sick of hauling all my crap in my messenger bag and getting a sweaty back for the effort. I think that will also help with temperature management.

I also verified that I have finally got the speedometer set pretty much correct. I've been using 12.7 miles as the value for the 'long' commute - when I ride the Luce Line - and today's reading was 12.69. Seems ok to me.

The commute again today was good, but super windy. Kind of tough going in, pretty easy coming home. Good clothes for 21F. Tomorrow will be colder, so I'll maybe try one of the other combinations that was giving me trouble before.

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