What do a 13-year-old mountain bike racer, a bicycle frame builder, and the founder of one of the world’s largest bicycle parts distributors have in common? They are all key parts of the Minnesota cycling community and makers of living history here in Hennepin County. They are all also part of a new exhibit produced by the Cycling Museum of Minnesota in partnership with Hennepin History Museum.
LifeCYCLE: Stories from the Minnesota Bike Community highlights eleven influential figures in Minnesota biking currently living and riding in the state. The exhibit features original portraits by Nancy Musinguzi, a visual storyteller and mixed-media artist, as well as oral history interviews with each exhibit subject.
The eleven individuals were chosen to represent the diverse backgrounds, ages, gender identities, and ethnicities found in the cycling community. They also represent a broad range of cycling niches, including bike racers and athletes, established artists and makers, cycling and transportation activists, industry leaders, and shop owners and mechanics. All of them see the transformational possibilities of bikes and cycling in their own lives and in their communities.
Pictured above is Marques Watson, a bike mechanic and youth mentor at Express Bike Shop. You have probably seen him on Hennepin History Museum’s social media pages or even on posters around town. We’re offering a bit more about Marques as a sneak peek of what you’ll find at LifeCYCLE.
Like many of the exhibit subjects, Marques’ cycling story started when he was a kid and evolved to become a large part of his life. Marques started working at Express in 2015 as an apprentice through Right Track, a youth professional organization. Through his continued work with Express, he gets to see the youth apprenticeship from another perspective.
“It feels good because at one point in time I was the apprentice, and now I get to look at it from the other end [as supervisor]. It’s interesting and fun to see and watch them gain skills from where they were in the beginning, not knowing anything. It’s cool.”
Marques is pictured with his bike, a Specialized road bike. By learning mechanical skills at the shop, he has been able to fix up and customize his own bikes. Taking ownership of a bike and having the knowledge to maintain it is one of the joys Marques finds in cycling. He affectionately calls his bike “Purple Rain.”
“Somebody donated this and I was like, ‘Man, I gotta get this bike.’ I’ve loved it ever since… I can go really fast on it. Light wheels. Aluminum wheels. All I did was put a new chain on and a cassette… I put new bar tape on it. The shifters are the same. Everything’s pretty much still the same since it’s been donated. It pretty much came all the way purpled-out. I just added a few touches to it. I got a bell.”
The recipient of the first Philando Castile Memorial Scholarship, Marques studies engineering at St. Paul College and envisions himself opening his own bike shop. Working in a shop was part of Marques’ inspiration to pursue an education in engineering.
“I plan on transferring to Mankato to finish off my Bachelor’s in engineering. It’s a lot of math. It’s kind of hard, but I like a challenge. I would say [working here] kind of made me want to go to school for that. I really love working with my hands. I really love working with tools. I think I’ll do great in that field.”
More than a livelihood or career, bikes and cycling offer daily challenge, a way to get around and see the world, and a feeling of freedom.
“I would say you feel free [on your bike]. You really clear your mind. Pretty chill. I like how I can switch up between driving and riding a bike. When I didn’t have a car, I rode my bike in the wintertime. That was kind of fun. I had studded tires. My friends thought I was crazy though.”
Visit Hennepin History Museum to experience LifeCYCLE, view all eleven original portraits, and read more about each subject. On display at Hennepin History Museum starting December 1, 2018.
About the author:
Audrey Negro is a joint intern for the Cycling Museum of Minnesota and Hennepin History Museum. Her work includes assisting with publicity and marketing for the LifeCYCLE exhibit, as well as “other duties as assigned” by both museums. She is an avid bicyclist and is looking forward to testing her skills during the Minnesota winter.