The number of female bicycle mechanics may still pale in comparison to men, but that number is slowly on the rise.
Participation in cycling by women has been growing, and companies have been listening to what we want from our bikes, our equipment, and our retail experience. The opportunities to ride with other women are increasing, and Bicycle Habitat Women’s Cycling is one of many organizations focused on growing the women’s community. The goal now is to match the bike shop experience with what is happening in the community at large. Adding women to the retail shop experience and to service departments in particular, creates balance and has the potential to make bike shops more inclusive and welcoming.
The bike shop is the backbone of the local cycling community but not yet representative of it. Participation by female cyclists is at an all time high, yet bike shops still struggle to hire and keep competent women, and women struggle to find training opportunities geared towards their success. Trek’s School of Certified Service Women’s Scholarship Program is aimed at solving this problem. Trek has recognized the positive effects of women in bike shops, and are working to break down the barriers to entry for women in service departments.
I was one of 12 women to receive a scholarship to the Bicycle Assembly class at their Waterloo, Wisconsin headquarters. Also selected was Karen Chin from Bicycle Habitat’s Chelsea location. We spent four action-packed days learning to thoroughly assemble a bicycle step-by-step in a state of the art classroom designed specifically for this purpose. To be eligible for this scholarship, we had to work for a Trek retailer, commit to using and growing our new skills, and be willing to share what we learned. This was the entry level class, and two additional scholarship classes are happening later this summer for women with more direct, hands on service department experience.
The energy and enthusiasm of my classmates was infectious. We came from shops all over the country and quickly bonded over early morning bike rides, group dinners, and everything in between. We were given the 2017 Domane SLR Disc to ride from Madison to Waterloo and were treated to open roads, cornfields, and rainbows (oh my). I was completely blown away by the comfort and performance of the new Domane, and after touring the on-site OCLV carbon facility where it was made, there is no doubt in my mind about the Trek brand and what it stands for. Their love for what they do shines through, and is something I can relate to (as I’m sure many of you can).
Bike shops can be a distracting learning environment and I appreciated the ability to focus my attention entirely on the task at hand. Even things I knew (or thought I knew) before attending this class became more clear in my mind. In answering the call to share with the community at large, I will be offering basic maintenance classes for women at Bicycle Habitat in the weeks and months to come. That information will be posted to our Facebook group and sent out via email, so stay tuned!
Big shout out to our instructors, Tyler West and Josh Borgmeyer, and to Women’s Business Manager, Amanda Schulze, who is the brains behind this project. Amanda has supported Bicycle Habitat Women’s Cycling since day one, and we consider Trek a partner in our efforts.
The week I spent in Waterloo was a good reminder that women’s cycling is indeed growing and that a sense of altruism drives this mission. Bikes are the common bond. They improve our lives in so many ways. I’m committed to using my new mechanic skills and growing them any chance I get. Bikes are awesome machines and not as complicated as they seem on the surface. It is empowering to work on our own bikes, and to really get involved in the details. Let’s commit to growing our skills together.
Further reading: The Story of Lainey Burke