3 minutes reading time (547 words)

Outspokin' Women

Building a wheel is a skill that requires a lot of knowledge and patience. It's not for everyone, but if you can master it you could be left with more than just a functioning wheel. Building and truing a wheel can build character, confidence, respect, and trust. Remarkable qualities to build a strong foundation for a business or a reputation. 

During a recent workshop offered through Eco-Bici, a CESTA backed initiative, a group of female cyclists were learning the basics of bicycle repair, from changing a flat tire all the way up to the more intricate tasks of repacking a hub. When asked why they were taking the class the answers were varied, but safety was definitely a concern. Being stranded on a ride is motivation to learn how to rely on yourself.

Jessica stopped riding long distances because her bike was constantly breaking down. Ileana was frustrated at being stranded when she got a flat or broke a chain. Elizabeth wanted to teach other women how to be self reliant.

Adonai is one of the instructors and he likes offering the gender specific class. "Teaching women often takes a little longer because you have to spend more time going over how to use the tools properly, something most men come into the shop already knowing." But he also states, that women are more willing to pay attention and learn exactly what to do which can make the repairs go more smoothly and quickly.

After a few weeks of class, Jessica now feels more confident about going out on her bike for a ride. She points out that some women enjoy greasing hubs and aligning wheels. "We aren't all about just clothes and makeup. We are always doing things for others and sometimes we need to take care of ourselves and do what we want".

Sofia realized after learning about wheels, that shops are not always honest about what a bike needs. She had a wheel with a couple bent spokes and her mechanic suggested she needed a new wheel. But now she knows how to remove the bent spokes and replace them with new ones, a simple repair (for someone with the right skills) that costs a lot less.

Joining a women's only clinic provides a safe, comfortable space in which women can learn at their own pace and not feel intimidated or overpowered by men. All the participants agree that it's empowering to discover that they are capable of learning and performing this type of work for themselves. As the classes progressed, they each became confident bike mechanics and began thinking about starting their own workshops.

Jesus Lopez is the director of CESTA and coordinated the workshops. The idea was to provide training to individuals outside the city center. Expanding the classes to women was important to help break stereotypes and prove women can be bike mechanics. 

Each newly trained mechanic leaves with a set of tools and can join the CESTA workshop network. They can then set up fully supported local shops that impact their communities directly. Since the bicycle repair classes began, at least 17 women have set up their own workshops, which also serves as a source of income for their families.

Featured Volunteer: Tom Doyle
Featured Volunteer: Pamela McCormick