Bike experts provide safe spaces for women, members of LGBTQ community to learn maintenance

·2 min read
Two cycling shops in Vancouver are offering online and in-person workshops and events hosted by and for women, trans and queer people to create an environment free of intimidation, where they can learn the ins and outs of bikes and biking. (Shutterstock / Marc Bruxelle - image credit)
Two cycling shops in Vancouver are offering online and in-person workshops and events hosted by and for women, trans and queer people to create an environment free of intimidation, where they can learn the ins and outs of bikes and biking. (Shutterstock / Marc Bruxelle - image credit)

It's Go by Bike Week in B.C. — known in pre-pandemic times as Bike to Work Week — and with warmer weather rolling in, it could be the perfect time to roll out the old two-wheeler for a tune-up.

But some members of the Vancouver cycling community say walking into a male-dominated bike shop can be intimidating. That's why two women working in the industry are welcoming women, trans and queer cyclists to workshops created just for them.

Our Community Bikes — an East Vancouver bike shop for DIY bicycle repair and affordable maintenance and sales — offers in-person events on the first Wednesday of every month.

Called WTQ Night, for the women, trans and queer people in attendance, the evening workshops are held after business hours and provide an opportunity for people to make purchases and have their bikes assessed for service. The whole night is staffed by women, trans and non-binary industry experts.

"It's a safe space people can come in. They'll see themselves reflected in the people that are actually doing the work," said Sophia Suderman, Our Community Bikes' executive director.

"A big part of what we want to do is to see the cycling industry diversified," she added, speaking on CBC's The Early Edition on Thursday.

The shop, located at 2429 Main St., also offers online workshops on the third Wednesday of every month with the next one, focused on fixing flat tires, being held June 19.

Registration for in-person and online programming at Our Community Bikes can be found here.

Andrea Sandeen, lead mechanic at the the Bike Kitchen, located on campus at the University of British Columbia, has been sticking with the online option for her workshops since the pandemic.

On the second Wednesday of every month, the Bike Kitchen offers online workshops called Women and Queer Night. Sandeen says its nice to be in a virtual space where her expertise, not her identity, is the focus.

"I'm never just a mechanic. I'm a woman mechanic, I'm a lesbian mechanic and I'm sick of having to carry my identity around all the time in the cycling industry. I just want to work on bikes," said Sandeen on The Early Edition.

"It's nice to be in a space where it's less about the identity of people and more about the power structure of knowledge," she added.

The Bike Kitchen workshops are free and information about upcoming dates can be found posted weekly on the shop's Facebook page. Beginner cyclists are encouraged to participate.

The shop expects to reopen for in-person Women and Queer Nights, and all other programming, this fall.