Most bike mechanics are men. An annual scholarship aims to increase women’s presence in the bike industry, leading to more female riders and better business for shops.
Sixteen women from across the United States will have a chance to improve their skills as bicycle mechanics thanks to the Women’s Bike Mechanic Scholarship. The program’s sponsors say it will translate to more female riders and a healthier bike retail scene.
The scholarship, which is in its third year, covers tuition and lodging at the United Bicycle Institute’s (UBI) Professional Shop Repair and Operations Workshop in Ashland, Oregon.
Growing Women’s Ridership
The goal of the workshop is to bring more women into the bike industry and grow female ridership overall, says Lori Richman at Quality Bicycle Products, one of the program’s sponsors. (Other title sponsors include UBI, SRAM, RockShox, and Park Tool).
“Women who are technically knowledgeable and who are working in bike shops create a more welcoming environment for women riders,” Richman said.
Richman said the bike industry has not always been welcoming to women. She compared it to engineering or other traditionally male jobs.
“It’s been a male-dominated industry, but we’re seeing some shifting of that, just as we’ve seen in the outdoors industry,” Richman said.
Building The Cycling Community
This year’s Women’s Bike Mechanic Scholarship recipients were selected from more than 300 applicants. Most are employees at bike shops, and the application asked them to demonstrate how they are working to grow women’s ridership.
One of the scholarship recipients, Cali Jirsa, is the owner and head mechanic at Cherry Cycles in Minneapolis. Jirsa said part of her shop’s mission is to bring cycling and cycling knowledge to the broader community as well as making the sport more inclusive and accessible for women and transgender individuals.
“My idea with the training [in Ashland] is to create my own training plan from it and introduce it to people here,” Jirsa said.
She hopes the training at the UBI Professional Shop Repair and Operations Workshop will shape a course “dedicated to helping bring cycling to more people, and to help more people feel inclusive and secure when they’re learning about bike repair.”
Cherry Cycle’s sponsored bike club goes into low-income communities to teach bike repair. They also help train facilitators at Grease Rag, an organization that offers free shop nights.
“They help people feel comfortable learning about their bike in a normally male-dominated space,” says Jirsa about Grease Rag, an organization that frequently sets up free clinics at Cherry Cycles. “But their facilitators aren’t usually trained in bike repair, so this training could help them empower people to an even greater extent.”
Richman said a benefit of expanding female ridership is an expanded customer base and, overall, a healthier retail scene in the communities the scholarship recipients represent.
“Another goal of the scholarship is to help advance specialty retail by making shops more appealing to women riders,” Richman says. “The women we selected can go back to their communities better trained and better equipped to serve women and all customers.”
2016 Women’s Bike Mechanic Scholarship Recipients:
Ainsley Judge, Portland Gear Hub, Portland ME
Amanda Resch, Legend Bicycle, Providence RI
Anna Maria Diaz-Balart, King Kog, Brooklyn NY
Cali Jirsa, Cherry Cycles, Minneapolis MN
Cassandra Habel, Erik’s Bike, Madison WI
Kyla Forsberg, Green River Cyclery, Auburn WA
Magdalena Sapsis, Hello Bicycle, Seattle WA
Michaela Albanese, Human Zoom Bikes, Philadelphia PA
Nicole Davison, Veloville USA, Purcellville VA
RaeLynn Mulley, Boulder Cycle Sport, Boulder CO
Stephanie Surch, Criterium Bicycles, Colorado Springs CO
Susan Davis, Bike Beat, Virginia Beach VA
Christine Hill, Old Spokes Home, Burlington VT
Theresa Van Ackeren, Family Bicycles LLC, Kansas City MO
Tina Sujana, Go-Girl Cycling, FT Myers FL
Trina Walsworth, Bike Stop Cycling, Michigan City IN
–Info and a full list of 2016 Women’s Bike Mechanic Scholarship recipients can be found here.