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Bicyclette: Helping women bicyclists learn bicycle repair and maintenance

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Bridging the gap between male and female bicycle enthusiasts, female mechanics at the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen are helping women learn the technical skills needed to maintain and repair their own bicycles.

Bicyclette is an after-hours session hosted by Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen, located at 1915 I St., that is exclusive to women, transgender and female-identified people, according to Andrea Havelaar, 37, outreach coordinator for the shop.

The free session is held from 6 – 9 p.m. every third Monday of the month.

"In our society, there is the tendency for guys to do things for a woman instead of thinking that she has to do it for herself," mechanic Robin Evans said. The Midtown resident has been working as a bicycle mechanic for three years at Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen.

Through Bicyclette, Havelaar said, women will gain the bicycle mechanic skills and the confidence to make them more comfortable coming to the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen’s regular hours.

Robin Evans (far right) and Annie Clark (far left) work on a bicycle with another Bicyclette patron.

During the three-hour session, the first hour is usually dedicated to a mini class on a specific bicycle repair or maintenance skill such as fixing a flat tire or brake adjustments, and the remaining two hours are devoted to hands-on work.

Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen is a nonprofit bicycle shop that offers low-cost bicycle maintenance and training to members. As a community-run organization, all workers and mechanics are volunteers. They are funded through $5 daily shop fees or $50 yearly memberships, according to the shop’s website.

Havelaar said that the patrons will do the same activities as they would during normal hours at the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen – the mechanics will show them how to do maintenance and repairs on their bicycles. Tools are provided at the shop.

"We get college-aged women, middle-aged women with their nieces and even older women in their 60s," Havelaar said.

Bicyclette was created to encourage more women and female-identified bicyclists to come to the shop and learn bicycle maintenance and repair who might be otherwise apprehensive because of a male-dominated bicycling and bicycle mechanic scene, Havelaar said.

"I don’t want to make it sound like our normal shop hours are not ideal for female or transgender to come to, because we do get women all the time, it’s just not as many as men," Havelaar said. "Some women tend to learn better from other women, and I found that with myself. That was one reason why I wanted to do this and to get this started."

Evans explained that since women in general have longer legs and shorter torsos, a shorter handlebar or a shorter bicycle stem might be some of the parts women need to change on their bicycles for a better fit.

"A lot of times, bicycles were originally made to fit men," Evans said. "In order to have a comfortable ride, you might need to change things up a little bit."

On Sept. 19, the first Bicyclette, 12 patrons attended, which is a lot considering there are only two female mechanics who offer technical assistance: Robin Evans, 29, and Shannon Southwood, 34, both Midtown residents. The last two meetings had only three to four who attended, Havelaar said.

“Our male staff is also very supportive of Bicyclette as they would also like to see more female mechanics and more females getting into cycling in general,” Havelaar said.

For more information on Bicyclette, visit www.sacbikekitchen.org.

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