I learned basic bike mechanicals from my dad. He’s not a cyclist and his diy ability is notoriously sketchy but he showed me how to fix a puncture, oil a chain and clean my hands with Swarfega.
Growing up in a small village we all rode bikes to get around but only the boys were encouraged, or even allowed, to do more than just pedal from A to B. My mother still talks about the day she came into the kitchen to find me making sandwiches for a packed lunch and announcing I was going to ride the three miles to the Next Village for an adventure. She asked me why I was going by myself. I told her none of my friends were allowed to ride that distance or on ‘big roads’. Their parents felt it unsafe, especially at such a tender age.
I would have ridden with my brother, but he hated having to slow down for me and having his lame nerdy little sister tagging along embarrassed him beyond belief. So other than the odd family holiday when he would tolerate me, I tended to do bike rides and bike things alone.
30 years later I still ride alone most of the time and the only thing that has enabled me to move past this is female-only groups and spaces. The female mechanic I work with at @ldnbikekitchen, the women-only BMX sessions I go to, and the all-female training group I joined a few years ago in return for press coverage.
I don’t know if it’s my formative experiences or just a wider awareness of how deeply rooted social and gender norms are (which working at @girleffect has highlighted dramatically) but I find male-dominated spaces intensely difficult to navigate.
It’s unfortunate, because actually working or riding with some men does a great deal to push me forwards - the couple of straights of @londonbmxuk track I rode this week with @pacenigma alongside so as to better shout at me (cheers 🍍 and for the counselling session afterwards too 😂) were blisteringly fast by my shoddy standards.
But it’s the female only spaces that are the entry point for me, they are where I start and starting is always the hardest part. I genuinely could not do some things I now do pretty well, without a female-only starting point.
Positive discrimination, the bike edition.