Like many, when I moved to Fort Collins I had my first experience with Tour de Fat, where I saw someone trade the keys to their car for a bike. My mind was blown and I was so intrigued by the idea. I started thinking about what it would be like to not have a car. I would later become friends with that someone over a decade later, not knowing it was her who inspired me until we were a few months into our friendship and we were sitting in her bus talking about why I ride a bike everywhere (thanks, NBB and Mana!) But that’s a different story for a different time.
Where was I? Oh yeah. I started thinking about it more and more, and I eventually decided I didn’t need a festival and a stage to make such a dramatic life change, so I sold my car and started walking and carpooling everywhere. One day a friend gave me a bike so I could speed up my commute. It was a spray painted rust-a-thon, seemingly an ancient relic of the bike days of yore, and not the cool kind. Nothing fit right, and I don’t even know how I rode it around. I had no clue what I was doing, and one day I snapped the rusted chain crossing at College and Prospect in busy traffic. One bloody shin later, I became a walker again. A few months later a different friend gave me a much nicer and fully tuned bike because she upgraded hers. This bike, my first true love, is named Big Red. She is a 90s era Cannondale M300 in catchup and mustard colors. I commuted everywhere so fast and zippy compared to walking. I didn’t have a helmet or lights, but that didn’t stop me from riding at night because I didn’t know better (it’s the law to have a white front light, some side reflection, and at a minimum a rear red reflector, so don’t be like me. Obey the law and be safer for it.) Now that I had this serious machine I started riding with a friend for exercise, not just commuting. He had a vintage Tomasini road bike with an all original Campagnolo gruppo, and I had Big Red outfitted with the finest used parts. I felt this whole new world opened up to me that involved pushing myself, seeing so many beautiful places in nature, and freedom. I rode the dams, that Tomasini the carrot to my Big Red donkey. I hammered my heart out, and my chest filled with the bright dreams of adventure and fun. And then my shifting cable snapped.
At a loss for what to do, I asked my road bike laden friend how to fix the bike myself. We got a new cable and some housing and he set out explaining how to go about the repair. I was so lost and didn’t even know what the parts of a bike were called. I tried my hardest, but he still got frustrated and angrily pushed me out of the way and just did the repair himself. I thought to myself No. Effing. Way. I vowed to never be put into the position of being mansplained to again, to be cast aside due to my own ignorance, to be made to feel like the thing I just fell in love with was my enemy because I didn’t understand it. This was cemented by the fact that he cut both the cable and the housing with a saw at the end of the repair. This really couldn’t be how people fixed bikes, could it?
A few days later I saw a listing for a women’s wrenching night at the Fort Collins Bike Co-op, cleared my schedule, and showed up ready to learn. At the class I was both intimidated and appreciative of everyone’s effortless confidence and knowledge. I wanted what they already had. I wanted it so bad that I put everything I had into learning about what made my Big Red tick. You can fast forward to today, and I head up the Hex Wenches at the Bike Co-op, the current iteration of that women’s class that is aimed at trans, femme, non-binary, and also women. I am a recipient of the QBP Mechanics Scholarship and have recieved a formal education in bicycle mechanics from UBI. I am an avid gravel racer with a penchant for riding a bike with tires that are way too wide, and I hope I inspire people like those women inspired me at my first class.