Way back in the day, when I (Cody) was a bright-eyed, full-time AmeriCorps VISTA Bike Library volunteer, my friend Haelan came to me with an idea.  While staying in New Orleans to help the hurricane clean-up effort, she had learned some wrenching skills at a community bike project called Plan B.  They offered shop time for women-identified folks only, and she found it to be a comfortable space where she could learn.  We talked a lot about the significant barriers that prevent women from being more involved in bicycle culture, including mechanicking.  Haelan asked me simply if the Bike Library could do something like Plan B’s open shop time for women.

Well, yes.  Why the hell not?  I named it “Ladies’ Night” after the Le Tigre line, “We got equal rights on ladies’ night.”  And, also for the fact that the so-called ladies’ night you see around town at bars is really to increase interest from men.  I often feel like things aimed at women are really in the interest of men, so the name seemed to be a good nose-thumb, even if it wasn’t obviously ironic.

Those early days of Ladies’ Night were about open shop time, so you could use the BL’s tools and equipment for free with some guidance from women volunteers and oftentimes other attendees.

We did all manner of work, from changing flats to overhauling bottom brackets.

And, laughing.  Lots of laughing.  My face would hurt by the end of many of these nights.  It was a much needed program.  After my AmeriCorps assignment was over, it was difficult to continue Ladies’ Night as an open shop program due to volunteers already putting in lots of hours.  It was shelved for some time.

This fall, however, something like Ladies’ Night blossomed.  Brad & Jen, two hard-working BL volunteers, helped me work out the details, and we set up a very structured, hands-on class for women-identified people.  (We never really struck upon a new name for it, although several were tried.)

Over the course of four weeks, we covered flat-changing, brake adjustment, brake pad cleaning & installment, derailleur adjustment, and chain replacement.

Some students brought their own bikes to use for class projects, sometimes with sad news…

a seized front derailleur!  Perhaps the bike is now a bigger project than originally anticipated, but that just makes for more learning opportunities, no?

Although we had less time for relaxed social chatting like in the previous incarnation of Ladies’ Night, I heard more than a few times that students walked out feeling empowered and closer to their bikes.  It was such an overwhelming success that plans are in the works to continue and even expand the class.

We don’t call it Ladies’ Night anymore, but the idea is the same.  I’m really excited to be a part of it, and I have to give huge thanks to Jen for being my lovely classroom assistant and to Brad for helping when needed and gracefully stepping back as the women stepped up.