This spring, REI launched the #ForceOfNature campaign to close the gender gap in the outdoors. Part of that movement is a huge selection of free intro classes specifically for women. As a lady who rides her bike to work, but has not ever cleaned said bike and should probably know how to do that, I signed up right away for the Women’s Bike Maintenance Basics class at the Denver Flagship store.
This class is not hands-on, but I still gained a ton of information from it. The class was taught by a woman who worked at the REI bike shop (thanks, Jenn!) and she honestly made the class for me.
There’s something about having a badass, mountain biking, gear nerd of a woman teaching you how to do something. By the end of the class, I was 100% confident I could clean my own bike, figure out how to fix a flat, and pick out the right equipment and products with which to do so. And that was mostly because SHE was 100% confident we could all do those things.
After a brief overview of the different parts of a bike, we dove into cleaning and maintenance. I really appreciated that Jenn gave us just as many cheap DIY hacks as she did suggestions for REI products to buy.
She also managed to establish herself as a professional and avid biker without becoming inaccessible. The class, full of other beginner women, was a safe space (yes, barf, cliche…but true!) to ask all the “dumb” questions you may feel otherwise uncomfortable saying out loud.
Nothing was off limits, and when I confessed at the end of class that I may still pay to get my bike serviced by REI because it was so gross, she lit up and said how much satisfaction she gets from those grody bikes. I was so embarrassed to be telling her I wasn’t going to be self-sufficient just yet, and here she was totally pumped to work on my bike. It was really refreshing.
The class also covered how to change a flat tire which was super valuable even though we just watched Jenn do it and couldn’t take a crack at it ourselves (don’t worry, there’s a class for that too…it’s just not free). At the very least, I now know where to start if I have a flat.
Admittedly, I only bike to work and am never more than a few blocks away from a bike store since #Denver. But I won’t make a complete ass out of myself at said bike store since I also now know that a tube isn’t a fancy name for a tire, it’s an entirely separate piece of rubber inside your tire. Who knew?! (Jenn knew)
If you’re concerned about taking a class that goes until 8 p.m. on a work night, our class didn’t actually last that long. We stopped at just after 7:30 for questions, and everyone cleared out pretty quickly. Also, you’re an adult and the class is laid back so leaving early wouldn’t be rude or awkward if you’re just tired after a long day at work.
I’d like to say my largest victory of the evening was going straight to the exit and not buying anything before leaving. And while I did manage to do that, more importantly, I managed to leave feeling empowered, confident, and not at all ashamed of my previous lack of knowledge. You can’t put a pricetag on that, and fortunately, REI doesn’t because this class is free!
REI also offers non-free classes that are hands-on cleaning, changing a flat, and other bike-related classes. One was going on when I walked into the maintenance class and it was unsurprisingly all men with fancy bikes. I was SO relieved to find out that there are actually hands-on, ladies only classes offered all summer.
In fact, there are dozens of women’s classes to get you started in any outdoor sport, and many of them are free. You can find the full calendar here.
Let me know if you sign up for any classes at the Denver store – maybe I will see you there!