Women-Fix-It

11th May 2016 by

Working with the Otesha team to get a women’s bike maintenance project up and running has been the highlight of 2016 in my world: here’s the story:

wfiWomen-Fix-It came about whilst cycling across Portugal solo. I had the map reading down, chunky calves, panniers, and a sweet touring bike – what more can a woman ask for? Ah yeah… the knowledge that is needed to put your bike back together after it’s been in a box. Alex a good pal helped me to box it up for the flight over to Portugal. Yeah I’ll remember all this – easy…

I’m not saying that as I stand looking at my handle bars off at a peculiar angle, the brakes are rubbing on the wheel and I’m unnecessarily covered in grease. Frustrated, I begrudgingly head to the nearest bike shop, where 2 guys attempt to teach me bike basics in Portuguese. I felt pretty stupid with my ignorance, not to mention scared that I had to keep the steed in one piece for the next 3 months. I couldn’t but notice that it was always men serving me in bike shops, or I’d likely ask a male friend to help out with bike related stuff. Pedalling up and whizzing down the mountains of Portugal I was lucky to keep my bike in one piece – but I couldn’t get the thought out of my head as to why I didn’t know to fix her up.

The more I discussed this with other women who liked bikes, it became clear that I wasn’t on my own… reverberations of the same comment kept coming back to me: “I feel uncomfortable to ask stupid questions” “I always feel pretty silly when I go into bike shops” “I wish I knew more about bikes” “I’m just not very good at it”.

I felt happy that it wasn’t just me… but also sad that so many strong, independent women that I knew and loved had the same block as me. I wanted to learn with other women and to be taught by a non-judgemental woman who could share her knowledge. I searched around my local area in South London and struggled to find that space, but alas it was not there.

A friend put me in touch with Bikeworks – a fantastic social enterprise delivering community based cycling activities across London. They took me onto a course in Level 1 bike mechanics and I commenced a journey totally out of my comfort zone… loads of tools, jargon, and a good dose of testosterone. I was feeling the need for Women-fix-It in my life.

It seems fitting that this project is a collaboration with The Otesha Project UK, as it was this wonderful charity that has empowered hundreds of young people to cycle hundreds of miles and educate thousands of people in issues of environmental awareness, sustainability and social justice. As tour alumni, tour coordinator and workshop facilitator with Otesha, It felt like the right time to join forces to run Women-Fix-It. Winning a bid to Transport for London’s Cycling Grants, the project finally got legs.

Camberwell Subterranea offered us their garage workshop for us to run 3 week maintenance courses from Feb-June 2016. The project aims to work with women from diverse backgrounds, bringing together women from all over South London. It is important that it’s a safe and comfortable environment for all to enter into. We’ve run 3 courses so far, working with 27 women to teach them the basics – an m-check, parts of the bike and how they fit together, punctures, brakes and cleaning/ general maintenance.

wfi1The essence of the project is that we want women to go away with enough skills to keep their bike safely on the road. If it needs to go into a bike shop, then they might have a better idea of what’s going on. We want women to feel empowered to ask those “stupid” questions that we might not normally ask. Courses will continue until June and we’re running women’s social rides around South London this summer.

Fancy finding out more, or want to be involved?

Check for updates on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/womenfixit/

Cycle into Summer 2012

5th December 2011 by

Do you want to make the world a better place next summer? Silly question, here’s your chance to become part of a sustainable mobile community…

Join one of Otesha’s fifth birthday summer cycle tours! Pedal across the UK visiting schools and youth clubs, organic farms, fascinating sustainability projects and plenty more. Join an inspirational team of other volunteers, excited to share and learn anything and everything about environmental and social sustainability. Get skilled up in everything from bike maintenance to consensus decision making and learn lots about sustainable and group living.

This year we’ve got three thrilling tours on offer, and a few firsts in the world of Otesha cycle tours. I suppose you want to know what the firsts are don’t you? Well, we have:

  • our first ever food-themed, three-week cycle tour
  • our first ever cycle tour performance of the Otesha play in London
  • a tour for anyone over 18!

And now you probably want to know where and when we’re going, don’t you?

Six week performing, workshop-delivering, wondrous cycle tours (age 18-28):

  • Totally Coastal …does what it says on the tin! This tour will stick close to the picturesque coastline of south-east England. Pedalling across lowlands and up and down small hills, the team will be heading to the heart of East Anglia before venturing into London for our cycle tour debut in the capital, and a grand finale performance! (15th June – 28th July)
  • Western Quest Whiz around the west on your bicycle this summer.  Starting in south Wales, this tour will pedal a wee way north into England and then back south through the rolling hills of Somerset and Devon before meeting the pirates of Penzance. (10th August – 22nd September)

Three-week, food-themed, workshop-delivering, volunteering and learning extravaganza (age 18+):

  • Tastetastic! Lick your lips and get in gear for our first ever food tour. Tantalise your taste buds on our Tastetastic! tour as you pedal across southern Scotland for three weeks exploring food sustainability. (4th – 25th August)

If you’re 18+  and passionate about creating a sustainable future, then we’d love you to ride with us. It’s first come first served, so apply early if you want to guarantee a place.

Watch this space for tales from our cycle tour alumni. In the meantime follow the links on this blog to find out lots more on our website.

If you have any questions or would just like to have a chat about the tours, then give us a call on 020 7377 2109 or email cycletours@otesha.org.uk. We always love to hear from you.


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