Not everyone learns how to fix a flat on their bike at age ten. But Rebbekha Schiller did, and she says it empowered her. “I used to try to run over things with my bike so I could prove to myself that I could fix my flat tire,” she says.
Now Schiller teaches the Women and Trans Repair Class at Time’s Up. The idea behind the class — designed by and intended for women and transsexuals — is that those people are often sidelined in the macho world of bikes.
“Very often in activist circles, women and trans people try to stick together because they’re similarly marginalized,” Schiller says. “There is a certain culture among cyclists where show-off-iness and knowing all the lingo is valued, and that’s what we’re trying to steer away from.”The workshop, held every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in Williamsburg, has four classes beginning the first Thursday of the month. During the first class, mechanics like Schiller teach an intro to bikes: types of bikes, parts, safety, and repair. The following week, the class learns about cables, gears, and shifting. The third class teaches all about bearing systems and how to adjust, clean, and replace them. The fourth and final class covers wheels.
When asked how women’s and trans’ courses differ from those aimed at men, Schiller says, “Theoretically, there’s no difference. However, in practice, the women and trans classes give a whole lot more hands-on opportunities. A lot of times women or trans people have not used tools before, because it’s something that’s taken away from them.”
Bill Di Paola, the founder and director of Time’s Up!, says that after ten years of teaching these workshops, he’s found that women and trans people often feel uncomfortable with their lack of knowledge about tools. “People can come to any class,” Di Paola says, “but this is a class where people feel like if they don’t have a lot of experience they’ll be OK.”