One WTF Workshop

It’s the peak of the day’s heat on the last Monday of February — a time where any warmth is a gift. As sturdy wooden WTF plaque, cool blue and painted with funky handprinted letters, is propped stylishly against to our shop sign. As the soft hum of music filters through the welded artwork of our gate, all signals are in place that Women/Trans*/Femme Night has begun.

Not long after the night kicks off at 3 PM, people start to trickle into our shop, dismounting their bikes and pushing back their hoods. Sunlight filters through the welded wheels and art that comprise our gate; casting shifting patterns and tessellations across the concrete floor as the gate swings open and shut. With our regular hours closed on Mondays, this gate entrance is one component of the safety we prioritize, safety which is integral to transportation accessibility.

Modeled on similar programs throughout the country, our WTF Workshop is a supportive mechanical space for women, transgender people, and femmes of all genders, who have been traditionally excluded from bike mechanics. Created to counteract gender barriers that discourage full participation in bike mechanics, the workshop fosters community and deepens mechanical confidence among WTF-identifying individuals throughout the week. During these four hours, participants have access to all our shop services.

In the shine of mid-afternoon, the day’s first customer is seeking assistance with their disk brakes; the second, in replacing a bottom bracket. Listening to their concerns, with casual conversing, our staff sign them in.

Within these four hours, four people participate in Community Tools, where they receive personalized hands-off guidance on the repairs they need, priced on a sliding scale of $8-$16 per hour. Our WTF-identifying mechanics walk them through how to make their desired repairs, providing as much or as little assistance as they require, and access to our wide inventory of tools.

A customer signs into Work Trade, and is set to work dismantling bikes for salvaged parts. From inspecting tubes for punctures to stocking parts, Work Trade offers tasks compatible with all skill levels and accessibility needs, at $16 of shop credit per hour. Next, the Work Trader decides to sign into Community Tools to work on a new bike. On a mission to earn and build up their own bike without spending a dime, they are fast on their way to accomplishing this goal. After Tools, $60 shop credit remain on their account.

There is a certain unique, peaceful atmosphere about the WTF Workshop that is distinct from our regular shop hours. It’s a safe, companionable, personalized space, where individuals can feel comfortable and welcome, apart from the cis male dominated structure present in biking communities. Compared to our regular hours, the shop is less crowded, but the rich amiability that fills the air is never empty — with space to browse or work on bikes; do Work Trade or Community Service.

This particular evening, the playlist is the kind you feel in our chest. From Katy Perry to Nicki Minaj, from Christina Aguilera to Charlie XCX, the atmosphere is like leisurely afternoon with cherished friends. Beyoncé plays multiple times throughout the afternoon. So many people who have felt intimidated, unwelcome, and patronized in mechanics spaces, who never would have come into our shop otherwise, have expressed the confidence to go on fixing their bikes after attending the WTF Workshops. The flutter in the air goes beyond acceptance, but embodies a sense of understanding; like electricity in a wire.

On the last Monday of each month, weather permitting, we gather at 6:30 PM for a WTF group ride that commences at the workshop’s end. Typically around 10 miles, these party-paced, no-drop rides take us through the different bike paths of Tucson. With patch kits and mechanics, all paces are welcome, carrying to music, conversation, and camaraderie between us.

This Monday, the air is cold and uncertain. The sky holds a haunted quality, with the eery glow of the full moon seeping through crevices of the clouds; as if the sky is dry rot threatening to fall in and smother us. Our WTF Coordinator Lee keeps an eye on the forecast. Always on the lookout for activities for our WTF community, they research a film as an alternative in the face of impending downpour.

Like the drizzle outside, the chances of rain at 7 PM fluctuates. As the weather’s prediction swivels between 5% and 100% chances of rain, Lee posts a story to the BICAS WTF instagram with a weather report screenshot; tonight will not be a ride night.

Still, the laminated spoke cards designed for the night are whimsically delightful — the smiling cat, the bow, the heart, the letter by staff artist Jed. This night, the evening glow of the workshop has shone upon new faces and returning ones. For the rest of the workshop, staff continue to gives quality mechanical advice, honored and ecstatic to be part of this knowledge-building community.

As the clock strikes 7 PM and the workshop draws to a close, the tub of water at our fix-a-flat station drenches the already-wet ground outside. We all look eagerly forwards to the heat of the months ahead, in those temperate evenings that last season our rides averaged around 30 community members. For now, the infectious warmth of passion and spirit within our WTF cycling community continues to keep our hearts glowing throughout the rest of the night.

The WTF Workshop is held every Monday from 3 PM to 7 PM. All who self-identify as Women, Transgender people, or Femmes of all genders, are welcome.