Before SLUG copy editing meetings swallowed up my Wednesday nights, I was a dedicated attendee of the Salt Lake Bicycle Collective’s Women’s Open Shop Nights. I even have a collection of digital posters I made—with very rudimentary Photoshop skills—to advertise the bi-monthly event. The Collective has always been a welcoming place—it’s where I got my (already 90-percent assembled) little green Kilo up and running, and she hasn’t needed much maintenance since—but walking into a room full of guys rubbing greasy elbows and talking shop can be intimidating. So, I was thrilled when I heard that the Collective had decided to make Women’s Night a weekly event and hired Meara McClenahan to head it.
Meara and I were actually roomies at one point, and she took me on my first (and last) mountain bike ride. She’s the most experienced lady mechanic I know—she’s friendly and patient, and my quick interview with her revealed what I already knew: She fits this job like greased handlebars into that post thing on the front … Obviously I’m in need of some Women’s Night.
BG: Tell me about Women’s Night, and what your role is going to be.
Meara: It’s like the do-it-yourself night on Tuesday and Thursday, but it’s Wednesday and women only, and that’s all it really is … My role is to follow the mission of the Collective. I’m taking cues from what Luke [MacFarlane] does in the open shop to see what to do, too. Currently, I’m asking everyone who shows up what they want to get out of it and hopefully, out of that, I can see what direction I want things to go in and try to find a balance. Every week I’m going to do a demo—some skill that I know how to do that I can show people how to do in 5–15 minutes. Davey [Davis] made me a Facebook admin so I can go on there ahead of time and say, “This is gonna be my demo this week.” It gives something for me to put out there, to be an invite for people to come out.
BG: What makes you qualified to head Women’s Night?
Meara: I’ve been working at bike shops for about seven years: a month at Guthrie, a year at Contender, three years at Wild Rose and one summer at Saturday Cycles … I have a lot of skills and knowledge … I find out what I know just from being around bikes and people talking about bikes and listening to other mechanics whine about their problems and different parts and what they do. I like teaching. I like showing other people what I know. My dad was a really cool dad in the way that he showed me things, and I like doing that also. I think it’s a good fit, because I don’t know the answer to every bike mechanic problem, but I have enough basic knowledge to know where to look for it, and I think that can make me a pretty good helper as far as helping other people with projects they might want to do.
BG: Why is Women’s Night important?
Meara: That’s another thing I’d like to ask the other women—why it’s important to them. I wanna keep an open mind about it … [Joining women’s groups] hasn’t been an experience that I’ve really sought out in my life, but I think everyone’s had the experience where you’re trying to do something by yourself, but you can’t do it by yourself, you need help, and when you ask for help, someone takes it out of your hands and does it for you. When I’ve worked in a bike shop, there will be a problem with a bike and someone will be like, “I can’t figure this out,” and everyone will crowd around and start jockeying for who’s going to figure it out first—I always stayed out of that fray. I always felt like it was hard to talk if I was the only woman at a shop. I think they could tell I wanted to do it by myself, but I couldn’t find that easy point where I could get the help I wanted, but not the help I didn’t want.
BG: What’s your goal for Women’s Night?
Meara: I’d like people to come and enjoy it, and get what they want out of it—where it goes will be determined by the women that come. Another goal would be to have it be a more comfortable, welcoming place on all do-it-yourself nights, which I think makes more sense. Both women and men have a responsibility to make that happen.
Ladies, join Meara at the Collective’s Women’s Night every Wednesday from 5:30–9 p.m. and find them on Facebook for updates. Ladies AND gents, don’t miss the Collective’s Valentine’s Dance Party on Feb. 14 for a screening of Lifecycles and some socializing: 1135 S. West Temple at 10 p.m. Who knows—you might meet your next tandem partner!