Teaching Bikes

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Here is the story of one teacher's experience teaching Basic Bicycle Maintencence with EXCO.

Bicycle classes were among the very first classes offered through EXCO and they have also been among the most popular classes offered through EXCO. Jason Tanzman, bike mechanic and organizer at Sibley Bike Depot, talked about his experience teaching EXCO classes.

The basic bike maintenance class is held at Sibley Bike Depot, a non-profit bike cooperative that has a free workshop and sells used bikes that are fixed up in the shop. Since the bike classes began, Sibley has added a wheel-building class and Jason hopes to also hold an intermediate bike maintenance class in the future. The class is not only an opportunity for people to learn about bikes, it also is a way for people to learn about Sibley Bike Depot and get involved in the bike community there.

Jason said that one of the biggest challenges of teaching is figuring out how to meet people at all different levels. Some people come to the class having never tinkered with bikes before; some people have worked on their bikes but come to learn the explanations for how things work; finally, there are the intellectuals, the people that know how things work but haven’t applied that knowledge to how their bikes work.

Jason expressed a particular interest in increasing the number of women who volunteer and come in to work on bikes at Sibley but it is not always easy to create a welcoming environment, even in the classes. Although the classes tend to have women in the majority, men come in having had more opportunities to tinker with bikes and use tools. Jason hopes to get more women volunteers to help with the teaching so that women feel comfortable in classes and at Sibley in general.

Another challenge for the bike maintenance class has been figuring out how to get the right size for a successful class. Although getting enough people to register has not been difficult, he still has the experience that the number of participants dwindles over the course of the class. He switched from having eight-week classes to four-week classes in order to shorten the time commitment people commit to.

To find out more about Sibley Bike Depot, visit their website at http://www.sibleybikedepot.org/ or sign up for one of their bike maintenance classes!