Therese Kilpatrick and Celia Duncan: cycle mechanics

Things have changed and people don't bat an eye lid at two women running a bike workshop

Therese and Celia work as cycle mechanics at Bike Yard East, Hackney City Farm. They have worked in the bike industry for years in various roles, guises and bike shops, but they came at it from different angles.

Therese grew up in the US and was cycling to school from the age of 5. When she was about 18 she started fiddling around with her own bike and mates' bikes trying to fix them. There weren't really any courses available then so she got herself a book and it was a case of trial and error. Therese spent a few months trying to sort out her mum's bike and ended up having to take different parts to the bike shop to get it sorted but she persevered.

In 1989 Therese got a job with the bike shop Mosquito, a worker's co-operative that actively recruited female mechanics. The cycle industry at that time was very white male dominated and they were committed to breaking those stereotypes. Therese got some excellent training through Mosquito. However she does remember that when she first started out she would experience sexism from both male and female customers. People would come in and ask if a man could look at their bike.

Now things have changed a lot and Celia and Therese say that people don't bat an eye lid at two women running a bike workshop. Sometimes they get people calling up who don't expect to hear a woman's voice and they double check they have the right number, but generally nowadays having female mechanics is seen as an asset. 

Since the increase in cycling that really took off in 2000 there has been a fairer representation of women in the industry which has helped reduce levels of sexism and the old stereotypes are all but nearly eroded.

Celia used to ride a bike as a kid but then didn't cycle for years. Eventually, she needed a job and got one delivering bento boxes by bike, then she went on to work as a courier. After four years Celia had had enough of being outside all the time and the unsteady wage and was having a bit of a whinge in London Fields Bike Shop. They offered her a front of house position and she leapt at the chance, but was always drawn to the workshop.

Celia went cycle touring and camping around the world with another female friend going to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Canada and the States and then came back and trained as a cycle instructor. She went back to working in a bike shop where she met Therese and they came up with the idea of setting up a bike repair business.

Bike Yard East opened in October 2008 and is starting to become known amongst regular commuters. The wood cabin alongside the farm's main building is light with the sun streaming in through the skylights, and plants adding to the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. You can take your bike in and get it fixed at a reasonable price whilst having a cup of tea at the café next door. Or book it in for a full service knowing that the job will be done by two professionally qualified women who are mad about bikes.    

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