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Nonprofit crushes stigma around working on bicycles: 'Bikes are very much for everyone'

GEM Night is at Bikes Together, a nonprofit bike shop, on the last Thursday of every month.

DENVER — In the Bikes Together shop on Osage Street in Denver, people simply learn how to work on bikes.

"I think this was my childhood bike," said Julia Friend. "I have never done this before, but I’ve used an Allen wrench before, so we’re halfway there." 

As someone who uses they/them pronouns, Friend knows they are not the typical bike mechanic, which is why they went to Gender Equality Mechanics, or GEM Night, on Thursday.

"It makes it a really nice learning environment when I’m with people who have a similar identity to me," Friend said.

GEM Night welcomes women and gender nonconforming folks to bring their bikes and learn how to work on them. Friend's volunteer instructor for the night is Molly Delandsheer, who took the class herself and felt empowered to keep learning.

"You very rarely see women or non-cis men identifying folks in bike shops," Delandsheer said.

At GEM Night, their differences become their similarities.

"I love continuing to work with people that have shared identities with me," said another volunteer instructor, Alex Hernandez.

She's helping Alex Black with his bike. Black just began identifying as nonbinary.

"Kind of crushing stigma," said Black about what this class does. "It is so important for people that just need a little bit more room to breathe."

Friend agreed and added that these spaces are becoming more important because of the national conservative narrative around people who identify as transgender.

"Especially as a gender queer person with all the anti-trans legislation, it’s really nice to have a nice space to learn and be with people who make me feel safe," Friend said.

Credit: Bikes Together
Bikes Together is a non-profit bike shop, and they're holding a fundraiser on April 23 at the Town Hall Collaborative in Denver.

Both Friend and Black use their bikes as their primary mode of transporation. 

While at GEM Night, they replaced inner tubes and brake pads, and learned how to true their wheels.

"Anyone can feel agency to have a bike and maintain it without the all of the pressures of society to be a certain way, or look a certain way, or have a certain kind of knowledge," Delandsheer said. "Bikes are very much for everyone." 

At Bikes Together, there is acceptance in the mistakes, and people are accepted as themselves.

"I see a lot of people who look like me, which is cool," Friend said. 

It's simply really. GEM is a bike night where the focus stays on the bikes.

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