#mechanicmonday honors Cali Jirsa
For this week’s Mechanic Monday feature, we are keeping it local – nationally, at least! – and featuring Cali Jirsa of Minneapolis, Minnesota!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with PBMA’s Mechanic Monday series, this is where we feature one mechanic each week who is chosen randomly from the pool of nominations that we receive. Mechanic Monday is all about mechanics supporting fellow mechanics, and we are proud to partner with Abbey Bike Tools, Cycling Industry News, and People for Bikes to share these great features with you.
Cali Jirsa was one of the first nominations we received for this year, but being the proud owner of the only solo woman-owned bike shop in Minneapolis keeps her so busy that we’ve only just had time to catch up with her. So without further ado, we are proud to share some of Cali’s story with you here in her own words!
PBMA: How did you become involved in cycling and/or cycling mechanics?
CJ: A bus strike pushed me from pedestrian to bike commuter as I opted to take close calls with cars over the too close for comfort catcalls when walking. I had a strong desire to make a positive change in the world while still maintaining my sanity. Going into politics felt like the black holes that kept appearing in my tires; I needed something concrete. I learned how to fix my own bike and started volunteering at a community bicycle shop in my neighborhood that provided free repair education to low-income, homeless, and immigrant populations. I uncovered the stories with the duct tape and held them with respect like once lacking seat post bolts. In time I worked for other shops, and started my own in 2011. I’m now the owner of the only solo woman owned bike shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
PBMA: Do you have a favorite moment or story from your time in the cycling industry?
CJ: At United Bicycle Institute I experienced a moment of collective uproar. A class of 16 non-binary, transgender, and female mechanics, ranging from sweet to sassy, raised a ruckus that could have cracked carbon. We were as riveted to our chairs as the material, and meticulously sweated over our Sutherland’s Manuals striving to memorize specifics that we needed as mechanics. Come to find out, the standardized tire sizing actually equated to a vast range of values to the vexation of mechanics, salespeople, and customers. Many of us used to being known as “the only” in our respective shops and unwilling to make our lack of education known were able to revel in the catharsis of this group outrage. We basked in what had been previously silent. No gavel in sight, or galvanized spokes for that matter, and in time, we regained composure. Thanks to UBI, QBP, Park Tool, Michelin, Powertap, and Surly we were given a chance to allow our confidence from our newly honed skills stand-in when sexism would stand-out.
PBMA: What motivation or advice would you give to aspiring bicycle mechanics?
CJ: Get and stay educated. Learn to grow with the changing nature of the industry. Something new will always come out of nowhere—the latest attempt to reduce costs with technological downgrades or the ever innovative, rarely convenient fix to a home or roadside repair. Make connections and build your skills. I can’t say enough good things about education such as United Bicycle Institute or the PBMA Workshops. Work to meet customers where they are without judgement. You never know when someone will say “I love you for this,” newly purchased valve core tightener in hand.
PBMA: What is your favorite tool?
CJ: At the PBMA workshops, Brett Fleming gave each participant an Efficient Velo Tools Multi-finger Nipple Loading Tool. It is a handy tool – pun intended – that allows you to get a grip on spoke nipples in deep rims when lacing a wheel. Brett brings years of experience in repairing bikes, managing shops, and making tools to every speaking opportunity to educate mechanics to treat people and their bikes with respect. I appreciate both gifts.
That’s all for this week! Thank you for following along with our series and sharing our support for our fellow mechanics. We’ll be back next week with a new feature. In the meantime, click here to learn more about our 2018 Mechanic Monday series, and here to learn more about how to nominate your favorite mechanic!
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