On being a bike mechanic... from one of the few women in the field


by Andrea Doray

What do you do after a long-term injury while you are working it out? If you are Marty Caivano, you follow up on another long-time interest and become one of the few female bike mechanics in the sport.
“I’ve always hung around other mechanics and watched what they were doing,” says Caivano.
“There’s such a huge body of knowledge and I’ve always been fascinated with the actual mechanics of a bike.”
Caivano, who is from Boulder, Colo., attended the United Bicycle Institute (UBI) in Portland, Ore., at the urging of a friend.
“UBI is a great place to study,” says Caivano. “It’s a combination of the theoretical with hands-on work. We learned the ‘why’ behind bicycle mechanics, such as ‘Don’t over-tighten bolts…and here’s why.’ ”
Caivano says she was one of only two women to attend the UBI sessions, out of 18 total participants (about 11%), a pattern she has found to be true across the field. In fact, says USA Cycling, the percentage of women members to men is only 13%.
After serving with Mavic neutral service as a volunteer for USA Cycling, Caivano was encouraged to participate in USA Cycling’s Bill Woodul Race Mechanics Clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo. The only other female mechanic in that course—who scored the highest on the final exam—was from a high school cycling racing league in Wyoming.
“The most rewarding part of learning about the mechanics of bikes and bicycling is being able to take the sport beyond riding,” says Caivano. “It’s like unlocking the mystery of your bike.”
After attending UBI and then the USA Cycling Bill Woodul Race Mechanics Clinic in 2011, Caivano says she began working on bikes right away and now finds that, with every bike she touches, she comes across something she has not experienced before. “I let all my friends know I had received my certificate,” says Caivano, “which helped me tap into a lot of bikes to work on.”
Not that Caivano is a newcomer to the sport of cycling. She’s raced cross-country and Super D, and coached mountain biking skills, and currently, she says, she is “still in the process of recovery” from a cycling injury.
Caivano is a also a full-time staff member with the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) at its United States headquarters in Boulder, where she is the Field Programs Coordinator for the Trail Care Crew and the National Mountain Bike Patrol (NMBP).
At her bike repair business in Boulder, Caivano says she “works on all types of bikes,” including mountain bikes, road cycles, and cyclo-cross bikes. “I work on some really nice bikes,” says Caivano. “Some people know exactly what they want, and some people just want to drop off their bikes and pick them up when I’m done!”
Caivano has never been daunted by the prospect of being one of only a few female mechanics in field largely populated by men, although she says she does sometimes get a “mixed reception” from her colleagues. On the other hand, while working at events, she can attract a crowd and—while wrenching a Mountain Bike World Cup—a participant told her: “It’s fun to watch you work.”
“I don’t pay attention to being the only woman,” says Caivano. “I just want to learn.” As a former newspaper photographer, Caivano says she is used to pushing her way in. “I’ve never had the intimidation factor, never let being a woman in this profession get in the way,” says Caivano.
“The only intimidating part is the huge amount of knowledge…there’s so much to learn.”
Caivano credits much of her success to good mentors, and feels that all women in the sport of cycling can benefit from mentors who help make racing more accessible for women. At the IMBA World Summit in Santa Fe, N.M., this month, Caivano plans to be involved in programs to introduce more women to mountain biking.
“There’s a place for all women in the sport of cycling,” says Caivano, “and women make great mechanics. If you care deeply, and want to give your heart and soul to your work, you can be successful.”
Caivano is grateful for her opportunities for attend UBI and the Bill Woodul Clinic, although she says following the “bike shop path” can also work for other women who want to become bicycle mechanics. “The important thing,” says Caivano, “is to find support for whatever path you take.”
About the author: Andrea Doray is a writing rider/riding writer for USA Cycling from the Denver area who thinks a cell phone is her own best mechanics tool. Contact her at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

This Article Updated October 18, 2012 @ 04:07 PM For more information contact: