Gal by Bike: Dispatch from a bike maintenance class

Tori Bortman holding court inside Western Bikeworks.(Photos: Gabriel Amadeus)
Tori Bortman holding court inside Western Bikeworks.
(Photos: Gabriel Amadeus)

This is the latest from our Gal By Bike columnist Kate Johnson (formerly Kate Laudermilk). See past articles here.

A few weeks ago, five determined gals, including myself, joined together at Western Bikeworks in northwest Portland to learn a thing or two about our beloved steeds. The general consensus between us was that we were all tired of needing someone else to do bike repairs for us.

We wanted to empower ourselves — and Tori Bortman was going to show us how.

Bortman is the frank, to the point, direct, and yet entirely approachable owner of Gracie’s Wrench, a business that helps people “get intimate” with their bicycle. She’s a real no nonsense gal. “If I can do this, anyone can. I am not mechanically inclined,” she assured us. I wasn’t at all surprised to find that she grew up in the Chicagoland area just like myself. We’re a unique and hearty bunch with can-do attitudes. The idea that becoming a master mechanic is within reach for anyone was very prominent in her workshop. Making mistakes was encouraged and celebrated and the needs of the those attending far outweighed any prior written syllabus.  

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Optimize your Ride: Fighting brake dust (and that horrible screech)

Make a clean sweep of grime.
(Photos: Daniel Sharp)

When you break it down, your bicycle only needs to do two things: Go and stop.

In our last column we discussed the go (chains), today we’ll delve into the stop (brakes).

The Pacific Northwest is known for many things, but one of the most insidious is the slow, grinding away of bike rims and brake pads. I’m no scientist; but my deduction? Our volcanic soils create tiny pumice particulate, which on rainy days get splattered all over your rims and brake pads turning them into tiny grinding stones.

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Back-to-school at Gracie’s Wrench

Tori and a student.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

When it comes to bike repair and maintenance, I’m one of those people who knows just enough to mess things up. So last night, one other student and I joined Tori Bortman in the basement of her home in north Portland to learn the secrets of bike repair from a pro.

By day, Tori works at the downtown Bike Gallery. But by night, she becomes CEO of Gracie’s Wrench, the bike maintenance school she started just over a year ago.

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Local mechanic offers private lessons

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
[Tori Bortman]

Here’s something I could really use…Tori Bortman has started a mechanic school in her basement. An experienced mechanic (most recently at North Portland Bikeworks) and teacher, Tori is offering both structured courses and one-on-one tutoring. According to Tori:

“…there seems to be a need for folks who are looking to learn how to care for their bike but may be intimidated or lacking the time to go to one of the local shops. This is an opportunity to offer people a personal setting to learn mechanics where they can get the most attention and learn at their own pace.”

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