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: Working on the chain, gang

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Publisher’s note: This article was written by Tori Bortman. In the coming weeks, Tori will help you Optimize Your Ride by sharing her bike repair tips, tricks and perspectives.

Lube it up, wipe it down.
(Photos by Daniel Sharp)

Today’s topic: the chain.

The chain is one of the easiest parts to maintain on your bike; but for some reason, it’s also the most neglected. Maybe some of you are intimidated by chain-tenance? Don’t be. Here’s all you need to know…

Choose a good lube. Look for one that’s not too thick or thin, preferably with a solvent mixed in. My favorite is A.T.B. Lube (which stands for Absolutely The Best). I’m a fan because I want maintenance on my bike to take as little time as possible. Go ahead. Call me lazy (I prefer “efficient”).

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Guest Article: Get your bike ready for spring

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

This guest article was written by Tori Bortman, owner and operator of Gracie’s Wrench, which offers private and group bike maintenance clinics (and more). Tori wrote a similar article for us last spring, but this one’s new and improved!

Spring scenes on the waterfront-7

Spring is coming!
(Photos © J. Maus)

Thanks to El Nino, spring has officially sprung a bit early this year. Not that I’m complaining. More long weekend rides, less getting caught in torrential downpours — I’m all for it.

You may be ready for spring… but is your bike?

If you haven’t taken the time this winter to give your bicycle a thorough re-vamp, now is the time. That doesn’t mean you have to go running to the shop. Start slow and bring your steed back to life with some simple steps that will make your next ride practically dreamy.

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Guest article: Spring cleaning tips from a pro wrench

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Tori Bortman
(Photos © J. Maus)

Editor’s Note: This article was written by guest author Tori Bortman. Tori is very active in the local bike scene. She’s a co-host of the KBOO Bike Show, a promoter of bike polo and women-only alleycats, and she’s the proprietor of her own bike mechanic training business, Gracie’s Wrench (which we reported about two years ago and was featured in The Oregonian this past Sunday).

Today she shares a few tips about how to coax your battered bike (and psyche) out of the winter doldrums and into the sunshine ahead!

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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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