Winnipeg’s motorcycle scene aims for inclusivity

By: Katlyn Streilein

A local motorcycle garage and hangout is working to diversify the typically male-dominated field.

Moto 49’s Womxn’s Tech Nights are creating a space for women, queer, trans, and non-binary riders to talk shop and hone their mechanical skills.

Megan McKay leads the monthly meetups. She hopped on her first dirt bike at 10 years old. Now at age 40, she draws on decades of mechanic skills to guide attendees through hands-on bike repairs.

Megan McKay has been leading the Womxn’s Tech Nights for over a year. Many riders will tune-up their bikes throughout the winter to get ready for next season./KATLYN STREILEIN

“Motorcycling is definitely a very male-dominated activity,” said McKay.

She said it’s important to have female spaces in the motorcycle community because it gives womxn the opportunity to get in touch with the mechanics of their bike. 

Ande Brown, 47, is a familiar face at the tech nights.

Even though Brown is an experienced rider, she said she used to be afraid to work on her own bike. One wrong move could void the warranty or necessitate costly repairs.

“After a couple of times going to the tech nights I thought, ‘Man, this isn’t as intimidating as I thought it was,’” said Brown. “The great thing about Megan is she’s so patient. She’s probably one of the most patient people I’ve ever met in my life.”

Nowadays Brown rides a Honda CB500X—an adventure-style bike she said allows her to explore places not meant for shiny chrome Harley’s.

“The great thing at Moto 49 is because it is a do-it-yourself garage,” said Brown. 

“There’s lots of combinations—you can work on it with somebody else, you can work on it yourself, or you can ask people there for advice.”

Brown said going to a garage can be intimidating for a lot of women.

Moto 49 co-owner Robyn Dyck is new to motorcycle mechanics herself
and is using the Womxn’s Tech Nights as an opportunity to learn more./ KATLYN STREILEIN

Robyn Dyck and Louis Rondeau launched Moto 49 in the Mission Industrial neighbourhood just over one year ago. The tech nights began shortly after.

“I think Louis and Robyn really have something special going there, because they are so inclusive,” said Brown.

Dyck and McKay, who met at a motorcycle social, said the demand for tech nights became clear based on conversations with fellow riders.

“I think it’s been awesome,” said Dyck. “Women are always very studious and dedicated.”

McKay changes a spark plug—one of the many repairs she teaches at Womxn’s Tech Nights.
The lessons range from basic fixes to more advanced tutorials.

 RRC’s Automotive Technician Program Coordinator, Dustin Blackwell said during his eight years with the department, he sees on average one or two women per class of 18 students.

“Women can be highly successful in the trade. I’ve had a few of the female students get a job in the industry, come back and are working their way up to becoming a journeyman technician,” said 36-year-old Blackwell.

McKay said she’s seen an uptick in the number of women riders during the past two years.

Women looking to enroll in non-traditional trade programs at RRC are eligible for a variety of bursaries. The deadline to apply for fall start program bursaries is October 15.