Iowa City Bike Library renews ‘Witches Take Flight’ night

‘Women, Trans, and Femme’ night at the Iowa City Bike Library aims to teach women and other marginalized groups the mechanics behind their bikes — a skill set that is often advertised to men.


Lilly Stence

Audrey Wiedemeier works on a bike at the Iowa City Bike Library on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. The Iowa City Bike Library hosted a night where non-binary, women, trans or femme were able to come in and work on their bikes and ask questions.

Ariana Lessard, Arts Reporter

The Iowa City Bike Library overflows with bicycles like an infestation, growing off the ground and dangling from the walls. Walk inside, and you’ll likely see two women crouching in the back, coated in bike grease. On “WTF” night, you’ll find a dozen individuals hard at work on different projects to trick out their bikes.

The annual “WTF” night, or Women, Trans, and Femme night at the Iowa City Bike Library began six years ago. The Halloween-themed Witches Take Flight edition of “WTF” began in 2019, and the fourth annual Witches Take Flight night will take place on Oct. 29.

Usually, Women, Trans, and Femme night is an open house bike workshop. However, “Witches Take Flight” night is a bike ride close to ten miles and two hours, circling Iowa City.

“The bike shop industry and culture are predominantly male-dominated,” Audrey Wiedemeir, executive director of the Bike Library, said. “So, in a lot of what we do here, we’re always trying to bring in other people who might want to participate in the mechanics.”

Wiedemeir’s goal is to teach women and other marginalized groups the skills to fix their own bikes. While there, Wiedemeir helped me repair my own bike and walked me through what she called its “skeleton.”

“It feels good to do things for yourself, and people take a lot of ownership in their piece of transportation that they ride every day when they are able to work on it and get a better idea of how it functions,” Wiedemeir said. “Knowing how it functions translates to being a better roadway user and cyclists on the road.”

Wiedemeir began her own “mechanical journey” 10 years ago. Before becoming a bike mechanic, she was a student at the University of Iowa studying international affairs and global health. Wiedemeir confessed that when she hosted her first “WTF” night and 12 people attended, she was nervous.

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“But the night went so swimmingly well because everybody just happened to like partner up together and help each other troubleshoot and problem solve,” Wiedmeir explained. “It was really thrilling to be around that many women in a shop atmosphere all wrenching on bikes, and it went really really well.”

Naya Vang is a UI sophomore majoring in art. They’d never worked with bikes before, but had heard about the program from their mother, a friend of Wiedemeir.

“I mean, it’s pretty cool,” Vang said. “I only learned about this the other month, and it was just like ‘how amazing is this?’ The people here are just amazing, and the community. I’m happy to get into it.”

Annette Vernon, another “WTF” attendee, found out about the event from her husband who suggested she attend “Woman, Trans, and Femme” night to fix her bike last year. Vernon was intrigued because she’d never tried out mechanics before.

Now, Vernon considers Wiedemeir her best friend and volunteers at the Bike Library at least once a week. The duo said that meeting people is their favorite part of any “Woman, Trans, or Femme,” night, and the primary goal of the “Witches Take Flight” night.

“It’s just a great way to meet people,” Vernon said. “It’s super fun, low stress. You don’t have to be able to bike very fast or whatever. We just like dress up like witches or whatever you want and ride around town. That’s super fun.”