Growing up in California, Samantha Roshanaee spent her childhood skateboarding and watching her dad fix cars. Then she started fixing things herself.
“I can’t rebuild an engine, but I can fix a bike,” says the 33-year-old service manager at Green Mountain Sports in Lakewood. “It’s a different part of the brain that works on bikes. All of the cable stuff is pretty intuitive for me.”
Roshanaee, who goes by Sam, moved around the West before landing in Denver in her 20s. She spent time in Portland, Oregon, where she discovered a bike shop that employed women.
“Finding women behind the bike stand was life-changing,” she says. “They were not seen as female mechanics, they were seen as mechanics. I’d go there about three times a week and watch people work on bikes. It was spiritual, in a way. The owner could see I wanted to do this. He was very encouraging.”
After moving to Colorado, Roshanaee was thrilled to find a bounty of independently owned bike shops in Denver, but didn’t come across any other female mechanics. As she started looking for jobs, she found the industry difficult to infiltrate. She ended up working in the repair shop at the iconic Sports Authority store, Sportscastle, on Broadway. “It was easier for me to go to a big-box store,” she says. “It was less intimidating than going into a small bike shop and seeing all of these dudes.”
When Sports Authority closed in 2016, Sam’s manager suggested she apply for a job at his buddy’s store, Green Mountain Sports (GMS). “I was very hesitant to do so, because of my own insecurities,” she says.
She applied anyway, and got the job. In the three-and-a-half years she’s been at GMS, she’s steadily earned respect for her skills, particularly from co-workers, who readily identify her as the resident expert.
“We love having her here. She’s the big cheese,” says GMS owner Corky Grimm, adding that one of Sam’s most winning qualities is her ability to think on her feet—finding clever solutions for everything from the $10,000 carbon mountain bike that needs a suspension overhaul to an extinct part for the 50-year-old beater.
When the previous service manager left this summer to take a job as an airplane mechanic, Sam was his obvious successor. “She’s smarter than the rest of us,” Grimm says. “I said, ‘Sam, since you know more than anybody else, it’s going to be you.’”
While colleagues and customers alike have come to appreciate her prowess, Sam still encounters her share of chauvinism. “I’ve almost walked out a few times,” she says. “Last week, I happened to be putting my apron on in front of a customer and he said, ‘Oh, they let you work on bikes now?’ Other times, I answer the phone and someone asks, ‘Can I talk to a mechanic?’ I say, ‘I can help you’ and there’s this long pause.”
It’s hard to know precisely how many—or few—women are working as bike mechanics in Colorado. In 2017, the Professional Bike Mechanics Association surveyed over 500 shops nationwide and found that more than 30 percent had zero non-male employees, and the service departments were likely even more male dominated.
In his 22 years as owner of Green Mountain Sports, Grimm says he’s employed 25 to 30 women, but none have possessed Sam’s technical skillset, which also extends to servicing skis and snowboards. For any customers (living in the dark ages) doubting her competency, Grimm delivers a canned line of logic: “What I tell them is, ‘She works on my bikes, and I have $12,000 and $15,000 bikes. When I can’t fix it, I go to Sam. If she’s good enough for me, she’s good enough for you.’ She can bleed brakes, tune forks … all of it. I stand behind her all the way.”
Sam says it gets tiring being the token ambassador of female bike mechanics (she’s heard of one other woman in Denver), but she finds the gig incredibly rewarding.
“It’s always rewarding to take something that doesn’t work and physically manipulate it into working,” she says. “It’s a huge thing to accomplish every day, taking 10 bikes that were not functional and are now new riding machines.”