After 35 years in the cycle trade, few people can match Mary Clark’s experience behind the counter or especially in the workshop.
Mary’s childhood was spent on her bike but her career in cycling began with a job in the workshop at Brixton Cycles. After moving to York and then to Manchester - all the time improving her mechanics and meeting other cyclists - the big turning point was when she became a freelance mechanic and National Standard Cycle Instructor.
Then she was offered the job of running the workshop ay BikeRight, and Mary was encouraged by her employer, Liz Clarke, to teach bike maintenance City and Guilds courses. She has continued this ever since and now she teaches people from all over the country how to mend bikes.
Mary said: “I have been cycling as long as I can remember. My mum and dad cycled everywhere. Most people have stories of how they put bikes together as kids – cobbled together from bits and pieces. Not me. My dad would fix, or attempt to fix my bikes, so I never had to worry about it.
“Then one day after I’d moved away from home, I got a puncture. Disaster! I went to the local bike shop, they told me how to fix it and I went home and mended my bike. I cycled six miles to my parents’ house to check if it was right. My dad laughed, ‘If you managed to get here on it you’ve probably done it correctly.’
I decided I wanted to work in a bike shop and not make people feel as useless as I felt that day
“When I first moved to London, I was reluctant to cycle but my partner at the time talked me into commuting to work. I went to a bike shop in London and bought new tyres," Mary said.
"The guy in the shop was ages on the phone and when he finally got around to me and I asked for a tyre and told him the size. ‘Front or back?’ he asked. ‘Well. they’re the same aren’t they?’ I said. ‘Yup, just testing,’ he replied.
"That was when I decided I wanted to work in a bike shop and not make people feel as useless as I felt that day.
“Now my passion is seeing my 35 years of bicycle trade experience help people to fix bikes. The rise in online trading has had a noticeable affect on independent bicycle dealers, but no matter how many YouTube videos are out there, at the end of the day the Internet can’t mend a bike!”
Mary was nominated for 100 Women in Cycling by Ursula Harries, who said: “Mary is an ace mechanic and the most patient of teachers.
“I got to know Mary when I went to one of her bike maintenance classes for women – it was inspirational! She really understands that a lot of women are coming from a place of low confidence when it comes to handling tools and fixing bikes. And her humour and patience in supporting people to learn the basics are legendary.
“For those who want to take things further she's set up a City and Guilds Bike Maintenance Course (the only one in the North West) which has been running successfully for six years now. Her teaching workshop has become almost a place of pilgrimage in this region for people who want to learn to look after bikes. It's the best organised workshop for miles around.
“She’s also a very modest person and will probably hate this nomination. Sorry Mary – it just had to be done!”
What is 100 Women in Cycling?
Cycling UK’s 100 Women in Cycling is an annual list celebrating inspirational women who are encouraging others to cycle.