Women's Mechanic Scholarship 2017
Words by Elyse Bejasa and B Vivit
Photos by Geneva Balladares
We all know that being a woman in the cycling industry can be challenging. This isn’t news anymore.
So on our first day of class, when our instructors asked us what we were hoping to gain from the Quality Bicycle Products Women’s Mechanic Scholarship and our time at United Bicycle Institute, we all had plenty to say. The 16 of us answered differently, but there was a common theme: we wanted to use the knowledge and skills we gained to make cycling more accessible to our local communities and communities in need. We didn’t just want raises and promotions. We wanted representation. We wanted change.
And that is what makes opportunities like this scholarship so critical to the growth of the women’s cycling community. We are under-represented in the industry and particularly in bike shops. So for two weeks, we were immersed in bike mechanics, learning all the ins-and-outs of servicing bikes. And now, when you walk into one of our shops, you are more likely to see a female mechanic getting her hands dirty. This is one part of the representation the women’s cycling community so desperately needs.
This year’s application focused on how we were going to use the training to support under-represented populations in our cities and towns, including women and other diverse communities. As a class, we knew how important it is for women and especially women of color, to know that the support system they need is out there. To make it more accessible to get out there and ride. Now that we’re in your shops, it’s about time we also let everyone know; we’re organizing in your streets, in your communities, and we’re ready to get you riding.
And suffice it to say that this year’s scholarship winners are incredible. They included everyone from strong, in-your-face resistance types, to quiet non-profit women who just keep on keepin’ on, to career bike shop women who come from a time where women were thought to handle mechanical and scientific processes poorly. New-age riveters if you will. We spent our days listening to every story from a generation and a lineage that always pushed forward with a “Yes we can!” even when they were told “No you can’t.” Each day in the foothill-filled wonderland of Ashland was filled with crisp air, and you could almost feel the sparks of change fly off these women as they handled these bikes.
During our late night chats after dinner, congregated in the kitchen and living room, we would talk about all the other work we were doing in our respective cities and discuss how we could support each other in those endeavors. Sometimes it inspired new ideas to take hold for different communities. It was inspiring to hear about the great work that is being done to grow the sport we all love so much. From leading group rides in New Haven, CT to hosting and teaching mechanic workshops in Chicago, IL to teaching the juvenile dententionees in Ogden, UT; there is plenty of work being done around the nation that isn’t just about us fixing people’s bikes.
We don’t know what else to tell you about this program except that it was a blast. From waking up at 6:30AM to make a pot of coffee for the house, to walking to class every day and feeling welcomed immediately. From the lettuce yeti at the food co-op, to the Matt and Nate dances. From the daily challenge of trying to find your food in a packed fridge, to group study sessions in the kitchen. From a class mountain biking excursion (thanks to QBP!), to pies for dinner on our last night. And classmate visits to a fallen girl in the hospital. Every moment was life-changing and re-affirmed something we all know: we’re doing good work.
Thank you to Ron, Denise, and everyone at UBI for giving us this opportunity. We hope you know how incredible this experience was for each and every one of us. In the end, It isn’t just bike repair school. It is encouragement. It is empowerment. And it is reaffirmation that what we are doing and who we are as women -grease and sweat, striving for all our goals, real and whole- is needed in this world. That there are people out there that want us to succeed and want to help us succeed. Special thank you’s to our instructors, Matthew Eames and Nathan Riddle, for sharing your knowledge, and respecting our enthusiasm to learn. We know we’re your favorite class. Until next year’s batch. But they might not share their watermelon candy.
Thank you to our special instructor Sara Jarrell from SRAM who came to walk us through the processes of bleeding hydraulic brakes and servicing suspension forks. We are honored to have had the chance to talk with you about your experience and what it’s like to be a woman in the cycling industry. Thank you for everything you continue to do for the industry. It’s women like you who inadvertently created opportunities like this for our generation. And thank you for the pizza and La Croix!
Thank you to Kaitlin, Seth, and Paul from Quality Bike Products for coming to hang out with us in Ashland. Thank you for listening to our feedback about the program and working to make it better. We truly appreciate your dedication to this program and the growth of women’s cycling. And we anxiously await the photos of us looking terrified/thrilled/ecstatic while mountain biking.
We’d also like to acknowledge the other sponsors who recognize the importance of representation in the cycling industry. Your support of this program has helped make our voices stronger in our communities. On behalf of our entire class, THANK YOU to Quality Bike Parts, SRAM, Park Tool, Michelin Tires, Jagwire, Saris Racks, Kryptonite, White Lightning, Stans No Tubes, DT Swiss, Swift Wick Socks, and Dero Bike Racks.
And above all, thank you to our classmates and fellow sponsorship winners for the best two weeks ever. Show them and their shops some well-deserved love.
Vera Arias, The Miami Bike Shop, Miami, FL
Ashanti Austin, The Hub Bike Coop, Minneapolis, MN
Geneva Balladares, The Bike Shop Hawaii, HI
Elizabeth Bejan, Revolve Community Bike Shops, Kansas City, MO
Cassandra Faustini, Devil’s Gear, New Haven, CT
Danni Limonez, West Town Bikes, Chicago, IL
Sara Ramirez, Bikes Together, Denver, CO