Interview by B Vivit
Introduction pulled from the USA Cycling website; compiled by B Vivit
Sereda grew up BMX racing, running cross-country and track, and playing basketball. She enlisted in the Army in 1987 and retired in 2011 after 24 years of service. She was an avid runner and began road cycling while serving in the Army.
Monica sustained injuries to her neck, back, and a traumatic brain injury as the result of numerous deployments and an automobile accident.
In 2015, Monica completed two 450+ mile Ride 2 Recovery challenges, the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride, the Independence Fund Lt Dan Ride, and the World Team Sports Face of America ride all on her recumbent trike. In 2016, she progressed to her UCI trike. That same year, she also attended the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Development Camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Daughter of Margot Sereda...Has one brother, Eric, and one sister, Chris...Hobbies include playing with her service dog, Biscuit, relaxing on the beach and working on her bikes in her garage.
BV: You have done quite a few things in your life. You started road cycling while in the Army. What sparked your interest, how did you get into it?
MS: I have had 6 knee surgeries on my left knee and it seemed to be my best option at low impact cardio. Plus, its an alternate Army Physical Training (PT) Test.
BV: BMX Racing, to road riding, to Paracycling Road World Championships; what fuels your desire to keep riding? What ride or kind of ride do you enjoy the most?
MS: I am very active and to sit around, not being able to run anymore (balance issues), I needed an outlet. Riding, anyone; any age & any disability can ride. It was a way of reconnecting with my peers, and fellow vets (Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) Soldier Ride, Project Hero Challenges, etc.). So, I started riding to feel free; reminded me of being a kid, wind in the hair, so to speak freedom. Now, it is my job, so I am kept to a strict regime and training schedule, set by my coach, Rick Babington. He is an amazing Paracycling coach, mentor, and friend. He helps push me with various types of training, anywhere from spin classes, gym workouts, to even mental training, with motivation books and chatting with sport shrinks.
My favorite type of ride is the Time Trial, its just me against the clock. I know what I have to do, no one around to worry about crashes, etc. I just punch out the starting gate, get into tuck position and focus on the upcoming turns, and time splits. I know where I need to push harder, i.e. against the wind, and when to back it down. We pregame the course, prior to warming up, usually the night before and then again in the AM.
BV: What led you to racing again?
MS: I was riding a recumbent bike and wanted to race, but its not allowed in paracycling. Only Warrior games and Invictus. So, I reached out the US Paralympic Cycling National Team Manager Manager, Erin Popovich, and she helped me with the rules, various categories, and how to get started, i.e. classification process. We spoke about my disabilities and she suggested I contact the "Father of Trike Cycling", Steve Peace. Steve, was the first US Trike cyclist and knows the ins and outs of getting an adaptive axle, to train and compete. I contacted him in 2015 and he sent me an axle to try out and practice on. I now race for his team, Peace Cycling Performance. It's mostly made up of trikers, to include 2016 RIO silver medalists, Jill Walsh and Ryan Boyle.
BV: What was your mechanical/fabrication experience with bicycles prior to attending UBI? What was your goal going into the classes?
MS: I had no fabrication experience prior to coming to UBI. I understand the bike, as I had tooled around with my BMX bike back in the day, and tinkered a bit on my road bike.
My goal was to build a frame, I could ride, with my axle, whether it was for training or racing. As far as the mechanic classes, I was tired of paying someone to work on my bike. It was an awesome experience and I feel very comfortable, when I am in the field, and can fix my bike. I enjoy the knowledge of the how it works, and why aspect. Makes it easier to explain any issues to the team mechanic, when we are traveling or at a camp, so they can fix or adjust.
Now, I am lucky to have a wonderful LBS, St Pete Bike and Fitness, whom has Para trained master mechanic, Ted Lee. Ted is a genius and helps me adapt my bike, for various issues, whether it be installing the steering stabilizer or coming up with a split rear brake design, that I can switch my time trial to road race bars on the fly.
BV: What frames did you design and build while at UBI? And which one was your favorite? Which one gave you the most trouble?
MS: I took all 3 frame building classes at UBI. I had never even touched a blow torch or welder before, s I was a bit nervous going in. I thought the instruction was fabulous and the guest instructors were really interesting. They were able to explain their knowledge and how they got started and where they are today. Rich Bernoulli, by far is a master of tricks. He is able to weld upside down! He made class interesting and kept it light. He was able to point out problems I had, i.e. too hot torch, and teach me how to control it. My favorite class, was the Titanium frame. I took em all fairly close together, so I had a good handle on the torch and angles, etc. I think the steel TIG class, gave me the most trouble. I hadn't ever welded, so I kept blowing holes in practice, as well as the frame. I learned pretty quickly what NOT to do.
BV: Which process did you like the most? Why?
MS: As far as process, I enjoyed buildiing the Ti [titanium] frame. It was a harder metal, but the burn was a softer look and feel. I know it seems odd, but the way it felt under the torch, because of the brightness, made it feel so much easier to manipulate. The domino dime effect it has, made it seem easier than the TIG [steel].
BV: After looking back on the classes; what do you feel impacted you the most about them? Did you use the knowledge after the fact for any projects?
MS: The mechanics classes, I learned a lot, the how to's and what NOT to do. The Portland team, I spent 3 weeks with, and I was able to ask questions & pick their brains on various issues, I was having on my race bike. When I came down to Ashland, I was in the wheel building and fork classes. I know knew all the variables that went into wheel building, i.e. the size of each spoke, wheel dishing, etc.
The frame classes, I am able to point out problems and variables, I need in racing, as well as explain to my friends, the differences in road frames, to fit their needs. What to look for and why. I would like to pursue building, after my race career. I enjoy being in the industry and helping others.
BV: Do you have any general advice for other veterans, other woman, and/or other paracyclists either looking to get into fabrication or curious about racing?
MS: For all the veterans out there, these classes are funded by the VA, so utilize it as stepping stone to learning your way around the bike and torch! As for women, I would say, Go for it! The only female head mechanic on the Pro Race circuit, wrenches for Team Colavita, Andrea Smith. And she lives in Portland! She is a BadA$$ and was recently featured in Bicycling magazine, earlier this year. So yes, women can wrench, Andrea proved that!!
As far as racing, the US Paralympic Cycling page has all the answers, for everything you need, i.e. classification forms, various disabilities that qualify, and race schedule. If you cant find what you are looking for, you can always contact Erin, and she will guide you.