BV: What is your name? Where are you from? What pronouns do you prefer?
ML: Hi, my name is Monique Laraway and my preferred pronouns are she/they. I grew up in Arizona and have lived in Tucson for about 10years.
BV: When did you attend the United Bicycle Institute during the QBP Scholarship (year and month)? And how many years did you apply before receiving the scholarship? My ML: UBI class was held in Jan/Feb 2018. I applied at least 2 or 3 times before receiving the scholarship. Honestly, at that point I didn’t think I ever would receive it but “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” What I did do differently was, ask 2 close friend to look over my application responses and give honest advice. Granted, they are both amazing writers but also better at highlighting my strong points in ways that I would otherwise very robotically answer. My friends are definitely better at hyping me up that I am!
BV: What impacted you most about your experience with your classmates?
ML: Our group really bonded and lived well together despite our very different backgrounds. This shared passion for bike mechanics and bikes in general was a good linking factor but I think the bonding factor was to cohabitate, ride, share meals and form little study groups. Everyone there had an inspiring story/aspirations and now I have these talented friends living across the country. We still stay in touch.
BV: What is the most helpful tip or trick that you learned during your time at UBI?
ML: One of the most helpful tips I gained at UBI was that no one can know/memorize everything, especially with how much the industry is constantly evolving. And that it is ok to reach out to professionals and ask questions. What a relief. I was previously so insecure about not feeling like I would ever know enough to be considered a professional mechanic, but we should all be constantly learning and expanding our skills. Keep a tidy workbench and good notes! As long as you have good reference materials, you can do accomplish most projects.
BV: What job did you have prior to the scholarship class, and did you change jobs, job titles, or responsibilities after the scholarship?
ML: At that point, I had already transitioned to my new job at Transit Cycles about a year prior, after my previous position of 8 years at a nonprofit. I’m now 3 years into wrenching at Transit Cycles and have taken on more responsibilities as well as becoming service manager.
BV: Or Did your goals change because of this experience? How did the scholarship help reset your new goals, or achieve the goals you already had in place?
ML: Honestly, I would love to stay in a place like UBI to expand my skills and knowledge. There’s something so refreshing about learning different teaching methods, skills and all from the comforts of an amazing educational workspace. Since then, I’ve attended several educational workshops such as the Professional Bike Mechanic Association Technical workshops sponsored by CABDA led by industry leaders; attended a Fox suspension clinic which was too advanced for me; and led small maintenance workshops at the WTF Bikexplorer Summit and local events.
BV: What is one piece of advice you could give to the hopeful folks hoping to apply for this year’s scholarship?
ML: Keep applying! It’s the best gift I could have ever received and I’m forever grateful for the experience.
BV: You’ve been featured a bit in the news since then for some of your bikepacking experience. To those who are curious, what advice would you give to begin bikepacking?What is a must-have item for you in your bikepacking arsenal?
ML: Get out and explore your backyard (city, state, etc) with the bike you have now, rather than spending a bunch on gear for a huge trip right away, unless you can afford to do that then go for it! Chances are you have a bike that you can strap bags to and go. My first overnight trip was before I knew what bikecamping was and I just had a huge bulky sleeping bag and backpack from the thrift store and camped in the woods near my apartment in Flagstaff, AZ. There’s so many tutorials online for crafting your own gear and great gear reviews to really get a feel for what is out there. My go-tos now that would have been helpful from the get-go are collapsable water dramaderies like the 2liter Platypus bags and silicone Voile straps (I’m not sponsored), and babywipes although those need to be packed out. Leave no trace principles are super important to follow and bring extra snacks and water! Plus wool for that dirtbag odor reduction.
BV: Any route in particular that you’ve been dreaming about or have done that felt like a dream?
ML: Close to home, we have amazing rides perfect for the cooler desert seasons such as the Sky Island Odyssey East Loop that is both challenging and beautiful terrain. It would be fun to do the Great Divide and visit all the cool bike shops and pro-bike businesses along the way. I just want to go everywhere especially places with easy potable water access because it’s so scarce out here in the Sonoran desert.
BV: Any last thoughts you have?
ML: As a shop mechanic, I’ve noticed a tendency in myself and others to get burnt out by the daily routine such as wrenching and sales. We have the amazing opportunity to partner with trail builders, ride organizers, shops, lead workshops and just be awesome advocates in our community, especially for the Femme/Trans*/Womxn community! Do your best, be gentle with your body (wrenching can be physically strenuous), make mistakes and own them, support others doing good in the community and get out there and ride! Always remember what got you stoked about wrenching in the first place and you’re going to do awesome things!