Interview by B Vivit

I first met Kaitlin Johnson through one of the most life-changing emails a person could ever receive. An email that most women working in shops across the industry sit, crossing their fingers waiting for, between September when the application opens until December when the winners are notified. And an email that can change 16 (and this year 32) lives for the better, while reaffirming that all folx are welcome in this industry, after hearing "No," for so many years.  
"Happy Wednesday B, I am delighted to inform you, on behalf of QBP and our partner sponsors, that we have selected you as a recipient of our Women’s Bike Mechanic Scholarship to United Bicycle Institute!" At the time, Kaitlin (nor myself) knew that I'd eventually be supporting the scholarship from the other side, but I'm happy to say that working with Kaitlin; the stoke is high. A genuinely beautiful person, Kaitlin herself embodies much of what the scholarship is about, and we caught up to her to ask a few more questions about how she got started in the industry and what the scholarship means to her...

BV: Tell us a little about your history with the bike industry and how you got started?

KJ: I have been a cyclist as long as I can remember. Both my parents love to ride, and got my sister and I involved at very young ages through bike rides while camping, and jaunts around the twin cities metro. I started riding more seriously (consistently) in high school, and have been in deep ever since. I have always loved the sustainability of a bicycle, being able to diagnose and repair troubles, and not needing to waste energy or material to make it work. This is why I still ride 3*9 drivetrains or singlespeed, and ride steel frames, I want my bikes to last as long as they can! I became involved on a professional level a in 2014. After coming back to the US after traveling, I found a mechanic gig at a shop in the cities, and LOVED it. I have always enjoyed fixing things and working with my hands. Wrenching was a great combination of that with something else I loved (bikes!). I was a mechanic at that shop for ~2 years, and started exploring what other options were available. A good friend brought a position at QBP to my attention, as a bilingual CS agent, here at Q-Central. I applied and started at QBP in 2016 in that role.

BV: What is/will be your involvement with the QBP Women's Scholarship?

KJ: I am the current Program Director of the Women’s Bicycle Mechanic Scholarship, and hope to stay involved for a long while to come. I joined the team two years ago to assist with some background organizational items, and was overjoyed when the opportunity came to become the lead.

Kaitlin shredding the Lizard trail with the folx from the 2018 January class Scholarship.

BV: Can you tell us a little about the struggles of creating the scholarship/maintaining its course?

KJ: I can’t speak to much of the creation, as this program was started before my time at QBP, but it started small (only 2 awarded the first year), and through the interest and support of our partners, has been able to grow into what it is today. One of the main struggles for any kind of endeavor such as this, is sponsorship. Making sure we have enough funds to make things as great as we dream is a constant conversation. Businesses are, of course, always careful about where their revenue is invested, but thankfully we are part of an industry awakening to the need for change and greater inclusion. We are incredibly thankful to our partners who know they want to be part of that change, and understand it takes time and money to make it happen. In some ways, we are still having the conversation about WHY this scholarship exists, and why we need to reach out to marginalized communities within our sport. That is part of a much larger conversation that our entire industry is having, and I’m sure will continue for a great many years.

"...we are still having the conversation about WHY
this scholarship exists, and why we need to reach out to
marginalized communities within our sport. That is part
of a much larger conversation that our entire industry is having..."

BV: Tell us about some of the most fulfilling moments working with the scholarship.

KJ: Gosh, there are so many. Some of the most incredible moments are being able to call the folks who will be receiving the scholarship, and deliver the good news. There are tears and laughter and so much joy. Having read a fair number of applications, I can tell you these are all people who work SO HARD to make a difference, and being able to do something for them is a gift. I get emotional right along with them.
Watching their hard work after they have finished the UBI coursework is truly the most incredible part. These people are constantly working above and beyond, and following their achievements is inspiring. Maybe the scholarship allowed them to lead a WTF open shop night without the shops male mechanic, or lead an after-school program for youth in their community, or provide an internship opportunity for another WTF wanting to learn wrenching. They use the skills learned at UBI to continue the wave of change, and knowing I helped on that path in any way is hugely fulfilling.

"Watching their hard work after they have finished... 
is truly the most incredible part... and knowing I helped
on that path in any way is hugely fulfilling."

QBP WBMS Class of January 2018QBP WBMS Class of 2017