Interview by B Vivit
Kit Melton has an unmistakeable earnestness and energy about her; and it isn't just the blue hair. For Melton, UBI was merely the start of a new chapter. After winning the scholarship, she went on to join up with her classmates to teach girls all about bikes in North Carolina and attend Trek U's Technician Development Program. After completion of the program, she moved from New York to Colorado to wrench for Trek Loveland. This is what the QBP Bike Mechanic Scholarship is about; furthuring opportunities for those individuals from and in underserved communities that are set on giving back, moving them forward to continue that work in the more advanced industry roles; and also why we highlight these incredible individuals that we are honoured to know through the scholarship.
My name is Kit, I'm from NYC, but recently relocated to Fort Collins, CO for a service technician job with Trek. My preferred pronouns are she/her. I attended UBI Ashland this past February of 2019. I applied a year earlier for the QBP Mechanic Scholarship after hearing the experiences of multiple friends who were past recipients.
There were so many things [that brought our class together, but] I'd say the most impactful piece of this experience was that so many of us were experiencing the exact. same. struggles. in the bike industry at large. There was a unity among us that was practically tangible electricity in the classroom. There was both an unspoken and highly-celebrated mutual respect between all of the folx in our scholarship group. It was just pure appreciation and eagerness to learn and support each other.
"There was a unity among us that was...
tangible electricity in the classroom."
So, my first legit job as a mechanic was at a recyclery in Brooklyn, NY. It was a non-profit for youth cycling programs... and by nature of recyclerys, I learned real quick how to think on my feet. I also became deeply involved in my community via assistant coaching, working with Girl Scouts summer bike camp, and volunteer night at our shop. My experiences through the recyclery gave me the foundation to access the QBP scholarship and take flight with the skills and knowledge I gained at UBI.
Post-UBI, I started working at a high-end shop where I got to push those skills and become a better mechanic technically and mentally. I've been ready to leave NYC for some time now, and with some advice from my store manager and friend, Ashlei, I happened upon Trek's Technician Development Program. TDP is similar to what QBP and UBI offer: a 2-week service training program at Trek HQ in Waterloo, WI, but upon successful completion, a full-time job to follow at whichever Trek store you were accepted by. Thus, now I'm in Colorado, working as a service technician at Trek Loveland.
Two weeks before I went to Waterloo for TDP in August, I spent 10 days down in Charlotte, NC visiting a fellow UBI recipient, Charlotte Cadieux. Charlotte founded CLT Bike Camp with her friend Bethany back in the summer of 2016. They run several programs each summer, ranging from "first wheels" to bike camping. I came down to help Charlotte and Bethany run the very first Girls Camp. The camp is dedicated for young women to build confidence and connections through bicycles; teaching urban cycling skills and safety while exploring the city. We engaged in community service at the Charlotte Re-Cyclery, where I led the girls in safely tearing down [the] donated bicycles, and at Winghaven: a bird sanctuary and historic garden. Five days, 16 girls ages 6 to 14 and the three of us as counselors, it was truly magical, and wildly empowering, for all of us!
I was so proud of myself for the leadership I represented, proud of the girls who were absolute rippers during ridiculously long and hot days, and proud of the sisterhood that shone brighter than the sun. Literally, the most beautiful thing that happened and effectively brought me to happy tears was after we volunteered at the Re-Cyclery. A few of the girls came up to me, telling me how fun it was to tear down bikes and how they wanted to become bicycle mechanics one day. I always wished I had more female role models in my life growing up, and it took me most of my 27 years of life to gain the confidence and independence that I felt I was able to pass on to these girls at camp. That's what's important and what I hope to continue doing.
Advice to all you lovely souls applying to this year's scholarship: Don't give up! I know how exciting and nerve wracking it is during the application process and the oh-so-long wait for the unveiling of this year's recipients, and I know what it feels like to not be accepted when you want this so so so bad. Keep applying if you don't get accepted, and if you don't get accepted, it is absolutely NOT because you "aren't good enough" or the right "type" of applicant. This is a seriously unique opportunity, yet its also the only opportunity out there for WTNB folx... currently.
"Each year that the QBP mechanic scholarship continues is just another step
towards inclusivity and forward-thinking in this industry."
[One thing that UBI taught me was...] Patience. And a clean work bench.
It's easy to get frustrated working on bikes; things can be broken, proprietary, or just downright confusing - but taking a step back and getting a breath of fresh air really helps keep yourself together.
UBI taught me the importance of an organized workspace, something I've carried onward. An organized workbench makes re-installation of small parts a breeze, the things that need to be clean/untouched stay so, and ultimately, less headaches.
Embrace the connections you make! This is truly a once in a lifetime experience. The people you meet, the instructors, the fellow recipients, are your community. Let those roots grow!! And lastly, GOOD LUCK!
"I am so proud of you for taking this gigantic step,
you're chasing your dreams, celebrate that!
And don't ever ever forget that you're a boss babe."