#mechanicmonday honors Katie Colesberry
Happy Mechanic Monday, everyone! We are excited to introduce you to this week’s honoree, Katie Colesberry of Turlock, California!
For those of you who are unfamiliar with PBMA’s Mechanic Monday series, this is where we feature one mechanic each week who is chosen randomly from the pool of nominations that we receive. Mechanic Monday is all about mechanics supporting fellow mechanics, and we are proud to partner with Abbey Bike Tools, Cycling Industry News, and People for Bikes to share these great features with you.
Katie Colesberry is an up-and-coming force in professional cycling mechanics. Like so many of us, she grew up tinkering with bikes in her parents’ garage, and she never lost touch with her loves of the craft and the sport. Katie was one of our earliest nominees for Mechanic Monday this year, and she recently graduated from working for a shop to running her own business (Katie’s Pro Bike Service) – so it’s no surprise that she’s been so busy that we only recently caught up with her for an interview! We are pleased to share some of our conversation with you today, in Katie’s own words!
PBMA: How did you become involved in cycling and/or cycling mechanics?
KC: My story of bike mechanics begins as a kid growing up in King City with no bike shop. While in middle school, my small town bike shop closed. The building was scheduled to be torn down and the owner of the shop had nowhere else in town to go. The next nearest bike shop was well over 50 miles away. Out of necessity and curiosity I began to tinker with my bikes. First was simple tube changes, cleaning, and oiling. For fun weekend projects, my dad and I would find some beat up junker bikes and fix them up. Between his handyman abilities and a Park Tool book my aunt gave me, I started to learn how bikes worked and how they go together. We would tear the bikes down to the bare frame, sand them, primer, and spray-paint them. Some even got new parts. If I needed new components, I would ask my dad to pick some up at that bike shop 50 miles away in Salinas.
Fast forward a couple years and I had some of the specialty tools needed and the skills to perform simple repairs. To earn some money, I would fix bikes for family friends and the other kids in the neighborhood. Thus "The Shop" was created. My mom and dad allowed me to take over the third car garage and turn it into a bike shop. I had an old Park repair stand, a small toolbox of mismatched tools, and a workbench. When I moved away for college the garage bike shop came to an end in King City. I did bring my bike and some basic tools with me to my dorm. Again, I would fix bikes for the neighbors in the dorms for favors or pocket money. My time fixing bikes became less and less and my time riding bikes grew.
My real beginning of cycling began while I was in college. I was riding around campus, town, and every so often out of town for some head clearing. At the time, I was racking up at least 100 miles a week on a fixed gear I had made out of an older Peugeot. While home over break, I brought my bike and did a few rides around the vineyards and country roads of South Monterey County. Without much thought about it, I fired up Strava, got on my kit, and took off for a quick ride. When I got home, I checked the stats of the ride and saw that I had a Strava QOM. I got a call within a day or two later for a family friend who saw that I had beat his time up a climb and was shocked to learn I did it on a single speed fixed gear. We got to talking about bike and rides and all the usual topics. He invited me to sign up for a chairity ride: The AIDS LifeCycle. At the time I was in the process of coming out, and he suggested that the ride would be a great way to get involved with the LGBT community. His daughter was his usual ride partner and this year she was not planning to ride; she was in the process of starting her family and was pregnant. She being about my height allowed me to ride her bike. I was able to train on it, and use it in the event. This is about the time I began to learn and become part of the cycling community in my college town. I was riding on my own and in group ride while I trained for the 545 mile ride from SF to LA.
This is where the two cycling mechanics story and riding story start to meld. While on group rides, I would occasionally moan about my dish washing job and would ask if anybody knew of another job that was slightly less miserable. Mostly and mindless groaning but the universe was listening. One day I received a message over Facebook from the owner of the local bike shop asking me if I wanted to come work for him. I worked for the local shop for nearly four years while I worked on my business degree. The owners and lead mechanic were very insightful and I learned so much from them. The lead mechanic who I spent most of my time with had been working at the shop longer than I had been alive. The time I spend at the shop really solidified my interest in the cycling world and piqued my interest in pursuing bike mechanics as a career. I decided to complete the business degree and begin building my knowledge and skills of bicycle mechanics with the goal to complete a variety of classes and courses to make myself a true professional.
PBMA: What motivates you to excel as one of the few woman mechanics in our industry?
KC: I'm not sure I can completely explain where my motivation comes from, nor why it is so difficult for me to nail down. I don't want to be cliché and say "it’s my passion and I don't know what I would do otherwise" (said in an annoyingly sarcastic tone). I think if I had to boil it down, I would quote one of my favorite bands, Memphis May Fire: “This is not just a dream, but a path I've chosen that means everything to me." I continue on down this path in hopes that I can make a difference in the way bike mechanics are viewed and treated. Being a girl doesn't mean that you can't play with tools or get greasy and dirty. And being a bike mechanic doesn't mean that you work on Walmart bikes and fix flats all day.
PBMA: What motivation or advice would you give to girls or women aspiring to become professional bicycle mechanics?
KC: This too is a difficult question like the last! I would advise that ladies make themselves well rounded and knowledgeable. Learn as much as you can from the right sources. Know what is [considered] “best practice” from the manufacturer, and not from the kid who has been working in the shop slightly longer than any of the other kids. It’s okay to make mistakes, but learn from them and fix them. It doesn't take too many tubes blowing up in your face for you to check the tire bead more carefully. And most importantly: Know your worth, be kind, and take no sh*t. This line of work can be an uphill battle.
PBMA: What is your favorite tool?
KC: My favorite tool would have to be the Abbey Crombie and its accompanying chain whip. Back when I was just getting into bicycle mechanics, a good friend of mine took me around the show at Sea Otter Classic. Dan introduced me to some of his industry friends and overall was a super networking experience. While pointing out tools and equipment I'll want to get he introduced me to Jason at the Abbey tent. He had this one-off chain whip that had a black and blue KMC chain on it and I had to have it. However, like rookie who didn't know much about the tool company, I tried to haggle the price. I didn't understand why it was so expensive and I think Dan assured me it was the best and will outlast any other of its kind. I still treasure it and use it weekly. I've also apologized to Jason for trying to gyp him on his work!
That’s all for this week! Thank you for following along with our series and sharing our support for our fellow mechanics. We’ll be back next week with a new feature. In the meantime, we are still in need of nominations!! You don’t need to be a PBMA Member to nominate or be featured! All that we ask is for: (1) no self-nominations, and (2) for you to include your nominee’s email address! Click here to learn more about our 2018 Mechanic Monday series, and here to learn more about how to nominate your favorite mechanic!
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