Major Taylor Project Apprentices: ‘We Ride the Same Road’
MTP Ride Leader Brooke Nelson is spearheading the creation of a new apprenticeship program to train the next generation of ride leaders.
We passed the mic to Brooke and her student apprentices to share their feelings about the fulfillment that comes from teaching bike skills.
Support MTP by registering for the Ride for Major Taylor on April 23.
By Brooke Nelson, Josue Soledad, Ari Ramirez, and Nelson Platero
Major Taylor Project ride leaders are champions for youth on bikes. They are the paid staff members and volunteers who form the closest bonds with youth who participate in Cascade’s MTP bike clubs. Before the season begins, they visit schools to promote and encourage students to join our after-school bike clubs. During the season they prepare and teach lessons, plan riding routes, and provide youth with hands-on instruction in the transformative, challenging, and fun aspects of bicycling.
To help train and foster the next generation of ride leaders, MTP Ride Leader Brooke Nelson (pictured above) led an effort to create an MTP Apprenticeship program. Nelson is a graduate student and ride leader who works closely with MTP Manager Joel Allen to bring our passion for bicycling–and the transformative power of riding a bike–to youth in the Highline School District.
The MTP Apprenticeship program provides apprentices with a stipend and offers students the opportunity to learn firsthand from our talented ride leaders, with a goal of inspiring the next generation of ride leaders.
To offer you a window into the apprenticeships and the fulfillment of teaching bike skills to youth, we asked Nelson to tell her story in her own words. She, in turn, passed the mic to several of the first apprentices. Cascade would also like to thank the Montlake Bicycle Shop and the QBP Community Grant Program for funding the MTP Apprenticeship program. Read our Q&A below.
Why are you an MTP ride leader?
Brooke Nelson: For me, riding my bike feels liberating and powerful. Bicycles are a tool for community organizing and healing. I am an MTP ride leader because I want to share my passion for bikes with young people and inspire them to see their own power, both on and off of their bikes. Working for the Major Taylor Project specifically is one way to disrupt the narrative around whiteness and white supremacy culture in cycling, as well as share resources with unincorporated King County communities who don’t receive the representation and investment that they need and deserve.
What's fun or rewarding about being involved with MTP?
BN: It’s fun getting to know the students and seeing them grow each season. I love when a young person decides to be bold by stepping up to a hill, distance, skill, or mechanical problem that they haven’t tried before. The excitement that they get when they accomplish a goal and prove that they are capable is really rewarding for me.
Tell us about the apprenticeship program.
BN: The apprenticeship program was started when I was working at Montlake Bicycle Shop and had access to apply for the QBP Community Grant. I was a new ride leader, in the first year of my Masters in Social Work at the University of Washington, and looking for ways to tie together my social work skills and the power of bikes to create social change.
The apprenticeship program is an extension of MTP's goal to support youth both on and off of the bike. Apprentices gain leadership and job skills through lessons in bike mechanics, route planning, resumé building, interview practice, budgeting, and group facilitation. Apprentices are awarded a stipend for their work and may be brought on as ride leaders in the future.
I’ll let the apprentices speak about their experiences in the program.
What have you learned and practiced, and what’s rewarding about being an apprentice?
Josue Soledad: We demonstrated what we learned a week prior to the other peers in the class. Learning and teaching helps me relearn or solidify the learning. The fun part was taking leadership and getting to teach and feel confident in what I was doing.
Ari Ramirez: Changing out a tube was one of the first things we learned, and teaching it to the club members helped me solidify it. Thinking back, it is the lesson that I remember most. If I didn’t teach it, I wouldn’t be as confident in the skill. It was nice to be able to share my knowledge and skills from what we learned earlier in the club. This really felt welcoming and safe, and I want to reciprocate that to other students.
Nelson Platero: What’s fun is that I got to meet new and amazing people. What I love is that everyone is unique and no one is getting put down for their beliefs and values. Something I learned in the apprenticeship is how to change a tube, how to take it out and what tools I need so that the process goes smoothly. I also learned to tighten the brake cables so I won’t go flying down the road.
How have you changed during your four years in MTP?
Nelson Platero: I changed from a little kid who needs supervision, to someone who looks out for others who need help. Bike club is important to me because it teaches me humility and skills I will need in my future. No matter our background we ride the same road.
Thank you Brooke, Ari, Josue, and Nelson! And a big thanks to Montlake Bicycle Shop and QBP for making these apprenticeships possible.
Join MTP students on the Ride for Major Taylor
If you want to support MTP and go for a great bike ride, register for the Ride for Major Taylor on April 23. We are offering a short loop of 26 miles and a long loop of 63 miles, both starting and ending at the White Center Bicycle Playground in West Seattle.
For the second straight year, riders can enjoy some delicious Ezell’s Famous Chicken (plus vegan options) at the finish line lunch stop and post-ride celebration. Better yet, your registration fees support MTP bike clubs in South Seattle and Tacoma.
Ride for Major Taylor participants will also have the opportunity to say hello to a group of Tacoma MTP youth who plan to ride the 26-mile route. “Due to the pandemic, this will be the first opportunity for a lot of our MTP youth to experience and ride in Cascade events,” says Tacoma MTP Manager Josh Stowell. “I’m really excited about that. We’ve been doing a lot more riding and our students are getting stronger.”