Hannah Wilson is one of them. Currently working hard and loving every minute of it as the Brand Manager for Crankbrothers and Fizik, Wilson taught herself how to dismantle and rebuild her bike while still in high school. Now she travels the UK training sales teams and is often on-site servicing bikes at major racing events. Often the only woman in the room, Wilson is focused on promoting the accessibility of bike mechanics and inspiring women to take on new challenges and find a career path they’re passionate about. We talked to her about how she got to where she is today and what other young women can do to break into the industry.
When did you get into cycling and how did you learn to take care of your bike?
I started riding when I was 13. I got bored on the road, so I asked some male friends about mountain biking. They seemed a little unconvinced I’d be able to hack it, but me and my cantilever brakes and rigid bike coped ok at our local riding spot. As you’re probably all too aware, mountain biking is addictive and I’ve been riding ever since. Whilst I was at school, I used a book to teach myself how to dismantle and rebuild my bike. I am not necessarily a naturally gifted mechanic, but I am stubbornly independent, so I managed.
What were you most intimidated by when you started riding and what did you do to get over it?
I was the only girl in our riding group. That being said, I was also one of the first girl scouts (as opposed to guides) and I’ve always had a lot of guy friends. To be fair, I was treated like one of the lads most of the time anyway. The most intimidating part was trying to keep up and tackle the bigger obstacles. However, nobody can do everything when they first get started, everyone has been through the same learning curve and mates will always support and encourage you.
How did you learn so much about bikes and get where you are today professionally?
My riding for fun progressed to racing, initially XC and then DH. I was most definitely not the best racer or the fastest, but I loved talking to people about bikes. I have run a bike shop, completed graduate training in a retail environment and worked as a buyer for one of the biggest cycling retailers (as well as a stint as a police officer). My commercial experience and business background combined with passion for bikes and product development have led me to the best job I have had—as brand manager for Crankbrothers and Fizik.
What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in the industry?
When I first started visiting shops with work, I did feel like I needed to prove myself a little more than some of the guys. People would try to out tech talk me or challenge my knowledge before taking me seriously. We have many women joining the bike industry, but we could certainly use some more! We need to remember that these sexist attitudes are few and far between, definitely not the norm. I love working in the bike industry, it’s a close community and growing all the time.
A lot of bike shops can feel like a pretty “male” environment, what would you say to women who are unsure about approaching their local shop to learn about their bike or get into the industry themselves?
Almost everyone who works in bike shops is there because they love bikes. If you go in and start talking to someone about something they love, the conversation will flow. There are lots of amazing shops out there, if you have one bad experience—don’t let it put you off, try somewhere else.
If you had asked me 10 years ago where I would be today, I’d probably have said working as a police detective. I am not, I’m working in an industry I love and combining my hobby and my career. Don’t be afraid to take risks, make changes—enjoying your job is important!