By Ambassador Jake Hood
a benevolent fictional character with superhuman powers, such as Superman.
To me though, I don’t see superheroes by that description. I see them as people that go above and beyond for others without wanting anything in return. Going out their way to help in any way they can. That’s what I personally think superheroes are. The world is full of them and I find it’s especially the case in the mountain bike industry.
Now I’m not talking about the “pros”…. They may have superhuman abilities on the bike but I find a lot (not all. There are a few heroes amongst you) are pretty self centered. They won’t really go out of their way to help you or if they do it’s because they gain from it in some way.
To me, the real heroes are the people who make the mountain bike industry run as smooth as it does, kind of like your bicycle – it’s normally a well-oiled machine but sometimes a case of the JRAs happens.
The mountain bike industry is massively different to other industries in the world. I see it as the cool slightly alty kid at school who does his own thing: quiet, self-assured, and others didn’t understand him but he had a vision of what he wanted to do and chased that vision. You know the type. Heck, you might even be one.
Let’s face the facts. People in this line of work aren’t in it for the money/pay cheque… (psst….. it’s a lot less than you think). Trust me, I could earn a whole heap more doing a whole lot less work in other industries. But here I am still after 13 years of working in the bike industry and looking forward to many more. Why’s that? It’s because I flipping love it and I flipping love mountain bikes.
People who work in the bike industry most likely work in this industry because they love all things bikes. They live and breathe it. It was probably a childhood passion that has carved the path they have taken in life, and this passion is what makes it such a magical little industry. All share the same passion, driven by the goal to ultimately make the world of bikes a better place everyday.
With passion comes drive and a willingness to do more and it runs deep. One big thing I’ve noticed about working in the industry is that it seems to produce some of the hardest working people I know. People that work many more hours at work than they should, going the extra mile for people when they haven’t been asked to. They bend over backward to make miracles happen, always wanting to get people fizzing on something bike related, whether that be new parts, a freshly serviced bike, a new video, a new trail, some coaching. The list is endless. And in return they ask for nothing more but seeing you stoked on it. That’s pretty special, right? It’s something you don’t see a lot elsewhere.
I’m going to use a local shop as an example of what I’ve been talking about. Get Lost Cycling is a super cool little shop in Wellington. It started up over a year and a half ago. Since day one it’s been pumping. Two young chaps (Koen and Stu) decided to take the massive leap and open their own shop. They used what savings they had, which was enough to kit out the shop with one of each stocked item they needed to get going. Their workshop is normally booked through for two weeks constantly. And no, this isn’t because they’re unorganized. Far from it. They have a great booking and job management software that I know works (I used it for 3 years). It’s busy because they are flipping great. Their workshop is dialed, they are all great mechanics, their shop is welcoming and they always go the extra mile for their customers.
I often pop in and chew the fat with them. Pretty much every time, there is a customer in the shop and the conversation normally goes like this, “So we’re really busy, booked out for two weeks but we’ll squeeze that brake bleed (or whatever it is) in today as some point.” Often this results in them working hours past when they are meant to finish. But again, they do it because they love it and love seeing the customer stoked.
It was the same story for my old workplace Bikeaholic. The owners Justin and Mat always go the extra mile for customers and staff, bending over backward to make magic happen. The manager Colin would always be working on stuff to make the place better after the hours he was rostered for. Jarna and I would be happy to stay late and get a customer’s bike done to make them stoked. I remember a couple of times doing 12 hour days in there just to get the work done. I think the longest shift I did was 16 hours on my Friday just to get three custom-built e-bikes out the door the next day that showed up on that day. All I can say was the customer was super jazzed at the fact his bikes were together so quickly and at the extra little custom touches I added on all the bikes. I really can’t say enough good things about that place and how hard they work, and again that’s why they have such a great shop and experience. A lot of new to mountain biking people come through the door and are hooked soon after. How great.
I’m always trying to find ways to make my customer’s bikes better. I just want to give them the best possible experience they can have on their own bike. I really can’t help myself when I see some way in which I can improve something for someone. I just love seeing people just stoked on their bike after I’ve finished tweaking them.
But it’s not just bike shops where this happens. It’s all over the industry. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a bit of time at Kona’s US base in lovely Ferndale, Washington. I got to meet a lot of the incredible Kona crew that runs this super cool company, from the owners to the design team, marketing, sales, warranty, shop floor staff and all the dogs. All of the DOOOGGGS!! A bunch of misfits that somehow have all come together to run a bike company with more soul and passion than a lot of other big brands. Ian, for example, one of the masterminds behind some of the great bikes Kona products, from the Process to the Libre. His passion for cycling runs deep.
In the three weeks I spent with Ian, I saw just how much more goes into designing these bikes than you would think. Countless hours spent emailing factories, talking with sales, meeting with suppliers and factories, OEM reps, and so on, planning for future products with the rest of the design team, The list goes on. It never seemed to stop. It blew me away just how much effort he put into his job. Ian and the rest of the team works really hard on these projects/bikes and it shows. All this extra effort gets more than just your run of your mill bike. You get a bike with some soul, some passion, a bit of zest and flair to it. That little something you can’t quite put your finger on that makes it so special.
I guess I can’t really finish this list of examples without talking about Caleb Smith. Caleb has done more in his life so far than many would do in three lifetimes, from being a university lecturer to starting/owning Spoke and Manual magazines, photographing for many brands and currently working in marketing at Kona. Again the list is massive. I very much doubt New Zealand mountain biking would be what it is now without Caleb starting and running Spoke, showcasing just how great it is here for riding. I’ve worked with Caleb on four Kona bike launch projects (Satori, Big Honzo Carbon, ESD and Shonky) as well as countless other photoshoots. From start to finish, Caleb doesn’t stop and often these days are 16 hours long. From taking pictures, directing, filming, hauling gear, driving to and from locations and everything in between. When I moved up to Wellington I ended up living near Caleb and his family, so I get to spend quite a bit of time with them. He doesn’t really stop working. He’s always working on something or sorting someone out. Heck, I seem to always ask him random work related questions at any time of the day and he always picks up his phone. Like everyone so far, he’s super passionate about the sport. He wants to see it progress and to see people stoked on the sport. Often going out his way to make it happen.
I think that’s an overall theme here. People in the mountain bike industry want to see others stoked and excited about bikes. They don’t ask for anything more than seeing you love the sport in return. I’ve only given a few examples here, but I wish I had the time and skill to write about more but I would probably be working on it till my last breath. I’m very fortunate to work in an industry where there are so many that go out their way to help others. It is what makes it a special and magical place to be. Not all heroes wear capes but a lot of them wear helmets.
So next time you pop into your local shop, see your local trail builder, race organizer, bike coach, local rep, photographer, and so on, Take them some beers or a coffee or some biscuits. They will appreciate it alot more than you will ever know.
Thanks again for reading my rambles.
And thanks to everyone who’s gone the extra mile to help me.