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Accidental Cycling Love

Accidental Cycling Love

A ‘How I Got Here’ with Cane Creek’s new Product Marketing Manager

Will Hart - Product Marketing Manager

I was not an athletic kid. I was precocious, incredibly independent and outspoken – but not particularly inspired by sports. Something that comes up often at family gatherings is a quote of mine that my mother often cites from an instance where she was trying to drag me outside to the local woods. I responded to her pleadings defiantly: “Mom – I’m just NOT an outdoor boy!”  Yes, this is real.  

The first thing I remember being really captivated by as a child was film. Movies and their imagined, fantastical worlds were my obsession and before I even had a concept of what acting was – I was in the backyard memorizing monologues and recreating the scene blocking from my favorite fantasy films. 

I went on to major in Theatre in college (and minor in Marketing for some odd reason!) and for almost all of those four years – I was convinced that I wanted to make a career in acting/performing. Bikes were a decent sized hobby at the time, but nothing more. I went to college with a simple, fixed gear bicycle and had gotten into bikes mostly as a utilitarian solution to not having my own car. I zoomed around on my brakeless track bike, keen to show off my fancy clipless cycling shoes as I clomped into every classroom, but was otherwise completely unaware of the sport and cultural context surrounding Cycling.’ 

Will Hart, Center - ONCE, The Musical - Fulton Theatre

I discovered the William & Mary Cycling Club, somewhat by accident, and that ultimately is how bikes came to alter my path entirely. That last semester, I didn’t audition for the spring play. I raced road bikes every weekend, crashed twice, got hypothermia once, and fell in love – with a sport, a lifestyle, and with another bike racer – all at the same time. It was wonderful.  

 Post-college, after 3 more years of going to regional auditions and landing handfuls of modest acting roles, I was quickly realizing that instead of bright marquee lights and dusty rehearsal halls, I now dreamt of losing myself in wide open spaces. The cycling and camping trips I was taking on weekends with my partner at the time was all I could think about. Ironically – the outdoorsy, athletic side of myself was coming into its own and everything I had claimed to be as a young child was turning on its head! The flexible job I had landed that supported my post-college acting work was a sales position in a prominent local bike shop and the bike obsession grew with every season. I rose to the level of Store Manager, became a certified Bike Fitter, and lead a popular local race team. Coming from Richmond, Va where the road cycling scene is very strong, I was a dedicated road and crit racer. I enjoyed racing with my amateur team and poured a lot of my daily energy into training. I was engaged to be married to a World Tour pro (the one I met when I discovered the sport), whose drive, determination, and approach bled VERY heavily into my own perception of what cycling was 

Cycling was all about performance. In my mind, cycling was intrinsically tied to being fit, to being fast. There was certainly a love for the outdoors, and adventure on two wheels – but the mark of a good ride was all about its contribution to the fitness bank. Uphill Strava segments were hunted, and USAC category upgrade points were chased (though not very successfully!)   

However, just as my interest in Theatre evolved into something else entirely – it was only a matter of time before my focus on road cycling gave way to something new.  

Largely predicated by a surprise end to that romantic relationship – I became somewhat disillusioned with the world of road cycling. I wanted a new adventure to chase, in fact I needed it. Mountain biking had always been a slowly burning fire and with the abrupt shift in my personal life, suddenly I decided to douse it in gasoline.  

With a very fortuitous visit to the UCI World Cup event at Showshoe, WV in 2021, I suddenly saw mountain bikes as my next big inspiration. I came home from that event feeling my very own, very personal interest in bikes exploding all over again.  

Contrary to the more regimented mindset that I had adopted in the road scene – mountain bikes showed me that cycling could also be purely about fun-having. Mountain bikes made cycling feel the way it had as a small child – before athletic pursuits had anything to do with what made riding bikes pleasurable.  

Furthermore, mountain biking is a new sport. It’s only about 40 years old. Some of the more specific disciplines within the world of mountain bikes are even younger. Because its not beholden to over 100 years of baked-in culture like road cycling, mountain bike technology and innovation seems to be moving in leaps and bounds every few years. We are still very much discovering what mountain bikes are for and the ways in which adventurous riders use them is still evolving! It’s no surprise then, that mountain bike technology quickly captured my imagination and when the time came for a career change, I knew I wanted to go work for a bike company located somewhere in the mountains where I’d be connected not only to an exciting level of new product innovation, but in a geographical location that would allow me to continue to become the rider I wanted to be.  

So What Drew Me to Cane Creek?

It’s a small, employee-owned company that’s run by a bunch of people that genuinely love cycling – in all forms. Its mission is to develop mainstream-alternative components that provide unique and noticeable benefits to the rider. Cane Creek is premium. It believes in the value of craftsmanship and seeks to develop components that inspire us. eeWings are a fantastic example. They are bicycle cranks, yes, but they’re also a work of art. Who would have thought that bicycle cranks could be something as pleasing to look at as they are to use? eeWings are an engineering masterpiece in a material that’s difficult and costly to work with. They represent an investment in durable, sustainable componentry that doesn’t need to be tossed after several seasons of hard use.  

I often ask myself: “Why do I ride?”

And in the specific case of my new role here as Product Marketing Manager: “Why do I love bicycle parts so much?”

It’s because bikes are special. They take us places that cars, and planes, and even our own feet cannot. For all our technological wizardry, mankind has never quite invented something so functional and so simple as the humble bicycle. Bikes represent true independence and remind us of when we rode down the block, around the corner, and were free of our parents’ jurisdiction for the first time.  

When I look at my bike, and the set of welded titanium cranks that now give it a heartbeat, I feel all of this. I feel what it means to summit a climb, to race downhill, or to simply lose track of time, pedaling until the sun goes down.  

To me, bike parts are very much a representation of what I value and the experiences that I’ve decided to build my life around. A new component for one of my bikes is a call to adventure.  While I realize not everyone will feel such esoteric emotions when they behold their bike – I like to think I’m not alone either.  

At Cane Creek we make a titanium crankset so that we will feel something special. It’s for all the riders out there that see bike parts as more than just bike parts, and I feel more than fortunate that I now get to help tell that story to you all.  

I smile when I realize that after a number of years – many full of joy, a few of serious pain – I’m back to telling stories, using language, and sharing emotion just as I was doing many years ago practicing those monologues in the backyard.  

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