At some point, most of us probably dream of getting paid to ride bikes. It sounds perfect, right? Turning something you love into a career is a really great thing to be able to do. But as with anything, it’s not perfect. I caught up with a few people I know who have turned their passion for bikes into a full-time job, and here’s what they had to say about the rewards and challenges of following their dreams.
Brendon Voelker – Pivot Cycles East Coast Demo Driver
Brendon got his start in the bicycle world as that kid who hangs out in the local bike shop way too much, so much that he finally started learning the ropes. He’s worked in the bicycle industry ever since, starting out by wenching at shops, driving support vehicles and hitting up races and other events, and finally moving on to his current position as the East Coast Demo Driver for Pivot Cycles.
Brendon describes himself as “half trucker, half dirtbag, with a fleet of the best bikes in the world that I drive around for others to test out.” He lives on the road for 11 months of the year, setting up demo events, hosting shop clinics, and doing a whole lot of driving, as he basically covers everything east of the Rockies. Brendon’s job also entails answering emails, writing reports, and maintaining all the bikes as well as his Sprinter van and trailer, which he lives out of most of the time.
The most rewarding part of his job is making others happy and inspiring them to get out on the trails. “I love being outdoors, and getting to share those experiences and/or giving others the opportunity to do the same is what keeps me going,” he says. He also gets to explore the country, and travel to places he probably wouldn’t otherwise get to visit. He often finds trails to stop at to split up the drive when he’s moving from place to place. Brendon is both an avid cyclist and trail runner.
But being on the road isn’t always glamorous. Being away from home can be wearing. He doesn’t get to see his friends or family much. However, he adds, “I make new friends all over the place and I find myself with endless opportunities to cross paths with old friends that have moved to different parts of the country.” Another major challenge is finding a spot to work on bikes. He usually tries to hit up a state park or forest, because “they are generally nice and quiet with plenty of space and resources, and I’m usually not too far from a trail once I’m done.”
Brendon advises anyone looking to enter the bicycle industry to make sure you’re truly passionate about it. If the answer is yes, get your foot in at a shop. “You don’t have to become a master mechanic or anything, but knowing people in the industry is key, considering how small [the industry] is.” Someday, Brendon would like to open his own bike shop, despite the fact that “most people in the industry would consider him crazy for wanting to do that, knowing good and well what it entails.”