Hannah Bergemann on Having Fun, Riding For Kona, and Her Most Important MTB Race of the Year

Hannah Bergemann talks about racing with Kona, her ambitions in the sport, and why the most important mountain bike race of her year is the one she'll race with her dad.

Photo: Brian Chapel

Growing up in one of Oregon’s finest outdoor recreation towns, Hood River, pro enduro rider Hannah Bergemann had a solid warmup to dirt riding. She started riding trails with her dad, who gifted her a 2012 Ellsworth Moment when she was in high school so they could enjoy the forest together.

She has since enrolled in college at Western Washington University in Bellingham, where she is working toward a degree in kinesiology. In the future, she hopes to take this knowledge toward a career in physical therapy, but for now, she is reveling in the learning process.

We recently had a chance to catch up with Bergemann, and asked a few questions about her path toward enduro racing, and what she has planned for the coming race season.

Photo: Paul Kelly

My first curiosity when talking with the young Pacific Northwest enduro star was around her path toward elite racing. Bergemman had a particularly well-supported trajectory. It all started with her dad’s hand-me-down Ellsworth and a fun gravity race in her home state.

“I became hooked pretty quickly, and [my dad and I] decided to race an enduro together in Ashland, OR. I was completely unprepared for the race, had to borrow a pair of knee pads, but I had the best time. We started going on longer and bigger rides, competing in more races together, and we helped build trails in the Hood River area.”

Bergemann knew that wherever she ended up at college, it would be important to be close to singletrack.

“When [I decided] where to attend undergraduate school the next year, Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA was an easy choice for me, with [close] access to mountain biking, skiing, and other outdoor recreation. I was able to get a scholarship to attend out of state school, and moved in the fall of 2015. I made some friends at the Kona Bike Shop who showed me some of the awesome trails around town and welcomed me to the biking community here.”

Eventually, getting to know the folks at Kona Bike Shop led to an easy transition and Bergemann started working there.

“I started working for Kona at the shop in spring of 2016, and became even more involved in the mountain biking scene here in the Pacific Northwest. I raced the local Cascadia Dirt Cup races that summer in the Expert class, moved up to the Pro class the following year, and continued to expand my race schedule to travel further and attend bigger races.”

Photo: Boris Beyer

Bergemann has a clear and grounded approach to mountain biking. She knows what drove her to the trails, and why she thinks about riding while sitting in class.

“There are so many elements I love about mountain biking, and I think that is why it has become my favorite sport. I love the physical aspects; it makes me feel strong [and] tough and pushes me to improve my fitness so I can ride longer and faster. The emotional and psychological elements are key for me. It has become my way of feeling balanced and gives me clarity when other things in my life are stressful. The racing and career aspect can bring stress, but I am able to remember the reasons why I love the sport, and the stress is very temporary.”

The relationships formed through mountain biking are also imperative to Bergemann.

“I love the community element of the sport; the ability to travel just about anywhere and find friends and people to relate to is a special thing. I also love the way it brings together and strengthens the local community.”

Since that early race in Ashland, Bergemann has entered countless events, including the 6th stop on the 2018 Enduro World Series tour, in Whistler, BC.

“The Whistler EWS in 2018 was definitely the longest and hardest race I’ve competed in. The last stage of the race was over 5000’ of descending from the Top of the World to the bottom of the Whistler Bike Park. It took me almost 30 minutes to complete, and that was after a long day of climbing and racing 4 other demanding stages. I was completely physically exhausted, but happy with my performance and lack of mechanical issues, and motivated to come back and improve my race.”

Kona Communications Manager, Lacy Kemp noted how important having Bergemann on the Kona gravity team is, and how it’ll most likely be one of the strongest female teams in the sport, with Bergemann racing beside new addition Miranda Miller.

“We are really happy (and fortunate!) to continue working with Hannah and help foster her development as a Kona athlete. She’s one of those people born with so much innate talent that it’s kind of unreal what she is capable of accomplishing on her bike. We’re excited about the direction of our team this year and are proud to have such amazing women representing our brand in Hannah, Miranda Miller and Shelly Flood. Our combined roster of athletes represents a strong cross section of talent across all facets of racing. We’re looking forward to seeing what happens at the World Cups and the EWS races.”

Even though she has a long list of demanding races this summer,  Bergemann is most excited to race the Trans BC Enduro with her dad, who will be the oldest racer this year. The six-day enduro will be their first multi-day race together.

Photo: Chris McFarland

Bergemann took the win at the prestigious Cascade Dirt Cup last season and her goals for 2019 show her continued focus on being a well-rounded rider and member of her community.

“My goal is always to race clean [with] no crashes and mechanicals, and remain physically and mentally healthy throughout the season. I would love to improve some race results from last year in some of the bigger races, but I mostly want to feel stronger and faster on my bike, improve my fitness, and tackle bigger features. This year I am working with Spencer Paxson, [who is] a badass Bellingham local, endurance athlete for Kona, and certified personal trainer, to help me make reach those goals, and so far he has been awesome to work with!”

Even though Bergemann is taking on a full schedule, she also wants to make time to give back to the trails.

“In addition to my riding goals, I want to make more time for trail building and maintenance this year, and I plan to help organize and lead more events, [like] group rides, clinics, etcetera, to remain involved in the community and hopefully encourage more people to be involved in the sport and local biking community.”

On the topic of community, I asked Bergemann which companies she sees supporting women in the sport.

“All of the companies that I have worked with have been extremely supportive of me and other women in the sport of mountain biking. Kona has been extremely supportive of me as an athlete, but they also provide me with the platform necessary to host events like women’s specific bike maintenance clinics, group rides, and events that help make the sport more accessible and inviting for other women.”

With the support from Kona and a few of her other sponsors, Bergemann had an opportunity last year to take out a group of women who had never bikepacked before.

“I love that all of the companies I work with have been so genuinely psyched to see myself and other women charging hard in the mountain biking scene.”

Photo: Paul Kelly

Given her interest in trail building and advocacy, I assumed Bergemann would have some thoughts on the current state of mountain biking in the US.

“Locally and regionally I’ve seen an explosion of new trails being built and riding areas expanding which allows more people to access and experience the sport. I would love to see more gnarly features allowed to be built on legal trails here like in Canada. As for areas of improvement, I’d love to see the sport be more inclusive and welcoming to all groups of people; encourage participation and provide access to more women, people of color, people with lower income, etc. I want to […] share the elements and reasons that I love mountain biking with more people, and help others to experience what the sport can provide.”

Photo: Paul Kelly

I have seen enough videos of Bergemann shredding to know that she employs a playful style on the bike. She has a unique perspective for dealing with “off days” that has likely contributed to her creative use of the trail.

“Have fun, jib more, be creative. I love the creative element of the sport; the way it requires and encourages creativity in line choice, navigating terrain, trying tricks, building trails and new features. Progress isn’t perfectly linear, and on some days I feel slow or like I am regressing in my skills or fitness. When this happens, I try to change things up, try to learn a new trick or skill, or play around on a random feature on the trail. I really enjoy doing bar humps, one footers, one handers and I’m working on sui’s. It reminds me to focus less on future results and outcomes, and presently enjoy what I get to do.”

Unlike some professional athletes, Bergemann is no one-trick pony. She enjoys all sorts of riding and mixes in a few other hobbies for good measure. In the winter time, skiing is a must.

“I grew up skiing on Mt. Hood, and competed in various freestyle skiing events in high school (slopestyle, rail jam, halfpipe). I still love skiing and spend a lot of time at Mt. Baker which has some awesome terrain and amazing backcountry access. I enjoy other types of biking; dirt jumping, bikepacking, gravel riding etc, and I love building and maintaining trails, especially with lots of friends. I also weirdly enjoy super early mornings at the gym to start off the day, and I love cooking and eating lots of vegetarian food.”

Now let’s have a look at the race bikes Bergemann will pilot through those adventures.

2019 Kona Process 153 29 CR/DL

Photo: Hannah Bergemann

Hannah is stoked to have some local Pacific Northwest sponsorships this season, in addition to larger brand support.

  • Suspension: 2019 Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Fork with 170mm travel, and a choice of Fox Float DPX2 or the new Marzocchi Bomber CR Coil shock.
  • Tenet Bodem carbon bars and Nora 35mm stem (Bellingham, WA. brand)
  • We Are One Agent carbon rims (handmade in Canada)
  • Groundkeepers fender (Bellingham, WA. brand)
  • Trail Gnome grips (local Northwest brand)

2019 Kona Operator, “Skittles bike”

“Skittles Bike” is Hanna’s DH whip for the 2019 season. Photo: Doug Jambor

Follow along with Bergemann’s season on her Instagram, and on the team’s COG Kona World blog. This season the Kona Supremes women’s team will become a mixed-gender squad, renamed Kona Gravity Team.

“The Kona Gravity program has some really talented, fast, and genuinely awesome people on the team! The team isn’t completely result-focused, and many of the riders were chosen based on other personal qualities in addition to race results. Kona doesn’t put a ton of pressure on athletes to perform and provide high results at every event. They want riders who ride and race for the right reasons, who can grow and benefit from their support, and who can inspire the future generation of riders. They encourage me to share my adventures and struggles as an athlete as well as my successes.”