Cycling for Change

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They’d only just met, but Steve fronted the $100 entry fee and gave Anne a bike. In a sport where only 10 percent of athletes were women, Anne had found herself a sponsor — and, eventually, a boyfriend who would later become her husband.

Beyond covering her expenses and providing gear, Steve also started tinkering with new wheel designs for Anne to ride at her events. “When he saw that the set of double-disc wheels Francesco Moser used to break the hour record were $6,000 a piece, he was like, ‘I really believe we can make something more affordable.’” So that’s what he did.

Equipped with Steve’s new wheels, Anne started winning more races, which got her thinking: “We need some money to make more of these,” she told Steve.

A few months and races later, Anne won a brand-new Subaru as a prize at the Steel-Man Triathlon in Brattleboro, Vt. She used the new ride as collateral to take out a $14,000 loan, and in 1984, Anne and Steve cofounded HED Cycling out of Steve’s garage.

People Before Wheels

From that first set of wheels, the mission of HED cycling remained not on the speed, accolades, or aerodynamics, but on the people. It’s right there in their online bio: “Creating an improved riding experience for every rider.”

“Steve used to travel all over the world to help athletes,” Anne says. “We both came from pretty humble beginnings, and we had to start this just by ourselves. It wasn’t like we had anybody else helping us.”

For many of those early years, Anne and Steve took on the task of “revolutionizing cycling” by themselves. To earn extra income, Anne worked as a salesperson at U.S. Swim and Fitness, which was eventually acquired by Life Time, and became one of their sponsored athletes. In 1989, Anne ended her professional triathlon career to join Steve full-time at HED.

Together, they designed and engineered the fastest wheels in the world — Steve inventing, Anne getting wheels out the door — growing the company from two to 40 over the next 35 years and becoming one of the most respected cycling brands in the industry.

In 2014, the Heds broke new ground: building bike frames. The cycling minds at Cervélo needed a U.S.-based carbon fiber manufacturer, so they approached Anne and Steve about making a frame for their upcoming Cervelo P5X. On the same day Steve met with the engineers, however, the unthinkable happened.

“Steve called me when their engineers were here and said, ‘Anne, we made it. It’s beautiful and it works, and they want us to make their frame,’” Anne told Forbes in November 2016. “That was the very last conversation I ever had with him. He was so happy, like a kid. Then the next phone call I got was, ‘Anne, you’ve got to get to work, Steve collapsed.’”

Outside the HED facilities, Steve collapsed and never woke up. He had a virus in his heart. After 25 years of marriage and building a world-class company from the ground up together, Steve was gone. In one unexpectedly absent heartbeat, Anne had to start this new project, move the company to a new facility, and step into the role of CEO — all without her lifelong partner.

“Life is hard,” Anne says. “I’ve had my ups and downs. You’ve just got to put your foot in front of the next one the next day and just keep moving along. You have to keep being persistent in life. Don’t give up.”

As Anne stepped into her new role as the face of HED Cycling, she quickly learned the value of quality people. In the days, months, and years after Steve’s passing, Anne continued to put one foot in front of the other, fueled by the familiar faces who surrounded her, who’d always been there: her family, her staff, and her athletes.

“I don’t want to do it by myself,” Anne notes. “I don’t want to continue this company alone. I’ve had staff that’s been with me for over 25 years, and collectively, it’s amazing what you can do together.”

Step by step, day by day, Anne and her team moved HED Cycling forward as one of the only woman-owned companies in the cycling industry. In 2016, HED and Cervélo launched the P5X, the frame Steve had been working on when he passed. Later that year, HED launched the VOLO — the wheels on which Team USA’s women’s track team competed at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“How many times can you reinvent the wheel?” Anne says. “But we did.”

Bringing People Together

Back at the HED facility in Roseville, Anne thinks back on her decision to deliver a wheel to McBride on that early December morning, remembering her own time as a sponsored athlete.

“I’ve been there,” Anne recalls. “I’ve had sponsors throughout my life that have done special things for me. Life Time, for instance, helped pay my health insurance as a young athlete. The organization has just been part of my life ever since I started this sport.”

From the start to today, the stories of Life Time and HED Cycling have intertwined — specifically, in their shared focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). As Anne supports athletes like McBride, Sika Henry, and Cody Beals, Life Time has also created a non-binary category for all of its Athletic Events.

And just as the healthy-way-of-life company works to ensure everyone can find a place at its start lines, fitness classes, and athletic country clubs, Anne also seeks to empower people from all backgrounds and circumstances — and not just athletes.

“Thirty percent of our workforce is female in manufacturing, which is really rare,” she says. “We’re really proud of the people we’ve hired. Some of them have degrees in engineering, but I am so proud when I find a young person, teach them a skill, and give them a livable wage and something they can be proud of when they walk out of here. It’s not just about making a wheel to me. It’s about providing jobs and supporting all walks of life.”

In the end (and from the beginning), it all comes back to the people. “I’m just in awe of where they’ve journeyed and what their journeys have been like,” she says. “All of our journeys are different. All you can do is just embrace it and support them, whatever walk or journey they’re going on or how difficult it gets, because we all need that.”

As for McBride, they finished first in the non-binary category at three iconic Life Time events in 2022: Garmin UNBOUND Gravel presented by Craft, Crusher in the Tushar presented by The Creamery, and the Stages Cycling Leadville Trail 100 MTB. They’re 44 years old, but they’re not done yet — not even close — and Anne plans to be with them every step (and pedal) of the way.

“I believe we’ll look back years from now and consider Rach a pioneer,” Anne says. “I know they’re opening doors now, but when my grandchild’s sitting on my lap in however many years, I can say, ‘Yeah, that was one of our athletes, and look at what they’ve done.’”

That’s the thing about sports — cycling, swimming, running: Across all different backgrounds, stories, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and every other definable characteristic, they bring us together.

“It doesn’t matter where you came from or where you’re going,” Anne says. “We all have this love of sport, and it can unite us.”

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