Updated: Jan 19
Season 3 of Outside By Design is back! This week Victoria Hunt, field rep for Specialized Bikes, talks about mountain biking, barriers to entry, and how to get your foot in the door of the outdoor industry.
Enjoy the show, and look out for new episodes every Thursday!
Lisa: Hi, welcome to Outside by Design, the podcast about the business side of creativity in the outdoor industry. I talk to some of our industry's finest leaders, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and creatives about crafting a life and a career based upon being outside.
I'm your host, Lisa Slagle, and I own an outrageously fun creative agency called Wheelie Creative. Most people just call it Wheelie. And even though we've been in business for almost 10 years, I like to describe it as a new school creative agency for people who thrive outside. I also own a company called Wheelhouse Workshops, which put on action sports photography workshops for women to help encourage more perspectives behind the lens to help tell a bigger story of our industry. Check them out at wheelhouseworkshops.com.
Today I am talking to Victoria Hunt. She is a field rep for Specialized bikes. And the first time I met Victoria was at a Roam events retreat in Whitefish at the Whitefish Bike Retreat and she filled up her truck with a tarp in the back of the truck so it filled up like a hot tub and then we filled it with women and it was so much fun. Victoria is an excellent mountain biker, an excellent person and just a really, really smart person. So we talk about mountain biking and barriers to entry and making sure mountain biking is accessible to everyone and building a community around it. So Victoria has a lot of cool things to say about biking and getting people stoked on bikes. So I think there's a lot of good takeaways. I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as Victoria and I enjoy talking.
Lisa: So Victoria first of all, where you coming from today, and what's your setting like? Tell us, you know where you're at.
Victoria: I'm currently sitting in my house in Austin, Texas.
Lisa: What's going on in Austin these days?
Victoria: It's rainy. It's doom and gloom at the moment. It's very hot. Nothing super exciting.
Lisa: Nice, nice.
Victoria: Yeah, sorry.
Lisa: So Victoria. I first met you at the Whitefish Bike Retreat in association with Specialized and Roam Retreats. And that was outrageous. You were a really fun person to meet, like hitting jumps and being all wild and fun. So how has your life changed since then? Because you were in Salt Lake and then you just made a big move to Texas.
Victoria: I don't think the wild and crazy randomly hitting jumps part has changed. However, yeah, where I'm living has changed and my job. Actually, I think that has changed twice since then because I was an inside rep at that time and then moved into a business development role and then now have become a field rep. So I don't know what sort of degrees of change we would say that is but it's a lot. But I still like to hit jumps and be wild.
Lisa: That canned wine got everyone that day.
Victoria: Yeah, that was definitely... that and turning the the truck into a pool. I feel like really got everybody pretty lit.
Lisa: Yeah, that was exciting. Yeah, so tell us about yourself and kind of where you came from and how you ended up where you are today.
Victoria: Um, well I originally came from Tucson Arizona where I went to school and grew up and did that whole bit. I was kind of on the path to stay within a medical career for the rest of my life and had what my mom lovingly refers to as a quarter life crisis. And decided that the outdoor industry was a much happier, fun place to be and thought I'd take a little bit of a Hiatus from medicine. And here we are. Almost four years later and I haven't really looked back at the medical field.
Lisa: Wow. Were you planning to be a doctor?
Victoria: Yeah, that was the end goal was to become a trauma physician.
Lisa: Oh, wow, which you know, I think you would have been good at that, but I'm excited that you're in the bike industry help helping people get out by me too.
Victoria: You and me both
Lisa: I could see you as a trauma physician though just like getting shit done that needs to get done.
Victoria: Yeah, and that's exactly what I wanted to do. I mean I had been in the medical field doing various stuff, interning, teaching EMT students and doing all that sort of stuff and was yeah, very good at it because I could pretty much just take care of a situation and then be done with it. I never wanted to work with patients long-term. I wanted the kind of chaos and excitement and you know, move on.
Lisa: Was there like a specific moment or something that happened where you were like? Nope, I'm changing it up.
Victoria: Um, I think when I was right about to graduate. I was in my last semester and I had this moment of looking at what the next seven years of my life was going to be dedicated to and I got goosebumps. Just thinking like I'm going to finish school and residency in seven years and I'm going to be broke and I'm going to be working a million hours a week and I'm not going to be doing anything I want to be doing and then decided that was not where I wanted to be in seven years.
Lisa: And then your mountain bike just looked awesome in the corner of the room and you were like yep.
Victoria: Well, I wasn't even that much of a mountain biker at that point. I was actually a working as a rock climbing guide for like fun and doing a ton of rock climbing and started riding to get more in shape for rock climbing and then realize that I like cycling a lot more than I liked rock climbing.
Victoria: Yeah, it's a weird story.
Lisa: That's funny. I do not like climbing because I like to play with gravity and climbing, you're always going against gravity.
Victoria: Yeah, but for me, I like to solve problems and so for me, rock climbing is like physical problem solving. The only thing you're thinking about is how you're going to move and if you're a good climber you're thinking about how to use your body as a tool and not you know, let it work against you. So to me that was always interesting being a physiologist. I always wanted to understand, you know, how can I not be the strongest human, but how can I learn how to climb more technically savvy and get better that way?
Lisa: That's a great mindset.
Victoria: Yeah. I was like, I'm never going to be able to do 10,000 pull-ups, but I bet I can figure out how to use my body more efficiently. Let's go that route.
Lisa: That's cool. Do you bring that same mindset into mountain biking and all your technical riding?
Victoria: Um, yes, and no. I think with riding my strength lies in my ability to just suffer and like get through things. I'm definitely not the most technical or strong rider there but nine times out of ten I feel like I have the mental and emotional willpower to just figure out how to get through something that's really scary or how to get through something that's very physically demanding.
Lisa: Yeah, I would agree with that. Just from what I met of you.
And with that, let's kick it off to a commercial break.
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Lisa: So now you're living and breathing bikes for Specialized. So what does that look like for you? What's a normal day of work as a field rep for Specialized look like?
Victoria: I don't know that there is a normal day of work as a field rep. It's kind of, you're always chasing something and whether that's something you're working on with a shop - so helping them get ready for a weekend full of events or you're helping them book in order to prepare for the next couple of months of business or we’re running a promotion or like right now we're coming into a new model year. So I'll be talking to my accounts about what a transition plan looks for them as far as moving through older inventory, prepping for newer inventory, and training their sales staff. So I do a ton of clinicing, but a lot of it is just being present, quite honestly. If a shop needs to get ahold of you or an employee needs to get ahold of you for a question and you're not available, they can call another vendor. So my end goal is to pretty much always be a part of my retailers’ business in a way that is a business partner. And that means I wear many many hats.
Lisa: Yeah, the reps are so important to the industry and like making sure those shop kids are getting people stoked on bikes and I think that's really a lot of the heart and the core of the bike industry. Do you agree with that?
Victoria: I do. I do, it's amazing. I think sometimes people neglect to realize how influential having employee buy-in is, you know if they're excited about you and they're familiar with you and they can call back, you know, yeah, not only does Specialized make great products, but the humans that I know at that company do great things. You know, it's more than just this product. It's not just a means to an end sort of thing. It's kind of like, there's a whole company that they can associate a product with.
Lisa: Yeah, what's your trick for like teaching people who are new to the bike industry, like someone who just started working at a bike shop. How do you start with them when you're like explaining the components? Do you start really technically or do you kind of like do a big picture or what's your plan of attack for somebody that is just working at shops for the first time?
Victoria: Yeah, and that's a super good question because I feel like we're always consistently trying to figure out how to be better at that. And what I realized is when it comes to product education, 9 times out of 10 people are going to remember like three important features of something and so you're better off hitting things that you want them to remember to translate to a consumer. Because the vast majority of consumers don't really care about the nitty-gritty details. They want to know why the product is going to supply them with a performance benefit and whether that's a performance benefit in spin class or a performance benefit in a hundred mile road race at the end of the day, the technical nitty-gritty is super cool and it's incredibly important, but you want to be able to translate that in a way that's actually meaningful for. Either your sales staff or your your end consumer. So I start with that.
Lisa: Yeah, I grew up working in bike shops. And I remember on my very first day of work I just got thrown onto the floor to like try to sell bikes and I was like 18. I didn't know anything about bikes and I sold a bike that very first day. It's so embarrassing - this guy got on a... it was a Specialized Hard Rock for like five hundred dollars or something.
Lisa: And I was like, oh you look really hot on that bike. [laughing] And he bought it!
Victoria: Really? So you flirted your way into a sale.
Lisa: Yeah, and I like never lived that down at that shop for years. They just made fun of me for that. Because yeah, but I didn't know what to say. So I think I think training which is like stressful for the you know being in that position, but also just doesn't really do anyone any good.
Victoria: No, I'm like one of the few people that if like, I legitimately don't know something., I’ll just be like I don't know what to tell you here. I'm never going to try and fake my way through anything because you're gonna get caught.
Lisa: Yeah, totally I didn't I didn't even know what to say about a bike.
Victoria: Sometimes you're better off just being like, I don't know man. But that bikes on Trend and you look hot on it. So give me your money.
Lisa: And he needed a bike. I guess, who knows. It's so funny though. And then yeah, but I enjoy I always enjoyed clinics that are they're really fun. And you know, just having somebody in your same city that could like help answer questions. So I think reps are incredibly important to the industry... like so so so important.
Victoria: I agree. I'd like to stay employed.
Lisa: Yeah, what's your what's your favorite thing about working in the bike industry?
Victoria: Um. Honestly, I think my favorite thing is just the relationships that you build and you make. Like for the fact that I've been in the bike industry... it'll be four years in November that I've been working for Specialized and just the amazing humans that I've met and the trips that I've been able to take and the places that my bike has physically transported me is pretty unreal.
And the fact that I know that at this point, I could go to just about any place and whether I have a direct connection to a Specialized retailer in that area. Like I can indirectly go there, reach out to the rep, reach out to a shop, and it's kind of this giant family. It's really... it's just a very good feeling. And so to me, I think that's I think it's the outdoor industry as a whole but for me, because the bike is my activity, it’s even more amazing to me to know that like I could show up in Cleveland and probably go out for a ride with somebody just by saying like hey, I'm here. This is what I do for work. Somebody want to take me on a bike ride?
Lisa: And they’d be like, yes.
Victoria: Yeah and they'd be like how many miles do you want to go? And like are we going to stop for a beer along the way or after? And that's pretty awesome to me.
Lisa: And can we turn your truck into a swimming pool?
Victoria: Yeah, and I'd be like if the truck is there then yes we we can turn it into a pool. If it's not there we will rent a truck from U-Haul or somebody and we'll turn that into a pool.
Lisa: [laughs] And now time for another commercial break.
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Lisa: Like, you know working in the industry and talking to people about bikes all the time. What barriers do you see that people have when they are trying to get into cycling or they're trying to like, you know level up where they're at in cycling. Like what what kind of barriers are you seeing? And how do you help people get past those?
Victoria: So I think those are two different barriers. So I would say barrier one is how do I get into the sport? And do I have to wear like where that weird like her stuff and a chamois? And then barrier two is I've been doing this for a while. How do I get better? Do I need a better bike? What gear should I buy? And so barrier one, I think sometimes we get in our own way a little bit with this sort of “you have to be a cookie cutter mountain biker or roadie or whatever” and realistically, it's like, if you want to ride a bike, you should just ride a bike.
I would highly encourage you to buy a little bit nicer bike out of the gate so that in six months from now you're not having to replace parts on it or you're not bummed out that it weighs 95 pounds and you're just trying to ride on like a river path trail with your friends. And so I think a little bit just accessibility to the industry and what I mean by that is, you know, brands like Specialized, Giant, Trek, Cannondale, whoever, is really good at putting out this very aspirational high level racer-type image and we've recently started to transition. All brands really have started to transition to being much more accessible to, you know, the mom who does spin and wants to get outside on a bike for the first time. And I think just making good products that aren't outrageously expensive but that people really enjoy using, we're overcoming that barrier. But I also think making it more of like a mainstream activity, you know, where people are not so much interested in being specialists at like one thing, but they want to go paddleboard this weekend and the next weekend maybe they're going to go wine taste by bike and then the next weekend they're going to do CrossFit. I think making the community of cycling a little bit more accessible in a way that's not like “oh, well, here's a group ride. Do you want to go a thousand miles an hour? Do you want to go a hundred miles an hour or do you want to go 50 miles an hour” and just being like no, here's a group ride. We're going to go like 10 miles. It's going to be super casual. We're going to have nine coffees along the way and four pastries, and we're going to talk and we're going to, you know, we're going to show you how to live by bike and how to do these things by bike. I think that helps overcome barrier one. That was a really round about way to answer that. I apologize.
And then barrier two is the, I've been riding for a while. I want to show up to these faster group rides and I don't want to not belong to the group or I don't want to not have the right gear and I think a little bit of that is being willing to ask people. It's funny to me. Just how unwilling people are to be like, okay, I like kind of know how to do this activity, but I'd kind of like to know how to do it better - and just asking people very direct questions of like, you know, I can ride 35 miles by myself at a pace of this, you know, do you think it's worthwhile trying a little bit faster group? And going out and being willing to like suck at something. Like you're not going to get better until you ask questions that maybe make you feel dumb or go out and do an activity that really challenges you.
When I transitioned from being what I would call like a more casual roadie to a more serious roadie, I legitimately could not hold on to a group ride for like more than 20 minutes. And so every week or every lunch ride or whatever, I would just try and go a little bit further. And I think being willing to put in the work to figure out how to progress, and like not feeling like, “oh, I'm going to go to this group ride, maybe I don't have all the same cool stuff that everybody else has but you know what? I'm going to hold on for 15 minutes this week.” And if you make it past 15 minutes being like “oh, well, then I'm going to hold on for 30 minutes.” And then if you get popped at 30 minutes, it's like show up next week. How long you can hold on for... 35?
I think sometimes people just want to know how to do everything and be immediately good. Or immediately comfortable. And I think that's a big barrier to cycling. It's like, you got a lot of moving parts, literally and figuratively, and you have to be patient. And know that it's going to be a little bit of a process getting it all figured out.
Lisa: I love how you kind of center that around milestones and being able to like, you know come every week and try to beat, you know, beat your progression from the previous week and that makes it easier and attainable and that's a great way to look at it.
Victoria: Well, yeah, and I think… like, I went out and literally have like not ridden hardly anything this year. This is the least mileage and time-wise I've spent on a bike probably in the five years that I've been riding. And I went out and I did - we had Tulsa Tough just recently out until so Oklahoma and I went out with the team director of one of the elite teams that I work with in Austin, the Wolfpack. And her and I did the 66 mile Fondo. And I knew going into it. Like the old ego side of me was looking at it like this is cake and then me that knows where I currently am physically was like, “after about mile 45 you're going to want to just quit.” She and I getting ready at the start line were talking about that and she's like, “well, this is you know, actually why I have this tattoo” and she has this little elephant tattoo on her forearm and she's like, “my mom told me, you know, it's like eating an elephant. You can't look at the whole thing and think wow. I'm going to eat that elephant one sitting you have to do it piece by piece. And look at it as like okay, we're going to get through this 10 miles and then we're going to get through this 10 miles” and I'm like, you know what you're totally right!
And that's the thing that I constantly tell people. Sometimes. I need to listen to my own advice. And to me I think that's yeah a good way to break the barriers of getting into the sport is taking it Milestone by milestone.
Lisa: So on the other side of that coin, what's your advice to someone who wants to work in the industry for the first time and they just don't know how to get into working as a career in the industry.
Victoria: Oh my gosh half of it, I feel like is just persistence. At least with getting in with Specialized was to me. It was like, I reached out to the field rep that was for the area that I lived and I was just like hey, can I ask you some questions about the company? He's kind of like yeah sure. That's no problem. And I submitted an application with them didn't hear anything. So when I like called their HR department and I was like yo, did you get my application and they're like, yeah along with 10,000 other people and I was like, okay cool. Are we going to go anywhere with it? And they're like, yeah, we'll contact you.
And so it was like kind of this I would just check in every week. And then finally, I think it was like two months later, I got a phone call that was like, “hey, we want to fly you out for an interview” and it was just me being really being persistent. And the thing that I tell people when I meet them is like, if you're really serious about it, don't hesitate to send me an email and ask me questions about the company or the job or to get you in contact with somebody that's in the department that you want to work or whatever. And you'd be amazed at how many people won’t do that or to think that it's like weird or inappropriate in any way. And I'm like, it's really not like you're trying to get ahead, you're interested in the company. You're interested in the brand, you want to get into the industry. You should be willing to do anything and everything.
And then the people that do actually follow up or reach out and get put in contact. It's like they get they get through to like who they need to talk to pretty quick and whether or not they end up getting hired is another thing but I think the industry tends to work a lot on just recommendations and people being willing to like consistently follow up. So I think the best piece of advice that I would give it starts getting into the industry is like, meet everyone and anyone that you can. You never know what connection can get you synced up with who. And if somebody offers like “hey, if you have questions, please contact me” - contact that person. Because it'll end up potentially going a long way.
Lisa: Awesome. Well, thanks so much for your time today. Thanks for being here on the podcast and happy, happy riding.
Victoria: Thanks. You too. I would thank you for being here, but you brought me here.
Lisa: Alright, thanks so much to Victoria for being on the podcast. You can follow Victoria on Instagram. She's @reallifemeatball. That's right. Real life meatball. Give her a follow.
Tune in next week when I am talking to Abby Cooper. She's a professional photographer, writer, media strategist and athlete for Arc'teryx, Smith, Karakoram, and G3. She's a powerhouse and just one of my favorite creatives. So tune in next week for that and here is a preview.
Abby: I don't know what it was. Growing up, the word goals was just like so ugly. I hated it. When you know, you're in school and maybe your teacher would be like, okay, what kind of goals do you want to work on? And you’d be like, “what? I don't want to do that. That's like a laundry list of like chores or something.” I don't know, but now I'm addicted to making goals. They’re so much fun. And so exciting, especially if they are, like, you know a yearly or even like six months, three years. Yeah. It's so fun. It's kind of reminded me to experiment, you know. In life, we kind of choose a career path and we just keep rollin with it. It's like we took one big chance this one time in a career that we wanted to pursue and then that's it. We just stick with it and it's like no, no, no, no. No, there's still so much personal growth to be had and so many experiments to do and industries to try and I think that's a huge part of it.