Hannah Bergemann: Bluring the Lines
...one of the guys, one of the girls, she makes you forget that even matters. Anyone familiar with her would say “she just shreds.”
It was the second time she was bombing down Chupacabra, one of the most technical downhill mountain biking trails in Bellingham, Washington.
Chupacabra is mostly about survival. It’s three miles of hard-to-avoid drops, jumps, and tight corners, with 1,700 vertical feet descent providing pitches often too steep to walk on. This doesn’t daunt Hannah Bergemann.
A 12-foot vertical rock drop greets her 100 yards into the trail that has a steep and tight turn entrance with little room for error. This drop has a smooth, built-up landing, but soon after touching down, Hannah immediately threads the needle between two trees with an estimated six feet between them. Coming through this drop with the confidence and speed from experience, she cleared the log easily, but shoulder-checked a tree to her left.
“When I first did it I just had so much adrenaline that I didn’t even realize I was hurt. I just got off my bike and started going. I actually got pretty far down the trail before realizing what was going on,” Hannah says.
She dropped immediately into the next section of trail.
“It's so refreshing to see a
female rip a trail apart
like she does." -Amanda Bryan co-founder of the Kona Supremes
This piece of the trail is probably where the name Chupacabra comes from. It is full of tight, gnarly, treacherous corners and root drops on a steep grade. Hannah rode through this all while favoring her left side, which Amanda Bryan had to point out to her at the end of the steep section.
Bryan, Hannah’s best friend and fellow shredder, convinced her to take it easier and Bergemann made it down without any broken bones. Though, she still has a “big old lump” to remember it by.
“That was the worst I’ve ever been injured, because I was out for a month. But there wasn’t anything broken, just tissue damage,” Hannah says.
Everyone in the Bellingham mountain biking scene knows Hannah Bergemann, a hero for women’s mountain biking in the western Washington area. She is considered one of the guys, one of the girls, and she makes you forget that even matters. Anyone familiar with her would say “she just shreds.”
Hannah is stoic and sturdy in stature. She is modest and kind and after warming up to you is even more affable and engaging. She rocks little or no makeup and long sandy hair typically tied up in a signature pony tail on the trail. A flag waving from behind her “Hannamal” helmet, custom painted by her teammate, Brooklyn Bell.
Hannah grew up in Hood River, Oregon, one of the outdoor meccas of the Pacific Northwest. She had Post Canyon mountain biking trails outside her back door. Her father was, and still is, enthralled with enduro-style mountain biking at 51. She was destined to blur the lines of mountain biking, from breaking the boundaries of disciplines and gender stereotypes to literal finding new line choices on a trail.
Before she found her passion on the bike, Hannah was a busy high school athlete competitively skiing and playing soccer.
“She won seven national titles in freestyle skiing during her high school career before finding the bike. She’s a pretty good skier,” father Timmy Bergemann says.
“I think toward the end of high school, her junior year, she started to notice what I was up to on the mountain bike and that maybe it was rad. Even though her old man did it.”
He is a proud father, which comes as no surprise. He raced the precursor to enduro mountain bike racing, which he and Hannah race now, which times only the downhill but still requires pedaling to the top by a certain time.
She borrowed family friends’ bikes, then got her own hand-me-down. In August 2015 while in Ashland, Oregon she entered her first race. She won third in her category.
“It was a day I’ll never forget as I got to drop in behind her as the next rider on course,” says Timmy. The race organizers gave her a small head start, but he says she was so fast he never saw her until the finish of the 20 minute race.
Hannah flew through the expert ranks in 2016 “winning everything she entered,” her dad says, and she is debuting in 2017 as a pro racer for Kona Bikes.
She attends Western Washington University for kinesiology and works as a mechanic at the Kona Bike Shop on State Street near downtown. Not only does she spend all day selling bikes, working on bikes, then riding on bikes, she likes to use her connections there to help build the community she was welcomed into.
“When Hannah and I started riding together, it became clear that we work well together and that we should get a squad started,” Amanda Bryan says. Amanda created the Kona Supremes, a women’s mountain bike racing and advocacy group.
Amanda had been mulling over the idea for a few years until she first met Hannah at Boulevard Park.
“Hannah and I would ride and invite a few other ladies to join and soon it became a regular crew so we made it official,” Amanda says.
While the Supremes started out mostly racing and riding together, next year the group plans to focus more on community involvement. They are expecting more sponsorship directly from Kona, and will be using this to lead clinics, and other group events. Hannah already has maintenance clinics scheduled for this winter. They still want to do pump track nights, movie nights and group rides. They just made a trip to Sedona, Arizona to ride together.
“I've watched Hannah explode into one of the better riders in the area. She just has full, unspoiled confidence in her ability and she rolls with it. The humble beast,” Amanda said.
She says Hannah is a huge inspiration to many and is really starting to make a name for herself outside the Pacific Northwest.
“It's so refreshing to see a female rip a trail apart like she does, but has the most inviting and positive attitude about it. She will ride with almost anyone - beginner or expert - as long as she’s riding her bike and having a great time,” Amanda says. She adds that what she loves about Hannah is her constant pursuit of the good time.
What’s the point if you’re not having fun?
Special thanks to Timmy Bergemann for the background story and image of Hannah first learning to ride.