Women Involved Series: Heather Mason

I started working in the bike industry when I was 18 years old. It started with a local shop in my area, simply unpacking and hanging clothes, then merchandising, then building 12 and 16 inch Kent bikes.

Eventually, that turned to sales, and service and then Management. 15 years later, I was Head of Operations, managing all aspects of 4 locations.

I became a bike mechanic and ski technician. I attended management courses, sales clinics, city board meetings, and marketing classes. I studied and learned accounting and public relations. I analyzed broadcasting and print media to understand the market and the value of advertisement. I engrossed myself in commercial roofing, investments, employee rights, supply, and freight. After 15 years, my portfolio grew.

Eventually, I opened my own athlete-focused Bike Shop and launched a formalized Bicycle Club Promotion Business, which transformed into one of the largest bike clubs in the Northeast US, hosting multiple bicycle races and events annually. I co-founded a non-profit, called Butts on Bikes, focused on getting more people into the sport.

I held both NICA and USAC coaching certifications for several years and became a specialized youth and female instructional leader. I hosted many learn to ride clinics, ditch the training wheels and beginner and intermediate MTB skills sessions. I still love to coach today.

I shifted focus a few years ago, connecting myself to top brands in the industry. This shift has allowed me to broaden my scale. To work as a representative in the industry bringing my knowledge bank to the local bicycle shop entrepreneur.

I started racing when I was 13 years old. My father, who is my greatest influencer introduced me to the sport. It was fun for me to find freedom in the woods, the way the trail would come at me and then flow past. I loved the speed, the bruises, the blood. I loved the equipment. I push myself in anything I do, and this was no different. I found 24-hour racing, and loved the limits that racing solo took the body to. It was hardcore, it was survival. I entered several races, and it became not only finishing, it became, not stopping, pushing for speed, taking the podium stop. I became known as the fastest solo female in the nation for several years. I set a record for fastest female lap overall at every race I entered. I took to the world championships twice with a best 9th finish.

I took a few years off from top-level competitive racing while my kids were born and just in school. I did not stop racing fully, still competing in several mountain bike stage races, 50-mile plus endurance trail runs, and fondo style events. I also focused on coaching athletes and kids to ride during this time.

I love to coach kids and adults with on-the-bike skills. I currently work with many athletes on bike and meet them in their local trails to help them push past their current comfort level. I am available for one on one sessions or group sessions based on your needs. Please email me to learn more about working with me via the contact page.

In 2019, I want my love of pushing personal boundaries and exploration on the bike to be contagious. Check the calendar for a “Ride with a Dama” or “Ride with Heather” event. These events will be fun focused, full of surprises and made for participation!

Current Business Development NE United States at Bianchi USA

Current National Dama Program Coordinator at Bianchi Dama Ambassador Team

Current Bicycle Waist Pack Designer at Tough Traveler Ltd.

Mountain Bike Skills Coach

Learn to Ride Youth Speciality Coach

Former National Sales Manager at Ridley Bikes

Former National Sales Manager at Eddy Merckx Bikes

Former Managing Director/ Coach at HRRT

Tell us about your introduction to mountain biking, what about it made you say "Yes! This is for me!"
I was introduced to Mountain biking when I was in high school. My father bought a bike and was all in. He took us to Mount Snow Vermont and we explored the area and found some great trails in an area known as Sherwood Forest. I loved being in the woods and the adventure on 2 wheels, I was hooked!

When you started out riding, what were some handling skills that challenged you? Do you have any suggestions for what helped you grasp them?
When I started riding learning the balance was a tough one. Trusting that I could get my butt way back off the saddle ad the bike would not tip over. I just kept practicing the transfer of weight back until I felt like I could slide the saddle through my legs efficiently.

Are there still handling or technical riding aspects that you find tricky? How do you not let that drag you down when riding?

I still find steep downhills or drops to be my fear zone. If I do not know they are coming I typically can handle no problem, but If I see something approaching that makes me nervous, it will stop me in my tracks. I tend to remind myself, "you got this" to get through these sections- it either works or not..sometimes I just close my eyes and go for it (although I don't suggest this) Its never a drag because I know some days you win and others you ride safe..

For folks who are nervous about giving mountain biking a shot, do you have any suggestions on how they can go about creating a positive experience?

For sure! Find a group of friends that inspires you and will be motivating. Get the right bike and make sure your tire pressure and suspension is set properly. Choose a nice day and nothing to tough. You will get the bug! You improve with riding... More time on the bike. So get out there and go for it.

Have you had any biffs (accidents) that were challenging for you on a physical/mental/emotional level? What did you do to heal and overcome?
I have had my share of dabs and accidents. It comes with the territory. A few took me out for a bit, and then it is like starting over on the bike. You need to stay positive, this too shall pass. As long as the bike is not damaged- things heal.

What do you love about riding your bike?
Ha! What's not to love?! Freedom, the fact that everything melts away. its a feeling you can't get from your 2 legs or a car..a unique speed. The trees smell different, the air has a unique texture.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I ride a Bianchi Orso Gravel Bike, its steel and has an amazing ride quality. For my road bike I am currently on a Bianchi Oltre Xr3. It is sick fast. Mountain is an Ibis HD4. It's amazing. Lots of travel, super lightweight and always eager to go for a spin. I don't fret over bike selection, it just happens somehow...I am not sure..I think they choose me. I am a wheel girl. Needs to be light, most likely carbon.
You have spent many years in the cycling industry and have held several job titles throughout. What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you've learned over the years?
I am fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to share my passion with consumers and shops via employment in the industry. I don't see the cycling industry as one you can just show up for clock in and then leave at the end of the day. It's evolving and if you want to evolve you need to move with it. In this industry, you need to share, spark ideas and create. Innovate. I will never stop sharing my passion, its who I am.

Why do you feel it is important for women who are interested in being involved and working in the industry, to pursue doing so?

I feel it's important to pursue anything that you are interested in, regardless if it seems easy or hard. Too often I think we get intimidated by the unknown, or let fear or perception hold us back. The cycling industry connections I have are some of my closest "family". If you want to feel connected and part of something bigger and you love bikes and have great ideas on how to connect to more cyclists, or build new products or help shops- we need you.

What originally inspired you to become a skills coach?

I love working with people to achieve something they think is out of reach. It started with helping a few kiddos lose their training wheels and then a female I was coaching conquering her first triathlon. At one point we transformed the farm into a full-on MTB skills area. Once I start something it just sort of rolls...

What have you enjoyed most while coaching youth in mountain bike skills?
One of the most enjoyable things for me is watching them grow into older, faster, smarter riders. One of my favorite memories is taking a group of middle schoolers out to the trail and having them session these roots, full speed, half speed, in saddle and out...over and over...now these kids hop the roots like they don't exist...I did that, I taught them. It brings a smile to my face.
Why is it important to introduce youth to cycling early? How can people continue to foster their love of biking as they age?
There are so many team sports and so many parents looking to get their kids involved at such early ages now. You're not a good parent if your kids are not doing 2 sports and another activity, you're driving all over...thus leaving you spending actually; no time together. I think introducing kids to sports early allows them to build a desire to spend time doing something with you outside. This allows them to develop with you as you both age, by finding new places to ride, creating biking trips and making your life culture to include the bicycle.

What have you enjoyed most while coaching adults in mountain bike skills?
Adults are a challenging group to teach. They want to learn but will be the first to be afraid to try something. The most enjoyable moment is when something that was so hard, is finally ridden and you see that kid smile come out.

What do you feel deters women from getting involved with cycling? Especially mountain biking?
I don't think anything deters women. I think this is almost a made-up cultural norm that says ladies are afraid to ride, or not ready to invest in the gear.
It's exposure at a young age. I think enough females don't get exposed to it. We need to open the box earlier.

What do you feel could change industry-wise or locally to encourage more women to be involved?
It has to start at a younger age. So maybe we connect to Girl Scouts, Frontier Girls, or Campfire USA to make cycling a part of their program. Or its getting cycling into schools. For connecting with grown women, the industry needs to partner with the movers and shakers, for instance, Built by Girls, Shapeways, Girlup, Girls on the Run, or Girlgaze. We need to go after it instead of them coming to us.

What inspires you to encourage women to ride?

Cycling has changed my life. It has made me stronger, led to travel, friendships and experiences I would not have had otherwise. I want to share this with others.

Tell us a random fact about yourself!
My initials spell HAM.