Life by bike: An interview with Hannah Ferle from the Supply Chain team

Felix Schifflhuber
Felix Schifflhuber

Hannah Ferle is an all-weather bike commuter that discovered a love for road riding when she joined woom, where she's been cutting her teeth with practical experience while completing her studies in Supply Chain Management. If it sounds like a lot to fit into 24 hours, it is – but that's where her contagious energy comes in.

What does bike riding mean to you?

Hannah: You're throwing me in at the deep end with that question! (laughs) A big part of cycling's appeal is the sporting side, but I also really like being out on my bike with friends. That is what's great about riding: it unites the social side with the sporting one. 

Another thing I really like is the distance that you can cover on a bike, especially compared to running. It's quite easy to go further afield and explore new places by bike.

What's the craziest thing you've done on a bike?

Hannah: One of the highlights of 2022 was riding from Vienna to Budapest. It was quite a spontaneous decision: I was actually on a bike-free holiday in East Tyrol when I messaged a friend asking if she was up for a little weekend ride.

She was immediately game and said she wanted to ride further than usual, which got us both thinking about Bratislava. However, as we'd both already ridden there before, we decided to check out the next city along the Danube: Budapest.

At this point, we were both still in the dark about the fact that Budapest is just under 300 km from Vienna. (laughs)

I got back from my holiday the night before we were supposed to set off, dug out my cycling gear, pumped up my tyres and got three energy bars out the cupboard. The next morning, we were off.

Did you complete the 300 km ride in a day?

Hannah: Yep! (laughs) While I wouldn't necessarily recommend the EuroVelo 6* between Vienna and Budapest, we had an amazing time and had some incredibly interesting encounters with different people. It was really fun.

If you're wondering about mad bike adventures, I've done a few. This spring, I rode with eight people from Innsbruck to Vienna. Over three days, we did 700 km with 10,000 metres of climbing.

It was really hard but also seriously cool. I'd do something similar in an instant!

*EuroVelo is a long-distance bike route from the Atlantic to the Black Sea.

We spotted another crazy ride you did on the woom Car Free Day. Where did that idea come from?

Hannah rode 120 km from Vienna to the HQ in Klosterneuburg with Clemens, a colleague at woom.

Hannah: On the first Car Free Day back in the spring of 2022, I knew there was a prize for whoever cycled the furthest on the way to the office. I had to give it a go: I started in the south of Vienna and picked up three colleagues along the way in order to clock up the distance.

I rode 70 km to work that day, which was the furthest here in Austria, but I discovered that a colleague in the USA had beaten me by two kilometres – I was pretty gutted.

When the next Car Free Day rolled around in September 2022, I planned a 'mega commute' with a colleague called Clemens.

He came up with the idea of spelling the word woom with our route and tracking it on Strava. He screenshotted a map of Vienna with a route mapped out.

He provisionally positioned the two 'o' letters near the central station, but when adding the 'w' and the 'm' we were only looking at a ride of around 60–70 km. But given what had happened in spring, Clemens and I knew we'd have to go further to beat our American colleagues, which is why we added a little heart in the Weinviertel region north of Vienna.

This brought the route up to around 120 km. We knew that we'd have to start fairly early in the morning to make it into the office on time. We definitely didn't want to miss out on the social breakfast to celebrate Car Free Day.

Decision made: we would start at 2.30 a.m. When my alarm went off, I did ask myself: What on earth have you let yourself in for? (laughs) But we had so much fun, and we made it on time!

You both won the distance challenge by a significant margin – well done!

Thank you!

Other than on Car Free Day, do you usually ride the same route to work?

Hannah: Pretty much. I live in the 9th district of Vienna, which means I've got around two kilometres to ride through town before I get on the bike path along the Danube canal. No cars, no traffic lights – it's ideal!

Sometimes I'll take a detour through the Vienna Woods if I'm not doing as much riding outside of work – especially in winter – but that's a rarity. I usually do the same 11 km route following the Danube canal and the Danube river into Klosterneuburg.

Commuting along the beautiful blue Danube is definitely not a chore for Hannah.

Do you always commute by bike or do you sometimes take other forms of transport?

Hannah: There's only been one occasion when I haven't cycled to work and that was on my first day at woom back in July 2018 because I was so nervous and wasn't sure about the situation with showering and getting changed.

I've come by bike every day since.

In November 2018, someone at work suggested I should get mudguards. If you're planning on riding throughout winter, these are a huge asset. Mudguards have changed my life. (laughs)

In those first few months I had turned up at the office absolutely drenched a few times, which had made me wonder how tough is this going to get. But once you've got mudguards and decent gloves, it's fine. And a bit of motivation will definitely help.

Who's your favourite company on a ride? 

Hannah: In June 2019 I was invited to join 'Girls Ride', which was pretty uncommon in Vienna at that point. Road riding had always been very male-dominated and there were not that many women joining rides. In terms of women-only groups, almost none existed.

I ended up meeting a lot of people through Girls Ride. The road riding community isn't that big here, so once you know one rider, you'll meet them all. That's how I met Judith and Krystle, who are two of my favourite people to ride with.

It's a really different experience in a women's-only group – though you shouldn't ever write it off as just a coffee ride. Sure, we'll be chatting the whole way (laughs), but we'll still be going at speed with an element of performance, too.

For Hannah, cycling is part sporting endeavour, part social get-together.

How did you get into road cycling? 

Hannah: I got fitter and fitter in the first few months riding to woom, but I was still being overtaken on a daily basis by road riders along the Danube canal.

I thought to myself: This cannot go on. Then I got a road bike for Christmas in 2018, which I'm still riding today. That's when I started road riding properly – and never stopped.

What's your role at woom?

Hannah: The purchasing department is split into 'strategic' and 'operational' here at woom. I'm on the strategic purchasing side, which means I follow a product until it's gone through all the testing phases and been fully specced.

In other words: When the product developers come up with something new, my colleagues and I have to work out where we could source the components for this new product.

We look around for potential suppliers. On top of that, our role is to negotiate prices as well as check in with existing suppliers.

After development, we pass everything over to our colleagues in operational purchasing. They deal with the orders and make sure that everything goes smoothly as the bike gets produced.

Alongside working and riding, you're also writing the thesis for your master's degree, aren't you? What's good about studying alongside the job?

Hannah: I used to study full time, but I find this set-up a lot more interesting. I'm able to put the theory straight into practice.

I also learn a lot from my course mates about how things are run at other companies. We can compare company structures, as well as issues and opportunities that we might have spotted.

It's really cool to get a new perspective and think outside the box.

Hannah chats to her colleague Felix from Communications.

How did you first find yourself working for woom?

Hannah: I remember reading an interview with Marcus and Christian, the founders of woom, in the Presse am Sonntag newspaper back in October 2017, in which they talked about the brand and their idea of creating child-specific bikes.

At that point in time, I was actually looking for a job to go alongside my studies and woom struck me as a really cool company, so I immediately sent in an application. I didn't hear anything back until April 2018, which is probably an apt reflection of how things were at woom back then: a little chaotic, you could say. (laughs)

But one thing that has not changed since I started is how great the team is. They're a dream! Even during my job interview I could tell it was going to be a great company with lovely colleagues that truly believe in the product.

I was something like the fiftieth or sixtieth person to join woom and now there are about 250 woomsters around the world. A lot has happened in the meantime, but the great cooperation across all the departments is something that's still really, really good.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? 

Hannah: Still cycling! (laughs)

What are you most proud of? 

Hannah: I was never what you'd call an overachiever in maths or physics at school. But when I was researching further education options after finishing high school, I came across industrial engineering and it sounded like fun.

The immediate reaction from my friends and family was a bit reticent though: Had I really thought it through? Was it really the right choice for me? This convinced me that I was making the right choice – I'd make something of it.

I got my Bachelor's degree alongside the job despite not having any prior knowledge of mechanics, thermodynamics or anything like that. I'm really proud of myself for that.

Safety first – Hannah makes sure her helmet is sitting correctly before continuing the commute.

Tell us, what's on your bucket list*?

Hannah: I could list so many bike adventures that it would take up a full page at least! (laughs) But 2023 has to be the year I get my sailing licence. And now that's in writing, so I've got to get it!

* Bucket list: A list of things you would like to achieve before you die.

Do you have any other hobbies besides cycling? 

Hannah: Despite what you might think, I still manage to fit in some free time around work, studying and riding my bike. (laughs) I absolutely love going to gigs and concerts. There's something special about seeing live music when you're stood in a crowd with friends by your side and a beer in your hand.

Have you seen any standout concerts recently? 

Hannah: The 'Picture On' festival in Bildein in the southern Burgenland region was really amazing. It's a really intimate festival with a real mix of bands. There's everything from punk to hip hop and a few singer-songwriter types too.

Did you cycle to the festival?

Hannah: Of course! Some friends and I rode 180 km from Vienna to the festival site; it was a really nice ride actually. But we probably could have skipped the return ride after spending three days at the festival. (laughs) Fortunately we stopped in Eisenstadt for a piece of Esterházy torta cake! So good and much-needed, you could say!

What have been your most memorable bike trips so far? 

Hannah: In 2019, me and a group of woomsters rode from London to Paris. It was super cool. We flew to the UK first, then cycled to Paris in two days via the Newhaven–Dieppe ferry.

We enjoyed the experience so much that we repeated it in October 2019, but this time we took the train to Florence, and then cycled something like 400–500 km around Italy. It was really fun.

What do you like about your colleagues? 

Hannah: How we work together. We all have a job to do but it's never too serious. Everyone pays attention to the rest of the team and thinks about other departments too.

How would you describe the management style at woom? 

Hannah: Regardless of someone's position, it feels like we're on a level. We're all on first-name terms at woom. Giving input is encouraged and there's a really great feedback culture. That's why I see my managers as part of the same team as me.

What traits should a future woomster bring with them?

Hannah: A love for road riding! And strong calf muscles! (laughs) Jokes aside, a bit of humour, common sense and an ability to have fun at work. And if whoever joins also likes riding their bike, that's perfect.

Hannah doesn't confine herself to just good human company on a bike ride – she never knows who she'll encounter.

If you could pick any famous person for a bike ride, who would it be? And where would you ride?

Hannah: I'd like to attempt an Everesting with Michael Strasser*. Everesting is when you have to climb the same elevation as Mount Everest in one bike ride, meaning almost 9,000 vertical metres.

*Extreme sports athlete from Austria

Quick-fire Q&A