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 biking 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 helps.

What does bike riding mean to you? 

Hannah: You're throwing me in at the deep end with that question! A big part of cycling's appeal is the sporting side, but I also 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 like is the distance that you can cover on a bike, especially compared to running. It's quite easy to go farther 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 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 farther 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 187 miles from Vienna.

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

Did you complete the 187 mile ride in a day?

Hannah: Yep! While I wouldn't necessarily recommend the EuroVelo 6* between Vienna and Budapest, we had an amazing time and 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 335 miles with about 33,000 feet of climbing.

It was 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 you get the idea?

Hannah rode 75 miles 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 to clock up the distance.

I rode about 44 miles to work that day, which was the furthest here in Austria, but I discovered that a colleague in the US had beaten me by just over a mile – 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 40 miles. 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 75 miles. 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 2:30am. When my alarm went off, I did ask myself: What on earth have you gotten yourself into? But we had so much fun, and we made it on time!

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

Hannah: 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 just over a mile 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 7-mile 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.

In those first few months, I had arrived 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 favorite 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 biking 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 biking 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 favorite people to ride with.

It's a 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, but we'll still be going at speed with an element of performance, too.

For Hannah, cycling is both for the sport and the community.

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 biking 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 figure out where to source the components for this new product.

We look around for potential suppliers. On top of that, our role includes negotiating prices and checking in with existing suppliers.

After development, we pass everything over to our colleagues in operational purchasing. They deal with the orders and ensure that everything goes smoothly as the bike is 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 setup a lot more interesting. I'm able to put the theory straight into practice.

I also continue to learn a lot from my classmates 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 cool to get a new perspective and think outside the box.

Hannah chats with 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 a newspaper in October 2017, in which they talked about the brand and their idea of creating child-specific bikes.

At that point, I was actually looking for a job alongside my studies, and woom struck me as a 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.

But one thing that has stayed the same since I started is how great the team is. They're a dream! Even during my job interview, I could tell it would be a great company with lovely colleagues who 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!

What are you most proud of?  

Hannah:  I was never what you'd call an overachiever in math 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: Had I thought it through? Was it 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 proud of myself for that.

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

What's on your bucket list? 

Hannah: I could list so many bike adventures that it would fill a whole book! But 2023 will be the year I get my sailing license. And now that's in writing, so I've got to do it!

Do you have any other hobbies besides cycling? 

Hannah: Despite what you might think, I still manage some free time around work, studying, and riding my bike. I absolutely love going to concerts. There's something special about seeing live music when standing in a crowd with friends and having 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 amazing. It's an 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 112 miles from Vienna to the festival site; it was a nice ride. But we could have skipped the return ride after spending three days at the festival. Fortunately, we stopped in Eisenstadt for a piece of Esterházy torta cake! So good and much-needed!

What have been your most memorable bike trips so far?

Hannah: In 2019, I rode with a group of woomsters from London to Paris. It was 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 250-300 miles around Italy. It was 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 the same level. We're all on first-name terms at woom. Giving input is encouraged, and there's a 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 biking! And strong calf muscles! All jokes aside, a bit of humor, common sense and an ability to have fun at work. And if whoever joins also likes riding their bike, that's even better.

Hannah doesn't confine herself to 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, which is almost 30,000 vertical feet.

*An extreme sports athlete from Austria

Quick-fire Q&A