In this series we meet Swedes who work in the bike industry. Meet bike fanatic Alexandra Löfvander who spends her time between Stockholm and California, developing & testing bike suspension.
In our recent mini-series “Swedes in the bike world” we meet people who’ve decided to mix business with pleasure and started working in the bike industry. We take a look at the person behind the job, how they’ve made it to where they are today, what drives them and what’s the best (and worst) thing about working with bikes.
This time we meet Alexandra Löfvander who never thought she’d get a chance to work in the bike industry. So when a job opening at the famous suspension company Öhlins Racing opened up three years ago, she did everything she could, pulled every string available and used all of her social network to land her dream job.
- Age: 39
- Hometown: Stockholm
- Currently living in: Stockholm
- Work: Key Account Manager, Öhlins Racing
- Favourite place to ride: Hellas, Stockholm
- Instagram: @alex_bikeacademy
How did you get into biking and why does it mean so much to you?
I spent my teenage years doing pretty ordinary teenage stuff and it wasn’t until my 20’s that I discover the charm with outdoor sports. At the time, I studied at a University in Northern Sweden, and there wasn’t much else to do there but sports. I didn’t actually fall in love with MTB instantaneously, but it grew on me more and more each time I tried it. It was after taking a lesson in technical trail riding that I realised how much fun it is!
I saw the job posting in a bike forum and just knew I had to have it. I pulled every available string and shamelessly used every contact I had just to make sure that I got the job! - Alex Löfvander
For a couple of years my main focus was on doing a lot of bike marathons and adventure racing, but after a while I realized that the fun part was not going as fast as possible in easy terrain, but going as fast as possible down technical trails. So, I started riding Downhill and when Enduro was introduced in Sweden, me and my friends started racing the National series. After a couple of years with injuries, I gave up on racing completely and to be honest, I now love the freedom of simply doing what I love the most – trail riding!
There is almost nothing that cannot be cured on the trails; it always manages to put a smile on my face. I also love to travel with my bike; it truly is the best way to discover new places and meet brilliant people.
Alexandra loving the rocks and roots.
© JOHAN HAAG / HOPE TECHNOLOGY
When did you realise you wanted to work in the bike industry?
As an engineer and a passionate biker, who wouldn´t want to? But jobs in the biking industry are pretty limited in Sweden so I never thought I would actually end up working with bikes as a full-time job. Before I started at Öhlins some friends and I started up a hobby business for coaching trail-riding to girls. It was such a rewarding thing to do with our spare time - all those ladies having a good time, pushing and inspiring each other.
One day about three years ago, I saw the job posting at Öhlins Racing MTB-group in a bike forum and I knew I just had to have it. I pulled every available string and shamelessly used every contact I had just to make sure that I got the job!!
What does a normal day at work look like?
My job is pretty dynamic, it kind of changes with whatever needs we have in the group at the time, which suits me great. I love the variation and I want to learn as much as possible about our products, the technology and the bike industry in general.
My formal job title is today Key Account Manager, working mainly with our allied Specialized, both for OE and aftermarket. I travel regularly to the Specialized Headquarter in California, meeting up with Product Managers and guys and girls involved with frame set-ups and suspension. I probably make it sound much more glamorous than it is. Most of my working time is spent in front of the computer - Excel tables, Power Points, budgets, meetings - all that ordinary stuff that comes with any other office job.
The cool thing about Öhlins is that we still have a lot of manufacturing here in our own factory in Sweden, having the products still in-house is a big advantage for us.
Does your job differ depending on the different bike seasons?
It´s a full-time job – I feel so lucky to be able to work with bikes every day! We are pretty busy all year around. In the summer we travel to races and bike events and during the winter we do a lot of testing, visiting dealers, schooling and prepare for the racing season. And as it is a global business, there is always bike season in some part of the world.
A lot of good things are happening when it comes to acknowledging female riders and women in general in the bike industry, but so much more could be done. - Alex Löfvander
What’s the best thing about working in the bike industry?
At previous jobs I have pretty much been the only bike-nerd, trying to explain to colleagues what´s so fun about spending all your free time on the trails. Trying to discuss what your dream bike-build would be or the results from the Downhill World Cup last weekend would not exactly work as lunch topics.
Now I am surrounded by people that are just as passionate about bikes as I am! You always have someone to ask if you are having any troubles with your bike; my colleagues are crazy skilled and know everything worth to know about bikes, especially when it comes to suspension. Getting to ride in new places and testing bikes and new technologies through work is such a luxury! I also love meeting all these brilliant and inspiring people when travelling, both riders and people working in the biking industry.
What can be challenging about working in the bike industry?
The bike industry is (at least compared to previous industries I have worked in) changing so crazy fast! Product development has to be at least one step ahead of the market and the rapid introduction of new standards really keeps us on our toes all the time.
On a more personal level I guess it would be the lack of women. A lot of good things are happening when it comes to acknowledging female riders and women in general in the bike industry, but so much more could be done. We have a girl in our group right now doing her Master Thesis, she is a passionate Downhill biker from Switzerland. I want to see more of that! I know that there are so many talented ladies out there, we just need to figure out how to get them to take the step and join the industry.
Alexandra wants to see more women in the bike industry.
© JOHAN HAAG / HOPE TECHNOLOGY
All commitments connected to biking will always look good in your résumé, showing both ambition and that you are serious about your interest in the business. - Alex Löfvander
What’s 2018 got in store for you (both work and riding)?
Workwise we have an exciting year ahead of us. A lot of product releases coming up and we are continuing our collaboration with the Specialized racing team - expectations after the team’s great performance last year are sky high!
On a personal level, it will be a bit of a gap year when it comes to bike riding. Me and my boyfriend are expecting our first child in June, so we won´t be able to do any bigger adventures this year with our bikes. Instead I am looking forward to be able to teach this new little acquaintance the joy of biking when he or she is old enough.
What is your best tip for someone wanting to get in to the bike industry?
Do an inventory of your contact network - do you know anyone working in the industry or anyone with contacts that you could use? Get involved with local bike activities - are there any organisations or clubs were you live? All commitments connected to biking will always look good in your résumé, showing both ambition and that you are serious about your interest in the business.
Also there are so many different types of jobs in the industry, not all tasks are necessarily fun but could be a way to work your way in. Ask for summer jobs, internships or just any type of temporary position. Keep updated on what´s going on in the biking world. Having ideas of your own could also be a potential way in, either in a company or starting up your own side-business.
Stockholm looking a little like California...
© JOHAN HAAG / HOPE TECHNOLOGY