What’s it like to grow up “Livin’ The Dream?” That’s motto printed on every Sycamore Cycles water bottle. After all, for many people, Brevard is the ultimate outdoor destination. The winters aren’t terrible, there’s more public land to play on than anywhere else on the East Coast, and it’s in the South – for the most part, folks are pretty nice.
But some people actually grow up living the dream. Hannah Dickson, for one, has had an enviable childhood. Not only was she raised in this unique mountain town, but, her father, Wes Dickson, owns a bike shop at the entrance to Pisgah National Forest, Sycamore Cycles.
Needless to say, Hannah has spent a fair amount of time surrounded by cyclists – both road and mountain bike. Growing up, she thrived on being part of the cycling community.
“I liked it, because they’re funny, and they’re nice,” she said. “I’ve kind of known them all of my life, so they’re like my family, too.”
Because she was so immersed in the cycling scene, Wes felt it was important not to push her to become a cyclist. She spent years exploring her own interests, from horseback riding to some pretty serious pogo sticking. She also spent time with the Girls on the Run group, which empowers girls to be active, healthy and engaged community members, and she ran cross-country.
Eventually, Hannah decided she wanted to focus on riding bikes, and she’s been pursuing it pretty seriously ever since. She has a personal coach, Thad Walker, who started the Brevard College cycling program in 2007, and he helps her develop workouts.
She typically rides five or six times a week, split between road cycling and mountain biking. During the week, the high school senior tries to get in a couple hours of riding after class. On the weekend, she looks forward to what she calls “epic Pisgah rides.” She also enjoys competition, and has traveled with her father to compete in numerous cycling events.
Some of Hannah’s favorite memories are in DuPont State Recreational Forest, where she basically learned how to mountain bike, and the former Carolina Youth Mountain Bike League, which encouraged kids to get out on bikes and hosted a youth race series. Hannah said riding with her father – whom she was always chasing on the climbs – and her friends was the catalyst for her love of mountain biking.
“I love climbing the long gravel roads and being able to get out there,” she said. “I love all the trails, but I can’t choose a favorite. I really like Buckhorn Gap trail though – all the creek crossings in the summertime keep you cool,” she said.
After graduating from Brevard High School this spring, Hannah will join the ranks of other collegiate cyclists at Brevard College. The college’s successful cycling program, which has won multiple national championships, is a large part of the reason she chose BC. This summer, not only will she be working in her dad’s shop in Pisgah Forest, Hannah will be doing some mentoring of her own with the Little Bella’s, an advocacy group that connects female mentors with girls ages 7 to 16.
The organization uses mountain biking as a vehicle to teach the importance of teamwork, goal setting and fostering a healthy lifestyle. Hannah will be teaching them some basic mechanics of the bike, as well as acting as a skills coach. “I can’t wait to work with them, especially the younger ones, because they’re hilarious,” she said.
Her family has taken more than a few cycling-related trips together, allowing Hannah to travel to riding destinations like Squamish, British Columbia, Bend, Ore., and Oliver Springs, Tenn.
For her 18th birthday, Hannah and her dad went mountain biking at Windrock Bike Park on their matching Specialized Enduros. She has a whole quiver of bikes, including her Specialized Amira road bike, an Epic for cross-country riding and a Stumpjumper.
When asked about her cycling goals, Hannah takes it day by day.
“I obviously want to go faster,” she said. Right now, she’s focused on improving her technical climbing and her carrying speed through corners and technical sections.
Although training can be challenging and requires a big time commitment, Hannah said she always looks forward to it.
“Sometimes, when I worked last summer, I’d be tired, and didn’t want to go,” she said. “But when I went, I’d be happy, and I’d be glad I went.”