"If you’d have asked me 3 or 4 years ago I never have thought I’d be making bikes,” said Anne Hed when I asked her about her company’s entre into bike frame manufacturing.
“There’s a story behind the story of why I’m making bikes,” she continued. “We had a nice relationship with Cervelo, just with wheels. Our original deal with Cervelo was just to add some Jets to their bikes; they felt they needed a nice set of wheels.
“Once we had that relationship, they saw our facilities, they saw the way we molded our products, clean and green, the way they popped out of the molds pretty much finished. They sat down with Steve [Hed, Anne’s husband] and said how nice it was to fly from Toronto to Minnesota; they didn’t have to fly halfway around the world. That’s the way it started.
“They asked, gosh, what else can you make in Minnesota?”
The subject of the new Cervelo frame came up. Anne Hed told Cervelo that they’d never made a frame. They made components for frames (HED made carbon gussets for the Quintana Roo frames I made 20 and 25 years ago).
Steve Hed asked, “Why don’t I try making a scaled mold for you? Let’s see if I can make one in proportion to what you want to do, we’ll see if I can get that to work.”
Cervelo sent HED a CAD drawing for the scaled model of the “Pony,” as the HED folks took to calling it [above]. Everything went fine, and HED tooled up to make the first full scale frame. They cut the molds in-house; but for one small piece everything about this frame, tooling included, was made in or around the HED factory in the Twin Cities area.
“The most difficult part was to see if we could make a single part, complete, recalls Anne. “We didn’t want to glue things, or make a frame in pieces.”
Scaling the frame up was not trivial. Steve Hed spent a long time trying to figure out how to make it work. He was at the shop “for very long hours trying to figure out how to make the part,” recalls Anne.
When Steve Hed felt he was ready, engineers from Cervelo came to observe a single frame molded, the entire process start to finish. Anne had to leave work that day, to take her daughter to a school function. Steve stayed at the shop with the Cervelo engineers, awaiting the result.
“About an hour later Steve called me. ‘Annie, it works! It looks really good.” Cervelo was likewise happy, and okayed making production frames.
“He was super happy, he’d been working so hard on it. He was really proud of himself; he was really happy with how it worked. So I thought it was awesome, just to hear that joy from him.”
Anne drove their daughter Rebecca home from her function, and she got a call from one of her employees. “You need to get to work. Steve collapsed.”
Steve Hed passed on the 26th of November, 2014. An autopsy showed no heart blockage. He’d run 5 miles the Saturday before. There is no certain reason for why he died.
“A million things go through my mind,” Anne recalled. “He’s my best friend. What am I going to do? Am I going to continue this business without him?” Steve and Anne Hed were together for 30 years, married for the last 24 of them.
“I’d just signed a lease on a new building the month before for 7 years. I had to have all my people out of the old building at the end of December. Do I just close the door? We’re done? Or pick up the pieces and continue?”
HED’s business was going great guns at the time. Its fat bike rim, the Big Deal, was red hot. “Orders were really starting to come in, that was the reason for the new building.
“And now we have this new frame to make. I just decided that through all this pain there must be a gleam of light. Moving into the new shop, it was beautiful, clean, yellow, like sunshine. I didn’t want to stay at the old facility, but if I could start somewhere fresh…”
That was two years ago next month. Anne Hed is in Kona, now, in 2016. She hasn’t been to this island in a decade and a half. She returned for the launch of the Cervelo P5X, the frame for which her husband made, and that her company now makes.
Anne Hed competed in the Hawaiian Ironman in 1983, and in total raced the Hawaiian Ironman 8 times. Steve and Annie Hed raced it together in 1992, two years after their wedding.
What’s this trip like for her?
“Watching people race here, like I did, on our products, it’s more important to me than my own racing. I’m much more gratified to be helping others race.”
She has two children, Andrew finishing college, Rebecca entering college. She sees the Island differently now.
“I went to a coffee plantation with my kids. I went to a luau. I’m at an age where I enjoy it all. I don’t want to miss what this island is all about. I never took time out for all of that when I was racing. I’m going to take a helicopter ride on Friday. I see everyone looking at their watches up and down Alii drive. I understand why everyone’s like that, but I’m at the age where I get to see now everything I missed during my racing years.
“I’m super excited.”