All the Small Things

Three days before the due date of her second baby, Hannah Barnes and her daughter Inga ride one of their favorite trails.

All the Small Things Hannah Barnes Navigates Motherhood on Two Wheels

At first glance, it seems as though Hannah Barnes effortlessly stepped into motherhood. Continuing to crush training rides and traveling across the globe with a toddler in tow, her life appears to have changed very little from her days of elite racing.

“Becoming a mother felt really natural; I’m still exactly who I was, but now I've got kids,” says Hannah, a professional mountain biker, Specialized ambassador, and mother of two.

Of course, she faces the same challenges as any mom. But her positive outlook and philosophy have helped her fully embrace the role, finding acceptance and joy in nearly every moment.

Hannah’s approach to life has always been to go with the flow, something she may be predisposed to. At 14 years old, her parents pulled her and her brother out of school to sail for a year aboard an Ohlsen 38 around the Atlantic Ocean from their hometown in Fort William, Scotland. After finishing high school she ventured to Alaska, living off the grid and training Huskies for sled teams. Back in Scotland, she pursued a nursing degree while racing as a sponsored mountain biker. In 2017 she wrapped up five years of racing on the Enduro World Series (EWS) circuit among other cross-country stage races across the globe.

With two little ones in tow, Hannah’s adaptability has become a vital asset. She hasn’t given up anything she loves; her daughters have simply added more to her life, she says.

When it came to starting a family with her partner, Brodie Hood, they chose to welcome parenthood with the same open-minded curiosity, ready for whatever came their way while avoiding stereotypical preconceived expectations set by well-meaning advice from others.

Now, with two little ones in tow, Hannah’s adaptability has become even more vital. She hasn’t given up anything she loves; her daughters have simply added more to her life, she says. Whether it’s training for races, traveling the world, or growing their own food, Hannah and Brodie have made sure to involve their kids every step of the way. It hasn’t always been easy, but it is the only way for them.

“I want to keep doing what I love as much as I can because I don’t want my kids to think, ‘My mom and dad used to be cool, and then they had us,’” she says.

Juggling everything can be tough when time, energy, and resources are in short supply. Fortunately, Hannah and Brodie have flexible schedules, allowing them to support each other as a team. This might involve Brodie taking the kids on hikes to a trail’s base so Hannah can nurse mid-ride or Hannah managing parenting solo while Brodie is away for work.

It can also mean letting some things go. On days filled by an endless loop of picking up toys and doing dishes, Hannah feels accomplished when everyone is still doing well physically, emotionally, and mentally at bedtime.

Working as a professional athlete while raising kids, Hannah has to make time for family every chance she gets. Combining a trip for a film shoot with a family camping expedition made visiting the French Alps all the more exciting.
Hannah's adventurous spirit remains steadfast in motherhood as she tackles each challenge with resilience, adaptability, and unwavering determination. Her approach showcases the joy of embracing life's uncertainties with curiosity and excitement.

Releasing expectations has been especially necessary when Hannah’s feeling the haze of postpartum exhaustion and internal pressure to keep up with training. During a family trip to the Alps with Brodie and their eldest, Inga, they intended to bike up a mountain on a two-hour trek for a lunch break at a shelter before cruising back down. But Inga wasn’t keen on the bike trailer. Instead of pushing the issue, they adjusted their plans and opted for a spontaneous visit to a playground and some pony-petting fun. Staying flexible meant less stress for everyone.

“As long as everyone’s happy in the grand scheme of things, I don’t sweat the small stuff,” Hannah says.

This attitude helped Hannah navigate the Glasgow Airport on her way to the Kilimanjaro 2 Natron (K2N) race in Africa—her first postpartum event in 2022—with one-year-old Inga, her bike bag, a stroller, a car seat, Inga’s bike, and two large bags of gear in tow. Running on just a few hours of sleep and inching her mountain of luggage along by herself, she made it to her 4:30 a.m. flight. Unfortunately, Brodie, who was supposed to be there helping, was held up by weather and out of touch more than 4,540 miles away on Mount Everest after finishing up a stint of work on a rescue team tasked with recovering the body of a fallen mountaineer.

“Being on Everest, if you have an accident, it’s not like you break your wrist or your ankle—we'd never see him again, we probably wouldn't even recover a body,” Hannah says.

During her multiple long flights, Brodie’s absence weighed heavily on her. She found herself rehearsing various scenarios of what she’d do if he didn’t turn up and prayed for his safety.

Arriving at Kilimanjaro International Airport, Hannah endured four hours standing in the customs line with Inga strapped to her as she sweat in the blistering heat. When she finally reached the arrivals area, long-time friend Fanie Kok from Specialized greeted her.

“Seeing Hannah get there with all her bags, the bike, pram, and the baby, I was stressing out for her,” says Fanie. “She was holding Inga in one hand while she calmly assembled the pram with the other. I was thinking, ‘How does she do it? How is this even possible?’”

On a favorite trail in Glenlivet, Scotland, Hannah and Inga are joined by their dog, Lumi, on a family ride.
At only 18 months old, Inga is already following in her mom's footsteps. As soon as she was old enough, she eagerly hopped aboard for rides.

The airport is remote, with the nearest city, Arusha, about 32 miles away. After landing, Hannah and Inga, with Fanie, still had to drive about 50 miles to Mount Kilimanjaro National Park. From there, the race would take them to even more isolated areas, riding deep into the heart of Africa over the course of four days.

Hannah had worried about travelling with a toddler in this situation, including concerns about Inga contracting malaria. But she did her homework, and based on research and common sense, she felt comfortable with precautions like going to bed before dark, using a mosquito net, and avoiding setting up her tent near still water to minimize the risk.

“I just absolutely love the adventure, and it’s not an adventure if there’s no uncertainty,” Hannah says. “You've just got to take things as they come and educate yourself on where you’re going.”

Brodie arrived safely in Africa a day after Hannah. In just 48 hours he’d traveled from the slopes of Everest to Tanzania. His transition was so quick that he had to hang his summit suit outside their tent in the middle of the bush to dry. Brodie had been away from his family for 10 weeks and had lost 20 kilograms (about 44 pounds) from working in brutal conditions in the Himalayas.

“Inga didn’t remember me,” Brodie says. “She was about double the size as when I left, and she just cried when I got there.”

Brodie was so exhausted that the trip is mostly a blur for him now. But in the moment, he stepped into parent mode without missing a beat. He spent his days with Inga once the race kicked off and took her to aid stations along the route so Hannah could feed her.

Racing in the EWS and participating in many stage races, including the BC Bike Race, Hannah would typically be quite disciplined in her preparations. In the evenings, she was strict about eating, hydrating, prepping supplies for the next day, and going to bed on time. At K2N, however, she slept when she could (which wasn't much on one particularly difficult evening for Inga), ate what was available, and spent more time organizing what Inga would need the next day than her own kit.

Hannah and Inga take a break from a video shoot in Austria in the summer of 2023. Whether it’s training for races, traveling the world, or growing their own food, Hannah and Brodie have made sure to involve their kids every step of the way.
With flexible schedules, Hannah and Brodie support each other in juggling various responsibilities. Brodie takes the kids on hikes while Hannah nurses mid-ride, and Hannah manages solo parenting when Brodie is away for work. Here, the family takes a walk close to home.

“The second I sit on my bike, though, all the sleepless nights are gone. Instead, I'm just doing what I've always done,” Hannah says. “I already felt so unbelievably privileged to have such a cool job—I wouldn’t complain about being tired because I would never want not to have that opportunity.”

Despite the challenges of hauling a baby and luggage from Scotland to Africa alone and worrying over Brodie’s safety, malaria, and even the lurking presence of hyenas, witnessing Inga toddling about in the bush among familiar faces Hannah had known for years made every hurdle worthwhile. Although it might have seemed like madness to an outsider, Hannah demonstrated that not only is integrating children into her active lifestyle feasible, but it’s also deeply fulfilling.

By concentrating on these precious moments of motherhood, the other trials become insignificant, she says.

“Hannah appreciates all the small things in life,” Brodie says. “That has come out even more with kids.”

With resilience, adaptability, and unwavering determination, Hannah has held fast to her adventurous spirit, even in motherhood. She navigates every new challenge with curiosity and excitement, demonstrating how rewarding it can be to embrace the uncertainty of life with an open mind and heart.

“I wouldn’t change any of this for a slightly easier life,” Hannah says. “I just go with the flow.”