Massimo Alpian manages global communications for Cannondale and GT Bicycles. Based in beautiful Boulder, Colo., arguably the cycling hub of the U.S., his passion is collaborating with others to create an inclusive, representative and diverse cycling community so that everyone can enjoy the freedom that a bicycle can bring. Alpian grew up in New York City, an immigrant kid.
“Our sport has been exclusive for too long and it’s time to change the status quo,” he tells me as we reconnect over how to bring his story to life during Pride Month and while the nation experiences an unprecedented bike boom.
During an accomplished international non-profit career, Alpian focused on human rights, climate change and its effect on refugees and humanitarian assistance in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa at organizations like UNICEF and the United Nations. He also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University, and undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from New York University and St. John’s University.
A love for the outdoors and bike racing are what brought Massimo to leave his non-profit career for a marketing and communications career in the outdoor industry and move to Boulder roughly a decade ago. He has worked on both the brand and agency side, executing communications and strategies for outdoor brands including CamelBak, Fjällräven, HOKA, Tracksmith, and KEEN. In his current role managing global communications for Cannondale, he works on making cycling and bikes accessible to all, while working on the ground with various non-profit organizations focusing on social and racial justice. Not the usual job description for someone in his position. He sits on the board of directors for Ride for Racial Justice, Protect Our Winters, Ned Gravel and others.
Dive in to our full interview with Alpian here:
How did you find yourself in this position?
Almost 8 years ago I walked into the Dynafit offices in downtown Boulder with a passion for brand marketing and not a whole lot of experience. My big break came from two individuals who took a chance on me and brought me on for an entry level role — Scott Knight and Eric “Hende” Henderson. Since then, my professional path has grown and I’m grateful to have worked with some of the best agencies, brands and organizations in the outdoor and endurance spaces that represent my values: equity, inclusivity, diversity and sustainability.
The bike industry is both large and small, and over the years I’ve been able to bring these values into the bike community. When a role opened up at Cannondale and GT and a recruiter reached out, I knew that opportunity was meant for me. Both brands align with who I am, what I want our cycling community to represent, and this next moment in my career was fate.
What does it look like to be a gay individual in the outdoor industry right now, and how is that changing?
Being an individual from the LGBTQIA+ community, especially the trans community, still brings many challenges to this day despite some of the great strides for positive change over the past several years in both the outdoor and cycling industries. And if you intersect that with systemic and institutionalized racism for LGBTQIA+ individuals from the Black, Indigenous or POC communities, it’s incredibly magnified. With that said, I believe we have seen greater movement in the outdoor industry for change when compared to the cycling industry, including greater representation on the brand, athlete and ambassador areas, and changes within brands in regard to hiring and recruiting practices.
The cycling industry is catching up and I believe it requires brands, governing bodies of the sport, and organizations on the ground to come collaborate toward a greater goal for change beyond themselves. An example of this I am incredibly proud of is the HBCU and TCU Collegiate Cycling Grant Cannondale created with EF Education-Nippo Pro Cycling in 2020.
How does nature inspire Cannondale?
The end user is what inspires us with each bike we design at Cannondale. And where that rider will be riding the bike also inspires the design, aka “the environment”.
For me personally and at Cannondale, we believe nature can be found in the bustle of a metropolis like Tokyo or on the secluded trails of Telluride, Colorado. We craft bikes that can be enjoyable in both environments in addition to so many others. The goal is for everyone to be able to experience the adventure and freedom that a bike can bring, as well as the benefits of physical and psychological well-being.
What do you think motivates a brand like this to do things differently, even including hiring you?
I grew up on and around Cannondale in New York. I always saw Cannondale as a brand that was bold, ready to take risks and make a statement without much concern for the haters. That brand vibe of being authentic to who you are and your values, and living it with everything you do is what drew me to Cannondale back then and now. And it’s the people of the brand that motivates that style of work, the essence of the brand. As an individual that often struggled with being authentic and honest with my true identity and owning who I was, I have so much gratitude for being part of a brand that honors and accepts me and so many others for exactly who they are and what they bring to the table.
Give us a little bit of background on what culture means to you (growing up in NYC, fashion, music, lifestyle, etc.?
I didn’t grow up around bikes, bike culture or in a cycling mecca. My parents were working class immigrants who arrived in NYC and made something of themselves with what they came here with. Through the years, I found a community in and out of cycling, bike racing and as a gay man. As an individual from a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic background, culture to me is being a citizen of the world and forging an identity with values that reflect an understanding that you are part of a global community where your actions or lack of action has an effect both on a micro and macro level. It’s understanding that we do not live in silos, but that everything we do on a daily basis is connected to other individuals and ecosystems across the world. Culture is community, and your community is global.
Who are bikes for? Who is Cannondale for?
Bikes are a tool for many things: transport and mobility, escape, self-discovery, success and failure and most importantly, freedom. I truly believe Cannondale is for everyone. We design bikes with so many different individuals in mind, from first-time rider to World Tour pro, all with accessibility in mind.
What does the future of cycling look like?
The future of cycling is different than the history of cycling. Our sport has historically focused on catering to the needs of specific groups of individuals who demographically represent those that control the keys to power in our industry. Yet, the keyholders to power have been shifting and we see greater representation from historically marginalized groups such as the Black, Indigenous and POC communities, as well as women and the LGBTQIA+ community. This offers a beautiful opportunity for cycling to represent the needs of everyone, from product design, to accessibility, to a chance at a professional racing career—again, all things that were only offered to a homogenous group of individuals. When everyone is fairly given a seat at the table, magic can truly happen.
What are you doing differently?
Lately, I have been focusing on mindfulness more than ever. We live in a fast-paced, reactive society and while the pandemic has helped us to slow down, things are slowly feeling back to normal—rushed and without much intention. Before even looking at a screen, I spend 15 minutes every morning meditating and clearing my thoughts for the day. It’s helped immensely to set my intentions for what I want from each day and be more productive and protective with my time.
What can we count on or look forward to?
As I reflect on the changes I hope to see in cycling, I believe a lot of the newer cycling NGOs and grass-roots organizations on the ground have really been making great strides on bringing much needed change to the sport in a short amount of time. Organizations that have been formed in the past few years like Black Girls Do Bike, Bike Ride for Black Lives, and Ride for Racial Justice have literally been doing decades worth of much needed social and racial justice work in a short of amount of time and it’s inspiring.