Growing up near Lake Constance and now resident in Vienna, the city’s cycling culture has seen some significant changes since Mimi Kathrein first began riding in 2010. At the time a closed-off world of cycle clubs that beginners wanting to try the sport often found rather forbidding, recent years have seen the adoption of a more open approach to participation. ‘Looking back,’ Mimi explains, ‘I feel the scene was influenced by the States and the UK in the way people’s riding habits have changed and this encouraged me to start a regular women’s training ride.’
But it was riding with Kelli Samuelson during a trip to LA that proved particularly inspirational; sowing the seeds for the idea of creating her own place where women could support each other in their riding goals. ‘I was still fairly new to cycling,’ Mimi reflects, ‘and felt really intimidated by the thought of accompanying such a strong rider out into the mountains that skirt the Los Angeles urban sprawl. But listening to Kelli’s story of how she founded her women’s race team which later became LA Sweat made me determined to do something along those same lines back in Vienna.’
Having already joined the Rapha Ambassador programme, this decision was further strengthened after a trip to Amsterdam during which she first learnt about the women’s cycling group STRONGHER. Excited by the prospect of founding something similar, on her return to Vienna she immediately set about launching FASTHER; a platform for women to share their experiences and develop group riding skills.
‘In this way,’ Mimi explains, ‘you can always help riders that aren’t quite as strong. They can sit in the second or third row with the stronger riders in the front and at the rear. And it’s so satisfying when you see new members understand that by riding together you can go so much further and so much faster.’
For a group that prides itself on the support it provides to new riders, it’s perhaps surprising that there’s a ‘no complaining’ rule; a concept that Mimi is keen to clarify: ‘It’s about not giving in to your insecurities. About having faith and just trying something in the knowledge that the group will be there for you. You’re free to curse when you’re climbing a mountain but it’s important to own the moment. And in some ways it’s really very simple. Some people are faster and some people are slower but it’s hard for everyone.’
Having recently discovered the joys of bike packing – Mimi appreciating the distances you can travel unsupported on a bike and the enjoyment to be found from setting your own pace – she’s at her happiest riding in the mountains. ‘The second time I climbed Mt. Ventoux I was filming with Rapha. I was riding with Jonas from Norway and we were singing all day but they kept telling us to stop because we looked too happy [laughs].’
Using her fingers to count the number of bikes she owns – her ‘Dutch’ bike and city commuter sit in street level storage but the rest are kept in the house – a background in both design and curating contemporary art means Mimi’s ideally placed working for the Vienna Business Agency. Providing programme development for the architecture, design and fashion industries in and around the city, this focus on networking and knowledge transfer mirrors her plans to establish FASTHER groups in other cities.
‘It’s reassuring,’ Mimi adds as our conversation draws to a close, ‘that there’s so many women that started with FASTHER and now have the confidence to take on a leadership role themselves. And really rewarding when you see the smiles on happy faces when individuals accomplish something they never thought possible. It’s important to remember that we’re all part of the same journey but with our own unique stories to tell.’
Feature image / Sami Moreno / Gallery / 1. Caro Laska / 2. Philipp Doms / 3 Philipp Schoenauer / 4. welovecycling / 5. Peter Riegersperger / 6. Philipp Schoenauer