Rider Profile: Mandy Harper
Photography by Derek Yarra
How did you get into cycling?
In 2005, I moved to San Francisco for school. I'm constantly moving, doing, thinking etc. all around, I'm quite restless. I was inspired by so many cyclists in SF, it only felt like a natural fit to get a bike. Growing up I was very embarrassed of my body. More specifically how large my thighs are, for my petite body. All the girls around me were tall, with long skinny legs. I'm the exact opposite. I always thought of my body and thighs with such shame, not EVER wearing shorts in the insane 120 degree weather of Arizona. Commuting in SF totally changed that, and soon I decided to build up my very own custom bike. It was a Bareknuckle that I had custom powdercoated deep orange. I loved that bike so much. I picked out every damn thing on it. And that bike not only taught me how to be comfortable on a bike, I learned why my thighs look they way they do, because they are strong! Not, because they are gross or ugly. It was a very liberating feeling. And I can now say with confidence that I'm very proud and happy with my body, largely because of cycling... oh and that I now, wear shorts everyday! hahaha!! Damn RIGHT!
Ultimately, I've stayed interested in cycling for probably two reasons. First, I really enjoy pushing myself and the "It hurts so good!" moments. When you reach the top of that mountain that you thought was going to kill you, you look down and remember why you love this sport. Second, I'm all about community and bringing people together. The cycling community is vast, yet so close knit. I have met some of my favorite in the world through bikes. I feel very grateful to have found this community and to be a part of it.
Lots of folks know you as the vegan baker behind wholesome bakery. What role did cycling play in starting your business?
Starting Wholesome Bakery was totally an accident. I've always been interested in food/ingredients and where the things we are putting in our body are coming from. I read everything that had a label and usually was pretty disappointed in not only the quality of ingredients, but what these companies were trying to pass off as food or healthy items. So I started messing around with making my own baked goods. And dove even more into the world of nutrition, food origins and quality. What started as just making these goodies for myself and friends, turned to getting requests and interest. So true to form I said "Fuck it, lets see what happens!" and went for it. At this point, I didn't have a car and being recently out of school, I didn't have the money to buy one. Also, not having one in all the years I'd been here in SF, left me forgetting that owning a car was an option. HA! So, naturally I biked all of my samples, orders or goodies to sell around on my track bike. I had a basket and a bike trailer that I tore apart and remade to hold all my treats. My bike absolutely helped me start my company and I don't think I could have started without it.
What type of cycling are you into these days?
Since becoming interested in bikes, I felt really drawn to track and had been working and training to race. But unbeknownst to myself and all my doctors, I was born with the ball of my right hip joint larger than the socket. Causing unbearable pain over the last 15+ years. Making riding, dancing, etc. incredibly challenging and even heart breaking. Only about 6 months before my surgery did a doctor discover the problem. Today I'm about a year and a half post op reconstructive hip surgery.
After my surgery I wasn't allowed to ride a fixed gear bike. Missing riding, I conceded to riding a bike with gears. My friends were so incredible and supportive throughout and equally once I was able to start riding again.
I'll never forget, I was on a road ride with my good friend Andres and he said on our way back "Let's take this dirt trail." I had no idea what to expect and thought for sure I was going to eat it or my tire would explode or something!? But as soon as we hit the dirt I immediately fell in love. As a little kid, I loved getting all shitty and dirty... It felt like I had found my place in cycling.
You travel all over, where are your favorite places to ride?
I feel pretty lucky, I've gotten to visit and ride in some pretty incredible places. If I'm going somewhere I usually try and bring a bike and Mogwhai of course. Haha!
As far as a favorite, I don't think I could pick. I have so many places that I still want to ride, to see, to smell in the early morning. But two that stand out are probably my teammate Serena's birthday shred we did in Santa Cruz, as well as mine on Boggs Mtn. I've also recently gotten to ride in swamp and heat of Austin, TX. It was incredibly fun.
Tell us a little about Team Moth Attack CX and your racing plans for fall.
Moth Attack Cx is a team of 5 badass women, that started as a total twist of fate. My initial intention for us was to just make some kits and ride dirt together. Then quickly, we had some amazing support offered to us as a team. That, obviously couldn't be turned down.
My hopes with creating a women's cross team, is to showcase how strong we are not only individually, but as a team. I believe in supporting one another and first and foremost that's what we are... we are a support system for each other and other women. I want to inspire women. To encourage and challenge them. To support them as they fall their face and push them to get the fuck up and do it again. I fall more than anyone I know (and have the scars and bruises to prove it), but that's what makes life beautiful and worthwhile, the fall, the hurdles. Then when you look back and realize you made it out and you've grown and accomplished something you've worked so hard towards... That's one of the best feelings in the world. I absolutely wouldn't be half the cx rider I am if it's wasn't for my girl and teammate, Serena. She pushed me, taught me and helped me when I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I'm totally new to this side of cycling, so when my non cx riding buddies ask me about it... my best response is usually "you're going to fall, you're going to get dirty. That's why it's fun." haha!
As a team, we plan to offer monthly cross clinics to women. We hope these clinics foster a comfortable environment for fellow ladies to branch out.
What are the biggest changes you see in women's cycling, and what makes you the most optimistic for the future of the sport.
As a female cyclist, I see two very different sides of how we are viewed. I think in many ways we are still not taken seriously or seen as real competitors. But, I also think because of that, the women who are really blowing people out of the water (like my team member Christina Peck) are receiving well deserved respect and notoriety. This leaves me excited and hopeful. I'm a serial optimist and see only great things for the future of women's cycling. I'm grateful to be a part of this cycling at this time.
What's next for you? Whats next for Wholesome bakery?
I'm so proud of Wholesome Bakery, but that wasn't always the case. Creating and putting yourself out there is very scary. I started my company with literally nothing. And with that, a industry that didn't really exist yet. There were many times I called my mom or best friends crying or uncertain if I knew what the hell I was doing. But something inside wouldn't let me stop. Wouldn't let me give up and let go.
Today, I'm excited to say that a lot is happening with Wholesome Bakery. We are currently going to through a great deal of growing pains, to the point of having a difficult time keeping up with the demand. A problem I'm very thankful for. I've been looking for the right retail spot for close to 2 years now and I think I finally found one. We will hopefully be opening the SF retail location within the next 6 months. Then I plan to expand the bakery to Austin, TX starting around April 2016. I'm currently working on two books, a children's interactive cookbook and a "Wholesome Living" book.
Will we see any Team Moth Attack CX at New England races?
I think there is a 50/50 chance of that. All of Moth Attack CX travels a ton so anything is possible!