Ep63 NAM Cyclo-Touring To Extreme Danger

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No surprise, I have a special fondness for my cycling guests.
This week cyclo-tourist, bike adventurer, and activist Tenzin “Nam” Namdol joins us.

Some recordings come easily, others not. It is fitting with Nam's life of traveling and everything else we talked about, that setting up with Nam wasn’t hard at all, but did involve being mindful of her adventure, no-home living. All it meant was acknowledging that the sound quality and internet connection weren’t great in the windy hills above San Francisco. She had taken a day ride from Oakland up to Headlands Center For The Arts with excellent plans to record from there. All was well: we rescheduled and she spoke from her van in Portland.

The nomadic, weather-chasing, van life appeals to me until I try to decide which of my oh-so-essential stuff to get rid of. In this episode, Nam expresses her joy, health, and sense of healing from moving around, riding bikes with friends, and of knowing she’s doing important work. She also acknowledges the struggles of having so little stuff, of upgrading to a gas-using vehicle, and feeling like she’s not doing what she’s supposed to as a good immigrant kid in the land of plenty. A lesson I’ve learned talking to all the incredible women of the podcast is that what looks easy and an obvious choice often is not and decisions made still gnaw with questions.

When I asked Nam about what she learned during last year’s WTF Summit that she & 5 fellow bike adventurers co-founded, she responded by talking about money in bike racing. This is so fascinating! Her perception is that the current, historic, and deeply entrenched inequity in bike racing ripples to cause inequities in bike touring and in bike shops. That had never occurred to me but certainly makes sense. Racing could be considered the top dog of the sport so, of course, dictates the tenor of everything below. This makes the work that Iris Slappendel (Ep42) is doing via the Cycling Alliance even that much more important.

Find out more about Nam in the Show Notes.
Briefly, she is a first generation Tibetan-American, nature enthusiast, and budding travel writer. Through environmental activism she discovered bike commuting and now rides her bicycle full time while advocating for more gender and racial diversity within the outdoors industries. She is also strategizing on what she wants her role in the 2020 elections to look like.

In addition to putting together the 3-day Summit, which sold out this year in 2 hours! (Obviously, there’s a demand for this kind of get together.), WTF manages The Grassroots Ride Series. They are free, self supported, bike packing trips organized by someone local who knows the route and has experience in adventure trips. The idea is to make bike touring more accessible for more WTF and gender non-conforming self-identifying riders.

I hope some of you sign up to take part in the rides. They take place throughout the country, are for a range of levels, and generally are a few days long. What a great and comfortable way to get started. The concept of bike touring isn’t difficult but, I think, can be a bit scary if you’ve never done it and aren’t an ace bike mechanic.

In the episode, Nam who is an ace story teller, chats sexism in cycling, joy of bikes, being an immigrant, suffering while climbing, adventure, activism, women bike mechanics + so much more.