Lavanya Pant receives first Women’s Bikepacking Scholarship

Advocate Cycles, Revelate Designs and the Baja Divide team are excited to announce Lavanya Pant as the recipient of the “Lael’s Globe of Adventure” Women’s Scholarship for the Baja Divide. Born in India, raised in Australia, and currently living and working in Tokyo as an English teacher, Lavanya has recently discovered and engaged a growing passion for bicycle travel. She is a student of several languages, in addition to her native Hindi, Urdu, and English, and has a dedicated interest in global cultures with a degree in anthropology. But her life wasn’t always focused on pedaling a bike in distant lands as she has only recently regained a passion for riding.

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Lavanya first discovered the freedom of the bicycle in her youth, in India. She recalls, “I taught myself to ride on my neighbor’s bicycle in New Delhi when I was 10.” Lavanya relied on a bicycle for basic transportation through some of her school years in Australia. In 2012, her partner Alistair lent her a 3-speed Raleigh 20 and she enjoyed her first overnight ride. Her interest grew from there. She speaks candidly about herself:

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The following year, we built a Surly Disc Trucker. I was suddenly so much faster and capable of riding dirt, but still unable to keep up with Al and his friends.

Frustrated but inspired, I started a girls riding group called The Winona Riders. I was surprised at how many women were interested in riding and traveling by bike.

In July 2015, Al and I quit our jobs and bought a one-way ticket to Denmark. We rode dirt and pavement from Copenhagen to Athens. I got a real taste for riding dirt in France, Montenegro and Albania and want to progress to riding desert roads and more technical trails.

Now, I live and work in Tokyo and commute as much as possible and ride into the mountains on weekends.

Another important reason [to apply for this scholarship] is the thrill of feeling supported and rewarded for adventure. Earlier this year I was in India, where some people did not approve of my bike travels. It was seen as irresponsible and rebellious. These attitudes are not surprising but hurtful and discouraging nonetheless. My younger female cousins were most supportive and I feel grateful for them.

A scholarship that supports women in doing what they love and giving them a platform to share those experiences will have a domino effect in inspiring courage and creativity in more women.

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To our knowledge, the “Lael’s Globe of Adventure” Women’s Scholarship for the Baja Divide is the first women’s bike travel scholarship ever to be offered.

“The moment I thought of the idea to offer a women’s bike scholarship,” Lael Wilcox says “we wrote to Tim Krueger at Advocate Cycles and Eric Parsons at Revelate Designs with our scholarship proposal. They both responded immediately with their support.”

This scholarship was offered to “a woman of any age who possesses an interest in international travel and global cultures…and is willing to share her ride on the Baja Divide through writing, photography, visual art or music”. Exactly two hundred applications were received from all over the globe.

Lavanya plans to ride the Baja Divide route beginning in early February on an extra-small Advocate Cycles Seldom Seen. The scholarship package also includes a lightweight luggage kit from Revelate Designs including a Ranger framebag, Pika seatbag, Sweetroll and Pocket handlebar system, Gas Tank, and a Feed Bag. Additional support and equipment will be provided by Big Agnes, Specialized Bicycle Components, and the Adventure Cycling Association. The Baja Divide is a 1700 mile off-pavement bikepacking route from San Diego, CA, USA to San Jose del Cabo, BCS, MX.  The route was developed by Nicholas Carman and Lael Wilcox and was published this fall. Learn more at bajadivide.com.

Readers can support this women’s initiative and Lavanya’s ride by donating to a community-supported travel stipend on Generosity.com

All images provided by Lavanya Pant. Follow Lavanya on Intragram at @lavlavish to learn more about her ride on the Baja Divide this spring.

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Records fall in two cross-country races this week

A cross-country bike tour is no easy feat, but for the new breed of self-supported bikepacking racers, they’re starting to make it look that way.

On June 22, Lael Wilcox became the first American and first woman to win the TransAm bike race from Oregon to Virginia, while on June 24 Briton Mike Hall completed the Tour Divide route from Banff, Alberta, to the U.S.-Mexico border. In both events the riders must carry everything they need for the entire trip, and receive no outside assistance. Riding 200 miles a day is commonplace and a good night’s sleep is not.

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Photo by Nicholas Carman

Now in its third year, the TransAm has already become one of the world’s top endurance races, stretching 4,400 miles across the TransAmerica trail from Astoria, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia. After smashing the women’s record at the Tour Divide in 2015, Wilcox was the first to Yorktown this week with a finishing time of 18 days and 10 minutes, the second faster time ever. Unbelievably it came down to an almost sprint finish with Wilcox edging out second place finisher Steffen Streich of Greece by just 2 hours.


You can read our interview with Wilcox about how she has zero fear of riding alone in the current issue of Bicycle Times.


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Photo courtesy of Pivot Cycles

Former TransAm winner Mike Hall instead returned to the Rocky Mountains this year to settle some unfinished business. Despite taking the overall win at the 2014 Tour Divide race, he was forced to detour around forest fires and his then-record time was deemed unofficial. Two years later he smashed the 2,700 mile course again for an official finish time of 13 days, 22 hours and 51 minutes, a staggering 12 hours faster than the previous record. In addition to wins at the Tour Divide and TransAm, Hall has won the World Cycle Race and is one of the principal organizers behind the Transcontinental from London to Istanbul.

Congrats to all the finishers of both these epic events.

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