He’s run across Minnesota, Mississippi, and his home state of Nebraska on separate occasions but Mikah Meyer is best known for visiting all 419 U.S. National Park Service sites in an epic single journey. Mikah will tell you he’s an adventurer, an advocate, a runner and also a singer but what he hadn’t said about himself until May 2021 was that he was “a cyclist”.
Fourteen days and 500 miles of bikepacking along the Oregon coast revealed the secret of being a true cyclist – simply enjoying the freedom and joy of the ride. His Schwinn Fastback Carbon road bike hauled more than just himself and his gear, it also carried a vision. Mikah is the founder of Outside Safe Space, a nonprofit dedicated to ensuring outdoor activities and communities are welcoming to all. The #ADVENTUREPRIDE logo on his bike and gear carries the bigger message that the outdoors should be accessible and safe for anyone and everyone to enjoy. We agree.
We spoke with Mikah about becoming a cyclist along the route in Oregon and what’s ahead in 2022. You can bet that we’ll see him ride with us in ’22 but the bigger question is can we get him to sing? (Our Magic 8 Ball says “All Signs Point To Yes”)
You are the quintessential adventurer and seasoned traveler, with 50 states from which to choose for your bike adventure, why Oregon?
By the time I crossed the bridge from Washington into Oregon, I’d already completed recent journeys across Minnesota and Mississippi. These states were chosen for their emotional ties to the larger story–launching the Outside Safe Space in my home state during COVID when we weren’t sure if lockdowns would trap us in our respective states, then Mississippi after it was voted the Most Homophobic State in America by my social media pages.
So while these states had amazing storylines, the physical journeys weren’t the most naturally beautiful. And I was a little emotionally drained from that.
So the idea of doing a Bike Across Oregon that would not only continue the story of my Across series, but also be stunning physical beauty for my audience while discussing the heavy subject of homophobia in the outdoors, was what made Oregon the perfect option.
Is there a favorite part of the ride for you or a certain moment that stands out? What did you learn about Oregon along the way?
Climbing the highest, steepest hill on the coast 🙂
On Day 1 of the journey, I stopped multiple times up the first hill. By Day 12, I had grown so much as a rider that I understood what I had to do, how to use my bike, and mentally what it would take to conquer that biggest of challenges.
Then just as I learned more physical biking skills, I also learned that Oregon is not a cultural monolith. I was on the local TV news in Portland before the journey, and the Facebook comments from the online broadcast were some of the most horrendous, most attacking, and most sexually focused of any news outlet that’s ever shared my story. That showed me that Oregon, even its largest city, is not the “super accepting coastal state” I imagined it would be.
And at the same time, I had so many lovely experiences with people on the coast. People who resonated with my story and wanted to support the Outside Safe Space, that it showed beauty and acceptance can be found anywhere, just as hatred and ignorance can be found anywhere.
You say your riding partner is a real cyclist but what did you learn from two weeks of big rides that makes you feel more accomplished and more like an expert?
I learned that I, (and all of us), are more capable than our minds lead us to believe.
Especially in our world where everything is focused on pro athletes and gold medalists and elite sport figures, we can forget that our bodies are amazing. And whether it’s biking 100 miles in a day or just around our neighborhood, we are all far more incredible than we might be made to feel by a world that focuses on peak performance.
Like the title of Schwinn’s documentary series that my experience was part of, I left this journey truly believing that “I Am A Cyclist,” even if I’ve never won a race, or still can’t correctly identify from memory the technical term for each part of the bike.
The Oregon coast is 363 miles long, yet your journey was over 500 miles. What were some of the detours you chose to do and why?
Every state park and overlook we could! The coast is such an incredibly beautiful place, that to just stay on 101 would be a sin. Any chance we had to follow a side-road that led closer to the ocean, we took it. And our journey was made all the better for it!
You say your bike was an icebreaker for conversations with folks along the way. Does the Schwinn name still speak to the general public more than any other bike brand?
Totally. As you see in the film, everyone’s first reaction was “What!? Is that an all-carbon SCHWINN!?”
Then they delved into some amazing story about their grandpa or their mother or their own first bike, which was a Schwinn, that showed what a connection the Schwinn brand has to America’s concept of riding a bike, and what a role it’s played in so many of our own cycling experiences, no matter what we ride now.
What is cycling getting right as we look to 2022?
Projects like this “I Am A Cyclist” series show me that cycling is starting to act on the important conversations. These are topics that other cultures have been tackling over the past few decades, and while it’s frustrating to feel like biking culture is behind in many aspects, what is exciting is to be part of this moment of change. Hopefully we can look back in 20 years and say, “Look how far we’ve come, and we got to be part of building this amazing community!”
So the more we focus on sharing the joy, growth, and triumphs that people of all abilities and backgrounds can have on bikes, the more we’ll be getting it right as we look to build on this moment in time where cycling has become an ever growing part of our culture.
How do we get you back on a bike with us in Oregon?
For 2022, I’m going back to some of my favorite National Park Service sites from my 2016 – 2019 nonstop journey to all 400+ of them. The goal is to share with the public the amazing parks that are under their noses, but haven’t received as much attention as the big 63 National Parks. One of Oregon’s six national parks is at the top of the list; see you soon and stay tuned!