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.
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:
“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.”
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 http://www.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.