Posted by Miles Arbour
Words by Giovanni Toldo, Photos by 3parentesi
The 2019 BAM! Bicycle Adventure Meeting was the coldest and most fun yet, and the year with the most female bike travellers. In Italy, this may well be remembered as the coldest and most rainy May of modern history. Nevertheless, hundreds of cyclists braved the conditions and rode anyway.
Like many other particpants, we decided to ride from our hometown to the event with a group of friends, 120km from Mantua. We met a few days before, ignored the bad weather forecast, and invited one of BAM’s special guests to ride with us to Mantua. Valentina Brunet (@valentinaonwheels) has travelled 20,000km in the last 20 months from Vietnam to Italy. She’s a strong yet unassuming rider with a fully loaded bike weighing close to 50kg. She was already traveling directly to BAM!, so she was happy to join us on our ride. I think our group of 11 was a little representation of the whole festival: an incredible explorer, many bike travellers, a few curious Sunday riders; all together smiling on and off the bike. It took us a whole day to reach Mantua. It was a quite the day.
BAM! has the best atmosphere I’ve ever experienced at an event. It’s half party and half relaxed gathering. It’s also fun to see everyone wandering about in bike clothes, almost like carnival costumes. After a great concert we sipped beer and camped out with hundreds of other people. Although most were from Italy, there were lots of English and French speaking folks in attendance as well. Mantua is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre, the perfect town to host the event and a great place to visit for the first time.
On Saturday there were two rides, 80km or 120km. Some of my friends rode the 80km ride, navigating the surrounding fields and hills, stopping in at farms and nice villages for food and wine breaks. They returned wet, but happy. In between concerts and workshops, you could hear guests sharing stories all afternoon. I could not miss Dino Lanzaretti, Valentina, and Darinka’s speeches. Among others, these incredible travellers are especially inspiring to me, so it was a joy to hear them speak.
BAM! attracts all kinds of different people and bikes. It’s fun to see everyone’s different setups and to learn more about the gear they use. Saturday evening was really cold and rainy, and although we considered keeping things quiet for the night, we eventually ended up on the dance floor. Some danced with bike helmets still on, some totally wet and full of mud. I’m fairly certain I saw the town mayor as well.
I went back home the next day and remembered Valentina’s answer when we met two days before BAM, when I asked if we should cancel in the event of rain. The weather forecast was terrible. She replied “If it rains, who gives a shit? We are going to BAM!”