You may know of Schwinn partner Mikah Meyer, travel expert, runner, and cyclist extraordinaire, but do you *really* know Mikah? Ahead of Mikah’s #BikeAcrossOR on May 17th, we asked him some in-depth questions so you can get to know him a little better.
Read on to learn more about why Mikah does what he does, how he advocates for the LGBTQ+ community outdoors, and which National Park Site he recommends the most (hint: it isn’t what you would expect!).
1. Hey, Mikah! Tell us a little bit about yourself and the work you do.
I live in Minneapolis and... I’m a full-time adventurer.
Now I am guessing you are wondering; “What’s a ‘full-time adventurer’?” That is usually the response I hear when I answer that all too common “What do you do?” question.
The short answer is that from 2016 – 2019 I set a world record visiting America’s national parks, and ever since I have been completing outdoor adventures in order to draw attention to diversity topics as well as show off places and adventures that don’t get as much coverage.
2. You mentioned your world record of being the first person to travel to all 419 national park sites in the US in one trip. What was behind your motivation to go on this 3 year long adventure?
I lost my dad to cancer at age 19, when he was 58. This loss has had a profound impact on the way I view time. While it feels weird that one moment changed my life so significantly, seeing him pass away before getting to retire wiped away this idea that there are appropriate times to do life goals (because we might not all make it to those points).
Turning that tragedy into triumph, I wanted to do one of my retirement goals at age 30, as a positive way of sharing this lesson I’d learned the hard way at age 19: Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so we can’t assume we’ll have forever to do our life goals.
3. Based on your experiences at all of these national park sites, which ones are the most bike accessible?
All of them! Legitimately, almost every single one of the 400+ parks in 56 states/territories, because they are basically designed for retirees in RVs.
Meaning there are not only paved roads to/from/around the parks, but also trails that allow for a diversity of biking options.
4. What park would you say is one that is not commonly talked about, but needs to be on the top of everyone’s visit list?
Since it’s not one of the 63 National Parks--but one of the other 20+ National Park Service (NPS) designations--it gets way less attention and visitors…BUT…it’s basically the essence of the NPS all in one site.
A big plus is you aren’t going to get blocked-in by tour buses, pushed by other tourists, or have people screaming at the most beautiful sunset spot. Essentially, no crowds!
All of that in one site with multiple rivers you can raft, tons of hiking and accessible ridgeline views, plus dinosaur bones!
That park is Dinosaur National Monument.
And here’s a great, quick summary:
5. What inspired you to start advocating for the LGBTQ+ community in the outdoors?
I’d been out of the closet for nearly a decade when I started my national parks odyssey, but when looking at the outdoor industry, I saw virtually no representation of LGBTQ+ people. Which made me think, “Yikes! If I want people to listen to my carpe diem message, they can’t know I’m gay. Because apparently that’s not what the culture respects as an ‘outdoorsy’ person. I thought it was especially strange, because while most major corporations are marketing heavily to the LGBTQ+ ‘Pink Dollar’ purchasing power, the outdoor industry wasn’t at all.”
So I hid my orientation to try and fit the mold of what the culture showed me a relatable, outdoorsy person would look like. In hopes that by doing so, I could reach more people with the message inspired by my dad’s passing.
As my journey took off and people started Googling me (and learning I’m gay), I began hearing from LGBTQ+ people around the world who shared very similar experiences to my own—feeling like their authentic selves weren’t part of the outdoors community.
So it was really because of their inspiration that I began to embrace being an openly gay adventurer, and the type of role model I wished I’d had growing up.
6. At what point in your own outdoor journey did you start to get into cycling?
When I started running. That sounds like the wrong answer, but some of my extended family were distance runners who’d later become cyclists, and they said, “When your knees hurt, cycling is perfect. Also, it seems to be a really gay sport. Tons of the men in our local cycling group here in Dallas are gay.”
So while I always had a bike as a kid, it wasn’t until I began running that I learned what an amazing way cycling can be to tour a park or city. Just like running allowed me to see more sights in the same amount of time compared to walking, cycling tripled the amount of ground I could cover, and tripled my ability to have adventures.
7. Do you remember getting your first bike? Who taught you to ride it?
I don’t recall for sure, but I definitely remember adding playing cards to my wheels with clothes pins to make my bike sound like a motorcycle.
Pretty sure I peaked in coolness at that moment.
8. We know that you are gearing up for May's #BikeAcrossOR - is this your first major bikepacking trip?
It is! In all my travels, I hadn’t heard much about bikepacking until one of my friends in Minneapolis started posting on Instagram about these 100, 200, or 300 mile bike rides he’d take around Minnesota over random weekends.
As I watched the amount of ground he was able to cover, and in particular the way he was reaching off-the-beaten path places, I started to get really intrigued and the seeds of the Bike Across Oregon were planted!
9. Based on your preparation for the #BikeAcross so far, what are you most nervous about for your bikepacking trip? What are you most excited about?
Nervous: The hills! Minnesota is flat, so it’s really hard to replicate the Oregon coast in my training. I’m just hoping that my experience as a regular runner/biker means my legs are strong enough to push through.
Excited: You know that feeling of driving down a beautiful tree-lined street with the windows down on a sunny, 70-degree day? That’s basically what I experienced when I did my first drive up the West Coast’s Highway 101 that hugs the Pacific Ocean and nearby sea cliffs.
Except I didn’t like having my roof blocking so many amazing views!
So what I’m most excited about crossing Oregon’s entire coast is getting that open-air, 360-degree sensory experience while traveling Highway 101. Plus getting the freedom of time and space that bike packing provides over driving.
10. Can you tell us more about Outside Safe Space and what it means to wear the OSS symbol?
Unlike LGBTQ+ representation, the Outside Safe Space is specifically designed for straight people who want to help invite people to experience the Great Outdoors!
“Nature doesn’t care if you’re gay!” is one of the most common responses I get from non-LGBTQ+ people when I talk about queer folk not feeling welcome in outdoor spaces.
And they are totally correct, nature doesn’t care, but unfortunately a lot of people do. Even if those people aren’t physically attacking LGBTQ+ people, when someone rolls their eyes at me for holding another guy’s hand, or asks me to not “Shove my lifestyle down their throat” if I mention the guy I’m camping with is my boyfriend, it sends a message of “You aren’t welcome in this space as your authentic self.”
Even if the majority of outdoors users are 100% allies of LGBTQ+ people, because the culture has a history of being behind the rest of corporate/cultural America when it comes to LGBTQ+ acceptance, we need people to communicate that welcome message outwardly, in order to help fix the perception.
So the Outside Safe Space symbol provides a super easy, effective way to do that. No individual has to feel like they have to solve homophobia themselves, but if someone thinks “I want to help. What can I do?” wearing an OSS pin or sticker on your outdoor gear is a clear, easy way to send the message: “Feel free to be who you are, I’ve got your back.”
11. Where can people go to find Outside Safe Space merch after they're done reading this?
OutsideSafeSpace.com is where you can order the pins and/or stickers. There’s also an outfitter link if you want t-shirts, water bottles, or other larger ways of signifying your welcome in the outdoors.
Thank you Mikah for sharing your story with us.
Follow Mikah on Instagram @mikahmey and keep up with him as he gears up for the Schwinn sponsored #BikeAcrossOR this May!