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BAM! 2024 by Francesco Lotta

I was preparing the lineup for the live broadcast when one of my editors told me about this party, festival, and gathering that would be held in Mantua. “A meeting of bike travelers,” she said. My attention, entirely focused on choosing the music, was immediately captured by that word: “bike travelers.” Deejayontheroad, my radio show on Radio Deejay (one of the most important radio networks here in Italy), lives for this kind of content since we air the stories of travelers who have decided to change their approach to life and travel. My job is to listen and tell stories. What a perfect opportunity, I thought. We sent an email to the event’s official account. Within a few hours, we managed to arrange a phone call with Andrea Benesso, one of the two brilliant minds behind the BAM! (Bicycle Adventure Meeting), along with Eleonora Bujatti. “See you in Mantua!” he said at the end of our chat about the location chosen for the event.

But I was too busy seeking silence and solitude to crash a party like that. During those years, I visited Alaska, Australia, Iceland, Norway, and Jordan. I was always looking inward, not yet ready to look outward. Meanwhile, between one pedal stroke and another, and from one year to the next, the people I met, the friends I biked with, kept inviting me: “You must come to BAM!”

“Why should I join a gathering where instead of riding and appreciating the nature around us, becoming an integral part of this beautiful planet we are lucky to inhabit, people are focused on wattage, racing, and performance?” I wondered. This question was based on completely wrong assumptions and prejudices.

We are not alone

I have a very clear idea of what it means to travel, especially by bicycle. I might sound cliché, but I believe each of you knows well how this mode of travel is economical, sustainable, offers enormous health benefits, and allows you to meet others, strangers, and make them friends, closer than you might imagine, especially when traveling slowly, with a tent and all the essentials at hand. We experience all these characteristics every time we get on the saddle and decide to embark on a journey, whether it’s months or years cycling around the world or just a few hours, maybe a weekend, a few kilometers from home.

I always thought this idea couldn’t be understood by anyone, or at least very few. I have never been so wrong. BAM! is exactly this thought, this idea, this feeling made tangible. When, after much hesitation, I decided to see for myself in 2023 and look into the eyes of these wild souls, I realized that the beer, the loud music, and the boisterous laughter are just a thin layer over what is really a common feeling: the love for meeting others, for sharing, far from performance, races, results. At BAM! I encountered smiles with hundreds of other boys and girls who literally have the same look I’ve found in my random on-the-road encounters over the years.

A place where the bicycle is undoubtedly the star around which everything revolves, but it is not the reason. It is like the fire during cold nights spent in a tent. It’s there, warming everyone, but we don’t discuss its presence and importance. Everyone sits in a circle, feeling the warmth. It’s like an invisible and conscientious presence but doesn’t demand attention. The conversations are not about the bicycle but about the people. And the people make BAM!


And where there are people with something to share, there are stories. This is what I love the most: listening to and telling stories. All the travelers who have put themselves to the test at least once in their lives have passed through BAM! And don’t think you’ll only meet travelers with thousands of kilometers in their legs. That will be a simplification. During the three days of the meeting, you attend talks featuring daring weekend cyclists and humble ultra cyclists who have traveled the world at least two times. You participate in yoga classes, may drink a lot of beer, dance until you can no longer get up from your tent mat, and have the opportunity to ask for advice or join workshops. You may also meet those who, like me, travel for passion and not only tell stories on the radio but also behind the camera. You may also shake the hand of somebody who changes your life.

“Tratti Patagonia”

I was fortunate to participate as a guest with my brother from another mother, Dj Aladyn (we work together in my show), in last year’s edition. On that occasion, I shook hands and chatted for the first time with Willy Mulonia. Willy is an amazing soul who, after cycling solo from Ushuaia to Prudhoe Bay, decided to start his own agency and let thousands of travelers from all over the world experience the emotions he felt on that journey. The magic had begun.

In May, I was blessed to meet Paolo Penni Martelli. His photography doesn’t just capture bicycles, landscapes, starry skies, and travelers; he sees the photos even before pressing the shutter button with his keen and precise eye.

I knew we had a common acquaintance and couldn’t resist. “Penni, what do you think of Willy?” His face bloomed. Coincidences don’t exist.

We, three distant friends, in love with sweat and wind, left last February for South America, for Patagonia. The idea I had in mind and immediately shared was simple: we wanted to create the first documentary of bicycle travelers that told stories, not deeds. Screening it at BAM! was the proof I needed to see if the goal was achieved. Seeing more than a hundred people sitting attentively under the tent set up at Campo Canoa in Mantua for about an hour was thrilling. What was even more thrilling was hearing the generous applause at the end of the screening. I immediately texted Paolo while hugging Willy, who was sitting next to me: “It was wonderful, Penni,” and he replied with one of his many funny gifs on WhatsApp. I smiled, but I knew he was waiting to read this from me in his heart: “Next year, you have to be here too; next year, we’ll see each other at BAM!”