9 min read

Buffalo Brother Prepares to Bike Across America

At the end of April, we introduced you to Brother Nicholas Pham from the University at Buffalo. Pham has been preparing and training diligently for the bike ride of his life: a solo, cross-country trip across America.

From his personal website, you can read all about his journey, his route, and most importantly, his quest to raise 38,000 meals for the Food Bank of Western New York.

To make a donation in honor of Brother Pham’s journey, click here.

We were able to catch up with Pham and discuss his upcoming journey:

TG: First of all, tell us how you got into biking and how that has played a part in your life?

NP: Well, I got into biking a couple of years ago with my friends. They were both runners, and I was a runner, but they were a lot faster than I was [laughs], so we decided to go out and bike and see what that was like.

After the first ride, I went out and bought a nice road bike so we could all continue to ride together and hang out.  It’s something that would keep me active and a way to hang out with my friends; when you ride, you can talk to people very easily, so it’s a great way to spend time with people.

Pham, along with hundreds of other bikers, ride to assist in AIDS treatment efforts.

A few months later, I joined my first charity bike ride.  I did a 100-mile ride to support AIDS prevention and treatment awareness; it was called the AIDS Ride for Life.  For that charity bike ride, I raised 400 dollars and as a group of I think 300 riders, we rode 100 miles around Lake Cayuga, near Ithaca.

So, that’s really how it all began for me, and I basically fell in love with riding my bike. I branched out to doing mountain biking adventures, as well. I have a lot of good friends through riding bikes, because when you find people to ride with, it’s really nice, because you can go out for an hour, maybe two, and you talk, and you ride.  It’s always a great source of energy and exercise.

I got my dad into this sport, this last year, so that’s a great way for us to spend time together. It’s always been fun for me, and it’s just really a great thing for me to do for overall health and to enjoy in general.

TG: Definitely! So, where did the idea to bike across America come from and how did that get started?

NP:  Well, I’ve always been a very adventurous person.  My parents always knew that, and they weren’t necessarily happy that I was doing this [laughs].  I was actually inspired by these two cyclists who biked across the entire world.  They had a vlog on YouTube that was about their journey and biking around the entire world to help save the African rhino.

So, they would periodically update with their videos (where they were, what they had done, what they had seen), and I think it took them about 200 days to get all the way around the world.

I just thought to myself, that’s exactly the kind of adventure that I would love to go on, but on a smaller scale, here across the country. My friends and I would always talk about seeing the country and touring.  So, it’s just something that I have always wanted to do, to go all the way across the entire nation.

I was always inspired, as well, by pro cyclists I would watch and the things that they could do. One thing that really amazed me and what I have been thinking about with this trip, is the world record for biking across the country is seven days and 15 or 16 hours, which I couldn’t even believe. He rode an average of 23 hours and 15 minutes a day, for almost eight days.

Just the idea of being able to make it across the country under my own power and to do it for a cause is just something that I think would be huge for my life and an adventure that I would never forget.

TG: Yes, for sure. On that same note, what would you say you are looking forward to most on this trip?

NP: I would say it is definitely hanging out with brothers across the country.  One thing I think is great about the trip is that right now, I am in the Buffalo colony, and we are still learning and still trying to figure out what kind of traditions we want to have. We are forming our brotherhood and getting it closer and closer everyday.

I just think that going across the country and meeting with so many different chapters, meeting so many different brothers, it will just be an incredible experience to know where this fraternity came from and to know what we can become.

I believe that we can also have a lot of fun just hanging out and hearing different stories from people, because I love the idea of sharing a story or an adventure that you have done before.

TG: So on the other hand, is there anything that scares you about this journey? 

NP: Oh, there is definitely a lot that scares me about this trip, for sure [laughs].  I was working on emailing all of the different brothers along the way, asking if I could stay at their place.  Then it really hit me that when I got to a fraternity on July 5, I thought to myself that at this point, I will have been biking for an entire month, basically alone and be halfway across the country.  I realized that this is just something so crazy to do, but at the same time it’s something so exciting and exhilarating.

One of my other fears, I guess, would be getting lost. I’ve had some experience with that before, because I went to Hong Kong in China in the winter, and I got lost more than a few times. But, over there, I couldn’t talk to anyone. I was actually very fortunate to find my way back.

So, I’m not too worried about getting lost here, and I will be able to talk to people and ask for directions.

And there is a little bit of fear that it will be too difficult. I know physically, I will be able to make the journey, and to bike across, you don’t need to be in incredible shape, simply because the nature of riding a bike is you ride slowly enough that you can ride for a very long time, but it’s more of just the mental toughness to ride seven or eight hours a day. I feel like that will be a very daunting experience for me, especially because there isn’t going to be really anyone to talk to beyond the fraternities when you get there.

You’re really just stuck with your own thoughts for a couple of months.

TG: Oh, I can imagine. Do you have any things that you are bringing along on your bike, like speakers or music, that will help get you through? 

NP: I do have a speaker that is for my bike that I ride with, and it certainly helps and makes it a lot more fun. One thing I was looking into was asking some chapters if they have or know any cyclists who could join me for a certain amount of the ride.

That would obviously make things so much better. Actually, one of my friends here in Buffalo, he couldn’t do the whole trip with me, but he is going to ride with me from Boston all the way back to Buffalo, which is about a week’s trip. So he will be doing that entire leg of the journey with me, which of course will be fantastic, because when we ride together, we talk the entire time. There’s never a dull moment.

As long as I have a destination, it doesn’t get too boring, but sometimes the training can kind of droll on. I’m just going out and back on roads I’ve seen before or places I’ve already been. I think that if I’m going from Point A to Point B, from Boston all the way to San Diego, I will have a destination, and I’m going to see new things every single day.  I think that will keep me interested enough to make it all the way.

TG: So I know that you mentioned your training, but what does a typical day of training look like for you, and how long have you been training for this trip?

NP: I started training last semester. Essentially, I just go out and bike as much as I can.

Last semester was in the winter, of course, so it was usually too cold or dangerous to bike outside. So, I have an indoor bike trainer, which I would spend 45 minutes to an hour on, which that is VERY boring [laughs].

Pham braves the elements for the sport he loves.

But, this semester, my goal is to go out every single day for at least 20 miles whenever I can.  It’s been tough now, because it’s towards the end of finals and so many things are going on, sometimes I don’t even have the time to ride in the day.

I’ll try and do a little workout in the gym when I can’t ride.  When I can, I’ll do a few hard days a week, and then just easy and cruising along the other days.

TG: So, when you finally get to San Diego, what do you think that is going to be like? 

NP: I’ve definitely thought about this! In my training, sometimes what motivates me is just the idea of when I reach the other side, what it’s going to be like and what it’s going to feel like.

I honestly just imagine myself reaching the beach in San Diego and just kind of falling over and yelling “I did it!”.  Hopefully, people will be there to meet me. I think about what it will be like, but I really can’t imagine how that is going to feel to have completed such a journey.

TG: It’s going to be great, that’s for sure! What kind of support have you seen from your brothers through this process?

NP: We have done some fundraising, a little bit. Mostly, it’s just a lot of people to talk to and donations here and there.

Mostly, it’s more of an emotional support. They are helping me reach out to other people, telling them all about the journey. I know that when I reach Buffalo, I will be staying with a couple of brothers.

That’s where a lot of the support comes from, here in Buffalo. It’s not like they can reach out too far beyond this area because they won’t be in Oklahoma, for instance, to help me out.

TG: What would you want readers to know most about this trip, if you could leave them with one thought?

NP: I think it’s the idea that you do something that you love, and you make it purposeful to help others or to advance any idea that you have.

I’m doing something I love, which is biking, and chasing a dream that I have had to go all the way across the country, but I’ve also found a way to help others through the Food Bank of Western New York.

I think that’s really what it’s all about, because we are at college to find out what we are going to do with the rest of our lives, and I think you need to find what it is you love to do and then find a way to make that into what it is you’re going to do.

TG: So true. Are there any additional comments you want to leave readers with?

NP: Really, I’m looking forward to seeing brothers from across the nation and just hopefully that I can see it all the way through. It was very difficult to get the plan underway. If it weren’t for Mike Weiner, our former ELC, I never would have been able to build this plan or reach out to the people I needed to.

Then of course, it comes down to my family, my parents being ok with the idea to bike across the country, essentially alone.

It was a very stressful time, this last semester, because it wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that my parents were fully on board and told me I could go. I think, not three weeks ago, they had the stance that I couldn’t go, but now that I finally reached that, that stress is gone.

Now I realize, this is it, it’s almost here, I’m leaving in less than a month.


cc.lambdachi.org will continue coverage throughout Pham’s journey.

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