This spring, we sat down with Northwest Arkansas local Narmine Ben Aissa to talk about her involvement with local and national cycling non-profits. Narmine is helping organizations like Grit MTB Festival and Radical Adventure Riders (RAR) do impactful work in the cycling space. Narmine was kind enough to share with us how she renewed her love for cycling and got involved with these organizations!
Narmine Ben Aissa is an economic analyst and cycling enthusiast who was born in a tiny country in North Africa called Tunisia. As a kid, she rode bikes around her neighborhood, but not the best bike —according to her. She described the city [Ennasr, Ariana] where she grew up as “very hilly” which is geographically similar to Fayetteville, AR. Growing up in Tunisia, many youth did not ride bikes and she did not own one as a young adult. As well, the costs of bicycles was increasingly expensive. So, she did what she had to do at the time, and she stopped cycling. However, that did not last long because her passion for cycling rekindled once she moved to Fayetteville, AR.
When Narmine began studying at the University of Arkansas [Fayetteville], she found out about a local mountain biking festival that was offering scholarships to university students interested in attending. Grit MTB Festival is a 3-day event in Fayetteville, Arkansas, for trans, non-binary and women mountain bikers. She was accepted and attended the inaugural event in 2019. Following the festival, Narmine wanted to get involved in the planning of future events. She admired what the Grit Fest team was doing, and in the following year she was appointed to the Board of Directors.
After being chosen as a board member, Narmine’s friend Beckie Irvin [Co-Founder of Grit Fest] introduced her to the Radical Adventure Scholarship through Radical Adventure Riders. Radical Adventure Riders are dedicated to centering gender inclusivity and racial equity in cycling and the outdoor industry. The scholarship is for women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+ people.
In 2020, Narmine was one of the 16 recipients of the scholarship and won a bikepacking bike. At that time, Narmine was a commuter, so the new bike helped her with her rides to school and off-road to trails. After receiving the bike, she wanted to get more involved in the RAR organization, so she became a seasonal board member this year. With the responsibility, she helped choose the next 16 recipients of the scholarship.
Outside of becoming a board member of two organizations, Narmine has some big aspirations for her future. She wants to bring cycling to the economic world. She took a class called “Econometrics,” and completed a project called “The Impact of Bike Policy” on bike crashes. She studied bike law, specifically vehicular lane-switching legislation.
In the US, cyclists are required to stay 3 feet from moving vehicles, which means most cyclists – when riding in groups – must ride in a single-file line to allow for enough space on the road for passing vehicles. This new bike policy states that drivers must switch lanes, so cyclists can ride side by side to prevent crashes.
“It’s a very new law, Arkansas is not implementing it yet, but I think there are efforts from biking foundations to push for that law in most of the US states,” said Narmine.
Narmine is also graduating this upcoming May. She would like to give herself a solo-bikepacking adventure for her achievements these past years.
Grit Fest is a 3-day event that takes place in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where cyclists and outdoorists can ride, dine, and camp together. This mountain biking festival is open to trans and non-binary folks, as well as women. The folks behind Grit Fest believe that connections are made on the trails and around campfires, so in addition to group rides and skills clinics, the festival offers a wide array of intentional programs designed to help us learn and build meaningful connections.
Fifty percent of proceeds from "Happy Trails" t-shirts will go directly to Grit MTB Festival. Shop here.