In the year 2011, I was just a young girl – right! pursuing a love that had been there for a long time. I always loved the Safari Rally from the days of Shekhar Mehta and Joginder Singh. Then, I was genuinely a young girl and in my village, I would always join the boys to walk for kilometers and kilometers during Easter holidays to watch the Safari Rally by the road at Giagatika, as the rally route would turn there towards TumuTumu road. TumuTumu is where we have one of the first missionary Hospitals in Kenya. TumuTumu hospital was started in 1909 by the Church of Scotland. It is owned and governed by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. It is located in the Central Highlands of Kenya between the Aberdares Range and Mount Kenya 130 Km (80 Miles) North of Nairobi at altitude of 5,900ft. My home is about 12.5 Kms from TumuTumu. I swear I never thought I could get this from Google. I thought Google did not have such details of my small village in Kirimukuyu. These were such beautiful days and it was my dream to one day be inside a rally car behind the wheel as a rally driver.
Well, in the year 2011, I got really close to that. I started learning the ropes and even participated in mock rallies. Thanks to my mentor Azar Anwar Unfortunately I did not get into rally driving but I got to seat inside the car and behind the wheel, I got to experience the adrenaline and even had a recce where I read notes for Azar. One time I even drove my own car in a mock rally. My dream came true. The rally is an expensive sport and on evaluating my finances, capabilities and if I would be able to sustain my love for the sport, the answer was a big NO. So I returned to my corner of a fan and spectator, but a very happy one.
In 2013, I was bored and itching for the adrenaline and adventure. I was not comfortable in the fans corner. An idea came to my mind. I had seen a cool motorbike way back as a child in my cousins home. I thought he was the coolest cousin anyone could ever have and whenever people talked of their cousins, he was the only one I spoke about. He had a motorbike, no other cousin to anyone else I knew had a motorbike. So mine was the coolest. So this idea had to be made real. I decided to do some research on motorbike riding. I went on Google and Facebook and in 2015 I found a Motorcycle group on Facebook called African Motorcycle Diaries. I posted there “Looking for a riding school where I can learn more than just moving a bike, but I can learn safe riding and more about the bikes”. I got overwhelming response. Guys are really supportive there and not selfish with information. I picked the most recommended riding school which was InkedBikers Riding school
Called the instructor and owner John Malibu and got my appointment. I discussed the training with him with all the manner of questions to him and his patience and willing to answer without a hurry won. I signed up. After one lesson, I told him I want to buy a bike and he recommend a lady who was selling her first bike to upgrade. Upgrade in the biking world means – buying a bigger cc bike. And that is how I met Cleopatra.
I fell in love with her and became the proud owner. I graduated and got my license. I started riding immediately and hardly used the car. I loved it. There is great support in the bikers family in Kenya. I joined a club and everyone was supportive. After one year with Cleopatra, it was time for an upgrade and so she moved on to a new owner. I go myself a King Bird (KB) 400cc cafe racer bike.
With this bike my travel adventures begun. We toured Kenya going to Machakos, Nyeri, Naivasha, Baringo, Nyahuru, Kisumu and many more places.
And then we took our adventure further in to Tanzania crossing through Namanga and riding across Tanzania to Kingoma, returning through Mwanza, Isebania border to Kisumu and finally Nairobi.
After returning from the Tanzania adventure where I covered 3,100 kms on the round trip, I got an opportunity to try two bikes. One was a Royal Enfield given to me by the dealer for a good clean 10 days and the other was an off-road bike we bought so that I could practice on off-road riding. I did not like off-road so I let go the bike.
All this time, our plans to travel the world were still getting on well and we were now sure we were going to do it. I mean I had just finished my trial run and I was totally sold for the adventure. I was ok with no change of clothes for a week or more, dusty rugged outfit that to me told the real story of the adventure. I was ready for the adventure. We started shopping for a bike and after numerous shop to shop visits, we settled for the BMW F700GS. This is a 798 cc adventure bike. I was moving from 400cc to almost 800cc. I needed to get used. So when the bikes arrived in January 2018, we decided to take them for several adventure rides. Riding in the mud, gravel and in the rain. Again, I was all set for the adventure.
It was finally time for prayers and blessing of the bike and thereafter departure.
My journey with the bike has been a self fulfilling one. Biking has been my healing place, relaxing place, unwinding place and loving place. It has really helped me cope with difficult situations both old and those that emerge now and then. It’s therapeutic. It’s also been my tool for making friends. Meeting other women in motorcycling in Kenya and globally. It’s my traveling means and has opened borders for me. I have met wonderful women who have inspired me and encouraged me in my travel right from home in Kenya to the world. It’s a uniting place for me that’s full of love and nothing but love.
The experience includes being open to learning everyday and exercising safety at all time. The roads and other road users are not always kind to us bikers but we live the mantra “Safety begins with me”. I had to deal with family as they were worried about my riding. Some of my friends cheered me while others were worried for me and my safety too. It is worse for everyone when it is a woman riding. This is a male dominated passion and so men riding has been accepted and does not create the fear and anxiety a woman on a motorcycle does. One has to be prepare on how to handle this without coming out as a selfish person. All these fears and concerns are always out of love and so one needs to be sensitive’s towards the loved ones too.
A woman who rides a motorcycle is a first to many people and so you will recieve both encouraging and discouraging remarks. Some can be derogatory and it is important to exercise calmness when this happens. Something I have learned the hard way and painfully.
While the society is very concerned about our safety, it is the same society that exposes us to danger. We as women stand a great chance to educate and sensitize the public on safe use of the road for all. We are advantaged with the motherly nature that helps us to reach out with compassion and empathy. We should always use this ability to our advantage in sharing the safety message while still having fun and enjoying our love for the two wheel.
Otherwise, if no one makes the motorcycle world fun, who will be interested?
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: –
- Where can I train to ride a motorcycle? – you can use the training school I used which is mentioned in this article.
- What age is good to learn how to ride a motorcycle? – You can learn to ride at any age. I learned how to ride at age 40 yrs. What you need for riding is a Double “D” (Dedication and Discipline).
- How much does it cost to learn how to ride? – The entire course will cost you around Kshs 20,000 including the NTSA license fees. Prices may change with time and therefore consult the school on actual pricing before registering.
- Must I know how to ride a bicycle before riding a motorbike? – It helps with some people if balancing is an issue but it is not a must do before training.
- What else do I need before I can start to ride? – It is good to get safety wear for riding. A good helmet, jacket, riding boots and knee guards.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
Keep it here for more stories of a Black African woman, on a motorbike around the world.