We start off the series with the amazing Susan commonly known as Su, who is an instructor. Learning how to ride comes first and we could not skip this important part of riding.
Who is Su?
Su is passionate about riding, loves riding and talks about riding to everyone who cares to listen. Su is easy going and does not conform to boundaries.
When did you start riding and why?
Back in 2004, I was working in an organization based in Kericho. At the time, the marketing team was having challenges with transport. The organization decided to get them motorcycles. In my childhood, our neighbors used to ride motorcycles and I developed an interest from a young age. This family was the motivation behind my riding. Unfortunately motorcycles were not common and my family would not even hear of it. So I shelved my interests. When the marketing team was sent for training, I joined them. I however would only access the motorcycles in the evening when they came back from the field. I decided to save up and buy my own. I would later become the person the company sought advice from when it came to buying more motorcycles. I have been riding since then.
When did you start training and why?
When i came back to Nairobi and more people started taking up riding, i would always be approached for advice, guidance and helping with confidence rides. I loved sharing my knowledge and experience and would ride with some riders to help them build their confidence. With time I took it up seriously but due to my tight official work schedules, I was not consistent. When I left formal employment, I saw an opportunity to take up my passion in training. I first went through training as an instructor before I could take students. I have been an instructor for the past one year.
What are your views on training and riding in Kenya?
Generally, people don’t value the professional riding training because they view riding as easy to learn and they can do so by themselves or through friends. Professional training has been used as a means to acquire the license instead of the knowledge and skills. We have however have seen an uptake in professional riding training which gives us hope that there is positive progress.
What would you say has attributed to more women riding?
For the longest time the society and culture has set boundaries for women but women can do anything. This has gradually changed and women are taking up roles, careers, professions, sports and tasks that were only viewed and believed to be for men. Infact, we train more women than men in our school. Men are more risk takers and majority feel comfortable learning from their peers. On the contrary, women do not have the opportunity to learn from their peers because of numbers. Women are also more cautious and less risk takers and therefore prefer to take the professional training. This has led to women being more safety conscious due to their professional and proper introduction to riding and roads. The attitude and behaviour that one has on the road is relatable to their training and introduction to the roads.
What challenges do you face?
The main challenge we have as trainers centres around the training grounds.
- Training grounds – getting training grounds is quite difficult. Available grounds are sports grounds designed for particular sports and not all are suitable for motorcycle training. Majority are also not open to leasing out for riding training due to the maintenance work of the grounds.
- Time limitations – We have to work with the sports calendar of the leasing entity which sometimes affects our training calendar. It is not possible to have sports and riding training on the same grounds due to safety and it is also not practical.
- Cost – As these grounds are designed for sports, the maintenance cost is quite high which interprets to a high cost of leasing.
What would you say has changed in motorcycle training over the years?
- Although the uptake of professional training is still significantly low, we have seen more people choosing to take the training and riding for commuting. Notable change is those who have been using boda bodas for transport who are now choosing to own their own bikes. Their boda boda experience seems to have given them confidence. Boda boda are also not cheap so they tell us they would like to save on that cost.
- We have also seen more people who had quit riding come back for refresher courses. This in itself is encouraging as some had not trained professionally while others have been off riding for a long time.
What changes would you like to see in motorcycle training?
- The value put in the professional training is very low making so many riders not take up the professional training. More sensitization on safety will increase the value in professional training.
- I would love to see all road users take responsibility for road safety. As it is now, it is a responsibility of some and not others. Pedestrians believe they can cross the road anytime from anywhere and the cars should stop. The car drivers think that motorcycles should find somewhere else to ride and leave the road to them.
- Enforcement of traffic rules should be more stringent and should be for all road users and not some. So many people break the rules not because they don’t know them but because they know they can get away with it. The punishment should also be punitive to avoid repeat offenders and eventually habitual offenders.
- When it comes to motorcycle enthusiasts, the why, the motivation and expectations behind riding should be aligned with road safety, proper training and mentorship. We have students that we have to take through the expectation management before we can get them on motorcycles for training.
- The driving curriculum has not incorporated motorcycles in it. The model town board used to train the students on road and traffic does not include motorcycles. Drivers are not taught how to accommodate motorcycles on the road. There is very important training on sharing the road that is missing. Drivers are not taught about a motorcycle positioning on a lane, neither are they taught about motorcycle group riding and formations on lanes. This has resulted in car drivers’ interpretation of motorcycles as a nuisance on the roads and they have very uninformed understanding of motorcycles such as; they expect riders to ride on the shoulders or give way to overtaking traffic among others. This also goes for cyclists too.
Any difference in your work because you are a woman?
- What i would say is the difference is not gender based but more of personality. Does my personality match that of my student? Male instructors can be viewed as aggressive while the motherly instinct of a woman is more accommodating and soft. I can tell this from the questions that I receive from students vs those that my colleagues receive.
- There has been an increase of women students as there are those who prefer a female trainer due to religion, culture or just by choice.
Make sure you come back for more on the amazing women in the motorcycle industry. In the meantime, don’t leave without sharing with us the women riding instructors in your country. We would love to hear their unique experiences on the job.
If you would like to reach out to Su, kindly send us a message with your contacts and will will share the same with her.
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