Starting to ride a motorbike as a girl seems to turn out to be quite the story, a story that started in 2017 with driving lessons as these are obligatory in Belgium. First question: “Have you ever ridden a motorbike before?” I thought by myself, obviously not, that’s exactly why I am here. Luckily, I only said out loud a polite “No, I have not”. Apparently they didn’t have many cases like me who hardly know anything about riding a motorbike. Lesson 1: ride in a straight line and make a turn before you hit the wall at the end of the terrain. No problem with that straight line, but the wall started to come close pretty quickly and that damn bike didn’t want to turn. Or was it actually my first example of object fixation having my eyes locked on the wall ahead?
It was a steep learning curve, but after my first 2 hours I rode slalom, figure eights and they even let this little danger hit the road for the first time. If I am honest I don’t remember getting anywhere above first and second gear. Afterwards I went home happy and proud with some bruises here and there because that bike just liked falling right on top of my leg. Obviously, the bike was all to blame.
During the rest of my driving lessons I broke a clutch leaver, had trouble with a stuck gas cable and got a few close looks at the underground of the driving terrain. That gas cable definitely was the most scary of experiences! Not holding my gas cable anymore, flying through the corner at about 80km/hour and trying to do the emergency deviation anyway with the instructor screaming I should really slow down I finally came to a halt with my front wheel in the bushes. Luckily this experience just ended with me having the privilege to ride the instructors bike back home while he battled my bike along the road.
Despite, or maybe just because all this, I passed my driving tests one week later. Ready to hit the road. Well, I was ready, my bike not really. A couple of months later Jonas, my boyfriend was able to fix up his old bike for me and I was ready to roll. An old, but very cute Yamaha Virago 250 accompanied me during my first 3000 kilometer. Then practice was over as we bought a one-way ticket to India with a year of riding different motorbikes through Asia ahead. I discovered India and Nepal riding a lovely Honda Unicorn. Vietnam and Laos on top of a Honda XR125 and parts of Thailand on a Honda CRF250. A year and 18.000 kilometers later I ended up back home where I bought myself a proper commuter bike, an old BMW r850gs.
In most places in Asia they are not used to seeing a woman riding a motorbike. Often girls and woman would silently creep up to me, ask me about the bike and have a sit on the saddle. Meanwhile, the guys would approach Jonas telling him it would be better to take me on the back of his bike. Cheaper and safer. These are the things you kind of expect in Asia, but being back in Belgium I noticed prejudice is as easily found here. For example, when I go to the shop they tend to try to give me the wrong stuff somehow assuming I am probably wrong about the bike I ride. Other times people just assume we travelled through Asia with me sitting on the back of the bike and occasionally I have come along people telling me it’s not smart of a girl to ride. Not sure where this comes from. People may be concerned asking questions like “Isn’t the bike too heavy for you?”, “Aren’t you a little small to ride such a bike?” or “Wouldn’t it be easier to ride a chopper kind of bike that is closer to the ground?”, but I suppose asking is learning. The bike is properly heavy, but I am not planning to topple it over too often. The bike is high, but most of the time I don’t need to reach the ground and if I do need to stop I just need to find a good place and slide of my saddle a little so I have one foot firmly on the ground. Lastly, I don’t think it really matters which bike you ride as long as it gives you comfort and joy.
That was my bike story that has only just begun. All I can say is, go out and discover. Do what you want without fearing it may be impossible. Ride a motorbike, don’t ride a motorbike. Stay at home to take care of your children or go to work and aim for the top. Go out to discover the world or stay where you are and let the world come to you. Whatever you choose to do, there will be prejudice and judgement, but in the end life can only give you something if you have the courage to ask for it.