The modern African woman is daring, undeterred and bold, venturing into and thriving in spaces that have been traditionally dominated by men. Outside professional contexts, women are adopting hobbies that are thrilling and challenging in equal measure.
Women who ride motorcycles are in this gear-shifting group of pioneers.
Across the globe, more women have been inspired to ride out onto the open road, embracing the spirit of adventure and even crossing borders with a confident grip on the handlebars.
One such woman, Hayley Bell from the United Kingdom, took the trend a step further through her initiative, the Women Riders World Relay (WRWR) in August 2018.
“I wanted to ignite a global sisterhood of inspirational women to promote courage, adventure, unity and passion for biking from all corners of the world and do something that has never been done before to this scale,” reads her message on the relay’s official website.
The relay gained traction fast, garnering about 10,000 group members from 80 countries within its first four weeks. The website also indicates at the moment, about 19,007 members will be participating in the relay. The Facebook group offers an updated headcount of about 19,400 women.
“Her objective was to unite women riders across the globe, showcase the numbers of women in the riding community and inspire manufacturers and designers to start incorporating women’s needs when they are designing motorbikes and gear,” says Ms Wamuyu Kariuki, the Kenyan ambassador for the relay.
“It is largely known as a male-dominated industry, as everything is made with a man in mind,” she adds. “Finding a fit is a struggle for us.”
However, there are a few constraints that are specific to the African context that will be highlighted in the course of the relay.
“Those in more advanced countries face less challenges than we do. They can access good gear (in terms of quality), afford it and can also access a wider variety of equipment related to riding,” Wamuyu says. “For us, you either have to import, pay a lot of money for it or make do with what is available.”
The relay has facilitated the building of a community of female riders across the globe through a Facebook group created by Bell. The criteria one must meet to join the group involves having a valid licence and answering a series of questions on the country you ride in and the kind of motorcycle you ride. This is to ensure the group is exclusive to female riders.
The baton for the African leg of the relay arrived on January 2, 2020, starting in South Africa. Since then, it has travelled up through Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania and finally Kenya, from where it will be passed on to a representative from the United Arab Emirates at a ceremonial dinner on January 29, 2020.
The Kenyan cohort, also known as ‘The Kenyan Guardians’, will have a 10-day ride from Mombasa Road to Arusha on January 19, 2020. Only three Kenyans will complete the full course of the ride, but 19 participants have registered so far to take part in the Kenyan leg.
“The bulk of the riding [for the team] is actually in Tanzania, because we will be picking the baton from Malawi. So we shall be crossing Tanzania from North to South,” Ms Wamuyu says.
“In Kenya, we will only be travelling between Namanga and Nairobi, which is a much shorter distance,” she says. “The reason why Tanzania is being covered by Kenyans is that we couldn’t find ladies there who ride for fun. There are ladies who ride in Tanzania, but mostly for work.”
The entire trip is estimated to cover about 3,150 kilometres of terrain, with the excursion between Mbeya and Songwe in Tanzania being the shortest day trip at 230 kilometres.
The participants from Kenya are largely self-funded. Every rider will meet their own costs.
However, the three ladies riding for the full 10-day course to Malawi will be sponsored by Kenyan company Beth Mobility.
The company provided two Zontes310X and a CFMOTO250NK, that will be ridden by Wamuyu Kariuki, Abby Ndanyi and Eunice Kinyanjui respectively.
“The budget came to about Sh50,000 per rider. That will cover your fuel, food and accommodation for 10 days. It could also range between Sh35,000 and 50,000,” Ms Wamuyu explains.
There are currently four active female bikers clubs in the country — Throttle Queens, Inked Sisterhood, Piki Dada and Women Bikers’ Association (WBA). The latter covers all the clubs.