Agata Wysocka

Today’s rider is Agata Wysocka from Ghent, Belgium. She rides a BMW F650GS within the city and on long distance jaunts through the Alps. 

Rashmi Tambe
Editor, Global Women Who Ride

Agata

Name: Agata Wysocka
Age: 31
Country: Belgium
Languages: English, Polish, Dutch
Years Riding: 2
Height: 158 cm
Inseam: 71 cm
Current motorcycles:  BMW F650GS
Past motorcycles: Yamaha YBR 125 custom
Riding Gear: Givi helmet, IXS jacket, pants and gloves,  Daytona Ladystar boots
Kms Per Year: 10000

Please introduce yourself.
Hello, my name is Agata and I am a nurse by profession. I was born in Poland but around two years ago I moved to Flanders, Belgium. Outside of motorcycling, I also love music and play the piano and percussion. 

Describe your path into motorcycling.
Sadly, no one in my family rides motorcycles. I decided to do that on my own when I was still a teenager. My hometown held bike jamborees every year and I would just stand and look at all those beautiful machines sweeping past me. I used to attend every year, to touch them and constantly beg strangers to take me for a ride. I was under a spell! After a few years I got my driving license for motorbikes. This took quite a long time. I’m pretty short, so I failed the exams as I couldn’t deal with large bikes. But in the end I made it.

What bike did you first start on and why?
I started with a custom Yamaha YBR 125 because it’s light, looks very pretty and most importantly – it’s low. :) I’ve only got good memories of it. 

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Yamaha YBR 125

Describe your current motorcycle.
Currently I have a lowered BMW F650GS. I love first and foremost the fact that it forgives all of my mistakes! Besides that it’s great both for long routes and casual rides to the store and the like. I have to add that there was a seven year gap between me getting the driver’s license and acquiring my first bike, so the truth is I had to learn everything from the beginning. I’m still learning. My GS seems to understand this. It’s patient and forgives a lot. 

Do you have a motorcycling achievement that you take pride in?
I don’t have much experience with the GS as I’ve only have it for a few months but we’ve managed to visit a lot of places this season. As of now, I’m proud that did a solo ride to Spain with my GS. It was only a week, but we did great – after 3500 kms we came back safe and sound, ready for another journey, which by the way will happen soon. :) I hope! 

What’s your favorite motorcycling story to tell others?
Motorcycle story? I thought for a long time but nothing really comes to mind. Well, except this one thing which was tragic then but funny today. I rode with my husband to the Alps. He chose the routes so I didn’t know what to expect. I simply expected some hills and mountains. I survived the first day in the Alps, but on the second day, when I saw all those curvy routes on the GPS,  which I had to conquer again… add to that my fear of heights… At the foot of the mountain, I burst into tears like a little kid! I rode the bike for a few kilometers with tears in my eyes the size of peas before I stopped. My husband started to stroke my helmet and tried to ease my mind. It must’ve looked hilarious and I hope not many people saw it. ;) 

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Looking down at Furka Pass, Swiss Alps

Have you done any long distance road trips?
This year I’ve managed to do three long distance journeys. To Spain, Poland and the Alps*. My favorite was the Alps one because of the gorgeous views and the twisted roads which drove me to despair multiple times (yes, I know, I still have to learn a lot!). I’m sure everyone knows some marvelous roads that seem to be made explicitly for riding them and enjoying what you can see around you. I also got to know what it means to ride in the rain, in the night, when the wind blows heavily and you only have eight year old tires because the new ones didn’t make it to the mechanic before your departure.

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On top of San Bernardino Pass, Swiss Alps

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In the Italian Alps

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Conquering Stelvio Pass, Italian Alps

I also have fond memories of Spain. I met great people there, the route was simple, and I could test myself and get acquainted with the GS. 

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Have you made any close female friendships due to motorcycling?
Unfortunately I don’t know any women in Belgium who ride motorbikes, but I hope that will change soon. :) 

Do you do maintenance and repairs on your bike?
I have pretty much zero experience with motorcycle maintenance or repair. I plan to sign up for a proper course this year or next year to at least learn the basics. For now, my husband does most of this stuff. Maybe I should ask him for a lesson or two! I know how to check the oil level, and, theoretically and how to install the chain. Fortunately I don’t have to grease it, a Scottoiler does it for me. I really recommend it to everyone who needs a miracle to put the bike on a center stand. 

Do you have any motorcycling heroes?
My motorcycling hero is Elspeth Beard, the first British woman to ride a motorcycle around the world on her own. Her story is unbelievable. What leave me in awe is the fact that it happened before the era of internet, GPS etc. I also admire women who take this challenge nowadays, like Steph Jeavons who is in the middle of her journey around the world. Jolandie Rust, I believe, needs no introduction. :) 

ElspethBeard
Elspeth Beard, the first Englishwoman to ride a motorcycle around the world (Image courtesy of Motorcyclist)

Do you have any advice for people who want to get into motorcycling?
People, just get on your bikes and ride! :) I wasted a lot of time, it took a few years between getting my license and having my first motorcycle. There were various reasons, but mainly it was the lack of support and the fact that I was scared off by those big machines that I almost had to climb on. I didn’t have enough strength to do this on my own, find the motorcycles to fit my height and so on. Luckily, everything has changed. If you want to start riding I advise you to choose your motorcycle very carefully so it’ll meet your needs and capabilities. After that you just have to ride and take pleasure from it.
 

RIDING IN BELGIUM

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If I were to visit you and we went riding for one short morning ride, where would you take me?
The town I live in is very close to the North Sea. For a morning ride I’d take you on a route along the coast. We could make a stop somewhere and sit down down and drink coffee by the sea. The route goes through small Flemish towns and Bruges – a gorgeous town called the Flemish Venice.

[Link to Route] 

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In Bruges, Belgium

What’s the best part about riding in Belgium?
To be frank, there’s not a lot of interesting routes in Flanders. The roads are flat and not very twisty. It’s best to go to the French part of Belgium where you can find battlefields (Waterloo, Bastogne), the castles in Bouillon, La Roche-En-Ardenne, or nature reserves in Han-Sur-Lesse and Aywaille. It’s worth it to visit the the Ardennes – heavily forested hills, though the average height doesn’t exceed 400-500 meters.

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What kind of food can riders expect to stop for on the way that is typical to your region?
If you’re in Belgium you absolutely have to drink Belgian beer, try out Belgian chocolate and eat clams for dinner. If you’re in Gent,  you have to eat Gentse Stoverij, a beef stew cooked with Belgian beer.  

If a motorcyclist from another country visited your country, what are the top rides you would recommend?
My favorite routes in Belgium are:
Eupen – Malmedy (26 km)  – a really nice uphill stretch with some great corners and a mostly sticky flat surface which goes through a nature reserve. [Link to Route]
Short route in Liege (7 km) – an enjoyable little hill section with good surface and nice fun switchbacks. [Link to Route]
Comblain-au-pont – Hamoir (8 km) – a nice rural setting, quiet roads with fast corners, nice run along the river and into the countryside. [Link to Route] 

What is the traffic like and how does it affect motorcycle riding?
The traffic is similar to most European cities. You’ll find a lot of small, brick roads and tram rails in central parts of towns. In the rush hour, there are huge traffic jams within the bigger metropolitan areas. You also need to watch out for older drivers. What’s interesting is that until 1968 there was no driving exam here. Everyone who had a car automatically received a license. Aside from that the driving etiquette is very high, most people drive by the rules without breaking the speed limit, and motorcycles are given a pass by other drivers. 

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What are the best months for riding?
The ‘riding season’ in Belgium lasts for about ten months. You have to exclude January and February when it’s cold and it may snow. 

Is it safe to ride at night where you live?
Driving at night is comparable to doing it during the day. The roads are lit, as are highways (most of them). 

Is motorcycle theft a problem?
Personally I never heard anyone talking about their bike being stolen, but I’ve heard about stolen cars so it definitely happens. 

Are there any motorcycle specific laws?
For some years now, the Belgian law allows you to overtake vehicles on the highway by riding between the left and middle lane. You can also park the motorcycle on the sidewalk as long as it doesn’t bother pedestrians. 

How do the police treat motorcyclists?
In general the policemen are friendly towards bikers. The ones that ride motorcycles often greet you when you go by them. I never had any serious problems with them. My husband was stopped by them once for not having motorcycle boots, but he was only warned. 

Can you describe the motorcycle license test?   
As far as I know, the license test is unified in the whole EU. I don’t know how the test looks exactly as I did mine in Poland a few years ago, I’ve heard though, that it’s quite difficult and costly, and very hard to pass on your first try.  

Do you have access to high quality motorcycling gear in your part of the world?
I found a nice chain store in Belgium that deals with motorcycle accessories: www.rad.eu. You can find pretty much everything that you or your bike needs, alternatively you can always order stuff on-line. 

Is there a local motorcycling event that you try and attend regularly?
GS Rijders – BMW Motor Club Vlaanderen organizes various motorcycle meetings. I didn’t have a chance to take part in them yet, but I’m definitely going to as soon as my skills will let me catch up with those “old hands”. :) 

How are women motorcycle riders treated by most people and by male motorcyclists?
I didn’t see many female motorcyclists in my area (sadly), but they definitely do exist. :) I think men are happy that women can enjoy this hobby too.  

Do female and male motorcyclists have the same amount of freedom to pursue motorcycling activities?
Female and male motorcyclists have the same amount of freedom. There are no limits or boundaries here.   

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AGATA RECOMMENDS

Books:  Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, Further by Marta Owczarek and Bartek Skowroński
Movies: The Motorcycle Diaries
Web Forums: www.f650.com
Female Motorcyclist: Kinga Tanajewska, Steph Jeavons, Jolandie Rust, Elspeth Beard


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