Chantal Cournoyer

Canadian motorcyclist Chantal Cournoyer at the Orande Crush enduro rally with her KTM 350 EXC

Name: Chantal Cournoyer
Age: 49
Country: Canada
Languages: French, English, Spanish
Years Riding: 25
Height: 5′ 6″
Current Motorcycles: 2005 BMW 1200GS, KTM 350 EXC
Km Per Year: 15, 000

Please introduce yourself. I started life in culinary school and worked for fifteen years in industrial kitchens. After that, I switched to working for ten years in the motorcycle industry. I am currently the brand manager for Agriclé. My goal is to work for five more years and then go on riding around the world with my boyfriend.

Describe your path into motorcycling. My first memory of motorcycling was in Switzerland when I was a student. I was doing an internship at a culinary school and living with a host family. My Swiss friend’s brother’s girlfriend rode a sport bike and I remember being really impressed by this.

Five years later I bought my first motorcycle, a Sportster Harley-Davidson that I rode for ten years. Then I switched to a big touring Harley and a year later, I started working for Moto Internationale, in Montreal, the biggest Harley and BMW dealer in Quebec. I got to be in Milwaukee for the 100th anniversary of Harley-Davidson and it was quite something to get to witness something like that. The friendship and the ambiance was incredible.

After that I switched to different bikes – a Yamaha FJR1300 that I rode for a year and a 1200 GS that I put 175 000 km. I love that bike!

Tell us about your ride across the Americas! The basic idea of going on a trip like that came to me after I saw Long Way Round. I didn’t know it was possible to do a trip like that. I realized that this was what I wanted to do. So I started dreaming and telling everybody that one day I’d leave for this trip, alone or not. A few years later, I met my boyfriend, an enduro rider. When I told him about my plans, he was willing to join me. The day after, I told my boss that I was leaving for a long trip and quitting my job. Since I worked for a BMW dealer and my boss was also a rider, he understood.

It was as simple as that! We took about five months to prepare for the trip. We decided to cross the Americas – North, Central and South. Me on a 1200GS and my boyfriend on a 1200GSA. We left on July 3rd 2012 for one year. I will remember that day for the rest of my life. I was happy and sad at the same time. But what a feeling when we left! It was incredible! To finally accomplish my dream, cherished for so many years.

We left from Vaudreuil-Dorion, a city 40 km west of Montreal, headed north up Canada towards the Yukon, then to Inuvik, the northernmost town in Canada. We turned towards Alaska and then turned south along the west coast of the USA, entering Mexico through San Diego, Baja California, and the rest of Central America.

In Panama, we put our bikes on a sailboat to Cartagena, Columbia. That country was a really nice surprise for me – very beautiful with nice people. Our journey continued through Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia and then Argentina, after which we came back. Arriving in Ushuaïa – the end of road – was quite something. This was the goal of our journey so I cried like a baby.

Incredible roads, meeting locals, getting out of my comfort zone – these were the best part of my trip.

Women Who Ride: Chantal Cournoyer in Colombia on her ride across the Americas

Chantal Cournoyer in Colombia on her ride across the Americas

Do you have any other motorcycling achievement that you take pride in? I participated in a women’s rally in Morocco called Trophée Roses des Sables with my friend Stéphanie Chagnon. We did it on a BMW G450X. We were the first Canadians to finish it. Very few women did it on motorcycles. Most were in 4X4 rally trucks.

I am also proud of the fact that I wrote and published a book myself – in both French and English – about my cross-Americas journey : 53 000km à rêver and 53 000 km to Dream.

How did you get into rally riding? The Morocco ride was the first time I did that kind of riding. I wanted to try it so I called a girl I knew a little bit – Stéphanie Chagnon – to ask her if she was willing to participate. She was already registered. We decided to do the rally together. I was lucky because she was able to work on the bike and she was a good rider.

To prepare for the rally, I went to the gym to get into good shape and I practiced on my big 1200GS. We got sponsored by BMW Canada with two new BMW 450X bikes which we got them a few weeks before the rally.

Women Who Ride: Chantal Cournoyer competing at the Rally Trophée Roses des Sables

Chantal Cournoyer competing at the Rally Trophée Roses des Sables

Women Who Ride: Chantal Cournoyer at the Rally Trophée Roses des Sables with friend Stéphanie Chagnon

Chantal Cournoyer at the Rally Trophée Roses des Sables with friend Stéphanie Chagnon

Women Who Ride: ChantalCournoyer with friends Véronique Dion, Claudia Riverin and Sylvianne Chartrand doing an offroad ride with over 200 riders

ChantalCournoyer with friends Véronique Dion, Claudia Riverin and Sylvianne Chartrand doing an offroad ride with over 200 riders

Tell us a good story! At the beginning of our journey, my boyfriend and I were camping in Alaska before heading north to Inuvik on the Dempster Highway, which was 736 km of unpaved road. It was early in the morning and Jean awoke me and said – “Chantal, I think there are some bears around the tent.” I could hear something sniffing and walking around us. At the same time, I really, really wanted to pee but I was afraid of going outside. We were just holding our breath inside the tent and not moving. Finally, we heard the footsteps moving away so Jean looked outside the tent. Guess what? Two dogs were walking around the campground. I just got out and ran to the restroom as fast as I could!

Women Who Ride: Chantal Cournoyer in Peru

Chantal Cournoyer in Peru

If you could go ride with any of your motorcycling heroes – living or dead – who would they be? John Pitt, a Canadian stunt rider who rode to South America in this 60s. I read his book and he’s the kind of person that I wish I could have met. Unfortunately he passed away. His wife lives here in Quebec and I would like to meet her someday.

If you could change one thing about the world of motorcycling, what would it be? In Quebec, I’d want motorcycles to be recognized as a form of transportation that we could ride in the bus lane. favicon

Women Who Ride: Chantal Cournoyer on the road north of Chile

Chantal Cournoyer on the road north of Chile



Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinteresttumblrmail