Joan Wamayu Ndarathi

Name: Joan Wamuyu Ndarathi
Age: 43
Country: Kenya
Languages: English
Years Riding: 2
Height: 5’3”
Inseam: 29
Current Motorcycles: Royal Enfield and BMW F700 GS
Past Motorcycles: ZMR Karizma 250cc, King Bird 400 cc, Lifan 250 cc
Km Per Year: 8,000 km

 

Please introduce yourself. My name is Wamuyu. I was born and brought up in the countryside with three sisters. I was considered the tomboy of the family because I took on roles that were considered to be for boys and men, like milking the cows and taking the coffee harvest to the factory.  I did my primary and high school education in the countryside. When I got older, I moved to the city for college and stayed for work but I am still very much a country girl at heart even today.

I worked in the oil and gas industry for over fourteen years before I decided to leave formal employment and pursue my personal interests and goals.

In my day to day life, I host travelers from different countries. I have hosted over 100 people from almost 25 countries over the last four years.

Wamuyu Ndarathi as a child.

Wamuyu Ndarathi as a child.


Describe your path into motorcycling. 
I loved motor sports from a young age.  I tried rally car driving but realized it was too expensive for me and left before getting into competitive racing.  I decided to pursue my love for bikes instead and stuck to it. Everyone called it my “midlife crisis”. I mean I got on a bike and then quit my job! They had a difficult time understanding why I did something like that at the age of 41, especially because I was a mother of two with a good job.

Wamuyu Ndarathi got into motorsports with rally car driving.

Wamuyu Ndarathi got into motorsports with rally car driving.

I live in Nairobi – a big city – where the traffic and driving culture is terrible. My initial days were very difficult due to my fear and anxiety from managing the bike, the traffic and rough drivers on the road.  The gear was also something I had to adjust to. It felt heavy and could be uncomfortably hot in hot weather but inadequate in the cold.

I started riding a Hero ZMR Karizma , a Honda manufactured in India.  It was a perfect beginner bike for me.  I then moved on to a 400 cc King Bird brand from China.  It’s a café racer.  This year, I started riding an off-road bike – a Lifan 250cc and UM DSR 200. I have fallen in love with the cafe racer classic look bikes. The height is perfect for me and I love how solid they feel.  They are easy to maneuver and manage, especially because I can set my feet flat on the ground.  I would also love to own a Harley someday.  It’s my dream bike. May the Lord hear this prayer.

I ride every day. It’s my transport of choice.  Riding everyday has been good in gaining experience, learning, getting confident on the road and knowing my bikes. I only drive if the weather is really bad or if I have to bring more than one passenger.

I really regret not riding earlier in my life. It has came with more benefits than I had anticipated.  I have met and made new friends, ridden to places I would not have visited, and become fitter and lighter.

Wamuyu Ndarathi on her King Bird KB 400

Wamuyu Ndarathi on her King Bird KB 400

 

My partner and I ride out of town for weekends occasionally.  My best riding moments have been with him.  We both love to enjoy our rides so we don’t speed and don’t do long rides in a day.  We prefer night stops so we have all the time to enjoy each and every mile.

Last year I was supposed to ride to Cairo and back for a charity ride with a group of other bikers.  Unfortunately the ride did not happen due to the political situation in Ethiopia.  I felt really bad but thought I should not give up on a lifetime dream.  My partner and I then started planning an years long adventure trip in which we are going to ride through all the seven continents. To raise funds for the trip, we are building our savings, selling off everything, and leasing our home. We will return and continue our lives equipped with a wealth of world history, millions of friends, and an experience of a lifetime.  

Wamuyu Ndarathi getting ready to ride

Wamuyu Ndarathi getting ready to ride

 

Do you have a motorcycling achievement that you take pride in? I take pride in getting other ladies and gentlemen into riding and mentoring them.  So far I have mentored two guys and four ladies who are now actively riding. 

Tell us a good story. When I first started thinking of riding, my mom was vehemently opposed to it.  I talked to my sisters who were very supportive. My kids loved the idea.  We all agreed that we would keep it a secret from mom and we did for some time.  One day, we were in a family gathering and my son mentioned me, my bike and riding, and my mom was in shock obviously asking “Didn’t I say no to the idea?” Thanks to the focus on the day’s event, that story died as quickly as it started.

Later on a different day I would ask for her blessings to ride without telling her I am already riding and already on my second bike.  She reluctantly said that if it made me happy she accepted it.  Fast forward to a few days later,  I told her I was going to visit her over the weekend to have breakfast with her.  She lives about 120 km from Nairobi. I arrived on my motorbike and the look on her face was one I will never forget.  We didn’t talk about anything else for the entire weekend. We covered every topic – safety, feminism, riding long distance…

Wamuyu Ndarathi with her mother

Wamuyu Ndarathi with her mother

Riding on a dirt road in Kenya

Riding on a dirt road in Kenya

 

Is there any other kind of motorcycling that you’d like to try your hand at? I love off road-riding but I’m not good at it yet.  There is one lady I look up to who is awesome at off road riding and getting that good will be my dream come true.    

Have you made any close female friendships due to motorcycling? When I started riding, I had no idea how many other ladies ride motorcycles in Kenya. Through my training school, I was able to meet many of them and have continued to meet more.  I have amazing friends who have walked with me and mentored me in my riding.  I love the fact that once you are on a bike, it’s very easy to become friends.  It takes no effort or energy to get to know each other.  We just braap in to friendship.    

If you could go ride with any of your motorcycling heroes, who would they be? I have many heroes who have walked with me and ridden with me right here at home and those that I follow doing amazing things on their bikes round the world.  I have met two ladies Jennifer Van Damme and Ivana who have ridden through Kenya as part of their long adventures. I am following Anna Grechishkina who has been travelling around the world on her bike and is currently in Namibia and will be in Kenya later in the year.  I can’t wait to meet her!  I am following two sisters riding in South America after losing their mom late last year.  There are tons and tons of great women bikers out there.

However, these two ladies stand out for me: Bessie Stringfield has inspired many and continues to do so. May her soul rest in peace.  Reading her story I loved her confidence and believing in herself at a time when this was not a common thing and she could easily be judged, but she rose above it all and emerged a legend.  Last year on Women’s day, Ranjeet Ranjan the Congress MP from India rode her orange Harley Davidson bike to Parliament.  She was 39 at the time, and a mother, a wife, a leader and a law maker.  She sent across a very strong message to me and the women in the world that she may never know.  I am hoping to ride with her when we get to India.  I would love to meet her and go ride with her.

Do you do maintenance and repairs on your bike? I have done very little but have taken a short course.  I have to be able to do this during my long trip and therefore will be taking more courses on maintenance.  I can at least service my bike, adjust the clutch cable and do other minor things to make sure that I don’t get stranded on the road.

If you could change one thing about the world of motorcycling, what would it be? The world of motorcycling has been a heaven on earth for me – therapeutic and life changing in many ways.  However, that does not mean its [problem-free.  In my country there are commercial riders and private riders.  One thing we commonly experience on the road is a lack of respect from other road users.  I would love to see motorcycle riders respected more.  This would reduce the number of accidents we have on the road.  I would love for society to have a positive perception of women who ride. We are not as rebellious and hardcore as we are assumed to be.  A young man told me once that if I could ride a motorbike, I must have been very difficult growing up.  This kind of stereotyping and negative opinion is something that I would love to change.

If you could design your dream motorcycle, what would it look, sound and feel like? Maybe this bike already exists and I just haven’t found it. I am not a very girly girl type of a person but there are a few things that I must have with me as a lady.  There are tank bags, panniers and top boxes for sure but for me they are all not appropriate for everyday riding.  They are bulky and very external.  I would love to see that tool kit space be more practical for a lady to fit a toilet bag.  I hate carrying my back pack all the time.  I would also be happy to know I don’t have to keep removing and adding things in my back pack or thigh bag since I will have my toilet bag intact and safe in my bike. Mechanically, I would love to see all bikes come with hazard lights.  I don’t understand why it’s not compulsory for bikes to have them.  

RIDING IN KENYA

Wamuyu Ndarathi looking out at the Escarpment

If I were to visit you and we went riding for one short morning ride, where would you take me? Oh my, there are so many nice places for a Sunday morning ride. I will try to keep it short but there are no short rides for bikers.  There are only open roads. From tea farms, twisties, waterfalls and lakes, we have it all. I would however take you to Naivasha.  Naivasha is located about 91 km from Nairobi and is great for bird watchers, a relaxing day by the lake and it has plenty of options for hotels and activities.  For example, the popular boat rides on the lake and interacting with the hippos.  We often do this ride and have breakfast in Naivasha.  The air is refreshing, the atmosphere very relaxing and therapeutic. [Link]

My favorite day rides are NaivashaNgong Hills, and Lake Magadi as they are scenic, beautiful and very relaxing.

Wamuyu Ndarathi at Lake Nakuru

Wamuyu Ndarathi at Lake Nakuru

 

What’s the best part about riding in Kenya? Kenya is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Africa.  Within a radius of about 100 km from Nairobi, you have the Great Rift Valley escarpments, the lake Naivasha and Lake Magadi. The Ngong hills and Mt. Suswa are perfect for off-roading. The tea and coffee farms of Limuru have well tarmaced roads with twisties which are s great for sport bikes.

Going further than 100 km, we have the Maasai Mara, Turkan, Marsabi, Lake Bogoria, Kisumu and Rusinga island, and the Kenyan coast.  Any direction will lead you to amazing roads, hills, conservancies, lakes, and historical sites. It does not matter what your interests are, we have it all. Besides the scenic environment, the traffic is less out of the city and the roads are good.  This makes for a good ride out of town.

Wamuyu Ndarathi stopped at a gas station

Wamuyu Ndarathi stopped at a gas station

What kind of food can riders expect to stop for on the way? There is no community in Kenya that does not eat meat. We have what is called nyama choma which is grilled beef or mutton but mostly mutton.  It’s grilled on open fire.  The meat is served with ugali, french fries or mukimo. Ugali and mukimo are traditional foods.  This is a must have meal when in Kenya. Kenya is also blessed with almost all types of fruits and very sweet ones.

 Is it safe to ride at night where you live? Unfortunately it is not safe to ride in my city at night. A few roads are lit but the majority of them have no lighting at all. We also have a bad driving culture and it gets dangerous at night when the cops are not monitoring the roads. The bumps and potholes can also be very dangerous at night. 

Is motorcycle theft a problem? I would not say so. I have had a few that have been stolen but the incidents are too few to categorize this as a problem in Kenya. 

Are there any motorcycle specific laws? No one can ride or be a pillion without wearing a helmet, a reflective jacket or strap is required for all riders and pillions, the motorcycle must be insured to be on the road. While the law specifies the minimum requirements for gear, Motorcycle Kenya – the umbrella body for private riders in Kenya – emphasizes full riding gear, which includes knee guards, riding boots and jackets.  It also emphasizes the quality of helmet and recommends international standards and certifications such as DOT certified, ECE approved etc. 

Are motorcyclists discriminated against in any way? We have two categories of riders in Kenya.  Private riders who ride for fun, as a hobby and not for any income.  Then we have commercial riders who are like taxis and are called boda boda, those who do deliveries and ride to make an income.  There have been crimes committed by people on motorbikes and this has led to all motorcycle riders being classified as “not safe”. While we are all able to use the roads and ride anywhere freely without an issue, it becomes difficult to access malls and other controlled buildings and places. This includes some nature conservancies, even the ones without animals.  One such place you cannot access on a motorbike is Hell’s Gate in Naivasha. Bicyclists are allowed in but motorcyclists are not. 

Do you have access to high quality women’s motorcycling gear in your part of the world? In Kenya, we have no motorcycling manufacturers and no one from outside Kenya has a shop here. However, we have a few people who have set up shops to serve this need and import gear into the country.  There aren’t many lady riders, which makes it is hard for these shops to stock up for ladies. So we mostly ride in men’s gear or make a special order, which is more expensive. This is not unique to Kenyan lady riders only but I would say most of Africa.  I would love to see lady riding gear manufacturers bring their products closer to us. They could use the well-established motorcycle shops in the country to manage cost and logistics. 

What kinds of motorcycling events are held regularly? We always start the year with a Bikers’ Prayer Day every February.  This year there  were even barbecues after the prayers and we all spent the afternoon together.  Previously there would be a ride together after the prayers.  There are other events such as:

  1. Racing track in Mai Mahiu for the Superbike racing team. The track is about a year old and they have had events every quarter.
  2. Concour d’elegance – an annual event for vintage cars and bikes held every September
  3. Motocross competition – this is a serious club with international participation.
  4. The annual Superbike race competition that is held every October
  5. We have Enduro competitions here too. We have a Kenyan lady who participates in this one.

I ensure that I attend the events not unless I have other commitments. I love concour d’elegance and have attended for over ten years.

Women motorcyclists in Kenya

Women motorcyclists in Kenya

Kenyan motorcyclists posing for a selfie

Kenyan motorcyclists posing for a selfie

 

Are any motorcycle related sports popular where you live and do women actively participate in them? Motocross is very popular and has girls participating.  The focus is on kids and so there are no older women participating in this one but our daughters give a full representation.

 How are women motorcycle riders treated? My experience is that people always get excited when they realize it’s a woman rider.  I get small favors and friendly chats.  The general perception of people is that women riders are hard headed but I think it’s the confidence we demonstrate.  Many men will not ride a motorbike for fear and will definitely look at a woman who can do it differently.  It’s a stereotype that is passed on because I don’t experience it when I meet people face to face but have heard much negative talk about us.

Motorcycle riders – both private and commercial – are very friendly. We are all a community.  I have received help from total strangers, had conversations with total strangers.  Just last evening, I had to help a guy biker whose bike started giving him problems on the road. I am sure he had a choice to call a fellow male biker but felt comfortable seeking help from a lady rider.  Such confidence in us from other male bikers is really a motivation too. 

Do female and male motorcyclists have the same amount of freedom to pursue motorcycling activities? In terms of the laws of clubs, sports event and policies, yes I believe we do have the same amount of freedom to pursue motorcycling activities. What could come in the way of a female rider is family obligations such as having little babies.

Wamuyu Ndarathi at a cabin on Lake Naivasha

Wamuyu Ndarathi at a cabin on Lake Naivasha



Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinteresttumblrmail