Ele Herronen

Today’s featured rider Ele Herronen gives us a wonderful peek into the world of dual-sport riding in her native Estonia. Her lovely photos of lush green forests and scenic vistas are sure to vet the appetites of all the dirt bikers out there. Next stop – Estonia?

Rashmi Tambe
Editor, Global Women Who Ride


Name: Ele Herronen
Age: 32
Country: Estonia
Languages: Estonian, English
Years Riding: 4
Height: 174 cm
Inseam: 82 cm
Current motorcycles: KTM 640 lc4
Past motorcycles: Yamaha Fazer 600
Riding Gear: X-lite 551, Revit Sand pants, Revit Outback jacket, Evolution jacket and pants, Difi cloves (for cold weather), Gaerne G-react and Sidi Adventure boots
Kms Per Year: 15 000 km

Please introduce yourself.
I was born in Viljandi, in the center of Estonia. I was into horses and riding from a really young age. Most of my life until my thirties involved teaching young horses and beginners to ride. After I moved to the capital city of  Tallinn however, there wasn’t much time for horses anymore. I started studying design in university and all my energy went into that. I missed the active life I led before uni and needed something new to do and I started motorcycling.

What bike did you first start on?
I started with a Yamaha YBR 125 at motorcycling school as I had never ridden before. It felt so difficult at first but after a couple of lessons they gave me a 600cc Yamaha MT-03 which was fun! From that point I knew that I was in the right place –  in a motorcycle saddle. My first bike was a Yamaha Fazer which I bought two years after I got my licence. It’s a really nice bike for beginners who seek a bit more power from a smaller bike. I sold it a year and a half later because I felt the urge to ride more in the woods.

Ele_fazerYamaha Fazer – a great beginner bike.

Describe your current motorcycle.
I like my KTM 640 LC4 for its fun character. It has so much personality. It’s light enough for me to pick up and ride alone in the forest. It is suitable for longer travel as well. It’s sharp and fun and it hasn’t let me down.

Stopped for a break in Armenia

Have you done any long distance road trips?
My first trip was on the back seat of my cousin’s bike when we went to Nordkinn, the northernmost point of Europe. It was cold and rainy but the scenery was breathtaking. A year later I traveled the same roads on my own bike. I didn’t make it as far north due to bad weather but had a great adventure as a rider.

Ele_nordkinn1 Ele_nordkinn2

On the way north to Lapland

My greatest trip so far has been my 9000 km journey on the KTM through Russia, Georgia and Armenia, all the way to the Iran border and back home. I learned a lot on that trip, especially off-road skills and teamwork. This trip put me through many tests and I learned a lot about myself. I felt really good when I got back because I hadn’t been sure if I would make it through or not. I did and it felt great!

Riding through Armenia

Iran in the distance

What were some of the highs and lows of your Russia-Georgia-Armenia journey?
Interesting enough, the highest and the lowest points were almost the same. The hardest road on that trip was when we decided to ride over the mountains. We camped close to Meghri, Armenia, close to the Iran border, up on the hillside and decided to ride back to Meghri the next morning. We thought it would be more interesting to ride across the hill since the locals said it was possible. It was 10 km to town. We rode it in eight hours. Going uphill was loads of fun, riding above the clouds and seeing some great views, but getting down was the hard part. The track got more and more rocky and steep, and the weather was hot, so all this exercise – picking your bike up, and trying to stay up took so much energy and was a little scary. For my short off-road career, that was the hardest and trickiest road to handle. When we finally got down, with help from a local truck, they said that this road was shut down for a long time ago as it was unsafe and they asked us to pay a fine for using it. The low point was that it tested my limit and that I didn’t make it all the way down on my own. The highlight was that I had made it that far.

On that 10 km I learned lots of new techniques, how to handle my bike, how to use brakes on really steep downhill, where is impossible to ride, and how not to use brakes in the same conditions :D I got to know how it feels to ride in 35 degree heat when your body is not listening to your mind anymore.  And most important was the feeling after, that I did something I never imagined doing so soon, after getting my license. “2 years ago I bought my naked bike, and now I’m here, on that hill with this weird enduro bike? It’s so hard but it feels so great” Just go for it, go anywhere and don’t fear difficulties  in front of you, see them as a challenge to learn something from it.

The hardest road begins


Hardest Road Ever (in Armenia)

What was it like to ride through Russia?
Russia is a great country for off-roading. On the highway there are way too many trucks and traffic, so motorcycling is the best way. You have to watch out for the DPC (local highway police) as they may stop you at control stops and ask for bribes. It’s getting better though. Other riders say that it was way worse years ago. The only tricky part to get through was the South-Ossetia border where the border guards dislike foreigners. The highways are in good condition near Moscow. The people are nice and friendly, food is not that great, the roads have many potholes in them, there are loads of mosquitoes, gas is cheap, and the mud is really really sticky so if it rains so that it’s almost impossible to ride on them. 

What’s your favorite motorcycling story to tell others?
Besides that road in Armenia, there is the story how my off-roading started. I met a guy who had a KTM 640 and he was so thrilled about that bike and so eager to share the feeling, he gave his bike to me to try for the whole weekend. I went to moto-orientating and straight into gravel class to test the bike and myself, to see if I could handle it. It was load of fun, learning to ride differently than before, falling over many times (new thing for me). When I got to finish I felt great, like I managed something big and felt brave. But the good part started the next morning when 4 skilled off-road riders where packing their stuff to go home to Tallinn (80 km from that point). I made a joke about going together, but knew at the time I wasn’t yet skilled enough to ride with them, I actually meant it as a joke. But after I was finished my packing, which took quite a lot of time, I turned around and they were still there, sitting on their bikes waiting.

“Okay then,” I thought  “It’s not nice to say no now anymore, as I’ve kept them waiting? Okay, how hard can it be? I just finished this gravel class.” And pretty soon I was on the railway, high up in loose rocks and gravel which they use on railways, leaning my foot on the rail and feeling no ground on the other side, watching how the guys were grossing the narrow railway bridge. I remember that point, when I looked behind me and saw that there’s no way back, didn’t want to damage my friends bike and knew I have to get down myself. When we finally got to Tallinn, I felt that there’s nothing I can’t do with that bike, and that feeling was unforgettable. I met fun guys to ride with and bought my own KTM.

Dual sporting in Estonia

Have you made any close female friendships due to motorcycling?
I have many female friends who ride but somehow I feel closer with men when riding. There’s so much to learn from them, perhaps because I haven’t met many female riders who like off-roading.

What riding plans do you have for the next few years?
Every year I try to make one longer trip and travel away from Estonia. Maybe 2-3 weeks’ travel to Europe and a longer time to ride on Pamir Highway in Tajikistan.  And maybe one day I’ll take some time off for longer periods to ride where the road leads. Best part of the motorcycle world is being on the move, coffee in the wild, new people and challenges.

The road to Tibilisi

Do you do maintenance and repairs on your bike?
I do the easier maintenance myself, like oil change, cleaning the air filter, carburetor etc. I leave the more complicated repairs to the professionals but would like to learn to do those as well. I’d really like to build a custom bike in the near future. Or even have my own garage one day…

Wrenching in the garage

Do you have any motorcycling heroes?
The Motoventuring girls Becky and Andrea are just pure awesome. It’s not just they are riding so far. I admire their attitude of not worrying too much about the things that can go wrong and just feeling good about their adventures.

Do you have any advice for people who want to get into motorcycling?
Believe in yourself because everything is possible. You have to do it with your heart and free will.


If I were to visit you and we went riding for one short morning ride, where would you take me?
For a short enduro  ride, I would take you to middle Estonia. There are lots of narrow and twisty forest paths. The road pavement alternates between gravel, sand, and mud when it rains. The path goes through bogs, pine forests and lakes. [Link to Route]

For tarmac lovers, I’d recommend the northern Estonian coastline which has nice twisty roads, small lovely villages,and beautiful nature. [Link to Route]

Moto-orientating in Estonia

What’s the best part about riding in Estonia?
Estonia is so small but so diverse! If you begin from the south, you will be on our “Himalaya” region (the tallest hill is 318 m). The nature there is outstanding. Lakes, hills and road go through them like roller coasters. If you head west, it flattens out and takes only 1.5 hour to ride. So within a a very short time, you can ride through very different types of landscapes.

What kind of food can riders expect to stop for on the way that is typical to your region?
On the roadside, the traditional biker food is burgers. Good quality ones, not fast food! Otherwise, Estonians like to grill meat. Also fish and potatoes cooked in different ways.

There’s good system in Estonia, State Forest Management Centre (RMK) has built many rest stops and cabin houses into the woods, some of the cabins are free to use. You are always free to use firewood, campground and toilets, all over Estonia. We often use them on our lunch breaks and night camps, buy some food from local store and cook in the woods, best restaurant ever.

An RMK Cabin – a free stop for riders to stop and stay for the night

If a motorcyclist from another country visited your country, what are the top rides you would recommend?
I would recommend the following rides:

The north coast https://goo.gl/maps/cpI8W
The old Post Road http://www.postitee.eehttps://goo.gl/maps/ksCsO
The Onion Road http://www.sibulatee.ee/lang_eng/

How does the topography of the place you live affect the kind of motorcycling you choose to do?
Since we have lots of gravel and dirt roads, duals-porting has become very popular. Sport bikes are not so comfortable to ride here.


What is the traffic like and how does it affect motorcycle riding?
Motorcycles are quite invisible to others on our roads so you have to be be extra cautious and make sure that drivers see you.

What are the best months for riding?
April to November is the season for riding. The sunniest days are between May-September.

Is it safe to ride at night where you live?
As safe as a night ride can be. You need to watch out for wild animals like moose, deer and wild pigs on the road. Otherwise it is safe.

Is motorcycle theft a problem?
There are some thefts, but if you keep on eye on your bike and lock it, it’s usually fine.

Are there any motorcycle specific laws?
Public parking is free for motorcycles but not allowed on sidewalks.

Are there any motorcycling related political issues that affect your ability to riding?
No, most of the roads are public. If you are polite to others, all roads are open and people are friendly.

How do the police treat motorcyclists?
Police treats motorcyclist equally with other drivers. Car drivers are usually extra nice and give way, but there are some who are frustrated that motorcycles have the ability to go through traffic jams more easily than cars (lane-split).

Can you describe the motorcycle license test?  
First you have 20 hours of mandatory riding lessons after which you can take the test. There are several exercises: checking your motorcycle order for riding, riding a figure 8, slalom, slow ride (5km/h), riding past sudden obstacle at 50km/h, sudden stop from 50km/h, taking off uphill and riding in the city.

Do you have access to high quality motorcycling gear in your part of the world?
Most of the gear is accessible quite easily but the prices are bit higher than the Europian average. Many Estonians order their gear from Germany and other lower priced countries.

Is there a local motorcycling event that you try and attend regularly?
The biggest is Jõgeva Treff, annual meeting for  international travelers, but many local “Sunday riders” visit this event too.

Moto-orientating is also very cool. There are 7 events through summer. During the day you have 6 hours to ride and pass checkpoints, but you can chose your own track, as the points are randomly on the map. On this event there are two different classes, tarmac and gravel, first is mostly on the main road and other class is more in the woods – my kind of track. Gravel points are mostly places where you don’t usually ride, so there’re lots to discover.

Riding in the autumn


Ice Ride

Are any motorcycle related sports popular where you live and do women actively participate in them?
Moto-orienteering is popular and women take part in it. Most popular are motocross and racetrack, there are some women riders on both, but not many. And I know at least one woman who rides in hill climb.

How are women motorcycle riders treated?
I think like everybody else. We have also women’s motorcycle clubs.

Do female and male motorcyclists have the same amount of freedom to pursue motorcycling activities?
I think so.  Women take part in all kind of motosports, motocross, enduro rides, hillclimbs, organized events and so on.



Books:  Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Movies: The World’s Fastest Indian
Blogs: Motoventuring.com, TheMotoQuest.com