Kinga Tanajewska

We finally have our very first interviewee from Australia! Kinga Tanajewska has ridden solo around the country on her BMW F800GS and talks to us about her riding exploits and the riding experience in the country. My favorite part about this interview though is Kinga’s account of her wedding day. It was a white wedding with a slight difference. Read on for more. [Rashmi Tambe, Editor]

Australia 20 WA

Name: Kinga Tanajewska
Age: 33
Country: Australia
Languages: Polish, English
Years Riding: 17
Height: 179 cm
Inseam: 85 cm
Current motorcycles: BMW 800GS
Past motorcycles: Honda CB450 Nighthawk, Kawasaki 550 Zephyr, Suzuki RF600, Yamaha FZ6
Riding Gear:  Helmets: BMW 6 EVO, UVEX GT500, Jackets: BMW Rallye 3; ICON :Team Merc Stage 3, Kitty Leather Jacket, Hooligan 54; Teknic Vixen Two Piece Race Suit, Pants: BMW Rallye 3, DRAGGIN jeans, Boots: FORMA Adventure Boots, SIDI B2, Gloves: BMW  GS Rallye 2, ALPINESTARS Stella Leather SP-2 , ICON Pursuit Summer gloves
Kms Per Year: 20,000

Please introduce yourself.
I was born in north-east Poland, a stunning region full of lakes and forests where I first started practicing motorcycling. Since my teenage years I have really only had two passions: motorcycles and blues! At the age of 25 I immigrated to Sydney, Australia, where I have now settled down. I’ve got two masters degrees in Civil & Structural Engineering. I’m currently working in the mining industry in Western Australia. 

Please describe your path into motorcycling.
My first memory of motorcycling was at age 7, riding with my father in a helmet that was way too big for my head, holding on to the tank, and thinking “this is the best thing ever!” Unfortunately, soon after that dad sold his JAWA 350 and didn’t own a bike again… until last year!

Kinga_poland 8

My passion for motorcycles started when I was a teenager. I met some fantastic riders from my home town, Suwalki, and it all started from there. In the 90’s, the Polish motorcycle community was very small, especially in eastern Poland where there weren’t any motorbike dealers and professional mechanics, let alone riding gear! But despite all of that, they were the most unforgettable years for all of us, full of motorcycle rallies, shindigs and tours.  

Kinga_poland 5 winter rally _its me

What bike did you first start on and why?
Well, my very first learning experience was on a JUNAK M07 with a side car (iconic polish vintage motorcycle, 350cc). The good thing about it was I didn’t have to focus on balance, all I had to do was kick start it and ride. And I did it in circles over and over again until I finally got it. It was great fun! Once I got the basics, I used any opportunity to ride my friends’ bikes (without a licence) … and the only time that happened was on the rallies out in the country when everybody was drunk and stopped caring for their machines.  So very often my rides in the dark would end up with a fall on the sand or wet grass. I so quickly learned how to pick them up so no one finds out. The boys were always surprised the next morning: “how did grass get on my side cases?” … who knows … 

Kinga_my first bike

Describe your current motorcycle.
After years of passion for sport and naked bikes, and living in Sydney CBD for a few years, I realised that if I really wanted to explore this amazing country I’d have to go off road, so I purchased a BMW F800GS … and I was an instant convert. I simply couldn’t believe how comfortable and practical enduro bikes are. Doing 700 km a day on sport bikes was borderline torture. I actually don’t recall attempting such a long distance in one day ever. I had to stop literally every 150km for a stretch because my neck and wrists were killing me. But since I got my GS I can go through the whole tank of fuel (300km) comfortably without stopping. I love the comfort, and it’s got plenty of power on the bitumen to overtake road-trains … plus it’s made for dirt!

What was the biggest challenge you faced when you were first learning to ride?
Soft sand and mud were always a bit of challenge, especially on road bikes. Even now, I occasionally struggle in those situations, especially when my cases are fully loaded. Generally speaking, I preferred twisty asphalt roads most of my motorcycling life, so I’m still learning off-road riding skills.

What’s your dream bike?
My current F800GS is my dream bike, I just wish the Adventure version with the 30L tank had been available when I was buying it last year. The bigger tank would make such a difference in the most remote parts of Australia – it would save me from carrying spare fuel.

Do you have a motorcycling achievement that you take pride in?
My solo ride around Australia, and at the same time putting the ‘hard yards’ to good use by making it a ‘charity ride’ to raise funds and awareness for The Shepherd Centre, a terrific organisation who ‘gives deaf children a voice’ by helping them learn how to listen and speak.

Kinga_charity ride around Aus for Shepherd Centre

I did it in two parts (two lots of 9500km, each taking a month). This has always been a dream of mine, and I’m very proud of putting my mind to it, planning it, and living the dream. I camped most nights, and the whole thing was smooth sailing, no dangerous situations, just an amazing, constantly changing landscape.

I absolutely fell in love with the outback and particularly with northern WA – Kimberly and Pilbara regions – which has the best dirt roads, unbelievable landscapes, and roads where you won’t see another soul for days. And for me: the more remote a road, the better!

outback 4

Kinga_australia 23 camping

Kinga_australia 25 WA

Kinga_australia 20 camping on the beach

Check out the Video from first part of my trip:

What’s your favourite motorcycling story to tell others?
After living in Australia for 5 years my partner and I decided to get married in Poland. And as every woman dreams about her wedding in her own way, my dream was to ride bikes to the ceremony. Naturally. I was a bit concerned on how everything would work out as we arrived only 5 days before the wedding.  We borrowed a bike, I rode an R6 and my partner a vintage M72 with side car. Word got out, and what was supposed to be a low key affair turned into an 80 strong entourage, with thanks to some organisation from some dear friends. It was the best day of my life!

Kinga_wedding 5

Kinga_wedding 3

Check out the video here:

Is there any other kind of motorcycling that you’d like to try your hand at?
I’m thinking of buying a light motocross bike and learning the proper technique.

Can you pull any stunts on your bike?
My wheelies on sport bikes were low and disappointing, and with my very low level of patience I quickly realised that I won’t make a good stunt rider. So I’ve given up.  But I can …  scratch with one arm while waving with another with two feet are of the pegs and sing at the same time! How’s that? 

Have you made any close female friendships due to motorcycling?
Yes, but all my female riding buddies are in Poland. For some unknown reason, bikes are not that popular in Australia, so I haven’t met many female riders here.

If you have a significant other, how do they feel about your riding?
My husband is not into bikes, and I understand that he’s got different passions in his life.  We give each other lots of freedom and space. He understands that sometimes, a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do … go around the continent on her own for example!

Do you ride with a club? 
I was a member of a local motorcycle club in the late 90’s in Poland, but that era is past, and I’m a bit of a free spirit and rebel, don’t like too much structure (despite my degrees!), so I don’t think becoming a club member would work for me these days. 

Do you do maintenance and repairs on your bike?
I must say I was very lucky and spoiled for so many years – my biker buddies in Poland would service my bikes for free. I wish I had taken that opportunity as a learning lesson, ’cause when it came to paying for service in Australia I almost fainted when I heard the prices.

My current bike is still under warranty so it has to be serviced by BMW, but I’m trying to learn about the maintenance side of things as much as I can. For example, the other day I changed my chain for the first time – under supervision of course! 

Do you have any motorcycling heroes?
There are so many riders whom I admire that I don’t know where to start! My ‘hero for ever’ is Rossi – for talent, determination, and never ending enthusiasm. Also, I look up to Jacek Czachor (represented Poland 13 times at Dakar Rally) for skills and … Monika Jaworska, a deaf woman who races in championships, for her talent and for never giving up. And world adventure riders Simon and Lisa Thomas for travelling the world for so many years (11) … and Sherri Jo Wilkins who’s been around the world  ‘because she can’, and that’s something I really relate to.

If you could change one thing about the world of motorcycling, what would it be?
If only somehow it would be possible teach all the car drivers more awareness of riders on the road. Look twice in the mirrors. Plus, make all bus lanes for bikes, make traffic filtering legal, and world would be as one.

If you could design your dream motorcycle, what would it look, sound and feel like? 
It would be a rocket-powered wearable bike! Think about it. Come on, science, we need this. 

Do you have any advice for people who want to get into motorcycling?
You only have one life, and riding is one the best ways to enjoy it. Don’t be scared: get into it while you can! 

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Kinga_outback 1

If I were to visit you and we went riding for one short morning ride, where would you take me? :)
If we only had one morning I would take you to Cape Le Grand National Park in Western Australia for a ride during sunrise on the most stunning beach in Australia, crystal clear waters and sparkling white sands of Lucky Bay. Truly a magnificent scene! [Link] 

What kind of food can riders expect to stop for on the way that is typical to your region?
This is a hard question again because Australia is such diverse country. If you stop in the major cities, then any kind of cuisine is available (seriously, name it), but when you go to the country you will mostly find pie shops (meat pies, including kangaroo, emu, camel) and ‘country food / take away ’ which include burgers, sandwiches, fish & chips etc.

If a motorcyclist from another country visited your country, what are the top rides you would recommend?
Australia is such a diverse territory with various landscapes, flora and climate that any type of riding is ideal. There are great costal rides all around the country with beautiful beaches including a world gem: Great Barrier Reef in QLD – the largest coral reef in the world. Riding to the top of Cape York in Northern Queensland is one the most iconic and challenging things at the same time … with rides though rainforests full of adventure and crocodiles!

The Northern Territory is the most remote state in Australia, with the highest legal speed limit being 130km/h. Riding through main highways can be boring but there are plenty of dirt roads you can pick instead. A must see is Uluru (Ayers Rock), which is located right in the middle of the country – Australia’s most recognisable natural landmark. Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks – places with significant cultural and heritage values for indigenous Australians – is full of gorges, caves and natural pools; definitely worthwhile exploring.

Western Australia is the largest state, and boast the most different types of terrain. At the top you find the legendary Gibb River Road, a 660 km dirt track right through the wild heart of the Kimberley, a region famous for spectacular ranges, rivers and gorges. Further down, in South Pilbara (Iron Ore County ), you get a ‘real’ outback experience: red, vast, and remote, the best for off road riding. At the south of WA there’s massive karri trees, and if you’re a tree hugger you will never forget ride through those forests. If you would don’t mind (or love!) riding through very long straight roads (1200km) the Nullarbor Plain is a quintessential experience – flat, almost treeless, and very arid.

South Australia is known for its fine wine regions, and I highly recommend you visit scenic Barossa Valley and the twisty roads of Adelaide Hills, but then again if you are after the outback – explore the Flinders Ranges with its stunning landscape and Aboriginal rock art sites.

The most legendary ride in Victoria is the Great Ocean Road – running on the edge of the ocean with plenty of touristy lookouts on the cliffs. And at the border of NSW and Victoria there’s the spectacular  Snowy Mountains where, during winter, there is plenty of snow, but during summer, it becomes one of the best rides in the country – twisty roads with breathtaking scenery.

Wrapping up … Australia is made for any type of riding. There are plenty of smooth corners as well as adventures on dirt roads in all states. And if you don’t mind camping you can save on accommodation costs as there are plenty of free camping spots around the county.

What is the traffic like and how does it affect motorcycle riding?
There aren’t many motorbikes in Australia so drivers aren’t used to paying attention to bikes. Plus, there are different road rules in each state, which is annoying, e.g. in some states you’re allowed to use bus lanes, while in others you’re not, and in some you’re allowed to park on the footpath while in others you’ll get fined. 

Kinga_australia 8 riding in the traffic

What are the best months for riding?
All year round. Australia is riding heaven. But you need to be aware that in the northern parts of Australia the summer is rain or cyclone season and temperatures get to 45 degrees, so riding is not as pleasant, whereas the ‘winter’ is perfect for it (temperatures 20-30 degrees). In Southern Australia, you can pretty much ride at any time of year, though in winter the temperatures can drop down below 10 degrees so you may need to wear an extra jumper – or two!

Kinga_australia 35 sydney

Is it safe to ride at night where you live?
Metro areas – yes.  After dusk (and during sunrise) road there’s a lot of wildlife on the road so try to avoid riding during those times, as kangaroos, emus, wild horses, cows and camels can jump out at you! 

Kinga_australia 9

Is motorcycle theft a problem?
No. It’s a safe country. 

Are there any motorcycle specific laws?
Not specifically, but I find odd that it in some places bikes are charged the same road tolls as cars. Pound for pound, it’s borderline discrimination.

Are there any motorcycling related political issues that affect your ability to riding?
I’m not aware of any. There is plenty of space in Australia , plenty of off road tracks, and everyone can have access to them. 

How do the police treat motorcyclists?
The police are fine, I’ve never had any bad experiences. But the lack of bikes means many car drivers are completely blind to bikes. And I guess like everywhere there will always be always idiots on the read who try to race you or whistle at traffic lights, but that doesn’t happened too often. Australia has a pretty good driving culture.

Can you describe the motorcycle license test?   
From what I’ve heard, it’s a bit too simple. I think it’s in everyone’s interests to raise the standards of the ‘L’ license, e.g. more training and hours on a test track before being allowed on the roads. 

Do you have access to high quality women’s motorcycling gear in your part of the world?
Coming from Europe where everything is available I’d say there isn’t much choice in motorcycle gear specially for women. Plus, everything is much more expensive.  Even now, I buy some of my gear overseas.

What kinds of motorcycling events are held regularly?
There are plenty of motorcycle rallies and gatherings on the east side, but they are not so popular in Western Australia. They are very different to the European ones, very often it’s just camping in the bush, bring your own everything, nothing provided scenario. They’re a great opportunity to meet fellow adventurers and talk about bike for the whole weekend! I try to attend to them as much as my busy roster allows me.

Kinga_pink ribbon ride 2

Kinga_australian rallies 7

Are any motorcycle related sports popular where you live and do women actively participate in them?
Motocross and speedway are popular, so there are plenty of local clubs that organise races regularly, and yes there are a few junior girl riders participating in them. And of course there is the MotoGP on Philip Island- a great event that you can’t miss out on if you are in Australia in October! 

How are women motorcycle riders treated by most people and by male motorcyclists?
I’ve never come across any discrimination in the riding world. I always look at myself as a rider, not as a female rider, and that’s how people treat me. During my solo ride around Australia, I didn’t have any bad experiences either. People would just leave me alone, no one bothered me, no aggression, not even one single inappropriate comment. 

Do female and male motorcyclists have the same amount of freedom to pursue motorcycling activities?
Absolutely … it’s Australia. 


Book: Australia Motorcycle Atlas
Magazine: MCNews, Motorcyclist, Free Wheeling Magazine
Web Forums: ADV, Horizons Unlimited
Female Motorcyclist: Monika Jaworska, Yvonne Cerpa Cuellar, Anna Grechishkina, Sarah Lezito, Ewa Pieniakowska, Sherri Jo Wilkins


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