Lilian van der Wijngaart

Today’s featured rider is Dutch motorcyclist Lilian van der Wijngaart. She talks to us about her 24 years’ worth of riding experience, her love for her Hawk GT, and of course about riding in The Netherlands. Super-cool rider and neat stories and photos! Enjoy. :)

Rashmi Tambe
Editor, Global Women Who Ride

Lilian_Me BMW and Skyline Deventer

Name: Lilian van der Wijngaart
Age: 45 years
Country: The Netherlands
Languages: Dutch, English, German and Spanish
Years Riding: 24
Height: 1 meter 70 cm (5.5′)
Inseam: 70 cm (27.5″)
Current motorcycles: 2010 BMW F650GS twin, 1988 Honda Hawk GT 650
Past motorcycles: Honda Rebel 250, Kawasaki Z400 (1983) , Kawasaki GPZ550 (1989)
Riding Gear: Shoei Neotec helmet, Daytona boots, Rev’it Ladies Suit Indigo black silver, Sidi Adventures dirt boots
Kms Per Year: 4000 – 6000 km


Please introduce yourself.
I live in a town called Deventer in eastern Netherlands with my husband Guido and our black and white very humanlike cat called Y. Both Guido and I are have been living in this town for many years now. We don’t live too far from the city centre where we like to drink a beer or two, listen to some music and have a good meal. I work with people who have brain injuries. I coach them and accompany them with all the difficulties they are facing in life.


Deventer is a really lovely old town with old narrow 16th, 17th and 18th century alleys and districts. There is just about enough to do and go to. Deventer is famous for the Dickens Festival in December, the biggest book market in Europe in August and Deventer on Stilts in July. During Stilts festival, you can marvel for a weekend at different stilts and stilt shows throughout the whole city. They are funny and most of the time you will have a big smile on your face.

Lilian_Moto Guzzi meeting in 16th century Deventer Holland

Please describe your path to how you got to where you are with motorcycling today.
My remembrance goes back to when I was a little kid. Both my father and my uncle rode bikes. My father rode a Kawasaki, while my uncle rode a Harley.

When I was 4 or 5 years old, I was waiting on a street corner for my father to return home from his work on a 1973 Kawasaki 350 s2 Mach III – a three cylinder bike with a top speed of 175 kmph. That was really fast at the time! He took me on the petrol tank for the last couple of meters. It felt great and the noise set my teeth on edge. I was sold. The scent of the chain cooking in oil to clean it…….I can still smell it. I knew then that I was going to ride a bike as soon as I would be old enough to get my license.

Later on when my sister and I were older, we went with our parents to the legendary Dutch TT. It was the time of Katayama, Barry Sheen, and the legendary Dutch rider Wil Hartog. You might just remember him as the tall guy in the white leathers.

When I got my so-called Zilvervloot – a savings account specially for youngsters in Holland – there was only one goal for it. A drivers licence. And a bike. The plans for a trip at France were already made. And I did. And since then I have always owned a bike and made trips for holidays or weekends whenever possible.


You mentioned one thing that I’ve never heard of – chain cooking in oil?
Yes,until the 70ties the (non o-ring) chain was removed from the bike to clean it. There was one so-called fish chain link which could be opened to allow you to change and clean the chain. They would put the chain in a can with boiling oil , special chain lubricant, and cook it for a while. The memory of the smell of this chain cooking in the barn brings me right back there!


What bike did you first start on and why?
That was a guilty pleasure – a Honda Rebel 250. *blush* But I rode to the Alps with it! It was an affordable bike at that moment. 


Describe your current motorcycle.
I am very happy with my BMW F 650 GS twin. From the very beginning it was friendly to me, easy to control and I felt confident to ride on it. I did a test ride on a BMW F800R. It is a beautiful bike but it’s not for me. Last year I did a trip in Spain on the F650. Two thousand kilometers only on small roads. It even holds good on bad gravel roads. And little country roads are great to ride on! The seat is comfy and speeding on the highway is no problem. Taking turns and hairpins are easy with its power range. 

Do you have a motorcycling achievement that you take pride in?
I take pride in the fact that I did a lot of travelling in Europe and have seen most of the countries and mountainous regions here – the Alps, the Pyrenees, Picos d’Europe, Sierra Nevada, the southernmost point in Spain Tarifa, Snowdonia, Tatra Mountains, Dolomites. For me, my bike stands for freedom and travel. Leaving home with a tent and hitting the road is what I live for! I hope to make my biggest achievement in 2015, when my husband and I do a long distance trip for one year. At this moment, New Zealand will be our final destination.



It is also remarkable that we organize a motorcycle camping trip with a group of friends every year for over 20 years now. We usually go to Belgium or Germany for a weekend, eating, chatting, drinking, making campfires. It is unusual for a group of people to continue such a tradition every year for so long. There is no conflict in terms of motorcycle brands. From an old Guzzi to a new Triumph to decrepit GSes, every bike is welcome.

Lilian_annually motorcampingweekend_a


What’s your favorite motorcycling story to tell others?
The funniest and most stressful one is of my husband and I going on a trip to Corsica (a must-see if you are in Europe). We went to Alessandria, Italy by train from Dormundt, Germany and back, shipping the motorbikes on the train and spending the night over there.

On the way back to the train in Alessandria after a very good island trip, we did some shopping, drank a doppio, saw a bit of the contest of the Dutch soccer team. We were really rested and relaxed. Then we drove past the train station and saw that the train was already there. Ahh well… we still have some time……but then, a few hours later, after we pulled into the train station, the Italian railway workers were totally stressed. “Move it along, you can no longer board. Veloce veloce!” There was just a tiny spot for our Honda and Triumph at the end of the last train.

Ever seen an Italian looking at his watch? Well, at that moment I did. He pointed out very offendedly at his watch: “Hurry up, you’re too late! Si tratta di Frankfurt o Niente!” Which meant “to Frankfurt or nowhere”. We looked at each other and thought – “Where is Niente?” No idea, so okay take us to Frankfurt then. :D


Have you done any long distance road trips?
Not yet! I did some in Australia but that doesn’t count because it was in one of those four-wheeled tins. One was really good, doing the outback-unsealed road from Broom to Darwin in a 4WD.

I did some good trips through The Alps and Spain. My husband and I are now planning the trip of our lives in 2015 for one year. We are going overland to New Zealand on our bikes. We think we are going to drive between 30.000 – 40.000 km. I find this so exciting and challenging. [Link to Potential Route]

Lilian_Hotel weekend in Eifel Germany

Have you made any close female friendships due to motorcycling?
I am very proud to say that I have. One or two of them would be my friend anyway but there is also one in particular. We were colleagues and on a business visit together when we got to talk about our passion for motorcycling. I asked her what kind a bike she had and she hesitated. “It’s a Honda, probably you don’t know it, a Honda Hawk.”

I almost fell off my chair. “No, you’re kidding me. I also have a Honda Hawk.” She said “It is NOT, I repeat NOT a Nighthawk”. For the connoisseurs, this is such a cult bike. Because the Hawk is not a common bike and most people react indeed by saying “Aaaah yeaeah a Honda Nighthawk”. No no no! It’s a Hawk, not a Nighthawk. It definitely is a totally different bike.

We have been friends since then.


Do you do maintenance and repairs on your bike?
I do some smaller things like oil changes and in the past I did a lot more. I did a engine maintenance course just a few weeks ago – tires, chain, electricity, brakes. This is all part of the preparation for our world trip. I hope we don’t have to change tires but I am confident that we will be able to do if necessary.

Do you have any motorcycling heroes?
The Dutch guys who were racing in the 70s and 80s, called the Big Three – Wil ‘the white giant’ Hartog, Boet van Dulmen, Jack ‘Jumping Jack’ Middelburg (RIP.). They often won on the circuit of the Dutch TT Assen because they were excellent drivers in wet conditions. Yeah, this is Holland. These three drivers are etched in my brain and have made a great impression on me.

And there is of course a female biker. She is called Jutta Kleinschmidt from Germany. She was the first woman ever to win a Paris-Dakar rally and she did that in 2001. And of course Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman. It’s really a relief to see that even film stars can be worn out and tired.

Do you have any advice for people who want to get into motorcycling?
If you start to ride a motorcycle, choose a bike that gives you the feeling that you two can become friends. Some bikes never will be your friend and you have to be honest with yourself. It’s not the looks but the feeling. Isn’t it? :)


Lilian_NL dyke

If I were to visit you and we went riding for one short morning ride, where would you take me?
I would take you to the dykes and the very small roads in the countryside. Dikes are all over Holland to protect us against rising water. They follow the meandering rivers and that makes them a very good ride for bikers. Unfortunately, some parts are closed or have massive speed reductions due to dangerous speedy behaviour and loud exhaust pipes. I’ll also take you to a part of the Veluwe forests and heathland where red deers and wild boars live. We can reach the Veluwe by passing the river on a back and forth bridge. At the end we would go to a perfect restaurant to drink a good cold Dutch beer like Grolsch or Hertog Jan. [Link to Route]

What’s the best part about riding in the Netherlands?
Holland is flat. This is why it is called the Lowlands. There is one part with little hills up to 260 meters in the very south called Limburg. It is one of the best parts to ride in Holland. Then there are the many rivers with the dykes, and there is also an east to west ride possible only by dykes. Along the road you will see a lot of pastures with cows, agriculture with corn, potatoes, and grain, orchards with pears, apples, and cherries.

The Noord-Holland province in the north-west part of Holland is famous for its 17th century dykes which go around a part of former water. Tey make a good circuit to drive on. The lower parts of the soil are still pumped to dryness with the help of mills and pumping stations.

I personally love the rural houses surrounded by beautiful trees and flowers like hollyhock and hydrangea. At the countryside you will encounter little villages, sometimes ages old or city centres with 18th or 19th century architecture. You can have a coffee on a terrace with apple pie with whipped cream along the river. The roads are good but can be small and windy at some parts. I made an boord on Pinterest which will give you an good representation of Holland.


What kind of food can riders expect to stop for on the way that is typical to your region?
It definitely would be a patatje met. This is a plastic tray with French fries (patatje) and mayonnaise (met short for “met mayonnaise”) all over it. Remember the scene in Pulp Fiction where Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Samuel L Jackson) are driving and Vincent is talking about his trip to Amsterdam? They are really shocked about the fact that the mayonnaise is spread all over the potatoes. A patatje met can be found all over town in a cafeteria or snack bar or frietzaak. They even pop up on a speedy corner along the road. This patatje met will cost you about € 1,80 – € 2,50.

Another Dutch snack that I like even better is a pannenkoek met stroop (pancake with syrup). Or with bacon. Yum. This can be eaten in a traditional pannenkoekenhuis or restaurant everywhere in the country. This will cost you to around €10.

If a motorcyclist from another country visited The Netherlands, what are the top rides you would recommend to her?
The top ride would be in the southern part of Limburg, the so-called Mergelland route. It’s the highest part of the Netherlands. It really is a scenic ride with beautiful landscape vistas and a lot of curvy roads. You’ll pass the The Vaalserberg is a hill in the Dutch town of Vaals with a height of 322.7. The hill located in the most southern part of the Netherlands and the top of the mountain is known as Drielandenpunt, because the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany share borders here. [Link to Route] 

Another top ride which is ridden by a lot of bikers in Holland is the “Rondje IJsselmeer” or around the IJsselmeer, which is a former inner sea (Zuiderzee). [Link to Route] 

How does the topography affect the kind of motorcycling you choose to do?
I think a lot of Dutch bikers love to go to France or Switzerland on vacations because of the lack of hills and mountains in Holland. I myself like to go for three to four days and then go to the nearest hilly part of the Eiffel in Germany. 

A lot of unsealed roads are closed to motorized traffic for last ten years. Some off-road riders really regret that. They all keep their routes and tracks secret because the more complaints about it, the more unpaved roads will be closed in the future. There is, luckily, a Dutch green code developed by some Dutch riders. This code focuses primarily on driving with respect for other people and nature. I think that is a good thing and in a densely populated country as Holland it is very important for all people who want to recreate and enjoy being outdoors.

My guess is that Holland is a great place to come over and ride in because of the good infrastructure, the old places and history, the countryside and beautiful horizons with cloudy skies that never get bored. And especially the northern and eastern part of Holland are still quit quiet.


What is the traffic like and how does it affect motorcycle riding?
The traffic can be very busy. Especially around peak hours 7.30AM till 9.00AM and 16.30PM till 18.00PM. This is the reason why a lot of people choose to ride a bike in the rush hour to drive to their work. Motorcyclists are tolerated to pass the traffic jam on the highway to the right of the leftmost lane. They have to adjust their speed to the rest of the traffic. This will help you end up at home a lot earlier!

Roads, signs and breakdown assistance, it is all very well organised and maintained in Holland. So are the speeding cameras. Civilisation is never far away in Holland. The road surface is good and every night there are traffic jams (!) due to maintenance on the tarmac.

On the weekends a lot of Dutch people go out for hiking, cycling, skating, running. It is not my favourite time or place to ride to be honest and it’s really not very nice to write but I’d rather be in Germany (not that far away) orf Belgium to ride in hilly and spacious countryside where you can go fast.

What are the best months for riding?
Holland is in the Northern hemisphere. So summer begins in July and winter in December. That makes the riding season March to October. The temperatures outside will be between 15 C – 25 C (59 – 77 F). During the summer it can be as hot as 30 C  (86 F).

If it is not snowing or freezing, you can drive the whole year round. It’s the nasty salt on the road they use against slipperiness that will affect your bike, the paint and cylinder block. In Holland you always have to be prepared for some rain. A lot of motorcyclists have waterproof gear or separate rain jacket and pants.

Is it safe to ride at night where you live?
Yes. I don’t do it a lot myself but I also see no reason why not. Most highways are lightened up with light poles. And, well okay, I think in the forests it’s not that safe because of the red deers and wild boars. I know a few people who hit such an animal usually at dusk. They are lucky to tell this story afterwards. I guess their bikes are at the scrapheap.

Is motorcycle theft a problem?
Yes, it is. Especially in the big cities. It will happen to the newer more expensive bikes like Harley, BMW or Ducati. A lot of stolen bikes leave the country in parts, going to Eastern Europe or Russia. Most insurance agencies require a safety lock that meets certain standards. I had my own theft experience with my friend and both our Honda Hawks. The Honda Hawk has apparently an indestructible excellent steering lock. They forced it but it was not taken. 

Are there any motorcycle specific laws?
A specific law is the possibility to drive through a traffic jam. The discrimination as far as I know is that roads are closed for motorcyclists due to the noise and often you’re asked to take off your helmet before filling up petrol. A lot of people ride to work on their bikes. During the last few years special parking places for motorcycles have  appeared. This was already common in France and England. In Holland you are not allowed to use parking spaces which are intended for cars. Holland is small, busy and we have not much space. It is allowed to park the motorcycle on the pavement as long as you don’t block it.

How do the police treat motorcyclists?
I think a lot of policeman drive motorbikes themselves and feel connected to us. Sometimes they even wave. Car drivers can get upset and react with anger if they see you pass the traffic jam. Sometime they are scared by motorbikes because of the speed and noise. But most people are used to it. 

Can you describe the motorcycle license test?
It is a hard test you have to pass. There are three kinds of driver licences, depending on your age and experience. The exam has 2 parts – vehicle-control and traffic-participation. The vehicle-control consists of the following 11 components: reverse parking, slow slalom, moving off from parking space, imaginary eight, walking pace straight ahead, half-turn (left or right), disaster recovery exercise, fast slalom, decrease exercise stop, emergency stop, precision stop and stop test. Oh and you have to pass a theory exam with 50 questions.


Do you have access to high quality motorcycling gear in your part of the world?
We have a lot of high quality motorcycling gear. 

Is there a local motorcycling event that you try and attend regularly?
I really like to go to races. Sometimes there are classic races in the streets in a village with classic bikes and smoke and oil vapors… it is fun. I already mentioned the Dutch TT and the Superbike race once a year in Assen. There is a lot to do in the rest of Holland. Upcoming is motorgymkana as an event and do it yourself.

Lilian_motorbike touring  with citycounselofficials

Do it yourself gymkana?
The Dutch motogymkana society organises those experience days for the inexperienced so you can take your first steps. It’s not about speed and precision but also about driving technique

Are any motorcycle related sports popular where you live and do women actively participate in them?
Not particularly for woman, no. It is still an exception that woman take part in racing or do motor maintenance for their jobs. I hope and I think it is going to change. 

How are women motorcycle riders treated?
It is really no exception to ride as a female. But I think a few male riders don’t know how to handle female riders. I especially experience it in a motorcycle shop. The man on the other side of the counter underestimated my knowledge and technical insight. It can make you feel a little devalued.

Do female and male motorcyclists have the same amount of freedom to pursue motorcycling activities?
Yes, they have! In Holland we are very emancipated. There is no law, no practical objection to stop you from doing or doing not what you want. There are only small signs that women who ride are not completely established! But I pretend it is not there. I think in countries where I will go through next year, the difference in freedom will be greater, like Iran or Russia. But I will go there and see it with my own eyes and conclude for myself!


Books: Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon
Movies: The world’s fastest Indian starring Anthony Hopkins. It’s a touching and realistic movie about passion. Follow your heart.

Web Forums: Horizon Unlimited HUBB

Professional Motorcyclist: Valentino Rossi. Holland, Bryan Schouten
Female Motorcyclist: Katja Poensgen from Germany. I had the privilege to see her ride on the Dutch TT a few times.