Utibe-Abasi Nkanga

Global Women Who Ride is back after a brief hiatus! We bring in the new year with an interview with “Queen” Utibe-Abasi Nkanga of Nigeria. This mighty lady rides a Honda CBR600RR. She talks to us  about her path into riding, her long distance triumphs, and her experience from riding in Nigeria. This is a great read! I hope it inspires you into planning your next long distance ride of the year, wherever in the world you might be. [Rashmi Tambe, Editor]


Name: Utibe-Abasi Nkanga (nickname – Queen)
Age: 41
Country: Nigeria
Languages: Efik-Ibibio, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Years Riding:5
Height: 1m 60 (5’2″)
Current motorcycles: Honda CBR 600 RR
Past motorcycles: Kawasaki Ninja 250 cc
Riding Gear: Shoei RF 1100, Dainese leathers, Spidi textiles, Held gloves, Icon Bombshell for dry weather, SIDI Evo for rainy season
Miles Per Year: 3,000
Written about: D’Angels Motorcycle Club Page on FaceBook

Please introduce yourself.
I am a Nigerian from the South-South Zone, from the Akwa-Ibom state, to be precise. I have 2 kids. I have lived for most of my life in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria. I have a job that ensures a lot of travelling, which I enjoy. I like sleeping, dancing, having educational intellectual interactions. I love discovering new places and mastering different ways of doing things, no matter how unsophisticated. I believe there is always something new to learn, no matter what your age, societal standing, degree or pedigree is. I understand the power of languages and am always look forward to learning new languages with their various ways of allowing one to express oneself. I believe in teamwork and believe that everyone has a role to play on this planet. I also enjoy carpentry and have designs of things I would love to create whenever I can find the time in my busy schedule. I usually design my clothes, but have them made for me. I’d love to go into interior decorations. My style could be called Afro-centric. I don’t shy away from the stage and have had a very brief stint in acting.

Careerwise, I am into administrative affairs and just concluded my Masters in Conference Interpretation at the University of Ghana. My Bachelor’s degree was at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. I have also attended the Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil and the Faculdade Classica de Letras at the Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal. 


Please describe your path into motorcycling.
I have always wanted to master the control of machines like planes and jets but couldn’t as the academic structures for such dreams are sadly lacking here. So I settled for learning to master the art of riding. This was as far back as 1986.In the 90s I realized that I could not achieve my dream of being a pilot. In early 2004, I resolved that I would at least have a powerbike.

At my place of work some Nigerians and expatriates used to ride to work on their bikes which was looked at as very strange and foreign. They would meander and weave their way through traffic while most of us were stuck in nerve wracking traffic in Lagos. When I said I would have my own bike, I saw total disbelief in their body language.

In 2009, I took my savings and bought my first bike. It was a 1998 Kawasaki Ninja 250. I wanted to learn on the smallest capacity bike before progressing to something bigger. I then called on a biker friend to help me link up with whoever would be willing to teach me to ride. I found a riding school but the instructors did not have any faith that I genuinely would and truly wanted to ride, because women are seen as domestic animals – fit only for domestic chores! It took a while to overcome the fear of the road as I did not know how to drive a car. I also had concerns about my size as I am very petite and even the 250cc felt like a ton! I finally found an instructor who understood and I had to undergo a brief mental training on getting my acquired skills and knowledge to the roads. All this in 2009! Ever since then it has kept getting better.  

Queen_MrBiggs Makurdi

Describe your current motorcycle.
I ride a Honda CBR600RR. I love the fact that it is a very cooperative bike. I can normally service it myself and because I am attentive to every sign it shows it never seems to have any problems whatsoever. I initially found it extremely heavy but I learned to overcome that and gradually found ways to manage the weight issues. I have not seen anything to dislike in it. If anything, I would like to upgrade to the latest technology of the bike.

Queen_get ready

What was the biggest challenge you faced when you were first learning to ride?
I could not understand how heavy the Suzuki (125cc) was. Now I look back and I laugh at myself! I was also extremely resistant to increasing to third gear and could not get my brain to allow me to increase my speed! 

What’s your dream bike?
A Vyrus and a BMW GS whose weight I can master.

Do you have a motorcycling achievement that you take pride in?
Several! Riding 460 km from Abuja to Ibadan in 2011, 1200 km from Abuja to Uyo in 2012, from Lagos to Accra in Ghana solo in 2012, and from Ghana to Nigeria solo in 2013. 

What’s your favorite motorcycling story to tell others?
When my second riding instructor was helping me overcome my fear of the road, we were supposed to ride to a resort. He did not arrive on time because one of his riders was having issues with her bike. As it was getting dark and the place was out of town, they felt we should cancel and re-schedule. I insisted we still do the ride and see it as our first night riding experience. It was very interesting as the police and mobile police checkpoints did not know what to make of ladies riding powerbikes in the darkness of the night!

Have you done any long distance road trips?
The longest distance done so far was the Abuja-Uyo trip of 1200 km for the Annual Bikers’ Convention. This was like riding from the North to the extreme south of Nigeria. The state of the roads in some areas were just a sheer horror! Those who had tourers had a better deal. For those with sport bikes, it was a really grueling ride. The biking club from Abuja were kind of expecting I would give up at some point and me and my bike would end up being trucked. I was too glad to disappoint them! Thankfully we did the trip in two days, as some of the guys almost passed out by the time we “berthed” in Owerri. The roads in the SouthEastern region were a pure disgrace! Once we got into AkwaIbom state (my state of origin!!) it was a biker’s delight. It was one hell of an experience riding there!


Do you ever carry a weapon with you while travelling in order to feel safe?
I do not carry, as I do not have one. Maybe I should consider a pepper spray, though thankfully, I have never been assaulted or made to feel threatened in all my rides.  

Is there any other kind of motorcycling that you’d like to try your hand at?
I would definitely love to ride a GS and acquire experience in dirt biking.  

Have you made any close female friendships due to motorcycling?
Yes, we were three ladies that came together and formed our own female biking club. Our friendship began because of our love for biking.  


If you have or had a significant other, how do they feel about your riding?
I’m currently single but I’ve never  hidden my passion for biking to any potentials.

Do you ride with a club?
I am the president of D’Angels Motorcycle Club. Not only do I ride with our club members, I also ride with other clubs members whenever my feet is on firm land in Nigeria. 

Queen_DSTV Studio53

Do you do maintenance and repairs on your bike?
I do my oil change, pressure gauging and sometimes the pumping of air, tighten any loose bits as I usually carry the basic tools with me, clean and lube the chain, check the  chain, change my fuses etc. The more complicated, I leave for the professionals primarily because I don’t know how to do those tasks, but would definitely love to learn. 

Do you have any motorcycling heroes?
Valentino Rossi, Jolandie Rust

If you could change one thing about the world of motorcycling, what would it be?
Extend encouragement to black female riders in Africa. I have written to WIM (Africa Commission) to introduce my club and was just simply ignored!

If you could design your dream motorcycle, what would it look, sound and feel like? 
I think I would copy the Honda engine and have some TRON designs and lighting. 

Do you have any advice for people who want to get into motorcycling?
Don’t go into riding for “show-off” reasons!



If I were to visit you and we went riding for one short morning ride, where would you take me? :)
Hmm… too many places. I think the roads in AdoEkiti. Riding to Arinta Falls and Ikogosi Warm Springs. It tests your banking skills as the roads are sinewy. Lots of curves! With breathtaking scenery and landscape. You actually need to concentrate on the riding! [Link]

What’s the best part about riding in your country?
Always best to travel with a camera. Every corner or twist is an unexpected surprise. Hopefully if you are not in a hurry, you may stop to take pictures and possibly film the sights and sounds around you. Even the bad roads are a sight to behold!!

What kind of food can riders expect to stop for on the way that is typical to your region?
Nomally if the area is a stopping point for bus travelers, you will get fast food eateries like Mr. Biggs. Most bikers do not stop to eat traditional foods for fear of getting gastroenteritis unless that particular joint is well known. There is a well known palmwine joint when one rides into AkwaIbom state, coming from the Portharcourt route. There, a lot of bikers stop to take palmwine and grilled local pork chops. 

If a motorcyclist from another country visited your country, what are the top rides you would recommend?
There are too many. I can only list a few. For the North, there is the Yankari Game Reserve and some resorts like the Saminaka Resort. In the South West, there is Arinta Falls, Ikogosi WarmSprings, Erin Ijesha just to mention a few, for the south-south, the roads in AkwaIbom State are a bikers’ delight. 

What is the traffic like and how does it affect motorcycle riding?
In Lagos, the traffic is like hell on earth. One can be stuck in it for hours on end. This has encouraged a large biking community in Lagos as that is an easier means to move around. Only thing is that it is best with a street bike as the sport bikes start to overheat after a while. 

What are the best months for riding?
The dry season from November to March is the best time to ride. 

Is it safe to ride at night where you live?
In Abuja, it is relatively safe to ride at night.  

Is motorcycle theft a problem?
One does not experience motorcycle theft. It is extremely rare. 

Are there any motorcycle specific laws?
Currently there is a bike ban by the FCT Minister and the National Association body (ANMC) is working to resolve it. But the interesting bit is that it is not the police doing the arresting. Rather it is the Military at the various points of entry or exit of Abuja that are arresting riders and impounding powerbikes. 

Are there any motorcycling related political issues that affect your ability to riding?
Due to the bike ban, my bike which is currently in Lagos can’t be allowed into Abuja. Hence I have difficulty in getting around as riding is my only and preferred means of transportation. 

How do the police and car drivers treat motorcyclists?
Police and security operatives tend to behave in accordance with the attitude of the biker. If you the biker approaches and interacts with the security operatives nicely, there usually aren’t any problems. As for car drivers,they behave in various manners in accordance with their personal views and prejudices. Some see bikers as show-offs, irresponsible humans who are spoilt brats with too much money! 

Can you describe the motorcycle license test?   
The test includes: riding around cones, indicating intended direction of turns, ability to recognize street signs, emergency braking, and clutch control.  

Do you have access to high quality women’s motorcycling gear in your part of the world?
Most of anything relating to biking has to be imported from Europe or the US. I would like to see more feminine riding gear designs. 


Do you attend any motorcycling events regularly?
For now, there is the ANMC Annual Bikers’ Convention. There is also the MotoCross event in Benin, Edo State.

Are any motorcycle related sports popular where you live and do women actively participate in them?
Motorcycle sports are very new in Nigeria and still very green. MotoX is about to hold the maiden edition of the EDO State Comrade trophy Race this month (29th Nov 2014). There isn’t any distinct race category for women. Women are however welcome to participate in any of the race category along with their male counterparts. 

How are women motorcycle riders treated by most people and by male motorcyclists?
Some of the males (whether bikers or not) do not know how to handle or react to a lady being a biker. Some welcome it and hold the lady in high esteem. Primarily, I think they react in accordance with how the lady carries herself. Tthough the male counterparts always want to “test the waters” to see which end each female rider falls into.


Do female and male motorcyclists have the same amount of freedom to pursue motorcycling activities?
The society makes it psychologically difficult to be a biker and even worse for a lady who rides. One has to have a special thick skin to have all the negative prejudices blocked off. Over time, you then begin to notice that you are regarded with respect from bikers and non-bikers alike. 



Movies: The Matrix, bike races like WSBK and the GPs
Magazine: MotorCyclist
Professional Motorcyclists: Alhamid Alihu, FotoDaddi
Female Motorcyclist: Jolandie Rust