Katya Yakovleva

Today we go out to the Balkans to chat with Katya Yakovleva from Serbia. She rides her dual sport around Europe solo and with her girlfriends or her husband. Some of her travel photos take my breath away and make me long to go explore that part of the world some more. Some day… until then, I can dream. And perhaps after you read her interview, you will want to dream with me. [Rashmi Tambe, Editor]

Women Who Ride: Katja Yakovleva (Photo Courtesy of Dusan Milenkovic)

Name: Katya Yakovleva
Age: 32
Country: Serbia
Languages: English, Russian, Serbian
Years Riding: 6
Height: 169 cm (5’5″)
Inseam: 81 cm (31″)
Current Motorcycles: 1998 Kawasaki KLE 500
Past Motorcycles: Honda NX 250 Dominator, Kawasaki KLX 250
Riding Gear: Touring gear: Held jacket, Probiker pants, Vanucci donna gloves, TCX Explorer 3 boots, Nolan N104 helmet; City gear: Tucano Urbano Parka Lady T 835T Jacket, Tucano Urbano takeaway pants, Tucano Urbano Reloaded summer jacket, O’Neill Sierra adventure helmet
Kms Per Year: 8.000 km
Website: http://www.vita.rs (food blog)


Please introduce yourself. Hi, my name is Katya (short from Ekaterina). I was born in Moscow, Russia, and I lived there for 23 years. I graduated in philosophy and moved to Belgrade, Serbia afterwards to live with my boyfriend (now husband). I work in a big company as a web editor. My hobbies are motorcycling, travelling, healthy food and cooking (I have my own food blog). I usually dedicate all my spare time to these hobbies: I explore new recipes, I cook, I make photographs of my delicious meals, I read and write about healthy nutrition. I ride my bike everyday and everywhere. I usually spend my vacation either in some exotic destination like Nepal, Bhutan or Georgia or motorcycling around Europe. I don’t drive a car and don’t have a car driving license.

Describe your path into motorcycling. Unlike the majority of lady bikers on this website, I can’t say that I love motorcycles since my childhood. Before meeting my husband, I’ve never even thought about riding motorcycle.  Of course, I liked seeing bikers, I felt their free spirit, but I didn’t connect it with myself. My husband rode bikes since he was 15, so when we started to live together, I rode as a pillion. After a while I wanted to learn to ride. First, we decided to buy a small scooter for me (a Piaggio Free 50cc), because at that moment I had never ridden any vehicle in my life and I had no experience in traffic. After one year the scooter became too slow and weak for me so I decided to buy a real motorcycle. Since that time I’ve ridden a couple of bikes and all of them were enduros.

I ride almost every day, summer or winter. I go to work by bike five days a week, I ride on weekends, I travel on it and now I just can’t imagine my life without it. Riding a bike while listening to good music and singing is the best feeling ever! This feeling is similar to meditation: when I ride, I feel free, relaxed and concentrated at the same time. For me motorcycle is not only a vehicle, it’s a source of joy and even an antidepressant sometimes. 

What bike did you first start on and why? I always wanted to ride enduros. Sport bikes and choppers didn’t attract me at all. But my height is only 169 cm, so it was not easy to find a proper enduro for me. But we finally found one. It was a Honda NX 250 Dominator and I immediately fell in love with it. It was my first real bike. It was light with a low seat height, extremely easy to control, nimble and it was great for both on and off road. So, when I started to ride Dominator, I also started to ride off-road.

Women Who Ride: Katya Yakovleva with her first bike

Katya Yakovleva with her first bike

Actually, I learned to ride a bike on unpaved surface. I liked dirt riding and I was good at it, so I decided to sell my Dominator to buy Kawasaki KLX 250 instead, which was more suitable for off-road. Unfortunately, it had only kick-start which I couldn’t manage. I was fighting with that kick-start every day, I jumped on it with the heaviest boots I had, sweating and all, and I managed to start it only three times during one week and I was completely exhausted! Also that bike was too high for me. I realized that it is just not for me, so I sold it after one week and bought a Dominator 250 again. I was so happy! Then I rode it off road for a while and I also started to travel long distance trips, which I really enjoyed. After my first long trip to Europe (to Czech Republic), there came a time to buy a bigger motorcycle, something more comfortable for traveling. So I bought a Kawasaki KLE 500 which is my current bike for the last 2.5 years. Meanwhile I also rode my husband’s bikes: a Suzuki DR350 and Honda VFR 750.

Women Who Ride: Katya Yakovleva doing enduro training

Katya Yakovleva doing enduro training

Describe your current motorcycle. My KLE is a two cylinder dual sport motorcycle. It is pretty heavy (180 kg dry weight), but it has a low seat, it’s narrow and it is constructed in such way that you don’t really feel its weight. It’s an old girl (1998), but I like its design so much, it’s a little bit old school, but elegant at the same time. When I look at it while I drink coffee at a petrol station, I always think “Wow, what a beautiful bike!” I really like it much more than newer bikes which look too “plastic” for me. I also think that it is a perfect bike for ladies and for people who want a good reliable bike both for off and on road, and for a little money. It is not super fast, not perfect for off road, but it’s stable and will give you a lot of joy. You can ride it in the city, travel with it to the long distance trips, and take a passenger. You can always turn from the main road and explore nature by riding dirt and fire roads or some lighter goat trails. I still think that the dual sport concept of motorcycle is perfect for everyday life. So in my opinion, enduro bike is a “must have” and then if you have more money, you can buy a sport one, sport-touring or motocross.

After I bought that KLE, I made a few upgrades: custom made seat (which is so comfortable that after riding the whole day, I don’t feel pain in my butt), crash bars, heated grips, saddle bag supports. In winter I put handlebar muffs, which are perfect protection for cold and rainy weather.

What’s your favorite motorcycling story to tell others? For a long time I wanted to have a white motorcycle. I couldn’t find one although I was searching for it everywhere. Once I saw a KLE in a pearly white color. It was parked on the street and every morning I passed by it and thought about how much I wanted it. So I decided to leave a note for the owner with my number. I wrote something like “I would like to buy your motorcycle. Please contact me if you are interested” and I left it on the bike. Of course, not a word from him.

So later I bought another KLE which was dark purple originally. Since I bought it in November I was thinking about changing its color to white, but I had no time to do it, couldn’t find a good paint shop, and so on. Then in February I went to Nepal for vacation. When I came back home after three weeks, my husband said – “Let’s go to the garage, I need you to help me with something”. I opened the door and there it was:  my bike which was now white!!! He painted it white!  I was so happy, I can’t describe it! It was so damn beautiful, like completely different bike. It was the best thing that my husband could do for me and I appreciate it so much.

Katya_Greece 2013

Have you done any long distance road trips? My first long distance trip was in 2011 when I rode my little Honda NX 250 from Belgrade to the north of Czech Republic. It was a really great experience and after that I fell in love with travelling by bike.

Women Who Ride: Katya Yakovleva reaches the Czech Republic

Katya Yakovleva reaches the Czech Republic

Then my husband and I went to Greece in 2013 on two bikes, then to Italy, and just few weeks ago I finished my first solo trip to Europe. I made about 3.000 km in nine days. I went to Slovenia, Austria, Germany and Italy, combining riding and sightseeing. I really enjoyed this trip, because I was doing everything that I wanted to do. I was riding beautiful Alpine roads; meeting with friends on the way; I visited cities, castles, museums, nice restaurants… I went shopping and had a rest in a great spa resort with thermal water. I really know how to enjoy! Of course, I had a bit of challenge, it’s normal. I was riding in heavy rain in Bavaria and it was cold, only 3 degrees Celsius! On the way back I rode more than 600 km of local roads in one day after partying till 4 a.m. That day was pretty exhausting. But the most important thing is that my bike ran perfectly for the entire journey.

Women Who Ride: Katya Yakovleva rides in Slovenia

Katya Yakovleva rides in Slovenia

Do you have a motorcycling achievement that you take pride in? I think that it is my solo ride to the Alps. Now I’m confident in my riding skills and I feel that I can go anywhere by bike. Also I’m proud of my past off-road rides, because I managed to ride tough terrains with a bike which was not actually made for that. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll buy a hard enduro or MX bike, and continue riding off road. But for now, long distance trips attract me more.

Have you made any close female friendships due to motorcycling? Well, I have some girlfriend bikers, but I can’t say that we are very close. Sometimes we drink coffee together and occasionally go riding somewhere in Serbia. But we made two great girls-only motorcycle trips which I will never forget! First was in 2010, when five of us went to three-day tour in Eastern Serbia. It was amazing! We had such a great time, we had fun and laughed so much. During those three days we made around 700 km, we managed to visit several cultural sites, see beautiful rivers, lakes, springs and mountains, go to a party in one small town and get drunk, swim in thermal springs, and of course, meet and charm people on the way.

Women Who Ride: Katya Yakovleva with her friends in eastern Serbia

Katya Yakovleva with her friends in eastern Serbia

Next year we decided to repeat our ladies tour, so we went to the seacoast  for a week, but there were only four of us.  We went to Montenegro (it is also one of ex-Yugoslavian republics and the seacoast is about 500 km away from Belgrade) and we had a really great time there. In the seacoast there were another four girlfriends waiting for us. They didn’t have motorcycles, so they were our passengers. Can you imagine eight girls on four bikes cruising along the whole seacoast? We really attracted a lot of attention.

Women Who Ride: Katya Yakovleva in Montenegro

Katya Yakovleva in Montenegro

Do you do maintenance and repairs on your bike? Unfortunately, I am not good at repairing my bike. I can only pump up the tires, lubricate the chain and check the oil. Mostly my husband maintains my bike and does some small jobbing, while the serious tasks are done by professionals.

Do you have any motorcycling heroes? No, I don’t. But I find very inspiring stories of people traveling long distance trips by bikes, especially women. So I can say that most ladies from the Global Women Who Ride project are the real heroes and role models for me.

Do you have any advice for people who want to get into motorcycling? I can say that it will be one of the best decisions in their lives. My advice is to always wear motorcycle gear and to ride for pleasure, not for showing off. 


If I were to visit you and we went riding for one short morning ride, where would you take me?
For a short ride I’ll take you to the Avala mountain which is only 18 km from Belgrade. You will ride a curvy road through some villages and an evergreen forest. Mt. Avala is only 511 m high and provides a great panoramic view of Belgrade, Vojvodina and Šumadija, as the surrounding area on all sides is mostly lowlands.  At the top stands the Unknown Soldier Monument dedicated to Serbian heroes fallen in World War I. There is a TV tower and a couple of restaurants where you can have a lunch or drink a cup of coffee. Avala is a traditional picnic resort and popular among hikers.

[Link to Route]


What’s the best part about riding in Serbia? Serbia has various types of terrain. The north is flat with a lot of fields and agricultural territories. There are a lot of hills and mountains on the west, east and south, not very high, around 2,000 m high. These areas are very beautiful to ride through. You will find forests, rivers, lakes and canyons on the way. Besides the tourist centers and cultural sites, there are a lot of “wild” places with untouched nature. I often go hiking in Serbia: I ride to some point by bike and then I hike.  The good thing is that we have a lot of thermal springs and spa centers and it’s such a pleasure to relax in the hot water after hiking or riding the bike!  

A bird's eye view of Serbia

A bird’s eye view of Serbia

What kind of food can riders expect to stop for on the way that is typical to Serbia? Oh food, my favorite topic! People who visit Serbia are surprised with the big portions in local restaurants. Food is cheap here comparing to other European countries. Serbs love meat, so you will find different meat courses (grill, stew, kebab, etc.) everywhere. For meat lovers I recommend to try “Karadjordje steak”. It is a rolled veal or pork steak, stuffed with kajmak, and then breaded and fried.

I am a vegetarian so for me it’s not always easy to find some good vegetable dish on the way. Of course, there is a bigger choice in the cities, but if you want to try traditional Serbian cuisine, you will easy find something across the country. Serbia is famous for its variety of cheese, dry-cured ham, honey, plums, peppers, wines. I recommend this short video which displays parts of Serbia that are known for different kinds of food.

If a motorcyclist from another country visited your country, what are the top rides you would recommend?
There are a lot of amazing destinations here, so it’s really hard to choose. I recommend going to the Tara and Mokra Gora national parks, it’s a very beautiful part of Serbia, with curvy roads and coniferous forests. In Mokra Gora you can spend some time (or even a night) in Mećavnik (another name is Kustendorf), village which was built by our famous filmmaker Emir Kusturica.  Everything there is constructed from wood mixing traditional with modern styles. The famous director still lives there with his family in the large main house. The food is so delicious there. I really recommend visiting this place.

Mokra Gora (Photo Courtesy of Vladimir Mijailovic)

Mokra Gora (Photo Courtesy of Vladimir Mijailovic)

Nearby is Tara National Park and you can take tours there to see the amazing hills and lakes. Then after Tara you can go to Zlatibor mountain resort which is famous for its unique golden pine trees. Then you can continue to Sjenica to see the canyon Uvac. The special value of canyon parts of the river valley are curving meanders, you can take a boat ride there. There are perfect trails for off road riding everywhere on the way. [Link to Route]

Another beautiful ride is the Danube road which starts from Veliko Gradište and near Danube goes to the east to the town Kladovo. You can see Romania across the river while riding. There are many cultural sites on the way. After you reach Kladovo you can continue riding across Eastern Serbia which is very picturesque. [Link to Route] 

How does the topography of the country affect the kind of motorcycling you choose to do? Well, the roads in Serbia are not good at all, so I think the enduro motorcycle is the most appropriate for riding here. We simply don’t have roads for the sport bikes. There are only a couple of highways (Belgrade-Zagreb on the west and Subotica –Niš from the north to the south) which are completely straight with no curves and boring to ride. Other roads don’t have good pavement, so I wouldn’t advise driving fast. But there are a lot of great terrains for dirt riding. 

What is the traffic like and how does it affect motorcycle riding? Traffic is not very busy compared to bigger cities. Car drivers can be wild, but I’m used to it. When I ride in Belgrade, I try to be prepared for unexpected situations. I always keep in my mind that drivers around me can be crazy and can do sudden moves.  Such a mindset helped me a lot of times. After years of riding I can predict what a driver in front of me will do next.

What are the best months for riding? Winter in Serbia is pretty warm and short, so you can ride from April to November. I ride almost the whole year, I don’t ride only when there is snow on the roads and the temperature is below -5. The last winter was mild so I didn’t drive maybe only a couple of weeks.

Women Who Ride: Katya Yakovleva riding in winter on her first bike

Katya Yakovleva riding in winter on her first bike

Riding in winter on my first bike

Is it safe to ride at night where you live? I think so. But on weekends you have to be more careful because of drunk people who drive fast.

Is motorcycle theft a problem? Unfortunately, it is a big problem. It is better to put a disc lock and a chain when you leave your bike in the street. I know a lot of people whose bikes were stolen. And when it’s stolen, it’s almost impossible to find it. Police is pretty powerless in such cases. Luckily we have a garage. 

Are there any motorcycle specific laws? According to our laws, motorcyclists must wear helmet and alcohol is totally prohibited, while for car drivers it’s legal to have 0,3 per mille of blood alcohol level.  Filtering and riding the bus lane is also prohibited, but police shut their eyes to it. 

How do the police treat motorcyclists?
If you are a serious biker who wears a helmet and other gear and drives properly, you will not have problems at all. The police mostly stops people who ride without helmet and who break the laws and I think that it’s good practice. Unfortunately car drivers don’t pay a lot of attention on motorcyclists and they don’t leave us a free space in front of traffic lights as they do in other European cities.   

Do you have access to high quality motorcycling gear in your part of the world? We have several motorcycle shops, but the prices there are much higher and choice is poorer comparing to online shopping or buying gear abroad. Mostly we buy the motorcycle equipment and spare parts from the German online store www.louis.de and off-road gear in www.auner.at. I would like to see more female gear here, but anyway I think I will continue to buy abroad.

I also want to mention one of my favorite brands of motorcycle gear. It’s the Italian Tucano Urbano. I love them, because they make perfect clothes for riding in the city. Their jackets and pants don’t look like motorcycle gear, just like normal “civil” clothes, but they have all the protectors and materials are mostly wind and waterproof. I have their all-season parka, which is definitely the best-buy, beige summer mash jacket which is very feminine and the elegant gore-tex boots. One of their best inventions is “takeaway” leg cover which is kind of pants which you put above your normal trousers and it protects you from wind and rain. As I mentioned, I go to work by bike so it’s important for me to look “normal” on bike, not like a transformer.  So I’m happy that there is a company that cares about city bikers. 

Is there a local motorcycling event that you try and attend regularly? No, I don’t visit bike nights, events or competitions. I’m not that type of person. Sometimes I meet with friends in a biker café. And almost every year I take part in the Christmas and Easter charity rides.

Are any motorcycle related sports popular where you live and do women actively participate in them? Not really. Comparing to other countries in Europe, motorcycle sport is not very developed in Serbia. There are a couple of sport and motocross races, but only a few female riders take part in it. 

How are women motorcycle riders treated by most people and by male motorcyclists? With curiosity and respect. There are not so many female riders in Serbia, maybe 50 in the whole country. So people are mostly surprised when they see a woman riding a bike and turn their heads. I often hear compliments because of my riding a motorcycle.  

Do female and male motorcyclists have the same amount of freedom to pursue motorcycling activities? It’s hard to say because we don’t have a lot of women riders. I noticed that women travel less by bike, they mostly ride in the city. favicon