Tatiana Shevchenko

Remember when you were little and had a girl-crush on *that one girl*? The one you wanted to be best friends with because she was just so freakin’ cool? Tatiana Shevchenko is that girl. She’s that perfect combination of badass, smart and funny, and you just know that being friends with her holds a promise of getting into all sorts of trouble together.

Our rider from Ukraine rides off-road. A lot. She has been featured in motorcycle magazines in her country and she is also an avid photo and video blogger. Check out her interview and learn more about dirt biking in Ukraine. [Rashmi Tambe, Editor, Global Women Who Ride]

Women Who Ride: Tatiana Shevchenko

Name: Tatiana Shevchenko
Age: 23
Country: Ukraine
Languages: Russian, Ukrainian, English, German
Years Riding: 2
Height: 1.62 m
Inseam: 79 cm (31.1″)
Current motorcycles: Kawasaki KL250 Super Sherpa’01 aka Greeny
Past motorcycles: Honda CBF125’09, Geon Dakar 250R’11
Kms Per Year: 4000 – 6000

Please introduce yourself. 
Hello! I’m a motorcyclist from Ukraine. My mother was born in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and my father in Dnepropetrovsk. Fate brought them together in Moscow where I was born in 1990. We moved to Ukraine in late 1998. My mother is a therapist and father is a military man. I also have a brother who is a year younger than me. Our father spent a lot of time with us when he was free from work. He taught us things like disassembling and reassembling guns, throwing knives, running, fighting, boxing and many other things that make you sporty and strong.

I studied Computer Science at the Ukrainian Mining University for four years. After I graduated, I moved from Dnepropetrovsk to Kiev with my future husband. I currently work as a software developer for an eBay subsidiary.

My first bike was a Honda CBF 125. I participate in different competitions like Motorodeo and Gymkhana. Now I ride a Kawasaki Super Sherpa. I love traveling and enduro riding is my passion. I also write magazine articles about motorcycling.

Photo Credit: Andrew Shlenchak for MotoDrive Magazine

Photo Credit: Andrew Shlenchak for MotoDrive Magazine

(Photo Credit: Svetlana Kosyak and Svyatoslav Pokotilo)

(Photo Credit: Svetlana Kosyak and Svyatoslav Pokotilo)

What bike did you first start on and why? My first bike was a Honda CBF125, known as Stunner. A friend of ours had owned one and I liked it a lot, so we decided to buy one. It was a small bike, perfect for a newbie. It was very easy to ride, with a soft engine and quiet sound, lightweight, and with a low center of gravity.

What are you riding these days? My current motorcycle is a Kawasaki KL250 Super Sherpa (Greek version). It is lightweight – just 111 kg, and it has 28 hp, but it is also one of the lowest motorcycles in its class. It has a seat height of just 81 cm, which is exactly what I need to be able to keep both my feet on the ground. This is important for me on the dirt.

Why did I pick it? Well, I love enduro riding. But there no good variants of such motorcycles for not-so-tall people like me. We chose from several bikes – Honda Degree, Kawasaki KL250 and Yamaha Serrow. But all the Degrees are old here – 1992-1993 year, Yamaha Serow is too soft compared to the Sherpa, and I didn’t get a chance to try one. So I tried the Sherpa and fell in love with it right after my first time riding it.

How do you keep your skills sharp? During the entire riding year I spend some time training. I go into Gymkhana and Motorodeo, which allows me to keep my skills sharp. Our off-road trips help me to get new skills on dirt.

Sometimes I do enduro lessons with my husband. And of course, I watch and read about dirt riding – lessons of Gary Semic’s and Off-road Maniacs from Australian riders.

Do you do maintenance and repairs on your bike? I clean and lubricate the chain, replace oil and oil filter. For other jobs I ask my husband or our friend from the moto workshop. I would like to do repairs on my own bike. What stops me? Just time. Just starting to do some repairing job will help me to learn it.

Do you have any motorcycling achievement that you’re proud of? I can think of a few. The first time I started motorcycling was in 2011. I had no licence and no skills, but I had a huge desire to acquire them. In April I went to the Motorbike Exhibition in Kiev from Dnepropetrovsk. I found there a motorbike that I was going to buy. It was a Geon Dakar 250. After several hours of sitting on that bike, I put my right leg on the ground. Since it was the wrong side, the Dakar fell to the floor. I went red. I met people who worked there on the Geon stand, and we laughed. After five months, I bought it.

Last year we met with these people again in Kiev. This time I had another role — I was a test rider. I tested about five motorcycles that were the first of the new models. [Link to video]

Women Who Ride: Tatiana Shevchenko works as a motorcycle test rider

Tatiana Shevchenko works as a motorcycle test rider

I also took third place at the Motorodeo festival. We held the final stage of the Motorodeo competitions. Actually we took examples from your police! We took their schemas and trained on them all summer. I heard from one competitor that I had excellent skills in bike riding. He was really shocked when he learnt that 2012 was my first year as a motorcycle rider.

I also participated in Ghymknana, Honda Day. I had the chance to ride with extremely small angles in the rain!


Women Who Ride: Tatiana doing Ghymkhana in the rain

Tatiana doing Ghymkhana in the rain

At Honda Fan Fest in September 2012, we had competitions — moto-slalom like motorodeo. I was the only girl and in the common results table I finished in fourth place. And finally, we had a ‘Miss Suzuki’ competition in our moto-magazine Motodrive and I placed third.

What is your favorite type of motorcycle riding? For me it is off-road riding, of course! I like nature. I like fields and forests. I like active sports. Constant changes in surface elevation, no oncoming traffic, new skills, great physical activity – all this gives me great pleasure. You can jump, you can climb high hills, you can ride in the river… it is so much fun! It is impossible to come home perfectly clean. All the dirt on your bike and your equipment means it was a hard but great off-road trip. After a nice ride, your body feels like it has spent a day at the gym. You feel sore the next day but it is a pleasant pain. You can find so many adventures for yourself and your bike that you cannot find during a paved road trip.

How old were you when you rode your first dirt bike and what was your experience like? The first time when I tried off-road riding was in April-May, 2011. My friend gave me his custom motorcycle that he had transformed from sport bike to off-road. He showed me how to start it, shift into gear and let out the clutch. It was on the grass in the valley between high hills. I was able to move 5-10 meters ahead and back.

After that we met in a company of 3 friends – 2 dirt bikes and 1 ATV 110 cc. They explained to me how to go down on the rocks on the hill going round the ditches. We rode in the forests and on hills. I also went through a deep pool full of mud. The first time I did that, I fall off the bike on the other side of the pool. The second time I got to ride out of that place. It took a lot of time for me, because while I was preparing with my thoughts, the guys were laughing at me. After that trip I fall in love with this kind of riding. After that, I decided that I only want to ride dirt bikes.

Women Who Ride: Tatiana Shevchenko riding offroad

Tatiana Shevchenko riding offroad

How did you learn to ride off-road? I only had one off-road lesson. I just read a lot of literature and watch videos about dirt biking with descriptions and explanations. Then I try to repeat them on my Sherpa. I’ve read a lot from Harry Semic’s instructions. Also every time we ride in a new place for me, my husband explains to me how to ride through there. We ride off-road a lot. These adventures are lessons for me every time. Only that way I get new off-road skills.

Last October we had hard trips in a group of 32 dirt bikes first time and 15-17 dirt bikes next time. During both those trips I had to learn some new skills – riding in deep sand, leaves, pools etc. I did my first jumps which gave me so much adrenalin! [Video 1] [Video 2]

Women Who Ride: Tatiana Shevchenko on a group off-road ride

Tatiana Shevchenko on a group off-road ride

Women Who Ride: Group off-road ride through forest

Group off-road ride through forest

What advice would you give someone wanting to get into off-road riding? If you don’t fall off the bike, you’re not riding off-road. That is like a law. Off-road is mud, deserts, rocks, rivers, hills, forest. But it’s also freedom. You need direction and skills. Off-roading requires physical strength and willingness to work hard. So, don’t be afraid to fall down, to be dirty, to tire. Choose bikes that are good for your height. You have to be able to keep both your legs on the ground while sitting on the bike. It’s highly important. For motocross it doesn’t matter. But not for enduro.

It can also be a pit bike. Since it has low weight you can do the same things you can do on a Honda CRF250L, for example. But it will be much easier to pick it up from the ground/pool/desert.

Tell us more about the last big off-road ride you did. Right after buying my Kawasaki, I went riding with my husband to our favorite places. Here is a translation from the article that I wrote about this:

This evening I realized partially the difficulty that experienced Dakar riders face when they ride through the desert in the dark in the light of their own headlights!

Somewhere from 11 pm to 1am, my husband and I were riding on the rocky-hilly road in the woods and sand-hilly road in the field. He was riding on the sand in front of me. There was a  wall of dust was behind him through which the trail could barely be seen. We rode about five times slower than at the races.

All the attention is focused on the process of moving forward, on the road, trying to see. It is emotionally draining but when you finish you still think “Yeah! I did it! Yes, it’s not so hard!” Must be repeated!

Can you share a good story? I have a couple. This one time, I bought a funny accessory for my helmet — dreadlocks that attached to my helmet with Velcro. Once I was going back to my office. I was holding my helmet and still wearing my boots and knee braces. A man asked me a funny question:
“Helmet, ropes (he didn’t know what dreadlocks were)… Are you going to jump from the roof?”
“Yes, I just wanted to ask security for access to the roof to make a good acceleration.” :D

Another story is from the Harley Davidson Demo Ride Tour. The first Harley that I rode was a Sportster 883. That was when I learned that the ignition key is not always on the dashboard. Okay, kept that in mind. The next Harley that I wanted to ride was the FatBoy 1200. Well, before our group started moving I tried to find the ignition key. It was nowhere I could find. I asked for help. For me it was very unusual that the ignition key is on the fuel tank! Now I’ll always remember that clearly.

Women Who Ride: Tatiana Shevchenko on a Harley Davidson

Tatiana Shevchenko on a Harley Davidson

Tatiana Shevchenko test riding a Harley

Tatiana Shevchenko test riding a Harley


If I were to visit you and we went riding for one morning, where would you take me? We live in place surrounded with nature – fields, forest, hills, motocross track. So I would take you to fields with large height differences, to hills from which you can see very far, to the forest that is bound to Ukrainian Architecture Museum Pyrohiv. [Link to Route]

Women Who Ride: Outside one of the most beautiful churches in Pyrohiv

Outside one of the most beautiful churches in Pyrohiv

What is the traffic like and how does it affect motorcycle riding? 
Compared to Moscow, Kiev traffic is very calm. But even this calm traffic can stop the whole city center because of any crash! Mostly traffic lanes are wide so it’s possible to drive my bike between the cars. After every winter, car drivers aren’t used to motorcyclists, so they drive dangerously. Because of that we have many crashes with bikes with fatal outcome. Of course some car drivers give us extra room.

What are the best months for riding there? In the north we have cold snowy winters. So the best months are from April – October. But even in the winter we can ride in forest with spiked wheels. In the south of Ukraine, you can  ride all year.

How does the topography of the place you live affect the kind of motorcycling you choose to do? In my case it doesn’t matter. I had chosen my bike before I came to Kiev. It is enduro since I don’t like to drive only in the city. I don’t like to move with others in one tempo, so I chose a bike that can go anywhere in the city that I want. And since our asphalt quality is bad in some places, enduro is the best choice.

Is motorcycle theft a problem? Yes, motorcycle theft is a huge problem! It can be stolen even from garage. So we had to care a lot about it. We keep our bikes behind three gates. It is a guarded area which closes with gates at night. In that area we have a huge garage with two  rooms and doors. And since everything is closed at night, I lock my bike and take  thekey with me always.

Is it challenging to ride in the area you live in? Yes, it is. You have to concentrate as much as possible. You have to watch the situation on the road all the time, and you have to think not only about yourself but also about others. Every car on the road poses a danger to motorcycles. So every trip is an adventure every time.

How do the police treat motorcyclists? The same as car drivers. But the interesting thing is that of policemen don’t expect that motorcyclists will stop when asked to. We have such a funny story. My husband and I were riding somewhere on my Honda CBF125. We stopped when one policeman asked us to. He was so confused and surprised! He just checked our documents, wished ‘Happy Way’ and let us go.

How popular are motorcycle related sports and do women participate in them? We have motocross championships. In October, 2012 we had European Nations Championship Motocross. That was a great event! It was cold, rainy, windy, but we came to Pirohovo motocross track to watch it!

We also have sportbike championships, side-car motocross, country-cross, atv country-cross, enduro-cross, enduro competitions, supermoto competitions, speedway competitions, even hill climbs which were held for the first time last year! Of course, women also participate in them. I don’t know their names and who they are, but I’ve seen one girl on country cross, one-two girls on youth motocross, and one women in 250cc class. Also I know 3 girls who participated in our local MotoGP racings. All this kinds of sports are pretty popular here except of Ghymkhana and Motorodeo. Also I know women who participated in stunt riding.

How are women riders treated in your part of the world? In our moto community – with honor and deep respect! Really! And they treated us with more honor if we girls can do some service on our bikes such as change oil with oil filter, clean air filter, clean chain, replace wheels etc. In addition, male riders are glad to see girls among them, and they are ready every time to help you with anything – or repairing, teaching, riding or anything else.

Most others look at us with great interest. To ride bike means not only to be brave and strong but also to think differently, as Steve Jobs said. And to think differently means to not be like everybody else.

Do you have access to high quality motorcycling gear in your part of the world?
Yes, we do. But here we have to pay high price on gear, so I mostly order gear and parts from abroad. e.g.  I received my AGV helmet from Netherland, my motocross gear from California etc. Also you cannot get much woman’s gear here, so I mostly buy men’s gear.

Are there any motorcycling activities that you would like to do but cannot because you are a woman? Yes, there are a few. I can’t go somewhere far from home alone because I can’t ride alone in the forest. In case I fall off the bike it would be impossible to pick it up from a difficult place.

Is it safe to ride at night where you live? It is not so safe. At night on the streets you can meet car drivers that drive very fast or they do not observe traffic rules. Because of that, many accidents happen.

Is there a local motorcycling event that you try and attend regularly? Yes, I try to attend motocross in my city regularly. And if we have some stage on Supermoto, I also try to attend it.

What do you wish your local motorcycling store would stock more of? They need to stock more gear of S and XS sizes. And not so high prices. I don’t differentiate between woman and man enduro gear. Mostly I don’t see any interesting gear design for girls. favicon