I had the pleasure of meeting Kim in Thailand at the Horizon’s Unlimited Motorcycle Meeting in Chaing Mai. She is one amazing woman and a phenomenal photographer (as you will see.) I can not say enough wonderful things about this woman so instead I will let her do her speaking for herself. Enjoy her interview and her spectacular photographs.
Describe yourself using three adjectives
Tenacious, sensitive, ‘unique’ (aka oddball)
What country’s have you traveled to? How many of them by bike?
Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Egypt, Germany, Czech Republic, and Uganda. I’ve only traveled Northern Thailand by bike. (I am excited for the future when I can answer that more substantially!)
When did you start riding a bike?
Two years ago, in Thailand.
Did you have a supportive environment or did people tell you were crazy and that you would be better off at home worrying about a career and a family? How did that influence you (or did it)?
I didn’t tell too many people about it. The only people who knew were my work friends (I was teaching ESL in Chiang Mai) and the guys who I sought advice from and taught me how to ride.
From that small group of people I had a very supportive environment! I was already living in Thailand and the trip I went on was only two weeks. (I feel a bit not-so-tough being in the mix with all your other hardcore female riders. but give me a few years and I promise I’ll have more to write about.)
I had a few second-thoughts right before I was going to leave (i.e. am I insane?), but the guys with motorcycling experience were just like, ‘listen, this is awesome, go do it!!’
One of them mentioned something invaluable to me before I left: “You will drop the bike. It will happen. Don’t worry when you do. It’s just part of riding a motorcycle.”
I was actually pretty cocky at that point and secretly thought, ‘no way I’m gonna drop the bike!’ Of course, I ended up totally dropping it at the bottom of a crazy narrow dirt road with a super steep incline and pot-holes everywhere with a cliff’s edge on one side after not getting any sleep the night prior. (Yeah…)
I even dropped it a second time while trying to go back up the hill – I accidentally slipped into neutral when trying to shift into second. There was no one around so I had to wait a while for someone to come by and help me.
So, he was right. I remembered his words and it made it all easier. It shakes you up though, dropping the bike… puts you in your place.
Once you made the decision to go, how did you prepare for the trip?
I read Proficient Motorcycling by David L. Hough (which I highly recommend) at the suggestion of a friend. Another friend was kind enough to take me out on a lazy Chiang Mai Sunday to teach me how to ride a geared bike. I bought a leather jacket and proper Daytona riding boots (red and black!) at a second hand shop in CM, picked up a full-face helmet and gloves at the helmet shop on the Northeast corner of the moat.. and was good to go. Reading Proficient Motorcycling and buying good-enough gear were really important for me to feel prepared. Buying the GT Rider maps of northern Thailand were super helpful too.
How did you learn to ride?
Part of the reason I chose to live in Chiang Mai was because I wanted to learn how to ride a motorbike. At first, I was totally terrible – completely petrified. It was really difficult for me. Some (most?) foreigners in Thailand seem to learn how to ride a motorbike in a day. Not I…
The first time I tried to rent a Honda Wave from my guesthouse, the Thai boys saw how bad I was and they wouldn’t even let me take the bike off the lot!! I was shaking and felt so nervous. After that experience I did some personal work on building confidence. I knew I’d learn in my own time and that I just needed to go at my own pace. I did some more traveling, talking to motorcyclists I met, getting tips, and enjoying riding on the back of bikes! I settled a bit in Chiang Mai with my new job and tried to ride again after a few months’ time.
At that point, I was pretty strong-willed about doing it, like a horse racing with blinders on – you see the end point and just go for it.
From that point on, I went out with the motorbike every weekend, taking my time. Eventually I started feeling really confident with it. I realized that it is simply the best way to experience northern Thailand. Each Saturday I did the Samoeng Loop – which I discovered by accident just by riding around. Then I started doing overnight trips going to Sukothai and the Mae Hong Son Loop. The routes around Chiang Mai are really great for practicing skills because there is so much varied terrain – sharp curves, steep hills, cliffs – plus incredible scenery everywhere.
After those experiences, my friend taught me to ride a geared bike in a day. I think it was easy for me to pick because I already knew how to drive stick shift in a car and felt very comfortable with push steering and other principles.
What advice would you give a newbie rider planning on their first trip?
Listen to your gut.
Read up on it or take lessons – Practice your skills.
Be serious about safety.
“Ride your own ride” – never feel pressured to do anything outside your comfort zone.
If you can, take a proper course!! I’m really looking forward to doing that in future.
Go for the journey… expect nothing & want everything.
Your favorite thing about overland motorcycle travel?
The learning that inevitably happens no matter which way you go.
What was your favorite place to visit?
Phu Chi Fa!!! New Year’s Eve. Northeast Thailand. No foreigners. Camping. Fireworks. Vista.
Biggest accomplishment so far?
Riding to Doi Inthanon, the highest spot in northern Thailand, is probably my biggest motorcycling accomplishment so far. I get vertigo pretty easily.. for example, I find it challenging to even ride up escalators in shopping malls. By the three-quarter mark up one of those, I feel dizzy and sick. Thankfully, there’s something about being the driver of a bike that makes going to high places physically easier. I still feel light-headed and slightly sick when riding up hills, but it’s definitely achievable (and safe) through focusing on grounding breathing techniques, similar to meditation.
Learning to ride a motorcycle was probably the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. I envision it being a big part of my future because there’s nothing else that I’ve found so far that can teach me the way riding does. All those motorcycling books/films/songs are clichés for a reason – they’re true.
If I can do it, you can too!!
You are a female overland motorcycle traveller? You have an interesting story to tell? You want to inspire other travellers? This is your chance. Please drop us an email or leave a comment, we have a series of questions that we would send you to fill out, and of course links, pictures, etc. are welcome! Thanks and safe travels!