Her Story. A series of blog posts telling the stories of 'women who ride' from all corners of the globe. We hope that by sharing these stories we can help encourage other women to build their confidence, learn from others and inspire others.
This month we have a story by Katie Kemp. A 35 year old wife, mother, Vet Nurse and motorbike trainer from Central Victoria. Katie is an inspiration to us all and we are very grateful she has shared her story with us.
We hope you enjoy her story.
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"I guess my love for bikes started 16 years ago, when my then boyfriend (who is now my husband), took me for a ride on the back of his beautiful Ducati GTS 860. Whilst I had an absolute ball, I very quickly decided that I would like to be in control and Mitch said well 'let's get your learners'. I reckon he was pleased with the idea of me getting my own bike too.
Before I went for my test, I had a very quick lesson on an 80cc dirt bike, in our back paddock among the horses. I was thinking this is a good set up for a funniest home video show moment but fortunately nothing too bad happened and I gained enough experience to successfully pass my test the next day.
My first bike was a Yamaha SRV250, a very cute cafe racer style bike, and it was this bike that started my love of naked bikes.
A month shy of getting my full licence I purchased my big bike, a yellow Ducati Monster 620ie, but because I wasn't allowed on it yet, it lived in our lounge room for a month and all I could do was sit on it and clean it, roll it out the door and start it occasionally.
The day finally came and I took her out on our maiden voyage, only to get a puncture down our dirt road. So it was another week before I got to have another go, this time with our friends to Malmesbury for brunch.
Being the only girl in our riding group, I quickly learnt to keep up (they didn't really mind waiting for me, although I did see it as a challenge to keep pace) due to riding with men my skill level did improve quite quickly, they love to see women riding and show so much support. We go for brunch rides, day rides, weekend rides and week long rides, East, West and South Victoria, South NSW and Tasmania are the best for twisty technical roads that I've come to love (the Omeo Highway in Victoria is hands down my favorite road).
Our Big Europe Adventure
Fast forward to 2014, we are now married with a son and I have moved onto my second big bike, a stunning Ducati GT1000. This was the year that we ticked off the ultimate bike trip, a tour on Ducati's around the Italian, Switzerland and French alps for a week.
So after a week exploring Rome, Pompeii and Lucca our bike tour was due to start (on my birthday as is turns out, what an awesome way to celebrate). We and our Bendigo riding mates met up at the Chalet in Lucca and we met our tour guide.
Righto then, we all packed our stuff into the van, and everyone chose which bikes they would start on. Once again being the only women and fairly short, I chose the Monster 1200 because all the other bikes were too tall. We had already decided on the itinerary and discussed with Joe our guide the distances we wanted to do, what sort of roads and destinations, Joe did the rest and somehow managed to link one brilliant road after another. We covered between 500-600km each day.
We headed off and Bologna was to be our first stop, we didn't leave Lucca till late, and we had to get to Bologna on time as we were booked to do the Ducati factory tour. Apparently speed limits are just advisory signs, because if you weren't doing 140+ you had huge trucks and delivery vans passing you, however we did notice that they're very bike savvy over there. The drivers, despite the warp speeds they were doing, they see riders coming and move over for you, it was incredible.
We did have odd little issues over the week, the kind that makes a trip even more special. Our tour guides bike had issues, how can the tour guide have bike issues, well turns out it was an issue that a lot of GT000's have, the regulator cooked itself. Once we figured out what the problem was, we played "swap that battery", we put his depleted battery into another bike and that bikes, good battery into his bike. We then bought a mower battery when in town, and put it on his back rack and hooked it up, however the weight of that battery broke the rack! So back to swapping batteries between bikes until the end of the trip.
We did the famous Stelvio Pass, it certainly lived up to its reputation, but compared to the other mountain passes we have been doing, the Stelvio was a piece of cake, its wider, has railing all the way, and its a lot more busier, it was very cool to do this road.
THEN on the way back down the Stelvio, my Monster's engine cut out, that feeling of having your unfamiliar bike break down, on a very technical foreign piece of road and watching all your riding mates riding off into the distance was a little worrying.
I managed to start it again, but as I clicked it into gear the engine cut out again (no I didn't have the side stand down,) the check engine light was a worry too. So after a while of trying to figure out what was wrong, sitting on the side of the Stelvio I decided to free wheel down, that was actually a lot of fun, the only issue was that the Stelvio has tunnels and without a head light on, I quickly realized the tunnels had bends in them... once I made it all the way done, through the 75 hairpin bends, I finally caught up with everyone and they removed the faulty side stand switch.
The whole week was full of tight technical twisty passes, one mountain pass after the other, we encountered cows, horses, snow, ice, push bikes and roads so narrow and steep that cars had to stop and reverse back up the road so they can pass each other. My favorite road for the whole trip was the Gorges de Daluis in France. Beautiful twisty roads carved into the red mountains with 17 tunnels. This really was my favorite road of the whole trip, no words to describe it but unbelievable.
Passes and Tunnels we conquered:
Stelvio Pass - 2.760m
Gavia Pass - 2.637m
Great St Bernard Pass - 2.472m
Furka Pass - 2.436m
Col de la Cayolle - 2.327m
Albula Pass - 2.315m
Croce Domini Pass - 1.895m
Tonale Pass - 1.884m
Mount Blanc Tunnel - 11.6km
Gorges de Daluis - 17 red tunnels
These Days, Back in Country Victoria
I currently ride an S4R Ducati Monster called Christine (named after the Steven King horror film) and my track bike is a Ducati 996. I will always have Ducati's, they are amazing to ride, look at and listen to.
The same group of friends from Bendigo still ride together, and now my hubby and I have joined the Ducati Owners Club Victoria, we are doing more rides than ever with like minded lovely people as well as track days at Broadford and Phillip Island.
Track days are a fantastic way to hone in your riding techniques and there is probably no better place to get used to your bike, how it handles under breaks, and under acceleration, without cars coming the other way, plus it is super super fun.
Being a motorbike trainer who teaches beginner riders to successfully obtain their learners as well as riders completing their licence assessments, I am seeing a lot of women riders coming through, a lot more than previous years, which is fantastic. Support for women riders has come along way, with many clubs, dedicated womens track days, and coaching now available.
Advice to Women Riders
Don't let anyone ever tell you, you can't, if you believe you can, you will. Well maybe there's one thing, if you have long hair, tie it in a plait, because you will never get the knots out afterwards, without scissors."
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Thank you to Katie for sharing her story and if you would like to share your story with us simply go to the Contact Page of the website and fill in the form and we will gladly be in touch.