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  #1  
Old 11 Jul 2012
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Solo female rider-in-training - Americas, or Europe&Africa?

Hi everybody,

I have been milling around the HUBB and I love the information and the kindness of everyone here!

A year ago I had a boyfriend who was into motorcycles, and as something to do together I suggested we go to Europe, get bikes and use them to slowly explore the continent. We have since split up and afterwards I thought the idea would leave me... but it has stuck, and I still want to do it (but solo).

I'm 25, female, from Melbourne, Australia. I have both Australian and EU (Irish) citizenship.

I got my motorcycle learners 6 weeks ago and YESTERDAY I bought my first bike! (a yellow 2002 Honda VTR250 for those interested).

I have a few non-bike related travel plans... let me relate.
August 2013: Go to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival (I work in the Arts)
September/October 2013: Chill out in the UK/Europe with my mum, who loves it there.
November 2013 - March 2014: Work the snow season in the Canadian Rockies.
April 2014 onwards: Motorcycle funtimes..... read on!

So, the "motorcycle fun times" is clearly what I'm wanting advice on right now. I'm still interested in Europe, but I will have that time there in Sept/Oct already, and I've recently become more interested in Africa in particular (It's also my home continent, I was born in Durban) and South America (so keen, but also kind of terrified). I kind of have two options that make the most sense:

A) Get a bike in BC, Canada when I finish up in the snow. Ride south through the USA seeing the parts of interest, through central America and South America.

B) Head back to Europe, get a bike (perhaps easier as an EU citizen?), head east to see Eastern Europe and then south through Africa.

There are a few questions here, answers to any of all of them would be so much appreciated!

1) Is this a really stupid idea for a 25/f who will only have a year of riding experience? (NB I'm not planning on hardcore long distances all day every day... the bike is just going to be a wonderful way to get around)

2) Which of A or B would be most suitable? I'm essentially equally interested in both - the things that will affect the decision will be things like safety, ease of obtaining a bike, chance of theft of the bike, overall expense...

3) Where does one stay when doing something like this, particularly in Africa and South America? Camping? Lodges? I'd prefer to not be totally insular, perhaps a combination of both....

4) Would it be better to look at buying a bike and selling at the end? Or renting (v expensive!)? Or borrowing from someone and paying for insurance/wear and tear?

Some more information...
Timeline.. April 2014 until the end of 2014 or before (I might be going back to uni in 2015, hows that for planning ahead...)
Budget... $15-20k for the motorcycle part of the trip all inclusive (bike, flights, food, accomm)

I hope I don't sound laughably naive. If I do, maybe just tell me gently, and don't laugh.

Kind regards,

Nicola
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  #2  
Old 12 Jul 2012
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Hi Nicola,

Wellcome to the HUBB. Wow you have big plans. While crossing africa i met a girl who was solo traveling the east coast with here tractor so the girl thing would not be the problem.

Im shure your plan A would be the easyer plan because with a european passport you dont need to get a Carned or any of your visa in advance which sometimes is quit hard in Africa. The moast difficult & expensive part in Southamerica will be the gap between Panama and Columbia.

In Southamerica and along the eastcoast of Africa there are many hostals and campingplaces where you will meet nice people so you will not be alone all the time.

I dont think you will be able to cross borders with a bike wich is not registered on your name (ec rented bike) so you will have to bay one wich should not be a problem if i look at your big budged.

Transafrika - Motorbike travel tour through africa part 1

Have fun!!! Tobi
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  #3  
Old 12 Jul 2012
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Hello Nicola,

I bought my first bike in April 2008, graduated from a motorcycle training course in May and one month later I rode from my home outside Vancouver up through B.C., the Yukon and into Alaska and back. It certainly was a learning curve, but the journey was amazing, and I met so many people. So no, it is not a stupid idea to go for a trip with only a year under your belt. How else do you learn? All I can say is that if you do decide to ride the Americas after your snow job then head north first, then head south. Northern Canada and Alaska are beautiful. Hoping your plans become a reality,

Regards, Mike.
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  #4  
Old 12 Jul 2012
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I don't believe it's the least bit naive, as long as you're aware that you'll probably be leaving your comfort zone way behind. There will be challenges, more so in Africa than the Americas but you'll certainly not be the first one to do this. For some funny reading get the two books by Lois Pryce who rode the Americas solo as well as London to Cape Town on a 225 Serow.

I rode 25,500km's solo from Victoria, BC, Canada to Yaviza, Darien, Panama and back with no serious problems. OK, so I'm 50, been travelling much of my life and have 28 years riding experience. But on the other hand I rode logging roads and dipped into Mexico on a whim when I had only 1 year under my belt, at age 22. It's all doable with patience and an open mind. Do learn some Spanish if you're going to do the Americas.

Africa vs the Americas is purely a personal choice. Central America can be a bit of a nuisance with border bureaucracies, but nothing insurmountable. I did it all without the help of any "fixers". But then my understanding is that Africa can be much more difficult for border crossings.

Contrary to sensationalized media coverage the Americas are relatively safe with some common sense precautions. Stay out of the "bad" areas of large cities in the USA and other countries. (Interesting little fact: Washington DC has a higher murder rate than Mexico City). Rene Cormier spent years riding around the world and was shot at once ...in Utah. Don't drive at night, mainly because of debris, potholes and animals on the road ...and yes, the occasional bandits. But overall you'll meet incredibly friendly locals, especially outside of the tourist areas.

Camping is fairly limited in Central America but there are a few opportunities in Mexico. Mexico is becoming more expensive all the time but hotel deals can still be had, especially in small non-tourist towns. You could consider couchsurfing.com to get the occasional person to host you and learn about their country.

If this is something you really want to do just go for it. Many others before you have done it with no problems.

If you have specific questions about Central America and Mexico, I and others would be more than happy to answer them.


....Michelle
www.scrabblebiker.com
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  #5  
Old 12 Jul 2012
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If you are thinking of buying a bike in BC, better to get one in the US - much cheaper.

Africa as a solo female? - people have done it, but you may want to re-consider that one.... perhaps try and hook up with other travelers for this trip.
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  #6  
Old 12 Jul 2012
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Read the Lois Price books:





Personally not a big fan of Lois but admire her capacity for adventure and being a "solo, female rider" who's ridden Americas and Africa, there may be some good stuff in there for you.

Good luck with your planning.


Edit: Damn! 205'd by Scrabblebiker. At least I posted pictures.
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  #7  
Old 12 Jul 2012
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Don't worry about your lack of experience, you will gain it along the way, I think Tiffany had only been riding 2 or 3 months before setting off around the world.

Home | Tiffany Coates Travels the World

http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hub...-america-64045

Drop her a PM, I think that she would be one of the best people to speak to and am sure that she would be happy to answer any of your questions.
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  #8  
Old 12 Jul 2012
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Quote:
Im shure your plan A would be the easyer plan because with a european passport you dont need to get a Carned or any of your visa in advance which sometimes is quit hard in Africa.
Thanks for your reply Tobi! The only bit I didn't quite understand was this part. A Carned? I'm very interested to know how my EU visa can make it easier for me in the Americas!

Quote:
I dont think you will be able to cross borders with a bike wich is not registered on your name (ec rented bike) so you will have to bay one wich should not be a problem
Do you have any tips on buying bikes overseas? Is it different depending on which country you are buying in?

Quote:
I bought my first bike in April 2008, graduated from a motorcycle training course in May and one month later I rode from my home outside Vancouver up through B.C., the Yukon and into Alaska and back.
Wow!! You inspire me!! I'm going to try to do some long distances in Australia, but not for a few months at least!

Scrabblebiker thankyou for your comprehensive and reassuring reply, I'll be sure to contact you with more specific questions when the time comes.

Quote:
Read the Lois Price books:
Thankyou, have just ordered them!
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  #9  
Old 13 Jul 2012
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1) Is this a really stupid idea for a 25/f who will only have a year of riding experience? (NB I'm not planning on hardcore long distances all day every day... the bike is just going to be a wonderful way to get around)

Not really, it's been done before as others mention but like any adventure, the most logical course of action is to build an experience base slowly before making a grand leap.

Having said that, a very wise approach for any biker is to hone their skills as much as possible. Practice, practice, practice. It takes very little skill to throw a leg over a bike and ride in a straight line. It can take a lot of skill and experience to react when an animal runs out in front of you or a crazy driver in a foreign country will unexpectantly swerve in front of you. The latter will happen regularly.

2) Which of A or B would be most suitable? I'm essentially equally interested in both - the things that will affect the decision will be things like safety, ease of obtaining a bike, chance of theft of the bike, overall expense...

A wise approach would again be to start somewhere you are comfortable and then in a reasonable environment expand your skills i.e. riding, mechanical, travelling, etc. In the Canada and the US, everyone speaks the same language as you and travel is relatively safe. Europe would also be fine to start in as there is a very well developed travel network.

The biggest advantage of of starting in Canada and the US though is that when you head south, you will get Central and South America. In my opinion, CA and SA are much easier travelling in general than Africa. There are a lot aspects of African travel which make it more of a commitment, including visas, carnets (which is a passport for your bike), etc.

3) Where does one stay when doing something like this, particularly in Africa and South America? Camping? Lodges? I'd prefer to not be totally insular, perhaps a combination of both....

In SA, there is again a fairly well established travel network with hostels in bigger cities but you can stay in inexpensive hotels in almost every town and therefore have no need to camp. With a bit of Spanish under your belt, you can rock up to the local hotel and stay where the locals would. If you need a fill of fellow traveller talk, you can pull out your lonely planet and go where they recommend. There will likley be a bunch of travellers there. Camping is good fun, but most don't bother in SA as the accomodation is so plentiful and cheap.

4) Would it be better to look at buying a bike and selling at the end? Or renting (v expensive!)? Or borrowing from someone and paying for insurance/wear and tear?

Buy your own bike, it's the only real way for longer travels.


Oh and for some other unsolicited advice, it's fairly common for people to ride down from North America to South America. If you start to think that you may want to make the trip a reality, I would definitely post here on HU looking for riding partners heading south. Riding with others, at least to start, makes the trip more interesting and safer. If you get sick of each other, it's easy to split and rejoin up later if the urge arises again. You'll also find that if you are travelling at a common time, you will meet up with people at certain points where you can join up with new riders.

They usually don't leave in April though as winter is just finishing up in Canada so you pretty much would have to head to the Southern US to start to have any decent weather. You'll have to give your trip timing a bit more consideration as most people tend to leave in the summer/autumn with the goal of making it to Ushuaia in December, which is their summer.

In short, of course you can do it, but please start with realistic expectations of what you want to have in place before you depart. That way, you can work at it so that when you get close to starting your trip, you are well dialed in.

You have a new bike, which is awesome first step. Your plan should be to ride as much as humanely possible before you travel. You should also give serious consideration to taking a riding course. On road and off road. Also, you should plan on heading off on a long trip to you know, see if you like riding long journeys. Pop up to Darwin, that's about 1/8 of the distance from Alaska to Ushuaia to give you a sense of the scale if decide to do the whole Pan American.

Happy planning.
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  #10  
Old 13 Jul 2012
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South America! ...but I'm biased!

Nicola,

I say that because I have lived most all my life here in SA.....

I agree 100% with all those above. My 22 yr old daughter decided to join friends and I on a 36-day, mostly gravel ride all over the coast, Andes and jungle of Peru, SA. She had spent a semester away in High School and when she came back all she could talk about was all the motorcycle riding she did with her girl friends (both sister raced motocross too)!
So I say great! We arrive in Cuzco one day before we are to head out on this rigorous trip and I corner with the question: "If you added up all your moto driving time... how much would it be?" She comes back with: "me driving?? Oh, about 1/2 hour." !

But she did well. She fell about one a day for the first 5 days (this is gravel at 14,000 ft... no traffic), then never fell again!

A big key is to not be alone... at least not at first. Thru HUBB you can always find people to ride with for a while. Learn Spanish! It will keep you safer...
(1) You HAVE to buy a bike so that it is in your name in order to cross borders more easily. Besides, renting will KILL your budget. as a newbie, get a smaller bike.. like an on-off 250cc to 350cc. It (and you will do fine with that!)
(2) If the price of the bike comes out of the total budget, you may not have enough to do all the way from Canada to Ushuaia. Maybe do the US, then jump to Ecuador.
(3) That's OK, if you leave in earlier (in March) you will get down into the mid-continent in the very best time of the year to do the central Andes and the upper 2/3 of Brazil. Wander around.. you don't have to do the long and lonely road to the tip of SA.
(4) Like others said: South America is VERY safe if you stay away from big cities, have friends, and keep some common sense.
(5) Follow the backpackers blogs and you will find great plaeces to stay EVERYWHERE in South America for next to nothing and a shower. Most places (if on the ground floor) will even let you bring your bike inside the hotel or even your room!
(6) On word of warning! Don't give the wrong signals! Alone with a Latin means marriage (at least in his mind no matter what he says)... keep it to groups of friends.... just the father in me talking

Keep us informed. You have a family here.

Toby
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  #11  
Old 13 Jul 2012
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Hi Nicola,

Me and Mrs Fox are setting off next spring accross russia and intend on arriving in the candian rockies to work a snow season (Maybe we could catch up while we're there) as a bit of a break as part of our travels, before exploring Canada and heading south through the americas after spring.

Mrs fox only passed her bike test last month so is only a little bit further along the road than you, I know we're going as a pair, In my mind going solo is better as you can be selfish and only do things you want to.

My advice to you would be to travel as light as you can so you're not fighting against weight, travelling on something 200 - 400 cc and under 120 kg is definitely preferable to traveling on one of the 250kg behemoths that the industry call adventure bikes.

amongst all the other solo female role models that have been provided by other posters here is on from down under who is currently on the road:

Motomonkey Adventures
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  #12  
Old 14 Jul 2012
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Looks to be a good idea to me. You are better off than some that have done what you are trying. Seen people buy a bike and ride off never been on a bike before.

If it was me I go to Canada or the USA and buy a bike there and head south. No carnet and safer for now. The roads are big and in good shape for the start of the ride and most of the way down there good. You may want to get a 650 for some of roads in NA as the speeds are high. But a 250 will still get you there. Camping in NA is a good bet mexico south hotels get to be good deal (and you save on the stuf you take).

In the EU you may be able to get small bike and do a bit riding around there as you are there may as well.

As this a bit short on time you need to get going soon some dvd may be a good idea http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/store/dvds
You may want to go to meeting with people that have or are doing a big trip get. Get an answer to questions you do not know you had. Neer you http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/meetings/Australia2012.php may need to get the next one. But is a good idea to help people neer you and people in your area look here Australia / New Zealand - The HUBB If you are neer hit the big one http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/meetings/UK2012.php.
You can get away from the cold and rain of the UK fly to LA California in October and hit the http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/meetings/California2012.php on your way up to Canada.
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  #13  
Old 15 Jul 2012
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Everyone has such wonderful tips and advice, thank you to all!

I feel like whilst I think I am a little more interested in seeing Europe/Africa, it is a much bigger and more complex trip (at least the Africa part) that is probably best to do once I have a bit more experience. It seems logical to stay in Canada/US after the snow season and head south.

On that note, there was a comment earlier about bikes being cheaper in the US than in Canada. I know British Columbia is particularly painful to obtain/insure/register vehicles. Does anyone have any more detailed information on this? What is required to buy a bike in the US (residential address? Is insurance compulsory (it isn't in Australia)?) It is dramatically cheaper to buy a bike there?

Mister Fox, loving your plans with Mrs. Fox, definitely should try to meet up in the Rockies if we are both there for the 2013/2014 season. I'm almost definitely heading to Fernie, BC but once you're in the Rockies all the resorts are pretty accessible!

Quote:
My 22 yr old daughter decided to join friends and I on a 36-day, mostly gravel ride all over the coast, Andes and jungle of Peru, SA.
Hey Toby (charapa), I'm very interested in the route you took with your daughter and friends - could you tell me more? Maybe via PM if that's better?

MountainMan, some great tips, thank you so much: I'm thinking of building up slowly, doing the Great Ocean Road (300kms, winding coastline), then maybe a trip to Sydney (1000 kms) and maybe even Perth (3800kms) over the next 12-18 months.

Thanks everybody, and definitely keep the tips coming if you feel something has been missed
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  #14  
Old 10 Aug 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildman View Post
Read the Lois Price books:
I'm half way through her Central/South America book, to be honest it sounds like she hasn't had a scrap of fun so far (she's in Ecuador now), perhaps it gets less full on for her as she ventures further south though. Definitely going to talk to some more people rather than base decisions on Lois' experience after reading this book!

I do admire any solo female rider especially in the continents she has taken on... she certainly didn't pick the easy ones.
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  #15  
Old 10 Aug 2012
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Originally Posted by nicola_a View Post
I'm half way through her Central/South America book, to be honest it sounds like she hasn't had a scrap of fun so far
I've been to a couple of Lois's talks and had a chat with her at both. From reading both books and meeting the person, I would guess that she would say she had a great time, and advise you not to hesitate! She has some dark times (the crash that hospitalised the other girl in LotL, and some really scary moments in RTaWK) but overall there is a very positive feel, and I know Lois is planning more and better trips for the future - hardly evidence that she didn't have fun.

If you were going to pass your bike test and set off round the world the next day, I would say good luck to you, and give you 50/50 on having a disaster. But you seem to be approaching it in a very mature way, by asking advice and planning some shorter trips before the big one. By the time you set off on your big trip, you will have more experience than most.

One day, if/when my responsibilities change, I will be following you. Good luck, and if you ever get to Wales on your travels, give a shout.
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