‘There are no accidents’ said the great enlightened Master Oogway. Sometimes life decides our paths, however hard you try to change them, it will take you back to your passion. Everything happens for a purpose, such is the story of Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent, she became a motorcycle adventurer quite by ‘accident’.
All you need is a little bit of adrenaline, a little bit of courage, it’s the perfect recipe. Well, Antonia has all these ingredients and more. So life took her for an adventure ride, and without any brakes. So there’s no stopping her now…! Connecting for the #IamLivingIt series, we from Team Livingit got in touch with the lady on wheels, with stories on how she got to where she is today, her love for motorcycling and her passion for adventure.
Livingit: Tell us about yourself and your passion. When and how did you start Motorcycling? Was it a smooth beginning or did you struggle to pursue it?
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: I never set out to be a biker. In fact, it was rather an accident! Ten years ago my best friend and I decided to drive an auto-rickshaw from Thailand to the UK and, a few months before we left, we discovered that to obtain permission to drive our auto through China we had to have a motorcycle license!
There followed a crazy few weeks of motorbike lessons and tests and – miraculously – we both passed. I remember the examiner saying to me ‘So Antonia, tell me why you want to ride a motorcycle?’ and his look of surprise when I told him. I think I may have been the first person to ever say that it was because I needed to drive an auto-rickshaw through China!
Livingit: Did you have a mentor or did you join any group in the early days? What do you prefer more, group riding or solo riding?
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: Oddly enough, I didn’t come back to riding a bike until about five years after that Guinness World Record breaking auto-rickshaw trip, when my boyfriend and I decided it would be fun to buy a pair of vintage Honda Cub’s off eBay for £300 and ride them around the Black Sea together (after painting them in matching zebra and leopard print paint). I never joined any sort of group at home – I either rode with my boyfriend or solo.
Livingit: What is your first Motorcycle? What is your favorite brand now and why?
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: My first bike was the above mentioned Honda Cub, a 20-year old, £300, 90-cc ‘chickenchaser.’ The single most produced machine ever made, these bikes may be small, but they are mighty, and I adore them. My second book, A Short Ride in the Jungle: the Ho Chi Minh Trail by Motorcycle, was about riding a very old, hot pink Honda Cub called the Pink Panther down the remains of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Indestructible (supposedly), idiot proof, cheap to fix and ubiquitous in South East Asia, it was the perfect bike for the journey. Or so I thought! I’ve ridden bigger bikes since then, but the Honda Cub will always be closest to my heart.
Livingit: How frequently do you pursue motorcycling as a passion? How do you pursue it and where? What kind of riding are you into?
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: I’m not a regular rider at home in the UK, but I ride a lot in other countries. For example, last year I flew to Guwahati, bought a Hero Impulse for 39,000 rupees and spent two months riding it through Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
What a GREAT little bike it was – it didn’t put a foot wrong during that whole journey. I also run an expedition company, edge-expeditions.com, which means my boyfriend and I regularly lead off road adventure tours in places like Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Bolivia. The more remote, off-road and difficult – the better!
Livingit: Now that you are living your passion of motorcycling, what are your goals and plans? How do you plan to pursue motorcycling further?
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: Having recently done a major journey across Arunachal Pradesh, and written a book about it, I don’t currently have any other BIG adventures planned. But I am leading an off-road tour in Bolivia this October and will be doing a lot more riding in Central Asia in 2018. Who knows what will come next. But the lure of two-wheels and the open road is always strong.
Livingit: How do you plan your rides and where would you rather be Race Track, Beach, Mountain or Jungle? Why?
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: I tend to go on a big adventure every few years, and the more remote and challenging it is, the better. As I write books about my journeys I tend to go for places or routes with a rich history, and a lot of stories to tell – and for regions that are little known about.
For example, following what remained of The Vietnam War’s legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail meant not only a challenging ride through mountains and jungle, but it also had a fascinating historical context. The same with my journey across Arunachal Pradesh last year: it was extremely remote and little-known to the outside world, there were endless stories to tell, and it was personally very challenging.
Livingit: What excites you about Motorcycling even now?
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: There’s nothing quite like the feeling of motorcycling alone through the jungle, or along a dusty mountain track. The wind in your face, the sound of the engine and the feeling of total and utter freedom. It’s a fantastic antidote to the world that’s become far too prescriptive and fearful. Everyone should try it!
Livingit: Tell us about your gear. What is your favorite item in your gear collection?
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: As I generally travel alone and on pretty small, simple bikes, I try to travel as lightly and simply as possible. I’m not a ‘gear freak’ at all, quite the opposite!
Having said that, gear I couldn’t do without are my Roadskin K-legs (Kevlar leggings that I wear under my jeans), my Oxford soft panniers, my Water to Go bottle, plenty of bungees and a big role of Gaffa tape. No biker in their right mind would ever travel without a trusty role of Gaffa type!
Livingit: Do you have any idols in your passion who inspire you?
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: I don’t really have motorcycling idols I’m afraid. But certainly, other female travelers like Dervla Murphy have been a great source of inspiration. This legendary Irish travel writer – now aged 84 – has written over 20 books, and traveled all over the world alone and with her young daughter.
Kind, funny, heartfelt, compassionate, courageous, humble and acutely interested in the world around her, she is everything a travel writer should be and more.
Livingit: What are your top 3 tips for people who want to start motorcycling?
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: In no particular order:
- Don’t rush it. Take your time to find the right instructor, learn how to ride properly and learn ‘bike sense’ on the road.
- Choose the right bike for you. Don’t get a Ducati Monster just because all your friends have one.
- Never, ever ride after you’ve had a drink. And if possible avoid driving at night.
Livingit: What are your thoughts on risks involved in pursuing motorcycling? What are your learnings around motorcycle safety?
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: There’s no doubt that riding a bike does add more risk to your life, and that you’re more vulnerable on a bike than in a car. But hey, you only live once right? And you could just as easily die in some freak accident involving your kitchen, a banana skin, and the bread knife.
You can’t go through life thinking ‘what if’ and being fearful all the time, you’ve just got to grab it by the balls and LIVE. So if you want to ride a bike, go for it. Just be careful, keep your wits about you and don’t ride like an idiot or when drunk. And always leave a good distance between you and the vehicle in front.
Livingit: What are your achievements and accomplishments in Motorcycling?
Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent: Motorcycling hasn’t given me shelves full of gold cups or anything like that. But I suppose it has been largely responsible for my last two books, A Short Ride in the Jungle and Land of the Dawn-Lit Mountains. And, for me anyway, they feel like pretty big achievements.
Antonia’s new book, Land of the Dawn-Lit Mountains: a journey across Arunachal Pradesh – India’s forgotten frontier, is released by Simon & Schuster India on 15 June 2017 and will be available on Amazon and in all good bookstores.
Check out the trailer for Antonia’s new book below, and also check her blog, here!
Still using the excuse of not having that super-flashy-must-have bike for lazing around lying on the couch on a beautiful wet rainy day?
You don’t need to have a high-class flashy gear to feel the air on your face, try a pink auto-rickshaw and you are good to go.
Also read the story of Aravind KP: The Man who is too Fast for the Road!
Self-driven motivation is what we need, in today’s world of robotic work and life. When did you last feel the wind on your face? When did you feel complete freedom? It is a feeling you will never forget, take it from our Lady on wheels.
Maybe it’s time to get creative and think of better excuses…
…because what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger!