LEA RIECK: CIRCUMNAVIGATING THE GLOBE BY MOTORCYCLE
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 11/7/16
For the sixth installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas, we spoke with Lea Rieck. She is truly an amazing and inspiring woman.
Originally from Munich, Germany, Lea has worked in the design and fashion industries, creating design concepts for companies like BMW Group, IKEA, AD Architectural Digest, Glamour, and Conde Nast.
However, after only having a motorcycle licence for about two years, Lea decided that the next step was to circumnavigate the globe on a motorcycle.
You can also check out her travels on her YouTube Channel here.
It was an honor to speak with Lea and we are so looking forward to following her on her travels and to see what she has planned next.
Lea is a great reminder that fortune truly favors the bold.
Tell us about your bike – Year, Make, Model?
Triumph Tiger 800 XCA, 2016
Did you name your bike? What do you call it?
Yes, my bike is named Cleo. Actually her name is Cleopatra but since we spent quite some time together I only use her nickname anymore.
When and how did you get it?
I got Cleo in April 2016, only shortly before I started my trip. I basically only broke her in, did 1,000 kilometers, got the service and took off. Triumph Germany are supporting me on this trip and allowed me to take their motorcycle around the world – I am very happy and proud that they chose me because it’s the first and only time the German headquarter ever supported a trip like this.
What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you (bought)?
Before I got Cleo I was riding a BMW G650GS Sertao and BMW 1200 GS. Both are very reasonable bikes but not the right choice for me to go around the world. The first one had such a strong vibration that my hands and my whole body got numb after a few hours of driving and the 1200 GS is a good but heavy bike. One year before I went on this trip, I was test riding a lot of different bikes and brands because I wanted something else – and I fell in love with Triumph’s three cylinder motorcycles immediately. The engine runs so smooth and Cleo has just the right balance of power and agility that you need on a trip like mine. I can do a few hundred kilometers a day and long rides if needed and still be comfortable and the bike is as well very capable of going on gravel roads and dealing with all those bad roads of this world.
Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?
I didn’t make any major upgrades but small changes. I got side panniers, new mirrors that are fold-able, protection for the front lights, a construction that holds the number plate more stable and raised my handlebar so that I can stand comfortably while riding.
What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle? What is your least favorite part about it?
Traveling on a motorcycle is fantastic because you have to reduce the things you carry to the essentials. It makes you realize how little you need. And it’s a much better way to experience a country, the environment and the weather much more directly than being in a car. My least favorite part is packing my things – living out of two small bags and keeping everything in order can be draining. Every morning you have to get in your same motorcycle gear again and make sure that your luggage is tied to the bike properly. I as well don’t like maintaining my bike. I do it because it’s needed but I can’t get any pleasure out or oiling my chain, checking the pressure of the tires or controlling the oil level. Sometimes I even feel like the worst bike-mother because of that. But on the other hand I talk a lot to Cleo and show her my affection on every other way. 😉
How many miles have you put on your bike?
I now have about 25.000 kilometers – about double the distance is still to come in the next few months.
What is the best place you have taken it? Is there just one?
I have been to so many incredible and unique places the last few months, it’s impossible to highlight one. I guess the whole experience is my highlight. I don’t need to make a choice about one country to spend my time at – I am very lucky to be able to just go and see whatever comes along. And often the most amazing places are those, I didn’t have on my map before.
Favorite road you ridden?
Pamir Highway in Tajikistan and Karakorum Highway in Pakistan were my favorite areas so far. In the Pamir Mountains you find a lot of nice gravel and offroad pistes over 4.000 meters altitude. Karakorum Highway is at least in some stretches perfectly paved and makes traveling as comfortable as beautiful.
What do you consider to be your current job or goal?
If it’s about the route my goal is to circumnavigate the world on a motorcycle. But I am journalist and through writing about my journey I want to encourage other people that always thought about doing something similar to make their dream come true. And I want to encourage other female travelers not to be afraid and take the chance to explore and discover the world – even if they travel solo. At the same time I hope to fight common prejudices about some of the countries I am traveling to.
In one word, what describes your approach to life?
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living and traveling off of a vehicle, what would you tell them?
Don’t take many clothes with you – pack spare parts instead.
It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were one of those people?
I am sure there are some people that are born like those kind of people – but in my opinion for most of us it’s a learning process. I have met many travelers that traveled for the “goal“, for the next stamp in their map. But the good thing about traveling is that there is no “right“ or “wrong“. Everybody has to find his or her own way to travel. And no matter how you travel – if you have an open mind and heart traveling will teach you something. Yes, and maybe you will learn that not the destination but the journey is the point of life.
You have found a strong place in the community of female adventure riders and all riders for that matter. Do you see yourself as just another adventure rider or do you find that being a women creates different challenges for your journey?
There are indeed different challenges when traveling as a woman on a motorbike through the countries I have been though. Some of those countries are very patriarchal and the culture makes it much more difficult for traveling women to adapt, because there are many more rules about how to behave than there are for men. I mostly had very positive experiences though and people are especially helpful when they realize that you are a solo-traveling female because they want to protect you. And even countries that I was a bit suspicious about, like India, convinced me of the theory that most of the human beings on this planet are good.
The motorcycle community is very male dominated and when traveling I mostly met other guys and only a few other couples going on longer trips. In general I experienced other motorcyclist as very helpful and supportive and I am very proud of that. But there are as well incidents that would not have happened if I was a man. Once I drove with a guy that couldn’t keep up with me as soon as we hit some curves (I am never driving super fast, so it was probably because I had tens of thousands more kilometers of experience than him). When we stopped he accused me to drive irresponsible and having my bike not under control. And yes, he wasn’t joking. When I crossed Kazakhstan I drove with a very inexperienced Russian motorcyclist who couldn’t let his fingers off my bike, even though he knew that I was probably better informed about my bike. He tried to maintain it all the time without asking me and he checked my luggage to be tied to the bike properly every morning while he lost all his things constantly while driving. I several times asked him kindly to leave my bike alone because he kept on messing up all my settings whenever he touched it. I guess he wanted to be helpful and I am sure he was acting without any ill will – but like many other women I don’t need a stranger to take care about my belongings because I can handle that myself. When I offered my help and some straps to him to make sure he doesn’t lose the tires he was carrying with him again he of course refused. Sometimes it seems to be really hard for some men who drive motorcycles to even consider a woman’s advice.
As long as people are still surprised when you take off your helmet and they realize you are a woman and as long as it’s still something unusual to see women on bikes traveling alone I think every female adventure rider counts.
Being originally from Germany, what values do you think your home instilled in you that you take on the road and bring to your trips?
I am very German. Always on time, I like planning and of course I am very prudent. ;). I don’t know if it’s German values or if it’s just me: I really like to plan things from time to time. That doesn’t mean that I have to book a hotel in advance every night or know where I will stop or what to have for dinner and lunch. But if I made a plan I am very happy when everything works out like I wanted.
Do you see yourself as somebody who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?
I don’t feel too much like living in an unconventional way. It’s more that I feel very lucky and a bit proud that I was able to go on this journey and that I had the courage to take this decision. For me it didn’t just happen. I had to convince myself of doing this – but I never regretted it.
Where do you want to go next?
Right now I am in Myanmar – next I go to Thailand, to Malaysia, fly with my bike to Australia and from there to South America and go all the way up to USA.