WIMA rally in Derbyshire, England

Finally it had arrived, yet too soon it would fly by, the International WIMA Rally, that I’d been looking forward to since buying my ferry ticket back in February.

Parade day! Photo courtesy: Okunishi Sonoko

It is hard to capture the essence of a WIMA rally in words and do it justice, I struggle every year while typing up my blog post. WIMA is an organization with a long history, indeed it will be celebrating its 70th year in 2020. The international rallies started in 1958 and I’ve been attending them since 2005 (Sweden and New Zealand) and I’ve become addicted to them – but what is it that brings me back year after year and makes me plan my summer around being able to attend the rally?

Our international rallies are always a shade under a week, arrival on Sunday but official opening on Monday night. This includes the welcome dinner and speeches, and a party. During the week we have trash night with silly performances, the parade with national flags, visits to local cultural places, suggested ride outs and a treasure hunt, disco, live music and more. It ends on Friday night with a farewell dinner, awards and presentation of next year’s rally. Departure is Saturday morning. There can be some variations to the content during the week, but I would say that the opening and closing evenings are rather fixed structures, as is the parade. Quite a lot of stuff is crammed into the rally week, most of them included in the fee, plus you get a goodie bag. I love the way we have lots of social activities on offer and I can choose to take part or just hang back and chill with friends, some I only meet every two or three years. 

If I were to choose one element that I valued the most from this year’s rally, it would be re-connecting with old friends, making new friends and meeting some famous people.

For the opening cermony WIMA GB had invited Anna Zee, president of FEMA, to give the welcome speech. What a treat to be seated with her during dinner and learn about motorcycle culture and FEMA’s work in different countries. It was so interesting that we re-filled our wineglasses and withdrew to continue our discussions in a more quiet place. I believe there was a band on that evening that I missed.

The red wine was very tasty and I ended up in the office, having a few more glasses while discussing motorcycle travelling and rallies with Tiffany Coates and Caroline Carver. Tiffany has attended plenty of Horizons Unlimited events, so has Caroline (she is also the organizer behind the massive HU event in Baskerville Hall in Wales). With this background, their view on WIMA rallies interested me, what they found similar, different and the demographic of the participants. We concluded that the events are vastly different. The HU events are based on presentations and workshops whereas the WIMA rallies are based on social activities, fun and games. In addition, many of the HU attendants are round the world travellers, in WIMA most of us are more modest in our distances but still dedicated travellers.

So, already on the first night I had met 3 famous people! This resulted in a serious headache the next day, totally self-inflicted by too much delicious wine – Carolina and Tiffany had no blame in that at all, nor had Anna. The next day was a busy one, oh dear: first a visit to the Blue John Cavern in the morning, then an assessed ride with an IAM instructor after lunch, followed by the Pikilily presentation, national presidents’ meeting and dinner back-to-back. Sometimes it is difficult to understand how it was possible to muster the energy for all the things scheduled but somehow I managed to get through it all.

Some rock information: The name of the stone, Blue John, comes form its colors and the fact that there were many french miners working in the mines in the early days. In french blue is bleu and yellow is jaune 🙂 linguistics is fun! Blue John is only mined in 4 places in the world, all in this area, there were quite a few circumstances that needed to coincide for the stone to be created therefor its rarity. In a few years’ time this cave will be fully excavated and from then on only used for guided tours.

Our excellent IAM instructors! I got Linda Ashmore and I know hear her voice my head when Im riding, which is a good thing! Btw, Linda is also famous! Photo courtesy: Keiko Osawa.

Throughout this summer the weather has been rather chilly wherever I’ve been (apart from a few days in Spain and France). England was no exception, we had plenty of rain and some rather chilly nights when I had to layer up with all my clothes to stay warm and cosy in my tent. I slept well, though, and my tent didn’t leak. I find it super cosy to be snuggled up in my sleeping bag listening to the rain. A side-effect of the rain was the slugs, more about that later.

Clear sky and full moon – we’re in for a cold night at the campsite. Photo courtesy: Sue

Losehill Hall was a perfect venue for the rally, especially for such rainy weather. Lots of rooms, nooks and crannies where we could socialise indoors. For example, Sue and I spent a long morning drinking mug after mug of coffee and catching up on things. Then we dragged Georgina with us to take in the view from Lose Hill. 1 1/4 of a mile, yeah, we were all sure it was much longer. It was admittedly quite a hike and I wasn’t quite prepared, wearing my running shoes and woolly long johns however my new Knox Olivia jacket kept me warm and dry. In fact, I wore the jacket all week, both on and off the bike, very flexible piece of gear!

Another highlight of this year’s rally was meeting Hayley Bell, founder of the Women Rider’s World Relay, and listening to her talk about the relay and beyond. As international president of WIMA, I have been involved from the start and spent a lot of time networking both within WIMA and for the WRWR and I have followed its development with great interest. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the next step will develop. The WRWR can best be described as a movement and it is highly dynamic, involving and connecting women from different cultures and countries and broadening the horizons for everyone. As well as showing the market how many women we are and that we want better adapted products, the relay is showing us how many strong women there are out there and how different our situations can be just depending on what country we are born in. In Western Europe we want gear without pink and at the same quality as men’s gear. In Pakistan they want gear, any gear, because the availability is very poor. This gives greater awareness of the inequality in the world, we might not have the gear we want, but they don’t have anything.


One way that WIMA as an organisation is making an immediate impact is by our support of MJ Piki. We were fortunate to be able to hear Anne talk about the latest development in the Pikilily workshop and the progress of the women riders at MJ Piki. There are now 6 trained women and WIMA continues to support them, aiming to raise money for the training of another woman and to fund a motorbike. The rally successfully raised money for MJ Piki – the fundraising was split between our official WIMA World support project and the Derbyshire Air Ambulances, a local charity. So we are working towards our goal already. We also collected protectors that can be sewn into their riding gear, I find it amazing how crafty they are in creating their own riding gear when there isn’t any on the market.

On a more personal aspect of women empowerment, Tiffany Coates held a workshop on how to keep yourself safe and how to act in a dodgy environment. We learned about how to show security through body language, break free when held by the wrist and other tips to deter an attacker. The old tip, key between your fingers, was something I used all the time when running the trails in the Gothenburg suburb where I lived before moving to Spain, but I had no idea how easy it can be to break free from a wrist grip if you know how to do it. Tiffany was fresh back from India, where she led a ripple relay from Chandigarh up to Khardungla, probably the highest altitude ripple ride yet performed – they called it “the Ultimate Ripple”. I hope that, in the future, I will have the possibility to travel with Tiffany in India on one of her tours. She is an inspiration, and it was amazing to finally meet her, she is such a humble person yet extraordinary. As you can see, I had to take some photos of her famous bike Thelma as well.

Too quickly, the rally began drawing to a close. There was the farewell dinner, awards ceremony and concert, this time I didn’t miss out! Thor – the gods of rock kept us well entertained with their 70s and 80s rock, they’re seriously one of the best cover bands I’ve seen.

The first impulse of me and many others was to photograph or film the band, later on the dance floor was full with rocking women!

Thank you WIMA GB for an amazing rally, you did brilliantly!

Also, please accept my humble thanks for the “Slug in the boot award”. Very much appreciated 😀

Global Friendship

We don’t have one language in common, instead we speak three languages in between the three of us, Japanese, English and Spanish, as we take shelter in a local Spanish restaurant in Gracia. I had wanted to show my international friends the area in Barcelona where I used to live, before moving to Calafell. My plan for this evening included our normally pleasant weather – not a steady downpour. But the food is excellent and the company better still, despite some occasional confusion when we speak the wrong language to the wrong recipient. The bartender is amused by our group and absolutely thrilled when he learns that Selma is originally from Argentina and they even have a common home town. He brings us strawberry gazpacho to celebrate this. Selma orders Argentinian meat, Sono is excited by the idea of Spanish tapas and we share three little plates followed by three rather large cakes for desert. It’s been a busy week for them, when you come from Japan to spend a week in Catalunya then you must make the most of it. They have been riding in the Pyrenees together with Sue from WIMA GB and, in addition, managed to see some of what Barcelona has to offer in the culture department: Gaudi’s architecture and Picasso’s art. To complete the list, we managed some shopping for Spanish goods before dinner.

Dinner in three languages. photo Courtesy Selma Rosa Perez
Dinner in three languages. Photo Courtesy Selma Roza Peres

On my behalf, it’s been a couple of eventful weeks, moving houses, starting a new teaching position and in the midst of it all my WIMA friends from England and Japan basically arrived on my doorstep. Sue had rented a house up in the Pyrenees and I joined her for some amazing riding. We were lucky to be recommended a brilliant route by fellow bikers. It was 200 kilometres filled with twists and turns, it kept us busy until evening in fact, with various coffee and photo stops along the route. We started off in Col de Nargo and headed to Berga along route L-401, in the morning the road was quiet, but we soon met lots and lots of bikers, it was evident that the road was popular and we could see groups of bikers on different viewpoints along the route, as well as bikes passing us when we stopped for photos. Our return route took us up north approx. 20k and then back through the villages Saldes, Gosol, Tuixent and Sorribes. This road was not accepted by my GPS, possibly because some of the roads were tiny – my TomTom app does that sometimes, it overrules my choice of road. A small part of the route was on gravel, which reminded me that my bike isn’t suitable for gravel and I had better stay off it. Well, there are smooth gravel roads like the one to my parents’ house in Sweden (which is a piece of cake to ride), and this looked like that to begin with, but soon got loose and my road tyres were sliding. Arriving on tarmac made me both praise civilisation and wish I had a smaller, lighter bike with offroad tyres so I could do it all again. I can definitely see myself on a smaller bike in the future.

Sue and I in the Pyrinees. Photo Courtesy Sue Barnes
Sue and I in the Pyrinees. Photo Courtesy Sue Barnes

After the weekend, while I had to return to work, Sue was expecting our Japanese friends for a few days riding. However, our planned ride out to meet them as part of my return had to be drastically changed due to some very expected events. While lifting my very sleepy head to check the time early Monday morning (public holiday here so I wasn’t going to go to work anyway) I found out that it was 4:30am. I also found out that Sono had ended up on Mallorca instead of Barcelona and that Selma, who had arrived in Barcelona on a different flight, had been pickpocketed and lost all her money. They were on a tight schedule, since Japanese people hardly ever get more than a week off work consecutively, and their hire bikes were waiting for them. The decision was easy, I would await sunrise and head down from the mountains and try to help. I’m spoiled, being used to a completely different work culture. I would personally never even consider flying to another continent during a week’s holiday, but they must make do. I absolutely admire their ability to make the most of it and I would do whatever I could to make things easier for them.
So, I met with Selma and we tried to locate the rental place. Firstly, I feared that the place didn’t exist and that their booking offer was fraudulent. Luckily, it turned out that the company had not announced that they had moved place and changed phone number and we did track them down in the end. When we finally arrived, and explained Sono’s predicament, the owner kindly offered to keep the place open until 4pm. I had already offered Sono to take my bike up to the Pyrenees if she wouldn’t make it, but since her booking couldn’t be cancelled we were still hoping she would be able to make it – and she did – literally in the last minute her taxi arrived. I was very happy to contribute to making their arrival in Barcelona a little less stressful and be able to escort them out of Barcelona and on their way up to the Pyrenees, no doubt they were tired after their long flight to Europe and their respective mishaps, and I wanted them to have a smooth start to their riding at least.

While they enjoyed the mountains, I returned to work. We had scheduled to meet up again on Friday, Sono’s last day in Europe and in the restaurant in Gracia we closed the circle. Selma’s flight was a couple of days later so we made plans for the weekend – we learned that we both have a passion for books so we spent Saturday morning in bookshops. I was amazed to learn that she was named after a Swedish author, Selma Lagerlöf and I secretly sought out a Spanish edition of one of her books as a present. Selma, the author, is native to my region in Sweden and her house Mårbacka is now an impressive museum and celebration of the author’s life. She was also the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Not a bad character to be named after, I must say!

Dream dinner by the sea, Barcelona harbour. Photo Courtesy Selma Rosa Perez
Dream dinner by the sea, Barcelona harbour. Photo Courtesy Selma Rosa Perez

Since Selma had dreamed about having dinner next to the sea, we had to make this happen for Saturday night, and then we did the same for Sunday lunch but here in Calafell. I was happy to welcome her as my fist visitor to my village and we were both quite surprised as we stumbled upon a local charity ride in support of children with Dravet Syndrome here in Calafell harbour, “Rolling for Kids”, it was called. We had an interesting chat with the organisers and showed our support before continuing our Sunday stroll along the beach, our feet in the water and the sun in our faces. We shared a typical Spanish three course Sunday lunch before Selma had to return to Barcelona.
Supporting local charity ride "Rodando por los niños"" in Calafell by buying their cool T-shirt. Photo Courtesy Selma Rosa
Supporting local charity ride “Rodando por los niños”” in Calafell by buying their cool T-shirt. Photo Courtesy Selma Rosa

Later the same day, while reflecting on the recent events during my evening tea on my balcony, I felt a sincere happiness to be part of WIMA. There are a lot of barriers and discord in the world, that is for sure, but I’ve had the time of my life together with people I wouldn’t have met without WIMA – considering the four of us come from four different countries and three different continents – to me this is amazing networking and great WIMA spirit.

WIMA Rally Estonia

The activities were endless and the week passed very quickly: Live band and dancing every night, yummy food and tasty drinks, treasure hunt and visits to manor houses, bog walk and swamp water tastings, parade with 200 motorbikes, castle visit and medieval culture, fundraising in aid of women less fortunate, camping and crispy cold nights… and most important of all, meeting old friends and making new ones. This is what I love the most about WIMA rallies.

This year, for the first time, I had to fly in to a European rally. Sadly, my bike had to be stored away in Barcelona and I got on a flight and flew the 3300 kilometres to Tallinn. This might not be common knowledge, but the vacation periods differ vastly in Europe and in Spain the holiday period is August, so when I return home my official holiday begins and I’ll be heading up into the Pyrenees for riding and camping, taking advantage of the lovely mountains we have so close to home. But I’m getting ahead of myself. At the moment, I’m still in Sweden visiting my parents, my sister and her baby, relaxing with friends and savouring the good memories from the WIMA rally. Since I was working until the Saturday before the rally, I had the pleasure of getting home from work every evening checking Facebook, following others’ journeys and reading about good fortunes and motorbike breakdowns. I could see how friends from all over the world slowly made their way towards Estonia. I could see what weather they had and where they were staying for the night. Likewise, now after the rally, I can follow my friends, en route back home, with pleasant detours to make the most of the journey and finding enjoyable roads to ride and places to see while I spend time with my parents, who I haven’t seen in a year.

Everyone makes their own memories, here are some of mine:

The venue had a large field for camping and I was happy to use it, there was a hotel for those who sleep better in a bed. The night were insanely could though - coming from a temperature above 30 it was quite a shock for me. Luckily, I was saved by friends who lent me a blanket and thermals. I always sleep best when my nose is cold, but I want to keep my body warm.
The venue had a large field for camping and I was happy to use it, there was a hotel for those who sleep better in a bed. The nights were insanely could though – coming from a temperature above 30 it was quite a shock for me. Luckily, I was saved by friends who lent me a blanket and thermals. I always sleep best when my nose is cold, but I want to keep my body warm.

Svata Vatra - one of the amazing live bands we danced to. I even got their CD. i love bands who use lots of strange instrument, if they can do it in a rock style even better.
Svata Vatra – one of the amazing live bands we danced to. I even got their CD. I love bands who use lots of strange instruments – if they can do it in a rock style, even better.

Liv and Val - my team for the treasure hunt. We had an excellent day trying to be clever and resisting the temptation of googleling the questions. The countryside in the north west of Estonia is beautiful, and as you can see - the weather was windy :)
Liv and Val – my team for the treasure hunt. We had an excellent day trying to be clever and resisting the temptation of googling the questions. The countryside in the north west of Estonia is beautiful, and as you can see – the weather was windy 🙂

A beautiful place to stop for a coffe. Some come and some leave, there was constant movement along the treasure hunt route. Here is Syl on her way just as we arrive.
A beautiful place to stop for a coffee. Some come and some leave, there was constant movement along the treasure hunt route. Here is Syl on her way just as we arrive.

How many suitcases are there? I counted them 4 times and got a different number each time. The suitcases symbolises the amount of luggage the emmigraters had with them.
How many suitcases are there? I counted them 4 times and got a different number each time. The suitcases symbolise the amount of luggage the emigrants had with them.

Estonia is famous for its manor houses, we saw a few of them and I must admit that they are impressive and the gardens are fantastic. Worth mentioning is that you can stay in this manor house, there are ensuites as well as dorm beds and the price is not bad for what you get. In comparison, it is about the same as a hostel in central london but I belive the ambiance is a lot grander.
Estonia is famous for its manor houses, we saw a few of them and I must admit that they are impressive and the gardens are fantastic. I enjoyed walking around the grounds trying to find the facts required for the treasure hunt. Worth mentioning is that you can stay in this manor house – there are ensuites as well as dorm beds and the price is not bad for what you get. In comparison, it is about the same as a hostel in central London but I believe the ambience is a lot grander.

Again, impressive grounds and here we were invited to view the rooms as well. I enjoyed walking around the grounds trying to find the facts required for the treasure hunt.
Again, impressive grounds and here we were invited to view the rooms as well. I enjoyed walking around the grounds trying to find the facts required for the treasure hunt.

A seminar on traffic culture in different countries was offered and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Here is Keiko, national president of WIMA Japan, talking about Japanese trafic culture, prejudice against motorcyclists and potential road sign confusion.
A seminar on traffic culture in different countries was offered and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Here is Keiko, national president of WIMA Japan, talking about Japanese trafic culture, prejudice against motorcyclists and potential road sign confusion.

Bog walk - here you needed to be light on your foot and only step where the guide allowed us to, or we could disapear into the bog. An amazing nature experience. The water was clean and purifying, we could swim if we wanted, too cold for me although some were brave enough to dip in. I settled for a drink from the water and a splash on my face.
Bog walk – here you needed to be light on your foot and only step where the guide allowed us to, or we could disapear into the bog. An amazing nature experience. The water was clean and purifying, we could swim if we wanted, too cold for me although some were brave enough to dip in. I settled for a drink from the water and a splash on my face.

The parade is my favourite activity during a WIMA rally. Here is Margaret from Australia flying her ossie flag.
The parade is my favourite activity during a WIMA rally. Here is Margaret from Australia flying her Aussie flag.

The Swedes are dressed uniformly with pink WIMA Sweden vests for this occation.
The Swedes are dressed uniformly with pink WIMA Sweden vests for this occasion.

Chris from WIMA Austria volunteered to fly the banner during the parade, here with Maura, national president of WIMA Poland and my good friend Fokje from the Netherlands. We all come together under the WIMA banner :)
Chris from WIMA Austria volunteered to fly the banner during the parade, here with Maura, national president of WIMA Poland and my good friend Fokje from the Netherlands. We all come together under the WIMA banner 🙂

The week passed so quickly and too soon it was all over. Then we missed each other so much so we got to gether for an after party :) Thank you Kaialiisa for inviting me!
The week passed so quickly and too soon it was all over. Then we missed each other so much so we got together for an after party 🙂 Thank you Kaialiisa for inviting me!

This was the Estonian WIMA rally represented in pictures, I wish I had more photos to share with you, as always, the photos don’t do the event justice.

Below, I’ll share some links where WIMA and WIMA members been interviewed by the media:

From the pre-rally which I sadly missed. Pat and Sheonagh from WIMA GB were interviewd by the local newspaper in Pärnu. 
From the pre-rally which I sadly missed. Pat and Sheonagh from WIMA GB were interviewed by the local newspaper in Pärnu.

On the local TV channel TV3: WIMA Rally parade and visit to the Rakvere castle. Contains interviews with Keiko, the national president of WIMA Japan, Elsbeth member of WIMA Switzerland, Liv, member of WIMA Australia and Anneli, national president of WIMA Estonia. It starts with an advert, then scroll forward to minutes 21.20 – 24.54 for the relevant section of the programme.

Photos from the parade in the local online newspaper Virumaa Terataja.

Interview with Sheonagh from WIMA GB in Virumaa Terataja.

Before the parade, a little jig. Kindly posted on YouTube by Veronica Vefur.

Coverage of the parade with some great footage in the local car magazine Accelerista. (Thanks to Gerli, WIMA Estonia, for sending me this link and the following!)

YouTube video by Hannes Arus, showing the entire group when arriving in Rakvere finishing the parade.

And the media attention doesn’t end here, members of WIMA Curacao were interviewed at the Jögevatreff, Estonia’s largest bikemeet which took place the weekend after our WIMA rally.

Lastly, I am proud to announce that I have been elected international president of WIMA. I look forward to working further with female riders worldwide and strengthening our sisterhood. Perhaps less time for the blog, but more time connecting with women motorcyclists.

Thank you Carola, president of WIMA Sweden for this photo!
Thank you Carola, president of WIMA Sweden for this photo!

Next year, our international rally will be held in Finland and I look forward to travelling there and meeting my friends again. But WIMA is more than a one week rally once a year – it is an endless possibility of networking, building international friendship and connecting with female riders all over the world.

Updated with new links to different media coverage, you’re welcome to contact me if you know of anything else I could add and share with our WIMA community.