FOUNDER OF MOTOWITCH COLLECTIVE · CO-FOUNDER OF MORRIGAN MCC WOMEN’S MOTORCYCLE CLUB
Kojii’s promotion and support of women who ride motorcycles really inspires us, so we caught up with her for #WhyIDefy to learn more about her journey, co-founding a motorcycle club, the Motowitch Collective and loads more.
#WhyIDefy is our new platform for celebrating the stories of women who Ride and Defy 👊
RAD: Thanks for being our very first #WhyIDefy guest, Kojii! How did you get into biking?
Kojii: I was always interested in biking but I started a family quite young, so the funds and the time to get into it were never a priority. About 6 years ago, my husband (who has been riding motorcycles since he was 11) was planning to do a long trip and ride along the entire west coast of Ireland. I was like, yeah that sounds great but I don’t want to do that on the back of your bike, that’s boring - so he said ‘let’s do something about it.’ I immediately went and booked lessons, my tests. He then surprised me by buying me a bike that I had always dreamed about since I was a kid which was a classic Royal Enfield in military green. One of the roadies for my dad’s band used to ride one and every time he rocked up on it I thought that is the coolest fucking thing ever, I want that. I was about 8 years old when I first saw it. So when my husband bought it for me as a surprise for my birthday, I didn’t have a license so I was like shit, now I really have to do this.
I sped through all the lessons and the tests and got my license within a month. Three weeks after I got my provisional I was like let’s do this - a 2,500kms trip along the west coast called the Wild Atlantic Way. I’d barely ever ridden before but there’s no better way to learn than to dive in. It was incredible and it blew my mind - the things I learned about myself and my capabilities and even the motorcycle community. Even though my husband had ridden, we had always kept to ourselves, but once I started riding I realised that there’s a community here, and me, being such a social person, I wanted to learn more and the more I started riding the more I started realising that there was not really a solid place for women and I needed more.
When I was about 17 I had a boyfriend who had a Honda Shadow. He didn’t know how to ride at all so he just pushed it all the way home from the dealership, and between the two of us we wanted to figure out how to ride it. I took it for a quick spin around a parking lot in Dublin and was like oh my god, as soon as I have the money I am getting myself one. That was it, I was hooked from the very first second.
I have two girls and a boy (15, 10 and 8) and they’re all big into motorcycles - they love it, especially the 8 year old! He wants the jumps for his scrambler to be bigger and bigger every week.
RAD: When you first started biking, did you feel that you were at a disadvantage being female?
Kojii: At first, the community where I live, everyone that I came across were all aged 50 and up and all men. I’m a very independent person and when I learn something I just want to try and figure it out for myself, I don’t want to have to listen to 20 different types of advice, so as much as they were all kind hearted and wanted to give me advice and look out for me, I found it very frustrating to have people just view me as this young girl or poor woman who needed to be looked after, or everybody needed to take it easy just for me, or everybody had an opinion on what I was doing. Whereas if it was a man, they would have just said ‘yep, have at it, come for a spin, keep up.’ For me, it was like they wanted to sugarcoat everything and wrap everything in cotton wool, which was just so frustrating. That was the case when I started at first.
RAD: Do you feel like that’s changed now?
Kojii: I feel like that’s still the same but what’s changed is that I’ve found the community where I fit - I’ve built myself a community. What I didn’t realise was that there were a lot of female motorcyclists in my region but we didn’t know how to connect or where to find each other. Once we did, there was an event called the International Female Ride Day, and it was happening on the same day that I was launching the Motowitch platform - so I just wanted to hit upload, get on my bike and ride to this event where I knew there were going to be 200 women that I could interview.
I didn’t want to ride across the country to the event by myself so I just put out the word on Facebook - ‘are there any female motorcyclists riding from the south east of Ireland up to the north east to go to this event?’ Turns out there were 13 women within 30 minutes of my house.
Once we found each other we ended up forming a club and becoming a support network for each other. Now, we’ve all got it in our minds to go and find more, so we just keep reaching out - every time we find one we pull them in and then they bring one more and so the network just keeps growing. It’s been phenomenal. The original situation is still there if you don’t know how to find the community where you belong - so we’re trying to get the community into a more visual space where it’s easier to find us.
RAD: Speaking of which, The Motowitch Collective - take us through the inspiration behind that and what it’s all about.
Kojii: It initially started as a podcast because I personally wanted to talk to more women, the women who inspired me basically. I started reaching out to solo riders, women who wrenched, business owners, women who were photographers but lived that nomadic life on their motorcycle. I wanted to learn more. Once I released it, it naturally grew by itself. I’ve been chasing to keep up with the growth of Motowitch ever since! It was inspired by the women that I was speaking to but the one thing it kept coming back to was community. Someone would say ‘if my bike falls over or if I break down I can always reach out to the motorcycle community and somebody will help me’, or ‘I’m going to a country where I don’t know anybody, I can reach out to the motorcycle community and somebody will give me a bed or point me in the right direction.’ It was always community. So I was like, how do we tap into that community and put it in a place where everyone could access it? That’s how the Motowitch Collective came about.
The plan is to have a different Collective in each city. Motowitch Dublin launched in March - it’s a soft launch to figure out any wrinkles but we also have New Orleans and Philadelphia in the works. These are local women who want to pull in their own community where they can gel, hang out, and champion a cause together, go on trips, do fundraising and have that support network.
We tend to carve our own way. For me, part of the focus is to show the world that women are capable, to keep promoting our strengths and our wins, and to give the women who are struggling a safe place where they can reach out for help. I’ve had a lot of new riders who ask to join the Collective but they don’t have a bike and they don’t know where to start, so I encourage them to come our events, and hang out and talk to us. I know that once they start talking to people they’ll see how possible it is and suddenly all the barriers they think they’re stuck with are no longer there - it makes it more real to them. The goal is to make it more accessible to other women.
I’m also bringing in a lot of industry experts to get the female perspective to them. On the surface it looks like I’m trying to bring in the experts to teach the women, but it’s really going the other way. To get what we need out there.
RAD: We found the story on your podcast about South Korea’s only female motorcycle club really interesting. Tell us more about that.
Kojii: Alexi Fisk is the girl that wants to start the Philadelphia branch of Motowitch Collective. She moved to South Korea and when she got into motorcycles she felt isolated, she didn’t know anybody. She noticed that there were a lot of women riding on the back of their boyfriend’s bikes so she would start talking to them, get to know them a bit, and a lot of them were so inspired that she was rocking up on her own motorcycle without a man that they thought, ‘Hey I can do this too.’ Her club just started to grow - the Danger Dames. It was magnificent the way she did it because society is so different there and women have so many more struggles than we do so it was really impressive what she did. When she discovered that we were launching the Motowitch Collective (she’s now back home in Philly), the Danger Dames are still going strong in South Korea so she wanted to do something new.
RAD: Has motorbiking taken you around the world?
Kojii: I spend half my year in the US. This year, we were planning on taking our motorcycles from Florida across to LA along the most scenic route we could find; taking the long way and interviewing incredible women along the way.
I’ve ridden across to Petrolettes in Germany which was absolutely incredible. We planned on doing it again this year and we still hope to do it on “Zero Motorcycles” and interview different women in different cities and the ride would just get bigger and bigger until we ended up in Germany. But you know, COVID’s getting in the way.
I prefer riding in more rural areas because for me, it’s about headspace.
RAD: You also launched a women’s motorcycle club, The Morrigan MCC. How did it come about, what was the inspiration behind it and what are your plans post lockdown?
The Morrigan MCC is made up of the other 13 women I met the day I launched Motowitch Collective. We basically just clicked. We discovered we were all likeminded women, most of us had kids, we rode different types of bikes, but that didn’t matter.
We just realised that we wanted our own support group. We did find it hard at the beginning because there is a big rally scene here and different motorcycle clubs can be quite political.
There’s the President, Treasurer, there are rules of how many rallies you should and shouldn’t go to, clubs you should and shouldn’t support. With us, we just wanted to basically let other women know that it’s totally okay to do your own female thing here - it’s just about getting out together. Our girls day out is not about shopping and brunch, it’s about motorcycles and coffee somewhere, you know? Or maybe a camping trip somewhere.
The plan is to start hosting fundraisers for local women charities. That’s one thing that’s very important to us. We had planned that last summer would be our first one for the women’s charity in Waterford in Ireland, but we’re just waiting for COVID to lift so we can move forward.
Where we live in Ireland is in the countryside. Super quiet, rural, there’s a very small town close by, and I didn’t know how to meet people like me. Even though I had kids, I didn’t really have anything in common with the other parents. They didn’t understand the fact that I travelled the world at a young age, that my dad was a musician and so on, so I didn’t know where to put myself. When I did find motorcycles, that’s when I found the people who think like I do. I never felt at home in Ireland my entire life - I was born and bred here - but I never felt at home until I found motorcycles. That’s because I figured out how to find my people, it’s as simple as that. It’s a tiny thing but it ended up being huge in my life.
RAD: You’ve already mentioned links with music. Why do you think the motorcycle community tends to pair so well with other subcultures?
Kojii: I think it’s because we’re the people who think outside the box. As with photographers, artists, musicians, we see our bikes and one of the first things we think is how can we can change or create that bike into something better? We’re constantly looking for something different and how to push against the norms.
Motorcyclists will be the first to jump in and try something new; it’s not easy for bikers to sit still. They’re always pushing forwards. Subcultures have always been the outsiders, so too have the motorcyclists. We rock up to a 5 star hotel and first thing people think is ‘What are these dirty bikers doing here?’, but just because it’s a 5 star hotel, it doesn’t mean we don’t belong. I think all the outsiders, regardless of what subculture they’re in, will automatically gel.
RAD: You offer an inspirational platform to other women in the industry. Where do you look for inspiration, and is there someone in particular you admire?
Kojii: There are so many people in the industry I admire. Literally every single women I’ve ever interviewed, ridden a motorcycle with or met through motorcycling has inspired me in some way - every single one. It could be the grandmother who learned to ride after she beat cancer and lost her husband at 70 and was still able to pick up her huge motorcycle in the middle of nowhere by herself - huge inspiration. One person I look up to most is my friend Irene Kotnik who founded the Petrolettes. She has grown her own platform to the most incredible degree to the point where it’s like I don’t know if she ever sleeps. She is phenomenal and has united women all across the world through her Petrolettes rally; her event she has in Germany. Not only is she inspirational but she’s also the kind of person who’ll kick me in the ass to get something done and she’ll help anybody that she possibly can. There are hundreds and hundreds of women that I meet every month who just blow my mind.
There are politics, I guess, within the motorcycle club scene but I think women are more inclined to bend the politics in order to have each others’ backs. At the same point, I’ve never been in a man’s motorcycle club so I can’t say for definite how strict they are, but I have found that women are insanely supportive. I haven’t come across another woman who’s ever said ‘Someone else is doing exactly the same thing as me and that’s not cool’ - instead it’s ‘Someone else is doing something similar to what I’m doing, I’m going to reach out and check if they need help.’ One of the first people who ever did that with me was Tasha Paz from Tel Aviv. We were both promoting female bikers and women in the motorcycle scene, custom builders - rather than hate on me she emailed me immediately and said ‘If you need help with anything don’t hesitate to contact me’ and we still collaborate to this day. I think women are just more likely to throw the politics out and just get on with supporting each other.
RAD: In relation to gender inequality in the industry, how has it changed, where is it now and how does it still need to go?
Kojii: I think it’s still in the same place when I started to be honest but think I personally have changed. I am less accepting of it, and I’m less likely to be quiet and allow it to happen around me. That in turn is spilling over to the men around me. I’ve had men come to me and say ‘You realise that that man who’s being sexist to you would never have said that to another man?’ But I’m like yeah I do realise but I was so taken aback by it that I tried to answer his stupid sexist question instead of just calling him out on it. What impresses me now is that the men around me are starting to think about it and speak up about it - even when I don’t. I can only change the people around me; I’m seeing change in my own personal circles and the men in my life are being more vocal about it just in general which I absolutely love.
RAD: What bikes are you currently riding?
Kojii: Right now, I have a Triumph Bonoville T120, a Harley Davidson XLH1200 Sportster, a CRF250L for off-roading. Three very different bikes for three very different reasons!
RAD: What would be your ultimate bike?
Kojii: I feel like I have it already - the Triumph Bonoville is everything that I need. It’s gorgeous, classic, retro, I can take it on dirt gravel roads and it’s great on long trips as well. That being said, I wouldn’t mind an Indian Chiefton either, or a customised chopper…
RAD: What’s the first piece of gear you fell in love with?
Kojii: The first thing that I really splashed out on for myself was a Fly By Night leather motorcycle jacket, because I loved how it looked and I knew it would be safe. It’s an aviator-style leather jacket that was just so fashionable but also super safe.
RAD: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Kojii: Ride for myself and not for anybody else, which is especially applicable in group rides. Don’t ride to keep up, don’t ride to hit the curves the way someone else does. Just ride at your own pace, do your own thing and enjoy it - don’t stress about anyone else around you.
RAD: Do you have any advice for other women who want to get into riding?
Kojii: Stop putting it off and take step one right now. It’s simple - find out what you need to do to get your license and just do it.
RAD: What gear should women think about when they’re starting to ride?
Kojii: Everyone thinks of helmets and gloves. There are specifics when you’re buying motorcycle gear so you want to think about what you want your gear to do and what type of riding you’ll be doing. Also really study up on safety ratings - there are a lot of brands out there that say they’re certified when they’re not. You want to make sure you’re buying gear from a reputable company with all the safety ratings, simple.
RAD: What’s the best ride you’ve ever been on?
Kojii: It’s hard because the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland is incredible but the NC500 in Scotland is almost like the bigger, otherworldly version of it. It’s pretty phenomenal. I think I’d have to say the NC500 - sorry Ireland!
RAD: What would be the dream ride?
Kojii: There are so many. I want to ride from Florida to Los Angeles, I want to ride in India on Royal Enfields, I want to ride all the way across Europe - I have a very long bucket list. I would love to take my kids to India on Royal Enfields with side cars and just show them the magic of it.
RAD: Where can we follow what you’re up to?
Kojii: We’re looking for women who want to start their own chapters of the Motowitch Collective in their own cities. Whoever’s interested, email email@example.com and add Motowitch and your city in the subject line and we can look at getting the ball rolling. Find us on Instagram, Facebook, and we have a private Facebook group where women are connecting with each other to organise long distance trips and trips abroad, and within the cities where the collectives are - everyone is welcome to join.