Now Reading
Gears and grace

Gears and grace

Conch Tiglao
Karen on her baby, a BMW S 1000 R.

She’s been breaking stereotypes while breaking speed limits (on the track). Meet BMW Motorrad Philippines’ newest ambassador

Karen Grace Kennedy has only been riding since 2017, but when you see her take the steepest of turns, pegs scraping, knee to asphalt, you’d think she’s been on motorcycles since she was born. From a 800-cc retro-classic, parallel-twin to a 1200cc cafe racer, she’s been switching bikes as often as some women switch handbags. We sit down and chat with Karen and get to know more about her role as BMW Motorrad Philippines’ ambassador, the challenges of being a woman on two wheels, and what she does if she’s not racing down mountains or heading to Ilocos for the weekend on her BMW S 1000 R. 

Inquirer Mobility: How and when did you start riding and what drew you to riding?

Karen: In August of 2017, I decided that I wanted to learn how to ride. I remember I’ve always had an interest in motorbikes ever since I was a little one, and so I bought a bike! Didn’t know how to ride yet though, so I just had this bike delivered to my house. Then in September that same year, I enrolled in a riding school to get my journey started, and I’m so happy that I did.

Inquirer Mobility: Can you list all the motorcycles you’ve owned?

Karen: It’s been an exciting journey, because I’ve had a lot! The first bike I got (the one I bought when I didn’t have a clue how to ride a motorcycle), was a Kawasaki W800. The next few are a bit jumbled, but I then had a Triumph Bobber, a BMW RnineT Scrambler, a Triumph Thruxton R, a Ducati Sport Classic 1000, a BMW S 1000 R‌ and a BMW R 1200 GS. 

Now I have two bikes, my BMW S 1000 R, and the BMW R 1200 GS. The S 1000 R is my baby. She’s taken good care of me over the last few years, and it’s always a blast to take her out to play. She’s fast and nimble, and great on corners. Then, of course, there’s the GS, my reliable! She’s amazing at everything, my all around workhorse. And, do I need to mention how comfortable riding a GS is?

Inquirer Mobility: As BMW Motorrad’s Ambassador, what are your main responsibilities?

Karen: Promoting BMW! Honestly, I love BMW motorcycles; they’ve been my number one since I started riding my first one, the RnineT Scrambler, so it’s not a difficult task at all. I go on rides, basically be part of the community‌ and share my love for BMW Motorrad. 

Inquirer Mobility: What is your favorite ride destination in the Philippines and why?

Karen: ‌My favorite long ride that I’ve done is to Albay, Bicol. It really sharpened my skills so much, just in one day. I encountered mostly everything you can encounter here in the Philippine roads, from insanely horrible traffic, to broken roads, to heavy rain, heavy rain in the dark, twisties in the dark. I loved it, and it helped me become a better rider. 

There’s no favorite destination really, though. For me, the best part is going out there with good friends and good riders, and just being with wonderful people who share the same passion for two wheels. 

Inquirer Mobility: What challenges have you faced as a female motorcycle rider, and how did you overcome them?

Karen: When I first started riding, there weren’t as many women out there as there are now. I would always get mistaken for a man at the gas stations, when parking the bike. One of the biggest challenges that I faced, especially in the beginning, was finding riding gear! Things are so much better now, and I am so happy about that. 

I’ve definitely encountered my share of other riders showing off, or maybe being a little insecure about a female rider in the pack, but nothing so bad. More often than not, male riders are kinder to female riders, and I always get offers to help park my bike, even if I don’t need it. 

See Also

Inquirer Mobility: What are your other passions besides riding?

Karen: Farming! We have a farm, with all sorts of produce, and it’s just such a blessing to be a farmer, to be able to bless other people with what we grow. Being surrounded by all the green and nature at our farm is so refreshing, it’s food for the soul. 

Inquirer Mobility: How has riding influenced your lifestyle or personal philosophy?

Karen: Riding has taught me so much. I have definitely become infinitely sharper on the road because of the years of saddle time that I’ve had, and this carries over to driving as well! It has taught me to be more patient and understanding, too, because when you’re riding, you cannot lose your temper if someone cuts you off or turns into your lane — there’s a good chance they just didn’t see you because you’re so small on a motorbike. 

I have learned to always look for my exit, where to go next, and be hyper-aware of everything around me. This applies to life too, always look forward, see the signs that you’re moving in the right direction‌ and take that route.

It has also taught me to cherish every ride, every day, all my loved ones. As riders, we know that there’s a big risk going out there, yet we still take it because we love riding. So I make sure to always show and say “I love you” to those I love, and above all, to pray and be thankful for every opportunity I am given.