Life at full throttle

This year she has travelled 12,000km across Australia with her foster mum. — Pix courtesy of Yulina Tan Jade
Yulina achieved her first kneedown recently and described the first experience as ticklish.
Yulina Tan Jade. — Sunpix by Zulfadhli Zaki

IT only took one bad crash for Yulina Tan Jade to realise the importance of safety when riding a motorcycle.

The fearless Malaysian Japanese was first introduced to the world of riding when she was 19, and regularly occupied her time riding an underbone motorcycle (kapchai) recklessly for two years.

Embracing the well-known fact that female riders are rarely present on roads due to the male-dominated nature of the arena, it was only natural for her to spend more time feeding on the glamorous attention as a “biker chick” when she got her first 250cc bike, instead of getting proper training.

“I was into the idea of riding, but I was also one of those who thought it was cool to be the scantily leather-clad girl. I had no regards for safety and thought I was invincible.”

After the crash, the significance of safety took over superficiality, and while her perspective on riding shifted, so did her interests. When the passionate rider discovered the incredible skills one could acquire in a safe way through professional classes, she went full force into refining herself.

Today, the affable 25-year-old is a strong advocate for safety in riding as well as one of the brand ambassadors for Dainese, a leading Italian brand for protective motorsport wear.

“My purpose is very different from when I first started; riding was about taking nice pictures and being the leather clad girls in movies, but it’s better if she’s dressed in proper safety gear and have the skills of an amazing rider. I’d rather suffer in heat than in pain, and I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum.”

You’re pretty famous on social media, did you ever expect that?
No, and I don’t consider myself a social media influencer either. I was doing a lot of things in a very serious manner when I joined and I don’t think I’ve ever done anything to tailor content to my audiences because I’ve always only been very truthful.

I noticed that a lot of people do things for face value – a girl would go to the beach and take a picture of herself in a bikini or a guy would take a selfie at the gym, and just go home. Maybe they feel the need to portray a certain image or representation of themselves. But I don’t want to be like that – I ride because I really love it and it makes me feel great being as real as I could be.

Did you receive any criticism for being involved in a male-dominated industry?
Plenty of times. I remember at the beginning on a bike, a taxi driver I didn’t even know told me to drive (a car) or stay home. I’ve also been told before that my place belongs at home or in the kitchen instead of a motorcycle. Also because I’m a female on a motorcycle, there are a lot of expectations. So far what I’ve realised is people expect me to look great all the time. I’ve been called “fat” many times by people on social media. You’ll undergo a lot of scrutiny and have to deal with a lot of body shaming comments.

How did you overcome that?
It took a lot of patience and perseverance because even though their comments didn’t fit who I consciously knew I was, it still affected me. Gradually over time I have learned to deflect it, and just focus on what I do.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
Riding definitely made me a lot more patient! I learned that sometimes you can’t always ride with your heart, but with your mind, and that was one of my weaknesses. Wearing safety gear is another as well as overcoming physical challenges such as height and size because bikes are heavy. We have to counter our weight against the motorcycle and not being able to touch the ground. At first it was tough, but after a while it didn’t become a problem any more – you will find your way through all these hiccups.

Do you have any advice for girls who are hesitant to pursue their passion?
It’s going to be a lot tougher than you think but nothing comes easy. Sometimes they will feel intimidated being the only girl and find difficulties looking for safety gears that fit them as women. They will probably experience physical disadvantages
But they would figure it out, and it could turn into their strongest point.

In my case, I am small-sized which makes me light and faster.