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Around The World In 20 Days With Faith Ahlers

John GalvinJun 28 2018

In case you missed it, Kuryakyn Dealer Direct Sales Rep Faith Ahlers set out on one helluva ride on May 6, 2018. Representing the United States, Faith along with three other women riders from Switzerland, Austria, and Russia tackled an arduous 15,000-plus-mile solo journey of circumnavigating the northern hemisphere on two wheels.

The four women competed to become the fastest woman to circumnavigate the world via motorcycle. Each participant had their riding times documented, with the clock stopping for bike transportation overseas and for certain customs clearance checkpoints only. A little more than a month after embarking, Faith rolled across the finish line at the same location she began her journey – Bison Thunder Motorcycle in St. Michael, MN – with an unofficial riding time of 20 days and 12 hours.
(NOTE: the official times of all four riders will be announced on July 7, 2018).

You read that right. In less than 21 days, Faith rode more than 15,000 miles through 16 different countries on her Indian Chieftain Dark Horse – a feat many of us could only dream of attempting, let alone achieving. Upon her return, we sat down with Faith to get a firsthand recap of her experience on the 2018 Women’s World Record Race.

Local Twin Cities news KARE 11 interviews Faith minutes after she crosses the finish line.

What was the hardest part about your ride?
Not being able to stop and smell the roses. I saw so many beautiful places and have my new bucket list started – only problem is it’s about 15,000 miles long! Also, splitting lanes was completely new to me and something I had never done. Especially with semi-trucks in Russia!

Was there ever any doubt in your mind that you would finish?
NEVER. I was raised on making ends meet, so it’s in my blood to be a survivor! Connie Gabrick, better known as Iron Butt Connie, gave me a bracelet and a journal. Both of these items said “Be Badass Every Day”. There were many ups and downs during this journey and “Be Badass Every Day” was my mantra. It helped keep me focused and determined. I repeated that quote to myself several times and it put a smile on my face.

Faith slays the Tail of the Dragon with her brother, Ken, who rode with her all the way from the Twin Cities to her first checkpoint in Orlando, Florida.

What kind of support did you receive on the road from locals or friends?
The list of everyone that should be included here is about as long as my ride was. My biggest support came from my family. My husband, my sons, my siblings and cousins were all so supportive and gave me so much encouragement during this journey. My husband, Jerry, made me very proud as he greeted all three of the other riders at Bison Thunder Motorcycles as they arrived, and he even gave them further support by greeting them all with 52 flags from their home countries. My family support was amazing and I can’t thank them all enough.

Faith with her husband, Jerry, and twin sons Jacob (left) and Jordan.

The whole Kuryakyn crew was also very supportive in so many ways. I really appreciated all of the messages and support; it’s great to be part of such an awesome team! Bison Thunder Motorcycle in St. Michael, MN, organized amazing send-off and welcome home parties and served as a checkpoint for the other three riders. Pete from Indian Motorcycle of Daytona Beach met me in Orlando with tools and installed saddlebag guards in case my bike tipped over on the ride. I even made some late night texts and phone calls to my friends at Tytler’s Cycle in De Pere, WI, since I was unfamiliar with the Chieftain and had some questions – and they were always quick to answer.

I also need to shout out to all my friends, Indian Motorcycle Riders Group riders and Victory riders from around the world who met and rode along with me on this journey. You all know who you are, and I am forever grateful for the time you took to show me support and share some miles.

Photo taken at 2:30 am just outside Anchorage, Alaska, where during the summer solstice this is about as dark as it gets.

What type of weather extremes did you experience?
I had a total of 9 days of rain, 4 days were rain from the time I started the day until I ended. In Chita, Russia, I started out at 36 degrees and by 5:30pm it was 92 degrees. The Siberian territory has huge temperature swings. The coldest weather I hit was in Alaska – in the Eureka area it hit 33 degrees, I rode in 33-35 degrees for 4 to 5 hours.

Did you have any interesting run-ins with local law enforcement?
I was pulled over seven times in Russia, and met totally cool troopers in Alaska and Spain. But, I didn’t get ANY speeding tickets during this journey!

In Spain, the officer asked for my license and then quickly laughed and told me he only pulled me over to look at my bike. This was also the case six of the seven times in Russia (I sweet-talked my way out of a speeding ticket the other time). In Alaska I deserved a ticket… but, when he asked me where I was headed and where I came from, you should have seen the look on his face when I gave him my whole route. He asked how many tickets I received during the ride and when I told him none, I think I shamed him into letting me go. He gave me a good heads-up on what to expect from the wildlife ahead of me.

Of all the countries/states you visited, if you could go back and spend more time where would it be and why?
That is a tough question, as each country was so different from the next. I would love to go back to Austria and visit St. Nikolai of Drassling. It’s a beautiful area and everyone in this town was absolutely amazing when I arrived. I also really enjoyed Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. I think these countries had the most observant drivers and it was a really unique driving style. Riding along the Baltic Sea coast was very beautiful. I would also love to go back to the Baikal area in Siberia.

Faith arrived to a hero's welcome in St. Nikolai of Drassling, Austria, home of Women's World Record Race rider Anita Fastl. St. Nikolai's population is 1200, and 1199 of the residents showed up to welcome Faith before the sun came up.

Being a die-hard Victory rider, how do you think the Indian Chieftain performed on this ride?
My Chieftain Dark Horse never let me down. I had no mechanical issues with the bike and I rode it like I stole it! The only issue I had was man-made, it was tied down improperly in Switzerland and some switches were broken on the handlebar. I know I went airborne at least twice in Siberia and bottomed the bike out both times. My crossover (head pipe) is now flat and less than a half-inch thick and I also broke some vent lines loose. I LOVE my Victory, but I must say the Indian Chieftain is a rock-solid ride!

What accessories played the biggest role in helping you accomplish this ride?
I had several people messaging me wanting to know if I was putting ice packs on my ass every night. This was NEVER needed. Mustang Seats knocked it out of the park and my rear-end never got sore! The heated seat was also extremely helpful in the cold temps I hit.

Also, the Kuryakyn L.E.D. Phase 7 Headlight and Passing Lamps and L.E.D. Rear Fender Strip Lights were extremely important in all of the construction zones, dirt roads and rock roads. In Russia, semi traffic does not slow down in the dusty conditions and the L.E.D. lighting made me feel a little more secure that the other vehicles could see me in the dust bowls – many times I could barely see the taillights in front of me. I also made sure I wiped off my lights at each fuel stop as many times my brake lights and turn signals were completely black from the dust.

And of course luggage was paramount on this ride. My XKursion Co-Pilot Tank Bag was the most important bag, as I converted it into a hydration pack. The Momentum Vagabond Bag was also a huge asset – nine days of rain and I only put the rain cover on once. I didn’t want to take the time the other days, yet the bag kept all of my gear dry!

James, owner of American Bikes AG in Bütschwil, Switzerland, rolled out the red carpet for Faith as she hit her Swiss checkpoint at 4:00 am.

Overall, what was your most memorable experience on this ride?
Arriving at American Bikes AG in Bütschwil, Switzerland at 4am to about 40 of my Swiss friends (more like family) waiting on my arrival waiving American Flags. James, the owner, had his mechanics still on staff and they went to work servicing my bike as soon as I arrived. I was overwhelmed with the Americana décor they put up and the huge banner that read “Welcome Home Faith” – this was absolutely heartwarming and left me a bit speechless (and you know it’s pretty hard for me to be found speechless). They also prepared me (at 4am, mind you) a HUGE T-bone steak, baked potato, corn on the cob, fresh bread and more. James, his awesome staff and his customers really don’t feel like friends – they are family!

From L to R: Riku, owner of Ace Corner Finland, Faith, and Grisu Grizzly, the organizer of the 2018 Women's World Record Ride.

How do you feel the Women’s World Record Race promoted women riders?
I really feel that all four of us riders have encouraged women to believe that they can do anything they set their mind to. This was not an easy journey for any of us; we all had our ups and downs, but we powered through it all. I hope all of the women following our journey get out there, make their own memories and remember to #bebaddasseveryday!

If you could do it all over again, is there anything you would do differently?
I would have packed a few less items and carried more water and food with me. Food and water were not readily available in certain areas of Siberia, and I did become very dehydrated once. I would also definitely add a luggage rack so that I could carry more fuel. I never ran empty, but I did get “bad” fuel once in Siberia and had to drain my tank.

Faith with the Russian Samurai Riders at a local car and bike show in Vladivostok.

The roads in Russia are no joke (see photo below for the carnage).

Describe your emotions as you pulled into Bison Thunder at the end of the ride?
It was definitely bittersweet. I was sad this journey was ending, but happy to be home. I was a bit of an emotional wreck. I was in total shock at the crowd and the many riders that escorted me in.

This ride was not about me; it was about the people along the way. This journey also showed me that the world is not as big as I once thought it was and that it is definitely not as “big, bad and ugly” as the media makes it out to be. This journey definitely proved that bikers look out for bikers, no matter where you are from. I met so many awesome people and made many new friendships that I hope last a lifetime.

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