Seat Time: Finding a Way to the Finish Line… By Any Means Necessary
Two Girls One Goal
Some girls spend their time talking about love and life. Others work together to advance their careers. But these two friends are joining forces to follow a passion. To set some impossible goals and push each other to reach them. Anastasia (Ana for short) plans to go the distance at the Dakar Rally. And Kyra intends to punish herself to no end at Romaniacs. Both have a lot of hurdles standing in their way. And together, they hope to overcome them one-by-one. Ana’s ethos is “no excuses''. While Kyra’s rationale is that “the time is now”.
There are many ways to find success riding or racing motorcycles, but what really seems to count – whether you're a pro or an amateur – is seat time. Which is also the name they've dubbed their little venture. But the idea didn’t stem from nothing. It came from years of dreaming, and letting those desires bubble under the surface. For each of them, the barriers standing between the women and their objectives started at the source. Individually, the first roadblock, despite all else, was their own mentalities. Every one after that is what they’ll be covering in an on-going editorial for Motorcycle.com over the next several months.
The Great Escape
It all started for us in 2021 in some small Russian Siberian town at the finish line of the Silk Way Rally. I just completed the biggest race in my life, after several days of going full throttle – servicing the bike at night, pushing myself to the limit each day. By that final day, I was exhausted, on pain killers, and ecstatic I’d managed to survive. Stopping to catch my breath before the liaison back to the bivouac, I saw this little American woman running towards me, asking “Do you speak English?” That was Kyra, hunting for interviews and stories from the rally. We connected right away, chatting about racing, riding, travels, motorcycling in general, and so we decided to stay in touch.
At that moment, I was in my best shape, having just completed the first of two World Rally-Raid Championship rounds required for admittance to my dream race: the Dakar Rally. For years, this has been the ultimate goal, despite all odds. By most standards, I’d begun riding bikes too late to feasibly reach that sort of elite level. I have also had problems with my backbones (disk hernias and protrusions) since I was 13, and it’s only becoming worse with age.
The odds were stacked against me. Even if I sold everything I owned, that would not be enough. Yet I pursued, moving closer to this goal as best I could. Time is never on your side if you compete in this sport. There’s none left to waste if you’re to even show up to Dakar – the world’s most difficult and least accessible off-road race. I had my eye on my target, envisioning the mysterious, mesmerizing desert I would soon be navigating. I didn’t know that several months after the Silk Way, I would lose my job and be forced to leave Belarus with no idea where to go. And worse, no hope to make my dream come true… At least any time soon.
For almost two years I was kind of homeless, traveling the world with only a suitcase, helmet, and my wits. All the while, I hoped the situation in Belarus would somehow improve, but with the Russian invasion in Ukraine it only grew worse. I worked remotely here and there, trying to make a living and keep my passion for motorcycles alive, even though it was nearly impossible to train, let alone race living like that. A vagabond with purpose, so-to-speak. But that’s where Kyra came into the picture again.
She unwittingly helped me by offering writing assignments highlighting my adventures, races, and other applicable moto and motorsports topics for different U.S. publications she worked with. She showed me that you can survive doing what you love to do for a living, and this concept gave me a lot of faith which I just didn’t have at the moment. When all my possible visas were about to expire, Kyra asked if I wanted to come to Mexico and help her cover some rallies in Baja California then again in Sonora; I had no reason to say no.
We finally reunited in late 2022, bonding over dirt bikes, business, “baila” and discovering any and everything. During our rides together or over long wine-fueled conversations, we’d admitted that we each had grand intentions for our lives which had to be put to the wayside – Kyra from running her business. And me, just from trying to survive. More importantly, we discussed the importance of wanting more out of life. More than struggling for life’s sake.
Instead, why not suffer with purpose? To aim higher than success at work or the comforts of finding a home. Reach for something which would leave a mark. If nothing else, make our lives more intense and meaningful. We didn’t have to invent anything, we already knew what we wanted, buried under to-do lists and duties, tax declarations and visa applications, medical receipts and piles of other crap every human has to tackle day-to-day.
Now at 31, I’m in the U.S. seeking asylum. It’s the best chance I have at having a home again. At fulfilling my dream before it’s too late. And it’s really the only sound choice available. I can’t go back to Belarus for the foreseeable future. Nor can I leave the USA until 2025. I’m not even allowed to work in the States yet but somehow still need to try to build my financial wellbeing from zero. I don’t have a bike to train, and my back hasn’t felt great with all the stress and moving from place to place.
For the past two years, I (almost) gave up. I almost stopped believing it was possible for me. But having someone by my side who similarly has a dream, a great number of challenges, and a will to take more from life than what’s laid in front of you… Is, for lack of a better word, empowering. And while we have dissimilar struggles, we both have tall obstacles to overcome. We’ve encouraged each other just to take the first step. And then continue pushing each other to keep stepping in the right direction, over and over until we arrived at our destinations. So, even with the setbacks, I will give it my all. I will start preparing, because it’s now or never. (Let’s face it, we aren’t becoming any younger.)
Here we are. The plan. Mine is to find an adventure motorcycle – a more popular and affordable option with similar approximate weight and size to a rally bike – to keep my skills sharp, practice navigation with roadbooks, and build my endurance. I’ll do my best in the extreme weather conditions of Colorado and prepare to be 100% race-ready when (or if) the that time comes.
And this op-ed will be the story about the ups and downs of an aspiring rally racer, overcoming difficulties and on the way to the ultimate goal: Dakar Rally 2025/26. Or to be more exact, two parallel stories about motorcycles, female friendship, trying to combine the racing lifestyle with the love for wine and party, selecting all the needed motorcycle accessories and hopefully, finally achieving the dream.
The Art of Sucking at Single Track
Ana is living the sort of fairytale which most of us only watch on Netflix. Mind you, she hasn’t reached the end yet (where all the good stuff happens), but the journey has been the stuff for which popcorn was invented. But for her, this is real. It hasn’t been easy, and she’s not even close to reaping the rewards. (Again, yet.) Not everyone is the hero type, but she is. And I’m gladly letting her inspire me to be better and try harder and give more of a shit as she enthusiastically picks herself back up each time life shoves her down. If anything, her situation reminds me that I have not-a-damn-thing to complain about and no more excuses for not pursuing my goals.
I probably should have introduced myself first. It feels like we are going from a heroic saga to a Cathy comic strip. My story is far less harrowing and impactful as Ana’s. But perhaps, it’s at least approachable. It’s a fairly common tale of life, or work, taking precedence over passions. I’ve chased a career – a couple in fact – the current one in a field which harnesses all of my talents and involves all the elements which drive me. I don’t take this for granted, and so for a decade, I have worked my ass off to earn this amazing profession.
For years, I’ve been paid more in unforgettable experiences and meaningful relationships than in actual money. And it’s been worth every 16-hour day, missed vacation, pounds of weight-gain, sunburn, early morning, late night, and everything else that comes with this job. But there comes a point when you realize that you’ve been using it as a crutch. Something to lean on as an excuse for why you weren’t doing more or getting what you want, especially for yourself. That’s been my biggest setback. Pretending I don’t have the time or the energy to try.
In this case, my hope wasn’t necessarily to race, but to learn to ride single-track, climb big hills, and other technical debauchery. To be confident and capable and keep up with “the boys” (or Ana) as I had in most other activities growing up. Since I’d first met Justin (my partner-in-crime), he filled my head with scenes of adventure – escaping the well-trodden roads for forgotten paths free of the pavement. I wanted to be able to go anywhere and get myself out of anything.
From the two-wheeled perspective, I couldn’t be unstoppable if I could barely ride over a small rock step along a trail. But I faked it alright. I tackled easier courses or just beat myself up on tracks I couldn’t manage with the “throttle out” technique. It’s taken me through my career so far, but in all this time, I still don’t feel like the earth-pounding pro I’d expected to be by now. Or at least, I expected with all of my dual-sport and on-road experience, I’d look less of a clown on single-track.
I’m in my late(r) 30s. I want a family soon. And the longer I wait to ride at my full potential, the less feasible “full potential” becomes. And as I age, the more time it’ll take me to recover when I hurt myself… Which is inevitable. So, one day over one of the aforementioned wine-fueled conversations we had, the topic of racing came up. And I thought, “why not?” Why not put a clock on myself, and let my peers hold me accountable? There are few better ways to stay on track like announcing your intentions to the world then letting the world call out your bullshit. Romaniacs was the most logical choice for an unattainable mission.
This gives me just under a year to prepare, drop weight, build muscle, develop endurance, enter small events for practice, and shape up my mentality to become a winner. Well, finisher. We’ve both already secured awesome fitness and moto instructors, partners to get the ball rolling, and secret riding spots to, you know, ride. This is the event horizon as far as I’m concerned, and many parts will piece together to make a whole new pair of people by the end. We’ll document every relevant moment – some not so relevant – as honestly as possible. Every month we’ll update Motorcycle.com on our progress and touch on topics regarding issues or epiphanies we encounter all the way to the finish line.
Brass tacks, we’re out to prove something – whether it's to ourselves, or somehow to the world, and there’s a big long road between here and the finish line. But with proper coaching (like one-on-one with a legend like Destry Abbott or a clinic with enduro cowboy Max Gerston), a purpose-built fitness program from Thrasher Moto, along with dedication, focus and the discipline to persist, we might just make the journey unscathed (ish). Succeed or fail, we’ll document every stumble, each misstep, all the discoveries and epiphanies – even the little shit we pick up along the way – for Motorcycle.com in a column we’ve dubbed Seat Time.