I don’t overthink, overpack and overplan, bike gives me freedom
We had a little chat with Egle Gerulaitytė, one of the participants of Dinaric Rally. Egle is a wild spirit; a writer, journalist, traveller, rally rider and for a sure amazing person. She started riding motorcycles 7 years ago and by now she has travelled South and North America and Europe on her way to Africa. She has been covering a Dakar Rally in Peru and participated in few rally raids. Now, she is on her way to Dinaric Rally, where she will race with her Suzuki DR650, named Lucy.
You have become quite a big name in the motorcycle world in a relatively short time, considering you’re riding for 7 years. Do you feel happy with your influence, or do you think you could do more?
Haha, I’m not sure I’m a big name at all! For the most part, I’ve been focusing on showcasing women riders with the WomenADvRiders project as well as interviewing other more interesting/more accomplished/more fascinating riders or telling local stories via my journalism work at BBC Travel. The selfie and social media culture still feels very new and confusing to me, but I’ve come to realize that my message is very simple – if someone like me, with no motorcycling roots, no mechanical skills, and barely three years of off-road riding can travel the world on a bike and race rallies, then surely, anybody can. Some people find it ridiculous. But some find it inspiring, and that’s a huge reward. With my Youtube channel, I’m also branching out into ADV comedy because I think taking ourselves a little less seriously could be a healthy thing.
As a journalist, you have been working with some big names such as Charley Boorman and as a rider, you have found yourself on track with riders such as Joan Pedrero. Do you find inspiration in those people?
Absolutely, and the one thing that seems to be very similar among them all is kindness and humility. The more they achieve, it seems, the kinder, more humble, and more empathetic they are, which I find so cool. Gianna Velarde, a Peruvian Dakar rider, put it best: “you gotta look up to the ones in front of you, but never forget to look out for the ones behind you”, and I think some of the world’s most prominent athletes, riders, travellers are exactly like that – always working on being better and improving themselves, but also always willing to help those who are just starting out or struggling.
If you had to choose one person to for an RTW tour, who would it be and why?
I travel solo, and that’s not going to change – but I would kill for an opportunity to ride with Joey Evans. That guy is just pure inspiration.
You were travelling the world long before you started riding a motorcycle. Did riding change your approach and do you feel a difference in your travels?
Yes, massive. The bike gives me the ultimate freedom.
As a solo backpacker and now a solo rider, did you ever get in negative
situations and how do you avoid those?
Sure, but you encounter negative situations and people in everyday life, too. You don’t need to cross a Bolivian desert or an Andean summit to encounter an asshole or bad weather or a flat tire, all of this can happen right on your doorstep, too. I don’t believe solo travel puts you in much greater risk (unless you venture into some truly remote and isolated parts of the world like the Russian Far East or the Northern Territories alone – which I don’t); but people around the world are the same, regardless of whether they live in a tiny Amazonian village or Oklahoma City or Zagreb. We all just want a little bit of dignity, a little bit of freedom, a roof over our heads, for our kids to be safe, for connection, happiness, and fulfilment. Everything else is just geography.
Currently, you’re on your way to Africa. What’s your travel plan there
and do you plan on riding big desert rallies such as Morocco Desert Challenge or Africa eco race?
My plans have been completely scrambled by the COVID-19 situation, so right now, I’m improvising as I go along and it seems I may have to sit winter out in Spain rather than Senegal. AER and MDC are definitely on my radar, but not this year and not 2021; I’m not prepared for the big desert rallies just yet, not physically, not mentally, and definitely not financially. Plus, my DR650 may be able to pull off Hellas or Serres, but not the big desert races, so at some point, I’ll need a new bike, too. This is a long game and a long road, and I’ve got so much to learn.
Do you prepare yourself for different countries and how?
I learn one phrase in the local language, and that phrase is “hello, my socks are clean”. That way, I always make people smile and they assume I’m harmless, which is a good way to start:) It began in Poland where my friend Andy taught me how to say “moje skarpetki sa cyste”, and whenever I met Polish people who didn’t speak English, I’d always just say that and it’d make them laugh. I figure it’s a good policy. Another good trick is to learn a little about the country’s history and its most beloved heroes. If you mention just how much you love Gabriel Garcia Marquez in Colombia or how Chopin is among the biggest musical geniuses in Warsaw, you instantly make friends:)
You have been riding and racing different motorcycles. Which of them
would you choose for racing and which for travelling?
Oh man, this is an impossible question. 🙂 A DR650 is an excellent travel bike, as long as you’re packing light and sticking to easier off-road trails as opposed to a single track or hard enduro type of riding. For that, a WR250 or a KTM 350 would probably be much better. For 50/50 on/off-road type of travel, again, the DR650 works well, but so does a KTM690, a KLR650, a GS800… In the end, it’s all personal preferences and the type of riding people want to do. For rally racing, I don’t think a KTM450 rally replica has any competitors to date. Perhaps a KTM 500 EXC could be that perfect travel and rally bike if you did some mods and fortified the subframe somehow; but in the end, it’s a very individual thing and I think riders all figure out what works for them best. Hell, for the first few years in South America, I rode a piece of crap 150cc Chinese bike, and it was awesome.
Is DR650 your ideal choice for travelling or would you prefer a newer
I don’t think anybody would ever say “no” to a new bike, and I’ve been eyeballing a Husky 701 or the new Yamaha Tenere 70 for a while now. But at the same time, Lucy and I have been through a lot. This bike carried me from Arizona to Newfoundland, from Mexico to Cuba, from Colombia to Chile, after Rally Dakar in Peru and through Hellas Rally Raid in Greece; we’ve taken on sandstorms and snow, rickety old sailboats in the Caribbean and excavators in Peru, we’ve chased the world’s toughest rally race and plodded along European trails; Lucy is a Frankenbike at this point with its heavily modified wheels and suspension, a windshield made out of a Walmart garbage can, a toolbox made out of a plumbing pipe, it’s been worked on by mechanics from Lima, Sarajevo, Quito, and Krakow, and man, no, it’s not the best bike out there, but it’s my bike, and whether I get a new one or not, Lucy is never going to be for sale.
Poetry aside, a DR650 is also a very simple machine that practically never breaks down. It will keep going on any terrain, it’s very easy to work on, and it’s easy to get spare parts. It’s a very reliable pack mule that can sometimes double as a passable racehorse, too.
Being a rally rider and a traveller, knowing your way around motorcycle maintenance often essential. How good are you with wrenches? Do you fear breakdowns?
I suck 😀 But I’m learning, however slowly. I can change my oil, clean my air filter, replace spark plugs and fuses, that sort of thing… I’m hoping to learn a lot more as I go along. But then, Lucy is a pretty indestructible machine. And no, I don’t fear breakdowns. There’s always a way, even if you don’t see it yet.
What would be an essential skill for a beginner to ride a first rally?
A dream. That’s all it takes. Everything else just details. I see so many people obsess over their riding skills, wanting the perfect rally build, the ideal navigation equipment, and so on and so forth, and they focus so much on the bikes, the kits, the gear, and the fear that they lose sight of the bigger picture. If it’s your first rally, you’re not going to win it, and you’re not going to place in the top five. You want to finish it, you want to survive, you want to have stupid fun and enjoy the hell out of the experience – and for that, you don’t need years of enduro practice or the perfect KTM rally replica motorcycle. You need guts and curiosity. Go for it, experience it, and you will come out better and stronger for the next one. So often, we want to try new things but at the same time, we want the circumstances to be perfect. So we think we’ll do a rally or a similar challenge only when we’re perfectly prepared, perfectly capable, perfectly ready… Well guess what: the circumstances will never be ready. Don’t wait for the world to align itself perfectly. Be a goddamn savage and go for it, tooth and nail. And even if you fail, you’ll learn so much that it’ll be worth it.
Are there any “must-have” things in your pack?
A RRR Solutions toolkit, a Wacaco espresso machine, and a laptop.
How do you prepare for rallies? Do you have any rituals before the race?
Just before the start, I start panicking and freaking out, so I force myself to breathe. Just breathe. Forget the start line, the revving engine, the guy in front of you that’s counting down; forget the RedBull arch, forget the entire world around you and for one still moment, and just b.r.e.a.t.h.e. If you can breathe, by the second you hear the “GO”, you can make more conscious decisions than taking off at full speed just because the adrenaline has taken over.
Did you do any modifications on your bike and do you plan more of them?
Lots, but the most important one is probably the new TFX Suspension Technology custom suspension set. It feels like I have a brand new bike!
If you knew that one day you child would do to do the same things you
did, would you still be the same?
I’m not planning to have any kids, thankfully! I’d be a terrible influence!:)
How everything started, tell us your story
Back in 2019, I was riding across Peru when I found out Rally Dakar was about to start right under my nose. I was never into racing much, but I figured I could chase the Dakar for a couple of days or so just to see what it was all about, perhaps cover it for a few motorcycle magazines I was freelancing for. Getting bivouac access wasn’t easy (official Dakar accreditation is insanely expensive, so I had to find another way), and my Peruvian motorcycle import permit was about to expire, so I had to do a 1,000 km detour to Chile and back just to extend my stay. But the second I got to the Rally Dakar bivoauc on Magdalena Beach in Lima… I was instantly hooked, and I knew I didn’t want to miss a single second of it. And it wasn’t about any of the cool action stuff or the fastest racers or factory teams or getting that coveted selfie with Toby Price. It was about the malle moto guys and gals, the rookies and the privateers, the riders at the back of the back, the ordinary people who were pulling off something absolutely extraordinary. Out there in the scorching desert heat, battling massive dunes and treacherous terrain, sleep-deprived, exhausted, on the verge of breaking, physically and mentally, pushed to their absolute limits, these men and women were doing something that seemed impossible. inhuman. Incomprehensible. And that’s what got me mesmerized: to me, Dakar proved that nothing was impossible. Nothing.
And when you experience it, when you witness it, when you really, truly know that nothing is impossible, how can you just go back to a normal life again? I guess life on the road isn’t exactly “normal”, but to me, at that point, it had become routine.
So, I had to forget everything I knew about myself and take a leap. And it’s scary as hell, because when you jump like that, you may crash on the rocks below. But you may also fly.
Short bio: I’m a freelance writer with three failed university degree attempts, a passion for storytelling, and an obsession with what humans are capable of.
What was the reaction of your family and surroundings to your choice?
At this point, they’re pretty used to my shenanigans. My dad has even joined me on a trip to Cuba last year.
Have you ever been to Croatia? Is there anything about Croatian food and drinks or tradition you are looking forward to?
I have crossed Croatia briefly last year, mostly sticking to your insanely beautiful coastal roads! 🙂 I remember the Lithuanian – Croatian basketball wars, I know Game of Thrones was filmed in Dubrovnik, and I remember you have great beer and amazingly friendly people. I’m looking forward to exploring the mountain regions of Croatia, and I hope I can learn how to say čarape su mi čiste properly 😀
The final message to ones who do not have enough courage to follow their dreams
Don’t overthink, over plan, and overpack. Go, and you will figure it all out along the way. The first step is the hardest, but it’s also the most important one. You have it in you, and you need to unleash that raw inner spirit that’s aching for vast open spaces and strange horizons, whatever this may mean to you personally. Humans are not meant to live in cages like hamsters, spinning their wheels and suffocating even though the air conditioning is on. We are free, we are full of potential, and we are beautiful even when we fail.
Authors: Marko Dekanić, Vesna Petrović