Ann-Kathrin Bendixen, known to many as Affe Auf Bike, stops by on Close-Up Culture to chat about her incredible and inspiring motorcycle world tour.
Can you tell us about your background and when you first started taking an interest in bikes?
My name is Ann-Kathrin Bendixen, in Germany I am known by the artist name “Affe auf Bike”. Translated, this means “Monkey on motorcycle”. The name came about when I decided, at the age of 19, to go on a world tour with my Suzuki Bandit and a monkey as a cuddly toy. My family never had much money and my parents would not have supported my trip financially. So I decided to survive with what I had: 400 euros. And there we go, three years later I am still on the road.
I finished high school when I was 19. After a serious illness I decided to leave my hometown. The fact that I went travelling by motorbike is simply due to the price. A car was too expensive and a bicycle was too exhausting (haha) and this motorcycle, in particular, was incredibly cheap to buy. So this is how my real interest in bikes started.
What are some of your earliest memories of riding a bike and really falling in love with it?
I can remember that my dad used to pick me up from school on his motorbike. Not often, but it happened on nice summer days. I always remembered those days as beautiful, but more because of the connection to my father than to the motorcycling himself.
That I started to love motorcycling was on my journey. It started with using the motorcycle as a commercial vehicle to get from one place to another. But now, after such a long period of travelling, it’s my life, my biggest hobby, my passion…
What are some of your favorite bikes of all time?
To be honest, my old Yamaha XT 550 from 1986.
Everyone probably names their own bike, but when I think back to all the memories with that bike, it would be a shame to name another motorcycle. Driving off-road for the first time, driving to another continent for the first time (Africa), breaking my bones for the first time…
You’ve been on a bike tour for 30 months, visiting 20 countries and traveling over 90,000 kilometers. You’ve reference it earlier, but can you tell us more about what inspired you to go on this incredible journey?
Unfortunately, I wasn’t inspired by anyone. At the age of 19 I was seriously ill and had to learn at a young age that you can die quickly. Lying in bed for a long time, operations on the head, being limp. I really wanted and needed a change… This is how I inspired myself to live my dreams before it might be too late.
Can you share some of the most amazing experiences you’ve had so far?
When I was in Africa, my tank ran out of petrol in the middle of the desert. I was in my leather suit, it was 45 degrees, my water ran out… I got scared.
The sandy road was deserted with no internet and after hours I finally gave up hope of meeting people… but then a small car finally pulled up. A petite woman held out a Coke out the window, helped me fill my tank and escorted me to the next town. Other times I broke my foot, found help from a man who lived in the coop, or fell into a waterfall and made it back to shore unharmed.
Such experiences are unforgettable, unique and the reason for my trip: lifelong memories.
What have been your biggest challenges on the journey?
The biggest challenge on my trip is to travel without a lot of money, to sleep in nature, to eat, to wash… At plus 45 degrees in the Western Sahara or minus 20 degrees and snow on the North Cape, simply surviving.
How would you reflect on the journey and how you’ve grown as a person and a rider through it all?
I love my trip more than anything. Three years ago I was weak, ill, didn’t know who I was and where I belonged. Today I am strong, healthy, love my travels, have a partner and an exciting unique life. I know today what I want tomorrow. Standing where I stand today. Travel, love, be free.
And of course on the subject of motorcycles… I learned a lot. I went traveling and wasn’t even able to do an oil change. I had no idea how to ride a motorcycle or how to repair a motorcycle. I was simply lost, but wild and free. Now I can drive a bike, I can repair my bike and are able to solve my own problems.
What would you still like to accomplish on the journey?
I don’t want to achieve more. I have published my book “Bikergirl” and I have my social media “Affe auf Bike” on which I can let people participate in my travels.
I, myself, am perfectly happy and only wish to stay healthy. I do not want more. Just keep going, discover more continents, cover more kilometers, maybe ride more bikes…
What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?
All I wish for my future is health, freedom and the most important thing, not to lose my smile. It was so hard to get it back after I was in the hospital. Today I laugh a lot, honestly and with pleasure. Being happy is something I want to keep, as well as my travels and motorcycling.
Support Affe Auf Bike – https://annkathrinbendixen.de/shop-new/ Bendixen (annkathrinbendixen.de)
Check out more of Affe Auf Bike – https://annkathrinbendixen.de/
Follow her journey on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZIv3ThEVq8ZkDFskpvNszA/videos
Follow her on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/affe_auf_bike-108258957318983/