Before Starting the interview with Katya Gasenko, here’s I would like to express some thoughts about her. This is no exaggeration, this is what I felt after the interview with Katya Gasenko. You should also feel free to express your thoughts after reading the whole interview. 🙂
Katya Gasenko is a name that resonates with the spirit of adventure and independence.
A seasoned cyclist, she has braved the toughest terrains and weather conditions, pushing herself to new limits and breaking barriers along the way.
Her passion for biking has taken her on solo cycling trips across the world, exploring new cultures and discovering the beauty of nature up close.
In this exclusive interview, we delve into her incredible journey as a solo biker and learn about her experiences, challenges, and insights that have made her the fearless adventurer she is today.
Get ready to be inspired by the remarkable story of Katya Gasenko! a true inspiration for all those who dare to dream big and pursue their passions with unwavering determination.
So, let’s start…
Who is Katya Gasenko and can you tell us briefly about your life?
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Katya Gasenko: Oh! that’s a question that is hard to answer briefly, but I’ll try. I’m definitely a piece of character, my greatest passions are bikes, travels, and life itself.
I’m a cyclist to the bone: road, gravel, Mtb, and enduro – the crazier, the merrier. I ride not for the sake of fitness, but for the sake of fun.
Sometimes I race and especially love MTB marathons; love backpacking, and I think it’s a way better option to see and actually feel the land you’re discovering.
I’m a writer, marketer, and manager, I work with biciTALENT – a recruitment company in the cycling industry.
Recently I started the “Meet The Experts” project with the Women In Cycling organization to encourage more women to join the cycling sector and inform more men about female abilities to be as good at “bike stuff” or better than they are.
How & where did you get started?
Katya: 5 Jan 1984 (:D) in Kyiv.
But if you’re asking about cycling… well I loved it since my first bike when I was 5.
As a kid, I spend a lot of time wandering around on my bike. I did my first 70-km ride spontaneously at 17 (thought I’m gonna die).
The real attachment started in 2007 when I went on my first bike-packing trip with friends in Crimea. I hated it and loved it at the same time 😀 Since that time it only got worse.
One bike became 5, guys convinced me to start XC racing, and backpacking became my favorite way of spending holidays – life became unbearable 😀
Why do you ride & why bicycle?
Katya: Because it’s exhausting, painful, makes me sweat, nearly die, and hurt a lot, but it gives the biggest smiles and the most incredible feeling of strength, freedom, and happiness in one package.
Cycling taught me patience, saved my sanity, helped me understand what is most important in my life, and get to know myself. It’s the biggest love of my life.
How old were you when you start cycling trip?
Katya: At 23 I went for that first 5-day backpacking and the next year I organized the first trip on my own.
It was Montenegro with the printed 3km scale map, no mobile phones, no Garmin involved – go big or go home 😉
Were you very adventurous at a young age?
Katya: Let’s say, everyone in the family used to say I should’ve been born a boy.
Climbing trees and fences, riding with my bike into a bush, going places I’m not supposed to be at, fighting with boys, all sorts of “very ungirly” stuff; always curious about going to new places.
Have you always been a cyclist or a new thing to you?
Katya: I think I already answered this one 😉
But I can share one curious thing –
I don’t remember riding with training wheels too much, but I do recall the day my father took them off my bike (I was 5), and told me to go as he’ll be steadying the bike from behind and just let me go from my grandparent’s driveway down – that was my first and last lesson of riding without training wheels. 😀
Have you ever participated in professional cycling?
Katya: Professional – no, I was born of the “wrong gender”, so my childhood dreams of becoming a professional sportswoman were never taken into consideration. I race for fun from time to time.
What’s the fastest average speed you’ve attained in any race?
Katya: Hahaha, love those questions 😀 and the answers without knowing all the data are so incredibly irrelevant.
But if I must – my speed record just for fun on the road bike is something like 75 km/h and the only average I can recall was from one flat but windy (in the face) 120 km race – 37,3 km/h.
What’s your longest bike touring experience? i.e., have you participated in any cross-country rides?
Katya: My first bike for bikepacking was a hardtail Trek 4300, so the answer is yes. The longest? Hard to say…
I’m never about the numbers because to truly understand the value of the distance you need to know all the conditions:
Terrain, type of road, wind, the weight of the bike, nutrition on the way, etc. Sometimes it’s easier to ride 100 km than 30.
What type of bike do you prefer for bikepacking?
Katya: Lately, I ride high-end gravel, but I miss the front suspension sometimes.
On the other hand, the geometry of the race gravel (let’s be honest, it’s more a road+) definitely gives you more speed than you’ll ever get on the light HT.
Therefore, I think, I’ll stick with the light gravel.
Can you tell us about your bike setup?
Katya: If by setup you mean drivetrain then it’s 1×12 – I have 42T in the front with 10-44 cassette. For my current physical condition, 42T is too much on uphills over 10%, so I will change it to 38 or 40T oval.
If you’re asking about the packing part – for Andalusia I took a 12l saddle bag, a handlebar medium bag (I have a 380mm handlebar, so it cannot fit a lot) + a small bag on top for fast access.
I also took a top tube bag, but I won’t do it again, it wasn’t too comfortable to have it rub my legs.
It’s almost irrelevant if you go for 2 days or 2 weeks unless you plan to have a temperature amplitude of +30 to 0 or so. I always pack as little as possible.
How do you plan for the cycling route?
Katya: I used to plan it using actual maps – they are way more informative than online ones, but technology makes us lazy.
So I started using GPSies route planner and when it was bought and spoiled by AllTrails I switched to Strava combined with Google Maps.
I look for nice places online, put them on the map, and build my routes in a way that will allow me to see them.
I check the data carefully to minimize the risk of carrying my bike, but it still happens sometimes because I ride in places I’ve never seen before. But that’s the risk I’m willing to take.
How long do you prepare for the trip?
How many countries have you traveled to?
Katya: If we’re talking backpacking then 11 or 12 I think, but with my bikes more and some countries are large, so I’ve been to different parts each time, like in Italy: Lombardia, Toscana, Sicily, etc.
What is the best route for you for cycling now?
Katya: Doesn’t exist, all the routes are different and splendid in their own way.
Which countries/places do you recommend for adventurous biking?
Katya: Each one I’ve visited. Adventures are everywhere, it is only up to you if you’re willing to take the risk.
What’s the best bike ride – most memorable – that you’ve done?
Katya: Lately? The one, when I had to carry my Loca for 12 km while drowning ankle-deep in the sticky mud.
If you could go backpacking with one famous person, who would it be?
One time you were scared on the bike?
Katya: It sure happens when you go down the technical rocky descent, but I only feel a healthy amount of preservation, fear is something that does not exist on the bike or in a critical situation.
In my case, it’s only a higher level of adrenaline, which is just a normal physical reaction.
What’s the dumbest way you got injured?
Katya: Went dropping on a brand new full. That was one of the most memorable birthdays ever, cannot recall it without laughing to tears 😀
What’s the most underrated piece of gear for cycling?
The longest distance you cycled in one day?
Katya: 200 km, must’ve been 300, but after 150 we got drunk and after another 50 I decided I’ll take a bus.
How to stay safe as a solo female traveler or as a cyclist?
Katya: Grow a pair. 😀
But for real it starts with understanding that you are not some kind of bumb weak chick. If you understand this and avoid stupid decisions like cycling through the slums in Cape Town, you should be fine.
I thrive in critical situations and I like “impossible” tasks.
Do you carry any safety products? How do you secure yourself when you are alone?
Katya: Yeah, the gun would be nice to end some unnecessary discussions from time to time, but I don’t have a license yet.
Do you keep cycling during menstruation?
Katya: Of course, it’s a day like any other. I pop up a painkiller and go. Some of my best mountain bike marathons took place during my menstruation.
How do you secure your bags and bicycle when you go to the toilet on a ride?
Katya: I go to the bushes unless I’m in a nice restaurant. I never leave my bike unattended in places that do not feel trustworthy.
I never carry any chains or locks, unless I stay in the tent, but then I do not travel alone.
What’s your advice for wild camping on a bike tour?
- Before you do it, learn how to.
- Pitch your tent far from towns and villages.
- Remember that the loudest animal in the woods is the hedgehog.
- If you’re in a country with a big population of bears, hide your food far from the tent for the night.
- Never leave trash or burning fire.
How many bicycles have you used for cycling around?
Katya: At the same time?
😀 I can manage only one. Currently, I own 4.
What do you do when your bicycle is broken during a ride or travel?
Katya: Fix it, if it can be fixed, or find a solution. I never give up.
Do you know how to fix a bicycle? What can you fix by yourself?
Katya: All the basic things I can do on my own.
How do you prepare for the visa/entering another country?
Katya: According to the law of that country.
Is there something you wish to prepare before the trip?
Katya: Me, myself and ma bike.
Do you miss home?
How to cope with loneliness during a long trip?
What is loneliness? I’m always alone and I love it.
What is the good thing about cycling alone?
Katya: No whining.
What makes you keep traveling?
Katya: Hate not traveling.
Any advice to people dreaming of cycling around the world? Especially female?
Katya: Stop dreaming, start doing.
How long will you cycle?
Katya: Till I die.
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Steven is a professional cyclist and his passion is cycling. He has been cycling for the last 6 years and he loves using bikes while outing as well. Based on his experiences with the different types of bikes; he is sharing his opinions about various bikes so that a beginner can start right away. Find him on Twitter @thecyclistguy Happy Biking.