Interview: Katie Abdilla – Tasmanian Rider, Racer and Designer

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**Photos courtesy of Jason Lau

Even for Aussies, Tasmania is pretty much the end of the earth for a multitude of reasons. It’s far enough south to make it seriously cold in winter and it’s wild as all get-out once you leave the cities and it’s the least populous state in the entire country. Also, it quite literally is the end of the earth. Sail south from its southernmost tip and you’ll quite literally be in Antarctica before you can say, ‘frostbite-inducing snowstorm’.

So surely most sane people on this icy island would be more interested in just staying warm and indoors rather than, say, racing around in the open air on unfaired motorcycles hoping their extremities don’t turn black and drop off, yes? Well, if Tasmania’s Katie Abdilla is anything to go buy, then the whole place is totally nuts.

Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Hi, my name is Katie Abdilla. I live in the South of Tasmania, Hobart, and I ride motorcycles. I was a picture framer but have now been undertaking full time study into graphic design.

Katie Adbilla on a Honda XL motorcycle in Tasmania

Tell us about growing up in Tasmania

I grew up in the north of the state on a cattle farm. My interest in motorcycles really began from the desire of wanting to go fast, faster than I could bomb a push bike down a gravel hill. A friend from primary school told me he raced dirt bikes. I decided that I too wanted to do this, so my parents bought me a little 1980s Honda QR50 to begin with from there, it all kind of snowballed for the better.

What bikes do you own?

I currently have: a 1967 Honda SS125, 1968 Honda CL175, 1972 Honda SL175, 1976 Honda XL175, 1976 Honda CB400F, 1992 Honda VFR400R (NC30), 2016 Honda CRF150RB and a 1972 Triumph Daytona 500 (T100R). I have had more small Hondas but sold them several years ago.

There are many reasons as to why and how these bikes came to be a part of my life. My favourite being my ‘76 CB400f. I first saw this bike at a motorcycle show back in 2014 and intuitively knew I was meant to have this model of motorcycle. The bike was completely stock at that point, and it was the sweeping headers that drew me in. Fortunately for me, she happened to have a for sale sign placed next to her. Not long later, I ended up with that same bike in my garage.

Katie Adbilla on her 1976 Honda CB400F in Tasmania

What’s Tasmania like for riding?

I love Tasmania for a multitude of reasons, but mainly for its abundance of winding roads and scenic landscape. Even though it gets chilly here in winter, the snow does not often settle at sea level, so riding all year around is an option. It is actually really hard to pick a favourite road here as there are so many, and they are all so different. I do like the roads in the Northwest of the State though.

Woman on her 1976 Honda CB400F Motorcycle in Tasmania

And you’re into motocross racing?

I did a few motocross races as a child and a couple grass track races in 2020, but wouldn’t say I race motocross. I really enjoy riding motocross though as I am forever learning rider technique and enjoying the challenge. I also enjoy road racing out at Baskerville Raceway in the warmer months.

katie Abdilla on her 1976 Honda CB400F Motorcycle in Tasmania

What other projects are you working on?

I’m not currently working on any moto projects, just riding and having fun! I am however itching to build another bike; I’d love to build a Triumph chop or knucklehead.

A few friends came down to Tassie to film a motorcycle journey documentary in February 2020. They needed a motocross track for filming content at, and just to have a good time. So my partner James offered them a ride at his track in Surveyors Bay. That was a really fun day we all had. Especially doing time trials around the sand track on the little XR100.

Katie Adbilla at dusk in a Tasmanian field

Who are some of your heroes?

I don’t really have any heroes. But I do admire riders like Ken Roczen (the German professional motocross and supercross racer), Barry Sheene, and Beryl Swain (the London-born motorcycle road racer and the first woman to compete solo in the Isle of Man TT race).

 Woman on a motorcycle at dusk in a Tasmanian field

What are your thoughts on electric bikes?

I actually love the approach of electric motorcycles. It’s wild how much speed and torque they carry. It is really cool seeing what companies and independents are bringing out as of late. The engineering side of things is fascinating.

Woman on a motocross motorcycle at dusk in a Tasmanian field

Name your fantasy road and bike combo.

I would love to ride the Isle of Man TT or the Manx GP course on either a Honda NC30 or on some vintage British steel.

Black and white photo of a racing motorcycle at Tasmania's Baskerville Racetrack

**Photo courtesy of Baden West

What would you say to other women who might be interested in riding?

What I would say to anyone, whether it be women or men who might be interested in riding a motorcycle would be to just do it! You do not know if you will fall in love with the sport or lifestyle unless you give it a hot crack. I would suggest for anyone who wants to take up riding of any kind, focus on technique first as controlled speed will come later with experience.

Seat time is everything. The more you ride in different conditions, the more experience and knowledge you gain. If you are new to riding, then ride with more experienced riders, ask them if you can follow their lines or have them tail you to give you pointers. The great thing with the motorcycle community is, generally we are a friendly bunch.

Follow Katie on Instagram

Katie Abdilla Photo Gallery

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