Donning her comfy leather jacket matched with skin-tight jeans, bike boots, a pair of gloves, and a sophisticated red-black helmet, Fehinty is all set for a nearly 900km solo bike trip from Nigeria to Ghana. But as she revs up her Honda cbr500r in the rowdy city that was Lagos, you could have sworn the tourist was Carrie Anne herself from one of those motorcycle chase scenes of the sci-fi movie ‘The Matrix’.
The engine roars beneath her and the wheels screech. Her machine, built for speed, would get her to the Benin border from where she made her way into Cotonou, aided by an offline map she downloaded before embarking on the trip.
At 90km/h on the freeway, her gaze is fixated on the broad stretch of road fading into a narrow line in the distance. The swoosh of air slapping her torso and the roadside shrubs fading into a bilateral barricade of green hues is only reminiscent of why she had embarked on the trip: a self-challenge of some sort, a deeply rooted resolve to overturn widely held, limiting, and prohibitive ideas about what profession and tasks the female gender can and cannot do.
For the final-year accounting student –full name Fehintoluwa Okegbenle — the twinge of fear on the fringes of her mind about everything that could go wrong during the trip was ousted by the sheer thrill of seeing new landscapes, meeting people, interacting with a different speech form, escaping the cooped-up and traffic-inclined lifestyle that many Lagosians have come to accept as the norm, and basically getting away from the hustle-bustle of urban life.
The last she did something similar, albeit intranationally, was pulling off a 13-hour biking challenge that saw her ride from Lagos to Onitsha, a city sitting on the eastern bank of River Niger in Anambra, returning the same day.
“For my latest trip, however, I embarked on it because I really wanted to visit a different country. I’ve been to about 20 states in Nigeria. I decided to start touring West Africa in 2021 and first opted for Togo to see what it looks like. It’s like the closest before I go further, aside from Cotonou. So I left my Lagos home at 6 am on August 13, a Friday, and got to the Nigeria-Benin border at 8:20 am,” the biker says over the phone, apologising for background noise.
“I did my documentation and I proceeded to the Benin Republic, going towards Togo. I met this biker in Cotonou and was pointed in the direction of the Togo border. I kept going and it was quite an easy journey, although I missed my way once and had to ask around. The language is different; I do not speak French. They hardly speak English there. The language was a sort of barrier but I knew the basics of saying hi and where I was going. ça va? ”
“As I got to the Togo border at 3 pm, I did my documentation there too. At 5, I was safely in my hotel in Togo. Togo riders came to join me at the border. I’d connected with them on Instagram. They were excited to meet a bike from another country and it was surprising to them that a female was willing to come all the way. I got to my hotel; they came to pick me up for dinner later. The next day, I toured Togo and went to the Ghana border, which was closed.”
On the significance of her trip, Fehinty, who notes that she looks to someday tour more West African countries and Europe, says she considers it uncommon for females to pick up bikes and go on solo rides to another country.
“Even men prefer going in groups of two or three, not really solo. So it was weird for me. I often talk about my plans and how I intend to tour Nigeria, West Africa, and, if possible, Europe on my bike. Anywhere there’s a road, I’ll love to get there. People tell me I’m crazy or just making bogus claims, so it means a lot to me that I’ve achieved this. I can’t wait to go even further. I’m waiting for the Ghana border to open so I get through to Ivory Coast,” she adds.
One can run down a gloomy list of what could go awry in solo travels: attacks by hooligans lurking around secluded locations and u-turns, the bike chain snapping en rout on high speed to throw the rider off, or the speed beast even going bad altogether on a weekend when finding repairers was nearly impossible or prohibitively difficult at best. Fehinty didn’t have it any easier, the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) finalist struggled with weather changes.
In her solo rides, the 29-year-old says she uses a defensive technique where she gets to go up close before overtakes if vehicles are ahead. She runs at speed if the path 200 metres in front is devoid of vehicular movements. This way, she adds, nothing can get in the way except spike strips thrown across at a range too proximal for the biker to avoid.
“Some roads were terrible and that was challenging. I ride a touring bike so it’s not as easy to go on rough terrains, since it’s built for speed and lower than normal. I had to take it really easy. I almost dropped my bike a couple of times but my grip was strong. But from the Nigerian border into Cotonou, the roads were good. I had to observe how they drive and ride. At a lot of junctions in Benin, many people just cross the road without looking,” she notes.
“So I watched for T-junctions. On returning, my chain got bad. I had to take it slow and steady. It was Sunday, there were no mechanics. If you hit top speed and it snaps, you’ll most likely get into a terrible accident. The weather was hotter in Togo and the temperature was tough on me, so much so that I got into Lagos sick. I was sick Saturday into Sunday but I had to keep pushing. You had the Nigerian border trying to extort you, which was no surprise to me.”
Beyond biking, Fehinty runs an online fashion store. Clearly, she’s one to get involved in what she considers leisure, yet, monetises them. Having landed gigs with biking-inclined brands, she remains open to ambassadorship deals.
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