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This woman rider travels across the world for her cause

Iranian-born, Pune-based Maral Yazarloo rides the BMW F650GS across the world to challenge gender stereotypes

May 02, 2018 03:40 pm | Updated May 03, 2018 01:03 pm IST

Maral Yazarloo is a traveller on a mission. Women in Iran are not allowed to ride bikes, so Yazarloo is determined to find a way to challenge that law. She is travelling the world on a BMW F650GS, a dual sport motorcycle, and plans to enter Iran after travelling through seven continents.

“Hailing from Iran, a country where women are still not allowed to ride bikes, using the ‘RideToBeOne’ platform, I started a campaign to bring awareness about this. I intend to request the Iranian government to reconsider its decision on women riders. I believe that the success of my ride will stand in solidarity with the women of Iran, West Asia and India — proving to the world that women are also capable of very significant achievements,” says Yazarloo in an email interview from South Africa, her 33rd country in the sixth continent.

Cycle to freedom
  • Though there is no law in Iran that forbids women from cycling, women in Marivan were arrested for riding a motorbike in 2017. They were let off the same day. Women in Iran are protesting against the government’s policy by riding a bicycle.

Yazarloo’s sojourn began on March 15, 2017 from Pune, where she resides with her husband. She’s ridden more than 63,500 kilometres, covering 33 countries so far. Her journey has taken her to Bhutan, Southeast Asia, Australia, the US, Mexico, Central America, South America, Antarctica and Africa.

One of the several challenges Yazarloo has faced in this mission is health. She came down with a severe bout of flu in Antarctica.

“I experienced motion sickness which was complicated by flu, high fever and weakness that lasted for weeks. Once I got back to Argentina, I rested for a few days before riding about 2,400 kilometres from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires, from where I shipped my bike to Africa.”

So far, so good

Health apart, another major concern, being a woman, is safety. “I am riding solo, without any backup vehicle or a team. This has made me mentally independent, alert and decisive. My primary challenge is about staying safe, as I ride solo and I usually sleep in a tent. I am very particular when I halt and where I make a night stopover. To date, I have not faced any problems due to my being a woman rider. In fact, people I have met through my journey have been very appreciative. I do believe we live in a beautiful world with beautiful people.”

Overcoming fears

Back home in Pune, Yazarloo has a job in a real estate firm and a fashion label Ma/Ya. “I am confident that my ride will help break stereotypes, overcome the fears that we live with, and inspire us to deal with obstacles that we confront in our day-to-day lives,” says Yazarloo, who moved to India from Iran to pursue an MBA and later a PhD in marketing from Pune University.

She fell in love with bikes 15 years ago when a male friend in Pune chided her for not knowing how to ride. Today, Yazarloo owns two Harley-Davidsons (a Forty-Eight and a Night Rod Special), a Ducati Diavel and the BMW F650GS that she is currently riding.


She says preparing for this trip was a mammoth task. “After leading a very busy corporate life for almost 15 years, the most important aspect of my preparation was to condition my mind to leave behind a life and a growing fashion business — and ride for 18 months.”

Impromptu plans

Yazarloo says she figured out the logistics, route, travel documentation, visas, permissions by herself. She also has a broad route map but doesn’t follow it to the hilt.

“My detailed plan is one day at a time, as when I meet fellow travellers and we exchange stories about travel destinations, I sometimes weave good suggestions into my route plan.” For example, en route to Beaufort West from Mossel Bay, the biker met a few BMW riders in a café who helped her book a hotel for the night.

If you plan a similar trip, then here are must-carry essentials
  • Spare phone with all the necessary apps like for directions which work offline
  • Extra brake pads
  • Puncture kits
  • Basic medicines
  • Extra bike key

She says that her bike has enabled her to reach some of the remotest places on earth and experience varied cultures and traditions. “So far, I have found South America the most vibrant and stylish. I love colour and I have been gathering samples to study local design techniques. You will definitely see influences from my journey in my upcoming fashion collections.”

In the last leg of her journey, Yazarloo will go to Europe, after which she hopes to return to India by August 2018. “I do have a wonderful husband waiting for me back home. He is my biggest support. There will be further journeys that I will continue to undertake — but those will be with family, as I intend to visit as many countries as I can in this lifetime. And yes, there will be a book that documents my journey, passing on knowledge and wisdom to future world travellers and bikers.”

(To know more about her campaign, follow her on Instagram @Ride to be One or visit her website

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