by Gisela Heitzmann
I am Gisela Heitzmann. I ride BMW Motorcycles and run the @BMWomens Instagram site.
A 62 year old Brazilian women, married with three children. A descendant of Swiss Germans who immigrated to Brazil at the end of the last century in search of better living conditions. Europe was going through a difficult time and many Europeans immigrated to distant lands, in search of a new life. Brazil seemed attractive, due to the tropical temperature and possibilities of agricultural development, especially coffee. Today, German is the second most spoken language after Portuguese in some regions of Brazil.
My history with motorcycles.
My history with motorcycles started with three brothers, all from an early age, passionate about motorcycles. At the age of 16, one of my brothers was already venturing into the trail and enduro bikes. As a youngster, I found playing with cars and motorbikes much more attractive than playing with dolls!
At 18, I got my license to drive for both cars and motorbikes which was unusual at that time. Girls didn’t ride motorcycles. But my brothers, whenever possible, lent me their motorbikes for me to ride so I had access and motivation.
Married very early and through good fortune, my husband also liked motorcycles!
Not long after our marriage, he acquired a 1982 Honda CB 400. This bike was a dream. I loved riding it and taking trips. After a few years we sold this bike and I bought a XLX250R – also from Honda. The XLX was a trail bike. Tall, with no electric start and quite difficult for a girl of 162 cm tall. Soon I gave up and sold it.
At this point in my life, I became pregnant and went 25 years without riding a motorcycle.
Young person’s passion returns with a young man, my son Andre.
My eldest son, when he turned 25, told me he wanted to buy a motorcycle. Everyone thought that I, as a mother, should make him give up on this idea. But I would never do that.
I understood exactly the passion for motorcycles and riding.
I went with him to a Harley Davidson dealership. He wanted to buy an entry-level, street motorcycle – an Iron 883. As the salesperson presented the characteristics of the bike, forward riding position, mid-mount foot controls, low, etc., the idea of riding again grew inside me. Without thinking too much I said “I’m going to take this bike.”
Everyone stopped and asked “…for your son?” And I answered: “No, for me!”.
Friends and family were scared and even though I bought this motorcycle in the spur of the moment, I have never stopped riding again.
My son is now also my partner in the world of motorcycling. Today he has a BMW S 1000 XR sports adventure, a style different from mine, but that doesn’t stop us from riding together.
Many bikes, many friends, many paths.
Starting that motorcycle riding journey again with my HD 883, a HD De Luxe and then a HD Street Glide, I met my current husband, Jorge.
On a trip through South Brazil together, he on a Yamaha Teneré and me on my Harley Davidson Street Glide, he influenced me to change the type and style of bike. If his influence on this trip wasn’t enough to convince me to change my motorcycle, after riding some of the rough trails and narrow roads with sharp turns, this was enough!
The timing and change was right when I decided to buy a BMW R 1200 GS because, I fell in love immediately.
I bought my first R 1200 GS in 2016. We drove 30,000 km through beautiful places and many friends. I never rode on the back of my husband’s bike. In the middle of 2019 I sold my first GS and bought an R 1200 GS Adventure, which has now done 28,000 km.
As I knew few women who drive BMW, especially GS riders in Brazil, I decided to create a group and start encouraging other women to enter the BMW GS world.
HD riders were already many in Brazil – more than 600, but few women rode BMW GS.
We started with a small group, creating a WhatsApp group to set up meetings. At the first lunch there were 5 riders. We came up with the name BMWomen´s for the group and an Instagram account was created which now has nearly 2,800 followers and growing today.
I started posting on Instagram, pictures of us with our bikes. But, as we were still just a few, I decided to post pictures of women who own BMW motorcycles of all types from other countries as well. With this, our Instagram became of interest to more people, attracting more and more followers.
I started receiving photos of motorcyclists from around the world.
We have always been very careful with the photos we post. Always real women, bikers and not just models. We want to show women as motorcycle riders. Women from all over the world, with different religions, ages, creeds, races… but who share the same spirit of adventure (and appreciation of BMW Motorcycles).
We created a T-shirt with BMW colors that was a success. Women from different parts of the world, who ride BMW motorcycles, asked us to send them our T-shirts. (Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we were unable to send them to some countries.)
Expectation about the future
I hope to continue riding for a long time to come. I had planned a 12,000 km trip – leaving São Paulo, Brazil and going to the Atacama Desert in Chile. Riding down the coast to Bariloche and returning to Brazil.
Due to the pandemic, this trip was postponed. If by April 2021, the borders are still closed, we will try to do the 12,000 km inside Brazil!
In Brazil we have a gigantic country, with a lot of beautiful things to see and very hospitable people.
I also intend to continue to motivate more and more women to discover the wonderful feeling of freedom and empowerment that is riding a motorcycle. Specially, a GS one!
Please enjoy our posts and share yours @bmwomens.
Thank you for your story Gisela. We love reading how you got started and continue to share the enjoyment of riding and your BMW Motorrad family. In particular, we congratulate you on your continued success with @bmwomens.
We look forward to reading more of your adventures.
Make Life A Ride
– Cheers, Sean (Editor).
Images from Gisela and @BMWomens