Maja Kenney has always had an adventurous streak. Born and raised in the former Yugoslavia, in her teenage years she hitchhiked around Scandinavia, spent a month cycling through western Europe, and then moved to London on her own at the age of 20 to become an au pair. Becoming a mother didn’t dampen this desire for fun and new experiences, and she even took her son Sam on a round-the-world trip when he was just a toddler.
So it’s little wonder, really, that motorcycling has always appealed to this feisty Slovenian. And now, only a few years after getting her licence, she has set up her own business offering biking tours across Wales.
Maja, who now lives just outside Wrexham in North Wales, explained that she had always had an interest in riding, but that life got in the way of pursuing it as a hobby. She said: “When I was about 15, my dad bought my mum a 50cc moped to go to work and back. That was in the days when you didn’t need to wear a helmet, and my mum didn’t like it because it messed up her hair. So the moped became mine and I loved it.”
Some years later, Maja planned to get her licence and buy a motorcycle to ride to Slovenia with her then-husband, but she discovered she was pregnant with Sam. And with her baby born with some physical complications, frequent medical appointments put paid to Maja’s motorcycling ambitions. But that all changed when Sam turned 17. Maja said: “I asked him if he wanted to learn to drive, but he had absolutely no interest in it. So I thought, ‘well, if I’m not paying for his driving lessons then I’ll get my motorcycle licence’.”
And thus Maja’s long-standing dream of becoming a biker finally came true; though it wasn’t all plain sailing at first. She said: “I remember doing my CBT on a 125cc and didn’t feel comfortable on it. I even wondered if I should just forget about it. But when I sat on a big 500cc bike for the first time I shrieked inside my helmet; everything suddenly just fell into place and I felt very comfortable on a bigger bike.”
Some five years on, Maja is still in love with motorcycling - especially astride her dream bike, a Ducati SuperSport S called Bella. “I would love to keep her forever,” said Maja. “But I think I need to get another bike for touring; I’ve already gone round Europe twice on her. I just love biking so much. Everyone says it’s because of the feeling of freedom; this is true, but I also love it because it makes me feel like a bad ass!”
Entrepreneurial Maja has turned this passion for biking into a business venture, appropriately named Maja’s Motorcycle Adventures. She explained that she had been running two businesses before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, one designing and building exhibition stands, and the other offering virtual assistant services. Sadly, the restrictions of the national lockdowns put a stop to both of these, so Maja turned her attentions to other income streams.
She said: “I’d already done a few tours of Wales with people I’d met on Twitter, and thought it would be a good idea for a business. Between lockdowns, we did some day tours so there were no accommodation issues, and of course it’s easy to socially distance when you’re on a bike.
“Ultimately, I will offer three and four day tours of Wales which will be individual to each group. I’ll ask the riders if there is anything particular they want to see while they’re here; they may have an interest in castles, for example. It will be a dinner, bed and breakfast package so everything will be arranged for them. The tours are really aimed at people who want to ride in small groups and don’t want to think about where to turn, where to stop. They can just follow the group and tour with someone who knows the area really well.”
Maja, who has now lived in North Wales for 20 years, says Snowdonia is her favourite place in the country to ride. “I love the mountains, and it reminds me a lot of Slovenia,” she said. “The higher I am, the happier I am! I also really like the Brecon Beacons in South Wales.”
She added: “Eventually I would love to create a motorcycle adventures hub in Wales with a B&B and a café, and run tours from there.”
Maja says that she is particularly keen to support fellow women riders on her tours, because biking remains predominantly a man’s world. “More and more women are coming in, but it can still feel a bit daunting and intimidating,” she said. “You still hear those jokes about women parking, and it will take a lot of work to change that. It’s a very slow process. But women are just as good at riding as men – it’s just that there aren’t as many of us. Yet!
“For any woman thinking about taking riding up, I’d suggest that they go out in small groups together and build up their confidence. Be brave.”