Some weeks ago, I had a nice contact with Ulla from Finland. We both are motorbike – crazy people who live their passion in a wheelchair! But where I am on the road with the 3 wheels of a sidecar, Ulla goes one step further and races with a racing machine that is only a little bit adapted. After two sentences and a lot of laughing, it was clear to me – I must introduce you to the fast Finn and her positive world with an interview!
Please introduce yourself briefly – being born / raised / working / where do you live / are you married / children?
I’m Ulla Kulju, born 1986 in Kemi, Finland. I’m a mom of two and currently live in Hyvinkää, south of finland with the kids and my husband Antero. I have 2 sisters, I’m the middle one. I work as a senior design engineer in Etteplan oy.
How long have you been in a wheelchair (accident / innate)?
I paralysed in a snowboarding accident 26th of march 2002. I was 15yrs old.
If accident what injury was it?
Spinal cord injury T11-12
What are your hobbies or better passions?
I race with 600cc motorcycles in circuit racing. I compete in the national championships against the ablebodied racers and in the worldchampionships against other disabled racers (International Bridgestone Handy Race). I also like to draw and make tattoos.
You Finns have always been motorsport crazy, but how does one come up with the idea of taking part in motorcycle racing as a wheelchair user?
I have always wanted to ride a motorcycle but I always somehow tought it’s not possible because of my injury but then someone pointed out that I work as design engineer and solve technical/mechanical problems all the time at work. That gave me the crazy spark of “how can I do this?” and then it was just simple “oh well, let’s try!”
Please describe how it works, how do you get on the bike, how do you keep up, how does a race run from start to finish?
well I certainly couldn’t do this on my own. I need someone to help me get in to my racing leathers as they are so tight that it’s almost impossible to get inside by yourself. Then I have my coach/mechanic who lifts me on my bike. After that the same guys sends me on my way by holding the bike upright from the back of the bike. During the riding I change gears with an electronic gearshifter that is operated with my left thumb. My feet are held on place by magnets that are inserted inside my specially manufactured foot pegs and countermagnets under my boots. To help me lean inside the corners I have a sliding racing seat that I invented myself. When I need my rear brake I can operate it with my thumb. When I come back to the paddock my coach/mechanic, Marko, is there waiting and he catches the front of my bike to hold it upright when I stop.
You run your own racing team, tell us a bit about how to handle this?
Yes, I have my own team, KuljuRacing. At the moment we only have one racer, me, but hopefully in the future we will have more disabled racers in our team. My team consists of me as a racer, Lasse (my best friend) is the team chief, Marko as my coach and mechanic, Antero (my husband) as my mechanic and then I have two guys Pertti and Sami as my launch crew for international races.
I mainly do all the PR, but Lasse is the man who finds funding. Marko does all the bike related stuff with me/Antero/Pertti/Sami depending who get to the garage first. I pay the bills and the guys take care that the fun never ends.
What drives you to always be so active?
I’m like quicksilver.. I hardly stay on one place so I guess it’s just my nature to want to do everything and achieve new things. I have always been active with sports and hobbies.
Do you have tips for beginners who want to try something like this?
Dare to dream! If you want to do something then do it, no one will come and get you from your bed for anything. Get up and do it. There are no limits. And if you want to ride fast, call me.
Please tell a little about other activities
Before my accident I use to race with horses as a jockey, I started when I was 6yrs old. Then I snowboarded and played violin and piano. I have always been very artistic so drawing has been my thing for whole my life. After my accident I skiied with monoski and competed in the paralympic level for 4years. I sailed with multihull boats in the national and worldchampionship level. I built two show cars and got myself the license to fly a paraglider.
What are your contacts to other wheelchair users in Germany / Worldwide
I mainly use facebook to keep contact for my wheelchair friends and acquintances world wide.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to win the worldchampionships again, this time the men’s series. I will study this year and on July 2019 I will graduate as Race Motorbike engineer Master’s degree from Repsol Monlau technical school.
We hope that you continue to support Disabled Magazin & YouLife with great pictures, videos and recommendations
Thanks for your support. As I said, Disabled Magazin & www.youlife.rocks is just beginning. We are currently looking for content and interested topics and supporters. Our goal is to build a community of people with disabilities that gives others the courage to take their lives into their own hands and courageously move forward. This should not happen in the anonymity of Facebook, we want to give the group a face by the number of members. You are already much further in Scandinavian countries than we are here in Germany.
In the second step, we want to try to make the knowledge, for which we have worked hard, available to other people with disabilities. I would be happy to win you over.
Ulla on YOUTUBE
Ulla on Facebook