Wednesday, January 9, 2008

...across the room for bikers....

"Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades."
-Eddy Merckx

This post was going to be about female bikers but now that I read it again it's really just my voice on motor biking....

In the mysterious world of women on motor bikes lurks the concept that these creatures are somehow different from the usual female species.  Whatever possesses a woman to straddle a two wheeled monster of a machine weighing anywhere up to 750 pounds to go roaring down the road?  Does she have to check her femininity at the door for the duration of the ride?  Walk different?  Talk different?  Who are these women and what motivates them to try biking in the first place?

Some twenty years ago or so I got on a motorbike with a little  (OK, a lot!) of encouragement and instruction from my husband.  I rode around our acreage, stopped beside him and said "What's so hard about that?  I'm going for another round!"  I duplicated the route, stopped beside him again and said "That's easy!  I'm going to try this out on the road!"  Once around our development was all I needed to realize that a new chapter of my life was about to unfold!  In Manitoba at that time women riders were scarce and a definite novelty.

I didn't waste any time getting licensed and buying my first motor bike...a pretty blue 440 Kawasaki.  When simply riding the bike didn't seem exciting enough and I found myself standing on the pegs at insane speeds I wondered whether it was time for a bigger challenge.  To my delight my husband came across a new 750 Honda Magna he encouraged me to try out.  If memory serves me correctly I went for a test ride the next day and bought the bike that day as well.  That novelty I spoke of earlier was advantageous in sealing the deal on my second bike!

A number of years later a friend let me borrow his Harley Springer for an afternoon of riding and I was 'Hooked on Harley' and by spring 1996 I was the proud owner of my first Harley, the  Dyna Convertible model.  Two Harley's later I am enjoying my ride more than ever before.  The odometer on my last bike boasted 99,600 km. when I sold it and the new '07 Heritage Softail taking up space in our garage is nicely broken in from last summer's riding season.

The questions I get asked most by women are about strength to keep a bike upright; bad hair concerns; lack of clothes storage for longer trips; and of course, bad weather.  Most of us like to look our best at all times so the hair is always an issue but in time the joy of riding becomes more important than how you look.  Besides, there are some really nice caps out there.  Strength is a non-issue if you stick to the right kind of bike.  As far as storage is concerned, you soon find out how many clothes you actually NEED on a two week trip.  I would sooner do without that extra t-shirt to make room for my bottle of perfume anyway!  Riding is always best in sunshine and warm temperatures however women don't melt in rain!  I have ridden long enough to see rain, sleet, mud, and wind as learning opportunities rather than obstacles.  Learning to perfect my skills as a rider, learning to be content and find enjoyment in difficult surroundings, and learning to appreciate and conquer the elements.  I have to admit I'm not thinking about learning much of anything when those horrible southern Alberta gale force winds start ripping at my nostrils!

So what motivates us women to ride?  Often our spouses are riding and encourage us to try it.  If we're brave enough to give it a try we usually know almost immediately whether it is going to become an addiction.  We women inspire and encourage one another to ride as well.  Some women are content to be passengers but there are those of us who soon tire of looking at the back of someone else's helmet.  It's more than that though.  I guess I should speak for myself and not for every female rider out there.  I love controlling the bike and the feel of all that power under me.  I relish the hours of solitude on my bike.  It refreshes, energizes, relaxes and blesses me.  A nice long afternoon ride often becomes my place of worship.  It entices me to sing, pray, give thanks, laugh, and cry depending on what is going on in my life.  Motor biking has brought some of the nicest people into my life and some great and loyal friends.

I have come to realize that there are many types of riders out there.  There are those who just simply love the art of motor cycling and there are some who are more in love with the idea of riding than riding itself.  Allow me to catergorize a few types of riders the way I see it:

1.  Sunday afternoon riders (they don't seem to go on any bike trips but enjoy short relaxing rides)
2.  Bar hoppers (their bikes are the low mileage bikes because they never go very far)
3.  Profilers (you've seen them...they don't seem to be able to enjoy riding where they cannot be seen and they like to ride around town with one hand resting on their thigh!)
4.  Die hards (this is a huge category.  They ride EVERYWHERE and no amount of bad weather can stop them.  These bikes might sport a home made plywood box as their "trunk" and the riders could be wearing dress shoes with their jeans...I think this category is least concerned about their image!)
5.  Cruisers (they generally like to accessorize and personalize their bikes and love to get out of town to enjoy the countryside)
6.  Tour riders (they tend to ride well equipped and usually high mileage bikes because these people are all about riding as much as possible)

Which category do I fit into?  I don't like to live "inside the box" so hesitate to label myself but I would say my riding style is that of a cruiser although much of my riding is touring.  Personally I have no interest in racing down the main drag in any town from red light to red light annoying the general public with my loud pipes.  I prefer to take them out of town where I can enjoy the feel and sound of my bike because let's face it, we love the sound of those pipes!!

This is where I give myself permission to rant a little!  It's my blog and I'll rant if I want to =:)  My greatest pet peeve concerning my fellow bikers is the obnoxious and unnecessary revving of motors at the red light.  It is an indications of a new rider who hasn't read the manual or a profiler (see above!).  If you are reading this and you are a "revver" ... STOP IT ALREADY!!  (There, I feel a little better now!)  I feel bad for all the folks around them who have to endure the noise pollution.  There!  I've voiced my displeasure.  Now would SOMEONE write about the noise pollution from all the loud trucks and stereo's on the streets!  Perhaps this issue is exclusive to Alberta?!

I'm a rider and I happen to be a female.  My bike has been on it's side more times than I care to admit but then so have a lot of my male friends bikes!  My bike is too heavy for me to pick up on my own, however, strangely enough someone has always been available to help me when I went down.  I don't have to check my femininity at the door just because I ride a motor bike.  I wear the boots, leather gear, helmet and proper eye wear for protection - not because it's comfortable or different.  Our gear sets us apart and identifies us the same way as any other "uniform".  Under all that heavy leather I'm the same woman you might see wearing a white silk blouse, pencil skirt and three inch heels in church Sunday morning, in my favourite restaurant or at the perfume counter!

So here's to walking across the room to enjoy the great thrill of riding all kinds of motor bikes in a way that will inspire interested men and women to try it too and those who are not interested to think of us as simply another vehicle sharing the road with them!


Anonymous said...

Nice Picture Mom!

Love, Michele

Stacey said...

Ah you always look too kool for skool in your Harley get-up and on that bike!

Love it!

Jobina said...

across the room, across the country! Ride on!

Anonymous said...

Now that I've seen the print, I like this blog the best out of all of yours so far! It almost makes me want to take up riding. I am however a lazy girl who likes to sit behind someone I trust with my life and enjoy the ride. I have such wonderful memories of riding behind Dad and listening to him whistle while we rode down long winding deserted roads. We would point at something of interest every now and then but really, it was all about relaxation! Dad has always been ready and willing to take me out whenever I ask (although Declan steals many of my rides these days!). Mom, I would totally go with you but I'm afraid I will ruin your shocks with the weight I would add to that beautiful bike of yours! I do remember one ride with you when we went to Elkwater. That was a lot of fun too!

Keep riding lady! You look so at home on that bike of yours, I can hardly imagine you being anywhere else!

Love you!

Jobina said...

oh, that brings back memories! I miss riding, I think I would be a Sunday afternoon rider though. Those were my favorites! Riding to Lockport for burgers and arcade games, to Steinbach to visit family, to Elkwater or Maple Creek. It was always an adventure! I still have a goal that before I'm 40 I'd like a bike of my own. Here's hoping there's still a Suzuki Savage kicking around somewhere by that point!

Stacey said...

OK this text just got put here right? Because yesterday there was only a picture!

Great post and nice to hear your "voice" about riding. I have to say though I don't really want to think about you possibly "crying" while you're riding that beast down some highway. So maybe save that emotion for when you're off your bike somewhere safe. OK? Just for me! :)

Ride on sista, ride on!

Elayne said... just let your Dad know when you want to start shopping for that bike! I'm sure he would drop everything to do that with you! Those early biking years with you girls were so much fun (except for when you would fall asleep on my bike!
Stacey....yes, the post did not appear at the same time as the picture. It was supposed to. It just didn't! Oh and don't worrry about the tears...I can ride that monster blind folded by now! : )
Michele....I can give Dad a ride and I can give you a ride too!!