Her Story. A series of blog posts telling the stories of 'women who ride' from all corners of the globe. We hope that by sharing these stories we can help encourage other women to build their confidence, learn from others and inspire others.
This month we have a story from the beautiful Betty-Ann Nannes. She emailed us saying modestly "I'll tell my story if you like. Not too sure it's interesting, but I'll give it a go."
Even though Betty-Ann was unsure if her story was worth telling, I absolutely loved it and I hope you do too!- - - - -
"My name is Betty-Ann Nannes, I'm 44 years old and first rode a dirt bike in Tasmania while visiting a family friend's dairy farm when I was about 12 years old and it did not end well. It was the stock standard "full throttle into a barbed wire fence" scene that we all see on YouTube videos and cringe over. I was, and still am, a tomboy so this didn't really phase me as cuts and bruises and accidents were part of my everyday life and over the years I persisted in jumping on a dirt bike whenever one presented itself and got my experience in this rather slap-happy fashion.
We have four kids, aged 24, 20, 19 and 16, and they were raised with dirt bikes and rode down to meet the school bus every day until we taught them to drive. The bikes got stored in the garage until the next one expressed an interest, and we still have a couple of bikes and a four-wheeler rattling around in there.
I work as a Groundskeeper/Landscaper at the local University which I love. I get to do something different every day and I have the machinery to use for all my big ideas although it's still very physically demanding. During a discussion with a workmate in "The Feedlot" (Lunchroom) about 3.5 years ago, we discovered a mutual interest in getting our Motorbike Licences. We booked our learner course not long afterwards!
About a month before our course I bought my first bike with the profits from a small private landscaping job I completed. Actually when I say I bought it, I really mean that I sent my brother to buy it, although he made his objections known in a fairly strong manner. It was listed on a popular auction website but was on the outskirts of Melbourne over 1.5 hours away from his home. He loves me though, and rang me a couple hours later to say that he and my dad were on their way home with a 1992 Honda CB250 on the trailer, purchased for a paltry $950.
What a great bike to start with. Completely bomb/idiot proof, daggy enough that it's almost cool (cherry red with white wheels), and not too heavy for my first bike. I called it retro, others called it a piece of shit. I didn't care because it was mine.
I rode that bike down to Melbourne to visit the family, rode to the family holiday house on the Mornington Peninsula and took many day trips alone or with the friend from work. It was like riding a sewing machine with wheels, so I named it Singer. Getting off the bike at the end of a journey was an experience. Numb hands from the vibration, sore butt from the seat, feeling knocked around from the constant buffeting of the wind as the bike had no screen. Sounds pretty horrible, but I loved every agonizing minute of it.
Singer outlived her usefulness as soon as I was fully licensed and I began to look for a new bike. Choosing what bike to get was a real dilemma for me. I don't like the look of the big Harley type thumpers, hated the plastic fared sports bikes and thought the fabulous looking cafe racers looked excruciatingly uncomfortable for long distances. I didn't mind the look of the adventure touring bikes, and thought their size would suit me better as I'm 6ft and lanky. I loved the documentaries with Ewan McGregor and his mate Charlie called "The Long Way Round" and "The Long Way Down" and thought this type of riding would suit me but was dissuaded by a former bike rider friend who discussed the realities of this type of bike for what I wanted to do. I was lost and didn't know what to look for anymore.
Many people put forward their opinions and I trawled the internet for anything around the 750cc mark. A remark by another friend and a chance meeting with a former leader of the local Ulysses club while I was purchasing new vinyl for Singer's seat led me to look at a naked Suzuki Bandit. I didn't mind the look, it wasn't overly chromed out, and it had the riding position I wanted. I searched for a 600cc online but 600s weren't really common and those I found were quite expensive. Then up popped my current bike located in Sydney, a 2004 Suzuki Bandit 1200 with only 8,300km on the clock. My son was in Sydney at the time and kindly agreed to look at the bike for me so I sent him a list of questions to ask and things to check. I got the call that it was "all good", so I agreed to buy it. Had I ridden one of these before? No. All I had done was looked over a brand new one when I dragged my Dad to a local motorbike shop on a visit to Melbourne.
I picked up my new bike, hereafter referred to as "Bells", from the middle of Sydney city on a 42 degree day, through stop/start traffic due to an accident at the beginning of the M4. It was one of the worst days I can remember having. My hands were burnt from the metal clutch lever heating up in the sun, the hot wind and heat from the cars was horrific, and my brain felt like it was frying. I stopped into a service station, opened their fridge and stood in the doors for a couple of minutes. It got no better on the freeway as the wind was hot and gusty. Near St Mary's I had to pull up in the shade of a bridge, throw my gear off and pour a 2L bottle of water over my head.
I love this bike, how it rides and feels but does it suit my personality? I'm not too sure that it does, but I love it just the same. I'm more a retro girl and this bike is a modern fully fared sports tourer. Basically it's something I had said I didn't want.
After signing up to an online riders' network I recently joined in with a Victorian group of riders on a free training morning and the ensuing long ride afterwards through the Dandenong Ranges and beyond while on my way to the Great Ocean Road. This ride was fabulous! These riders all rode the corners like they were at the track. No one was breaking the speed limit, but the corners were taken at twice their posted recommended speed or more. I had Bells almost laying on her side around these bends, just trying to keep the guy in front of me in sight. I fell further in love with her, but decided that this type of riding was not for me. Mid-way through the ride, I found out that this was an "advanced" riding day and I'm glad I did it but the risk of that type of riding is just too great.
The Great Ocean Road trip was one that I think everyone should do at least once in their lives on a bike. I was the only rider. It took me 2 days to get down from NSW and three to get back thanks to a stay over at the Bro's farm in Jamieson to do the Eildon/Jamieson Road (which is another "must do" for any rider). I took a couple of the kids for a ride with me. They loved it.
My two younger kids will ride pillion if I beg them to come, or if we are heading somewhere for a coffee or bite to eat. My kids are the best pillion passengers as they pay attention and lean with me. My husband, on the other hand, says it's hypnotic and has a tendency to zone out and start rubber necking at things. Before the tight corners I find I need to tap his leg to get his attention and point in the direction we're going so he'll help me out.
I ride to de-stress, forget my daily niggles, get away from my own brain for a while and see the local towns I wouldn't bother driving to by car. I had hopes that my husband would get his license and we'd keep Singer for him but he worries about the things that non-riders always worry about and decided not to do it. Singer was sold for $1000 the day before I picked up Bells. I'd looked after Singer and made a couple of improvements so sold it to a female learner who can have every confidence that it won't let her down.
People who don't ride just don't "get it". Why we ride, why the destination doesn't matter, why we're happy to ride anywhere but hate just driving to town in a car. Talk to another rider and they understand exactly what I mean, yet it's difficult to convey the essence, the feeling, to a non-rider. A non-rider just bangs on about all the accidents they've heard about and the dangers of riding. Surely I don't need to mention to anyone how truly annoying these people are! I feel like telling them to keep all their negative shit to themselves, but I can't be bothered.
I love the anonymity of the helmet and leathers. No-one knows who I am under all the gear, therefore no-one can judge me, and I don't have to please anyone except myself. I don't have to make polite conversation or listen to anyone else's music. The only improvement I would make to Bells is to add a harness/bracket to transport my guitar on longer rides.
Last month I rode with a couple of female strangers to Dubbo to participate in the World Record attempt to get the most women riding at the same time, and the most females at a bike event. I went along because I don’t know any other female riders and I wanted to see what the biker sisterhood is all about, and what I have to offer the biker sisterhood. It's generally not easy for me to do this when the nearest capital city is 3 hours away and there aren't as many female riders compared to male riders.
Intricate bike knowledge is also not my forte. You want me to talk in detail about my bike and my response will be "It's a charcoal colour". By no means am I a motorcycle boffin although if something breaks I'll be able to fix it using the "repair and service manual". I had a flat when riding on the Great Ocean Road and needed a new tyre. I took off the rear wheel, took it into Warrnambool and got it replaced, then put the wheel back on all thanks to the manual. Not interested in "blinging" up the bike in any way. I love how quiet she is so I see no need for any fancy growling exhaust. I love that she's an unassuming 1200cc powerhouse underneath that boring exterior. Other than writing this article, Bells and I are the quiet achievers."
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