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 Annie, originally from Wales now living an indefinite gap year in Wellington, New Zealand. Annie's life shifted after being introduced to motorcycles at the age of 18, prior to this she was afraid of bikes and had no interest whatsoever.
We hope you enjoy her story.
I’m Annie, I’m 21, and for the last three years I’ve called Wellington, New Zealand, my home. I’d love to say that I’ve always loved motorbikes, but it just wouldn’t be true – in fact, until I was eighteen, I was determinedly afraid of them. I refused to ride on the back of my Dad’s Triumph Tiger and always planned to get a solidly four-wheeled vehicle.
I grew up in the middle of nowhere in Wales, a small village called Castell Caereinion. I was a nerdy, introverted kid – I got all the way through high school with impeccable marks and was about to head off to University. I’d never been to a house party, gone on a road-trip, ever gotten high or even drunk.
I simply wasn’t down for another three years of academia. What I wanted was adventure. Much to the chagrin of my mother, I began to put together plans for a gap year in New Zealand. I hadn’t spent a penny of my education maintenance allowance and used it to buy a one-way ticket. Whenever I go home, Mum tells me how her friends think I’m so brave. Every time I tell her – “God, no, Mum. I wasn’t brave, I was just kinda stupid.”
I honestly thought it would be incredibly easy, and, for the most part, it actually sorta was. I had a place to live, found a job waitressing and even found a boyfriend, all in the first month. Somewhat unoriginally, here is where the motorbikes come in. He rode a battered FZR 250 but to me it may as well have been a Panigale. Suddenly, a bike seemed like the very embodiment of everyday adventure, a way to ride a rollercoaster on your way to work.
When I called my Dad and told him I was thinking of buying one, he couldn’t have been more thrilled – he even loaned me half the cost of my first bike so I wouldn’t have to wait or get it on finance. I knew the one I wanted the moment I walked in. A shiny green Z300, sitting in the middle of the showroom floor.
Besides going in a wobbly straight line on my then boyfriend’s new street triple, the first time I ever rode a bike properly was on the way back from the dealership. But don’t worry, I looked it up on Wiki-how first. I only stalled about fifty times and kept her in first gear the whole way, simples pimples.
For a little while we rode together every weekend, tackling my favourite hill as often as possible, meeting new motorcyclists every time. It was the ultimate thrill, whipping my trusty steed around the corners as fast as I could, learning the bike and the roads together. As any new rider will tell you, there were a few close calls every now and then – but still now I can’t imagine one close enough that would have put me off it. I extended my gap year in New Zealand from ‘one year’ to ‘the foreseeable future’ and revelled in both the impressed and disapproving eyebrow raises that being a biker chick can instigate.
But then came the dry spell. My boyfriend sold his triple for a cute convertible MX-5, and the days of riding together were over, overlapping I don’t know how much with an increasingly mutually toxic relationship. Without a riding buddy, I rarely rode out, and my beloved Z was relegated to mainly commuting. By the time we finally called it quits, I was something of a nervous wreck. I hated staying inside, I had trouble eating, and was starting to drink a little more often than my sensible side liked.
I started to ride the gorgeous Wellington bays again, taking a timeout from having to think about anything by focussing solely on the curve of the road ahead and the lean angle of my bike. To this day, I’m never in so anxious a mood that can’t be smoothed out by a long ride through some twisties. I got up early, rode the bays. Every lunchtime I ran out of my work building to ride the bays. After work, I’d ride the bays until I was tired enough to sleep.
Riding became my safe space, my alone time, the time when I didn’t need to worry about being interrupted or disturbed if I didn’t want to be.
Then, one day, I was heading home from work. I was heading onto a roundabout when two bikes whizzed past, the rider of one waving furiously at me. The biker wave is pretty much the coolest thing you can receive, so my mood was already marginally improved. I took my exit, and a moment later they caught up again. The waving biker was flailing his arms again, gesturing me to follow.
Grinning in my helmet, I kicked down a gear and chased them down. Turns out the waver was someone I knew. He’d started chatting to me while we waited at a red light a couple years ago, but we hadn’t ridden a whole heap together. We soon would.
One of my favourite memories comes from a few months ago, when we went to my first ever track training day. The only step up from the thrill of riding a motorbike is learning how to ride one better. Taking your knee closer to the tarmac every time, mastering a corner, scrubbing the edges of your tyres into orange peel … if there’s a better feeling in the world, I don’t know it.
What you’ll find about riding motorbikes is that there are friends to be made around every corner. It’s the joy of meeting yet another hooligan, the delight of having company as we fly as fast as we can through the scenery. It’s why bikers nod to each other – just a little acknowledgement of “Yes, I get it, too.” It’s almost like learning a new language – it opens doors to a whole new group of people waiting to welcome you in, often the most vibrant you’ll ever meet.
Learning to ride is always going to be a mixed bag. It can be uncomfortable, terrifying, and especially in Wellington it can be cold as all hell. But you’ll find that the love for your two-wheeled beast will wind itself around you, embed itself into your DNA, until it’s what most excites you, and is one of the first things you tell people about yourself. Who are you? I’m Annie. I ride motorbikes.
My advice to any girls who want to learn is – find yourself some buddies. Don’t be worried about approaching another motorcyclist, admiring their bike and introducing yourself – it’s all part of the deal, you can do that. If you’re riding because you love it, get yourself to a track training day. You’ll get to know your bike better than you used to, you’ll learn how to ride faster and safer at the same time, and you’ll probably make a couple mates while you’re there. Don’t be embarrassed about being slower than other people – nobody is the fastest in the world except Marc Marquez.
Oh, and don’t try to convince people who don’t want to ride to get a bike too. I’m told that gets incredibly annoying when you keep going on about it…
Stay safe, stay speedy,