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 Ash from Brisbane, Australia.
Ash is the founder of Neutral Moto, a platform created to spread the message about lane filtering & motorcycle awareness..
We hope you enjoy her story.
- - - - -Ashleigh (Ash) Thompson, 30, Brisbane Australia.
Whenever we would have show and tell at school or those projects that the teacher asks you to bring in baby/young photos I would bring in the same photo of me on my Dad’s BMW K100. Dad is clearly the leading influence when it comes to motorcycles in my life.
It took me a good 15 years to get my RE motorcycle Licence (better late than never). When I was able to get my car learners my Dad told me I better tick the box to get my Ls for a bike too. I wanted to ride from a young age and grew up riding peewees around friends properties and later quad bikes most weekends. We would usually strap an upside-down car bonnet to the back of the ‘4 wheeler’ and drag it around a track that a mate's Dad had mown out of a section of the property. Looking back, I know now that a lot of my understanding of steering definitely came from trying to work out how the hell to choose a line for that bonnet. Lemongrass really isn't fun to land in at high speed.
Fast forward about 8 years and my Mum fell ill with Lung Cancer. It was a rough time for the family, especially my Dad. I had just turned 18 and a month later Mum passed away. Dad and I were going through a bit of a rough time, Mum was the glue in our family up until that point and so we had to just work it out without her. We decided to spend a weekend riding together a few months after she had passed away. It was my first time on a road bike and this was 2006 and Qride was still optional, so I was able to get straight on the bike and ride. We went down to a large school carpark with both bikes and Dad gave me a very brief rundown of the bike. In hindsight, I understand that he knew just how much I knew from being on the back of his bike but at the time I was extremely nervous and really wasn't sure if I was going to make it even a few minutes down the road! Never the less we left that school carpark and we went on my first ride. it was between Claremont and Moranbah, mostly kangaroo ridden highway. A lot of FIFO workers, mining vehicles and dust. But I loved it! I made it there and back in one piece and I was hooked.
Admittedly I took a really large break between those first few rides and actually getting my licence. A really popular question between riders is “Has anyone ever told you to not ride?” When you mention this, most riders if they have in fact been told not to ride, will fire up on the spot (no repetitive kick start needed) and rant at you about that time in their life! I was told 'no' by an ex, and I didn't want to upset her or cause issues in our relationship. It stifled my desire to ride for a really long time. Many years later, needless to say, that relationship ended and I found myself in charge again! My new partner (now technically fiancé) was completely supportive of me getting my licence and she now also rides which is amazing. It didn’t take long, I went through the Qride process in QLD which I think is a fantastic training program and was licenced a few days later. I was lucky I didn’t have to wait for the three months to take my full test because I had my learners prior to 2016.
That was over a year ago and since then I’ve put 16,000kms on my TU250X. I ride to work every day, each way is about 40kms in peak hour traffic and I have to say I love it. There is always a time and place for beautiful long country rides like back roads or bust that ellaspede run in Brisbane, or the occasional group ride with the Brisbane Cafe Racers. But I love commuting. I love how quickly I have to think, I love that I can safely filter out and away from congestion and I love giving a passing rider a firm nod or sometimes even a wave.
The first thing that really stood out to me when I started to ride is the support and connection you feel with other bikes on the road. I remember riding to work one morning, an average day, average traffic and I passed a guy on a sports bike, he gave me a firm nod, his helmet was bright and I could tell he was a bit of a 'character' and in that moment I felt quite overwhelmed with pride and a feeling of belonging that you don’t often feel in life. That guy would have no idea the impact he made on me that day but riding really has changed my life.
Once I got my bike a lot of people started to talk to me about riding and I was really surprised at how divided people's opinions were. This is definitely something all riders are aware of and something that just becomes apart of life. You tell someone you ride and their face will either light up with joy because they know exactly what it feels like to go on a long ride and leave all the troubles of the day behind or their face will grimace in horror wondering how you are still alive! I take any chance I get to talk to people about bikes, especially women. I think it builds a lot of confidence and independence, especially if you can change your own oil and clean a chain or two!
I also started a really small moto collective called Neutral Moto to give me a creative outlet (I'm a graphic designer so I love to design in my spare time). I also wanted a platform to spread the message about lane filtering and motorcycle awareness. So many accidents are due to SMIDSY (sorry mate I didn't see you) and could be prevented, so we've created a few stickers around "watching for bikes" and the ol' "get off your phone" sentiment. There is also still far too much abuse aimed at motorcyclists who are legally lane filtering, from drivers who have no idea that lane filtering is now legal. I'm also really passionate about gender being irrelevant when we talk about riders. Women are amazing and deserve to be celebrated every day, but they should choose when their gender becomes relevant to the motorcycle conversation, or any conversation really, no one else has that right. I think for any woman wanting to get involved with bikes it's really important to find one or two people that you really trust and can be yourself around. It makes learning to ride a lot easier.
On that note, if anyone is ever in Brisbane please reach out to me! There is an amazing community to ride with up here and we will welcome you with big hugs and an awesome ride!