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 Judith Kuerschner of Strathalbyn, South Australia. Judith has suffered a great loss in her life but has channelled her loss into a passion for road safety and driver/rider education to help others following her struggles.
We hope you enjoy her story.
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"My name is Judith Kuerschner, I'm 45 yrs old and I currently live in Strathalbyn in South Australia.
I spent the past twenty plus years living in the Northern Territory (mainly in Alice Springs) which is where, in 2005, I decided to get my motorcycle licence.
I’d grown up on a farm with a mother who made it very clear that “girls do not ride motorbikes”, which was further reinforced when my high school boyfriend tried to teach me to ride his AG bike, but gave up with the frustration of “how the hell does someone who plays the piano have such bad hand-foot coordination?”
My love of motorcycling was not deterred by these early setbacks, however.
After moving to Alice Springs, I was fortunate enough to make friends with people who rode, and, with the power of a CBR1100XX and an open speed limit, the fan was applied to the flame for riding.
So it came to pass, after over ten years as a pillion, the time was right for me to take the controls - this coincided with the need to take more control over my life in general (as is often the case).
After two and a half days of riding around the training track in my gardening gloves, jeans and drill cotton shirt I was surprised to learn that I was actually proficient enough to be given my learners permit!
Thank goodness the training regimen, at that time in the NT, then encouraged me to get onto the very next available ‘intermediate’ course in order to get my full licence (although restricted to 250cc’s for a year). The attitude of “we don't need half trained half-wits on motorcycles out there on our roads” was one that I found that I agreed with, so booked, and then passed, my licence test - a further one and a half days of training were involved.
I started out on a CB250, because this was what I had learned on at the training course, but once able to ride a ‘bigger’ bike, I moved on to my wonderful Honda Shadow 750.
While not able to make the most of the open speed limits (or even the restriction of 130k/h) as my baby was carby driven and not a powerful machine - we did our fair share of touring around the beautiful Red Centre.
“Purr” as she was known assisted me in my courtship of the man who was my ‘soulmate’ and, eventually, my husband.
Mick and I met online - he was on the Sunshine Coast recovering from a disagreement between his R6 and a wet white line one evening, and I was using my photos of me and my bike riding around the Red Centre to ‘tease’ his interest.
Obviously it worked, and he decided to move to Alice Springs - which involved him riding his R6 all the way from the Sunny Coast to the Alice.
I knew this was a man I could trust with my life the very first time I went on the back of his bike. It was an innate feeling of safety, that here was someone who would protect me at all costs if the ride ever got ‘hairy’ (a feeling that was proven correct one evening when darkness obscured the light covering of gravel on a suburban corner and we both went down).
He upgraded to a CBR1000RR, which then became front and centre at our wedding in 2010 - I mean, how many guys get to ride their motorcycle to their own wedding, and then have their bride rock up on the back of another?
It was a match made in heaven for both of us.
It was through his encouragement that I sold the Shadow and moved on to a Suzuki GSX-R 750, although I still didn't have the confidence to keep up with the 'blade'.
It was on one of our many rides together, and with friends, that my worst nightmare happened (see https://motorbikewriter.com/injustice-motorcycle-tragedy/) which was then followed by two years of being slandered and tortured by the authorities, and then to be further let down by a disinterested coroner and an incompetent lawyer, allowing the perpetrator of the destruction of my life to walk away without even so much as a traffic fine, or even the burden of a guilty conscience - despite her admission to ‘not looking’.
If I had a dollar for every person who has now asked “Don't you just hate motorbikes”, I’d be rich. But my answer still remains the same - “no”
After living as a recluse for over a year, where my only release from my living hell was to get out on my bike and ride, I knew I needed to leave Alice Springs.
I moved to Strathalbyn in South Australia - because its a motorcyclist ‘mecca’, and it really is the sort of place I knew my husband would have wanted to live.
Conditions in South Australia are very different to that of the NT.
The roads are curvy, there’s this stuff called ‘traffic’ and stuff falling from the sky called ‘rain’, all of which I’d not had to deal with in combination before.
I found myself looking for excuses NOT to ride.
I was now scared.
I hated this feeling. To not ride was like spitting on my husband’s memory, the memory of what had brought us together, the memory of happier times, and of what I loved to do. I needed to find a solution.
The solution came when I travelled with my new partner (also a motorcyclist) to the Ulysses AGM in Launceston last year, and I had the opportunity to test ride the Can Am Spyder.
Here was this machine that was like a motorcycle, but not - in so many ways. It had greater ‘road presence’ and gave me the impression of ‘safety’.
After the test ride, my partner asked me “do you feel comfortable on it?” My answer was “No!! But I know I WANT to get comfortable on it. I know I WANT to ride it”
And here I am now, a year and one week later, having just attended my very first ‘Spyder Muster’ and 12500km’s down the track on my ‘transformer’, I am finally starting to feel comfortable on this ‘beast that's nothing like a motorcycle’, and still feeling part of the motorcycle community that has given me so much pleasure, and so much pain.
I have used this pain to push me to do things I never would have thought of doing, like running for the senate for the SA state seat at the last federal election - road safety and driver/rider education has become my driving force - and my Can Am Spyder was right there helping me to spread the message. After all, I was riding around the best campaign tool I had available to me. She’s big, she’s orange, and people stop to look at her!
She’s my preferred mode of getting to and from the city, and any weekend the sun is shining seems like a good excuse to get out and go somewhere either through the Adelaide Hills or the Fleurieu Peninsula. That being said, she’s a great touring bike as well, as a recent long weekend to Mt Gambier, as well as my annual pilgrimage to Phillip Island for Moto GP, has shown.
I have joined a number of Facebook rider groups and have found them to be a great way to ride with like minded, and supportive people, to build my confidence. OzSpyderryders and Women2Wheels are two of the best groups I’ve had the opportunity to ride with.
Being on the Spyder is a little like being a learner again, just as moving from straight roads to curvy ones felt like being a learner again when I was still on two wheels.
My suggestion to other girls out there wanting to get a licence is simply this - DO IT!
Yes there are idiots out there (and don't I know the pain of the “eyes painted on tintop” crowd all too well?) but even that isn't enough to quell the feeling of…… joy? freedom? control? destiny? power? that you get from being on a motorcycle (whether it has two wheels or three).
There is no way to overcome the apprehension that comes from being a learner newly let loose on the road (and in my opinion its criminal the lack of training learners are being given before being forced to contend with all those idiots on the road) than to simply get out on the road.
Find a group of like minded friends, supportive women (or guys) who are happy to go at your pace and even provide a bit of a ‘protective barrier’ between you and the ‘cagers’ who don't care about you being on the road.
Always wear protective gear! (ATGATT - All The Gear, All The Time)
The best you can afford.
While this may not protect you in a high impact situation (like my husband’s) it’ll certainly go a long way to keeping your skin where it should be in pretty much every other type of situation. Even in the forty plus degree heat of Alice Springs, I always wore protective gear, you just make sure you have the right gear for the conditions - hence why I have multiple jackets, gloves, boots, buffs, etc. It's the perfect excuse to go shopping.
I suppose, my last piece of advice to anyone out there getting into riding is, just enjoy it."
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Thank you to Judith for sharing her story and if you would like to share your story with us simply go to the Contact Page of the website and fill in the form and we will gladly be in touch.