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 Zoé Swain of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. Zoé is a true blue country Shelia who grew up in the Outback and found a love for bikes at a young age before reconnecting with them later in life.
We hope you enjoy her story.
I’m Zoé Swain. I just turned 39 in July and I live in the most epic place in Australia - Newcastle, New South Wales.
Photo by @caddyphotos
I’m so stoked to be sharing a small portion of my (life) story here because I’ve had a pretty colourful life, and bikes are now a big part of who I am. I want to share that with the whole world, so thanks Moto Femmes for the opportunity to do so.
I grew up as a little girl on cattle and sheep stations (ranches for USA followers) in Far North Queensland, where we had to ride horses or bikes to get around. I could ride a horse before I could walk (seriously), and bikes came soon after. Life in Australia on the land is nothing like people really know it to be. Little tiny kids are not kept inside out of the conditions and wrapped in cotton wool. If you live on the land, stock need tending to; fences and bores need fixing; there’s much to do. Women work equally as hard as many of the men in most cases, so as a baby, you’ve got to just be a part of whatever’s going on. Sitting on a lap on the tractor while your Dad delves a bored rain, or sitting on the front of a saddle on a horse while your Mum is moving cattle even from a month or two after birth is not out of the ordinary. I did it with my kids too.
On our property we used to have a few dirt bikes, and at first, I’d be on the back while Mum or Dad were floating, flat out across the downs country (bumpy AF) as they worked sheep. I remember a few decent stacks off the bike on the back with my Mum riding a DR250 but the one I can mainly remember is when I was so small, about a 4-5 year old. She hit a big grass tuft and we took a decent tumble. I got thrown from the bike and all she could say was "get back on the bike, hurry up, the sheep are going everywhere!". She could barely lift the bike up as she was a lean woman, and I was no help at all. We were both battered and bruised, but she got it back up and away we rode again.
Christmas day in 1987 (when I was 7) was one of the best days of my child life. I walked outside our big Queenslander house and there at the bottom of the front stairs was a shiny brand new Yamaha 70!!!! It still had the plastic on the seat I think!! I was still in my nightie, but that didn’t matter. I rode that bike probably all day in my pyjamas! ha! I now had my own mode of transport and with that went the extra responsibility (and so much extra fun!) of having my own bike to do the sheep work on.
The day I got my first motorbike (7th bday)
It wasn’t long after I got this bike that we moved to a huge cattle property (600sqm) up in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and two-wheeler bikes weren’t great up there. The country was sandy forest, and the small tyres didn’t handle it. We had creeks with quick sand, and the terrain was mostly unchartered, so we pretty much gave away the bikes for horses, completely.
In high school, I dated a guy whose Dad worked in a bike shop in Townsville, and he himself competed in sidecars and rode bikes, so I asked Mum and Dad if I could look at getting my licence. I was so inspired by this guy and his Dad pulling wheelies everywhere they went - maddddd! They gave me a firm no, saying that bikes are widow-makers and it was too dangerous to own one on the road. *insert sad face*
Photo by @caddyphotos
I went and threw a couple of grand down on a Yamaha Virago 250 and fanged around on that whilst I was on my learners. In New South Wales you have to hold a Learner Permit Licence for 3 months and ride no faster than 80km/hr and then go to your Permit Licence which is no faster than 90km/hr and then 12 months later you are automatically given your Open Licence to ride at the actual speed limit. I met my now best mate Matilda at the time I had my Virago and even though she was initially a client of mine, she invited me to start riding with her. She was on a 2012 Sporty (Harley Sportster) and honestly, I’d have to be going full downhill with a tailwind on my Virago to get it up to 95km/hr, so I imagine riding with me at full throttle was like watching paint dry for her!
Me and my best mate Matilda. Photo by @caddyphotos
The very day I was permitted to go for my Permit, I did. I passed right away and went out and bought a fire engine red Yamaha Vstar with big loud pipes and thought I was the bees knees. I remember the day I brought it back from Sydney. My mate drove me down there to meet this big Lebanese dude at McDonalds to do the pickup, and on the way home, the wind on the freeway was ridiculous. It was a 2 hour ride on a 110km/hr freeway in high wind, on a licence where I was supposed to be doing 90km/hr. No way, that’s a full on disaster waiting to happen, so needless to say, I travelled along at the speed limit and made my way safely home.
That bike served me really well, and I put a few thousand km on it that year, but I knew it was just a short term bike to get me through to owning a Harley. When my licence ticked over to full Open Licence status it meant I could ride a bike over a certain cc/weight ratio, so I started testing out Harleys. I tried a Sporty, but didn’t love it as it felt really slim between my legs. I tried a couple of others but nothing was super jumping out at me. I felt like a 1200cc would be something I’d want more than in a few months, but the bigger bikes 1800cc plus were a pretty big jump from the 650.
"Give yourself permission to be who you ever the hell you wanna be. No one else can give you that."
The shop I was testing bikes out at had a pretty sweet demo model ’18 Streetbob for sale and were keen to get it in my hands, but it was red. I thought I was done with red, so was pretty reluctant to get it, but they did me such a great deal and their service was so excellent that I jumped right in. They kitted it out with pipes and tuned it up and I was away!
Since buying it 6 months ago, I’ve put 10,000km on it, so I get about a fair bit on it for sure. I’ve had a couple of stacks too - scary ones, coming in too hot on a corner with loose gravel with a car coming around the corner - you know, just stuff like that LOL… but my bike is a total Wytch - she’s magical I swear. I even got an epic sissy bar made up for her with a pentagram and crescent moon to reflect the Witchy vibes (@UnstoppableEmpire).
- Photo by @_jaymac_
- Photo by @fricksss
Many who already follow me on Instagram will know that my account blew up massively after some photos and video of me doing a burnout at the Mudgee Meltdown this year went viral. I still see those photos and video being shared around on sites all over the world and it’s awesome! I had the raddest time in the dirt drags there - I seriously think that event changed my life! One of the photos I’ve even seen turned into a meme LOL. Mind Blown! I connected with some really incredible people at that show; some of whom I ride with every week now at home. I love how bikes give people from such varying backgrounds a common place to connect and get to know each other.
Since then, of more recent times, I’m in a full overhaul of my Streety, and just this week have come on board with @Memphisshades for a new front end setup, and @Saddlemen, who custom made me the maddest seat!! I’m pretty stoked to have these guys back me and set my bike up with a totally new look and feel. Stoked! I love being an Ambassador for companies who are amongst it, whose products are genuinely awesome and are supporting the industry which supports them.
As far as future goals with my bike, I’ve got a few more aesthetic changes I’d like to make, but I’d love to get to the USA next year (2020) to do a decent trip on a loan bike or two; with some of my closest mates; maybe buy a Chopper and bring it back here; and connect with a whole bunch of legends in the industry and scene there. My goal is to do a month in the USA travelling on a bike in 2020. I’m putting it out there to the Universe to help me make that a reality, so here goes!
Thanks to Moto Femmes for having me in this space to share some of my story.
Thank you to @saddlemen, @memphisshades, @pitviper and @rebelspirit for filling my mailbox with epic packages for my setup, and to all of the companies and pages all over the world who continue to share my content and photos.
To connect with me, find me on the following links:
~ Zoé Swain
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