These profiles of female motorcyclists have truly gone international! My next guest is from Cambridgeshire, UK. On Twitter she is known as @Highwaylass a.k.a. Shelia. She is a prolific blogger on Transport of Delight. Don’t forget to dial it into your RSS feed! Grab your helmet, jacket, and boots as we fly across the world to meet Highwaylass!
How long have you been riding a motorcycle? Since 1996
How did you learn to ride? I took my CBT in October, which is the first step towards getting a license in the UK- it’s a day of training, you start in a car park doing figures of 8 and U-turns, and then they lead you out on to the road, which after just a few hours on a bike I found quite terrifying. With my CBT I was allowed to ride on the road unsupervised, so I put my L-plates on and practiced every day after work in car parks and housing estates. I was helped by a couple of local riders I’d met through cix_bikers and the Wycombe Motorcycle Action Group: Ken Haylock and Rik Wells. They used to ride out with me and take me pillion occasionally so that I could see what I was supposed to be doing! In May the following year I took a 2-day intensive course with a test at the end of it. I remember a blinding headache at the end of the first day and being really worried about having to take my test in the rain. The training school lent me a bright yellow pair of fisherman’s trousers so I felt like an absolute numpty. Passed, though! And the day after my test I was doing a cix_bikers track day at CadwellPark. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time …
What was your first motorcycle? I bought a Kawasaki KH100 to learn on. After passing my test I sold the KH100 to another learner and bought a Yamaha Diversion 600.
How many have you owned? Six altogether: the KH100, the Diversion, and a Kawasaki W650 which had a shocking backfire I couldn’t live with. “They all do that, it’s a feature, madam,” said the dealership so I traded it in for a Triumph Adventurer, which I still have. I owned Ruby Thursday, a 1200 GS for three years, but decided I didn’t need her and an Africa Twin. The Africa Twin is called 2Moos Lautrec, because the 2 little girls who live next door thought he looked like a cow. I asked FaceBook friends to name some famous cows and 2Moos was the winner, although it is a terrible pun. The Triumph doesn’t have a name, or if she does, she’s keeping it to herself.
Why did you want to ride a motorcycle? I always wanted to ride a bike. I thought bikers were the coolest people in the world. My dad talked about buying me one to ride to college on, but it never happened – I suspect my mum declared it insufficiently ladylike. I didn’t know any bikers, so I got my car licence like a normal person and watched wistfully as the bikers filtered past me in the traffic jams.
When my then-husband’s car got nicked in 1995 I reached a deal with him that he’d take my car and I’d use his insurance money to buy a bike and get trained. I was gutted when the police found his car where the thieves had left it! But it gave me the final push towards becoming a biker. We sold his car and I spent the money on the KH100 and my training.
Tell us about your riding. I ride about 12,000 miles a year, commuting and touring. I used to live and work in London, and I rode to work most days as I found dicing with the traffic was a great way to kick-start my brain! At the moment I’m mostly cycling to work, and riding on weekends and holidays. I tour in the UK, alone and with friends. I have done a couple of track days but I’m not quick. For me, riding’s about exploring this amazing world and meeting the fantastic people in it.
What advice do you have for women who ride or want to ride a motorcycle? Get trained, get good gear, and get out there. I wish I had started earlier. I was 26 when I passed my test but I could have done it at 18 and had 8 more years of riding. Don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you that it’s a man’s world. There are so many amazing and inspirational lady riders, both past and present. Read The Rugged Road by Teresa Wallach; Lois on the Loose by Lois Pryce; and The Perfect Vehicle by Melissa Holbrook Pierson if you need some encouragement. And then start your own adventure.
What is the longest trip that you’ve taken on your cycle? Most years I ride Land’s End to John O’Groats with a group of friends from the Round Britain Rally. We take about 10 days to do it and ride all round the UK. It’s about 2,000 miles, which probably doesn’t sound much to US or Australian riders but it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done. There isn’t going to be an End-to-End this year, but I’m riding to Shetland instead for the Simmer Dim Rally.
Do you belong to any motorcycle groups? When I started riding I got to know the cix_bikers, an internet community from the days before the net had pictures. They gave me lots of advice and encouragement and I’m still in touch with some of them now. I’m involved with the two main biker lobby groups in the UK, the BMF and MAG, but my main club is the Round Britain Rally. It has a brilliant social side as well as the main event which is the navigational rally.
Do you have a favorite riding story? I have so many! Riding has brought so many amazing people and experiences into my life. But I think probably this one, because it meant so much to me that my friends came to support me. My official description in the One and Other archive is “Harmonica Girl and Bikers.”
What do you do when you’re not riding? I plan future rides and write stories about past ones! I am incredibly blessed in that I get to work some of the time as a motorcycle journalist. But it’s being a Public Relations Officer that pays the bills.
The photo was taken in January this year when I was riding in Australia. There are some great stories about that trip too 😉