It is amazing all the wonderful lady riders that have joined in sharing their stories. From newbies to iron butts every story is filled with personal experience, wisdom, and the love of two wheels! I am so please to be able to share another story. Friends, I’d like to introduce to you Jayne, female motorcyclist from Portland, OR. She has a must follow blog A Broad Abroad Resources & Inspiration For Women Who Travel (or Want to!) and follow her on Twitter too @jayne_a_broad.
How long have you been riding a motorcycle? I’ve been riding my own motorcycle since the summer of 2009, after being on the back of my husband’s motorcycle all over Europe for eight years.
How did you learn to ride? I took a four hour “sniffer” course in Germany in 2008, to see if I really wanted to learn to ride my own; the instructor was wonderful, and by the end of class, I knew I wanted to ride my own bike. Right after moving back to the USA, I took the basic rider course from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation in the summer of 2009, and got my license immediately afterwards. Then I set riding goals for every month, such as a certain number of miles to complete, a certain scenario to undertake (riding in the rain, stopping on hills, etc.) or a trip to take. I also read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles, a really excellent book that filled in a lot of blanks for me.
What was your first motorcycle? A 1982 Honda Nighthawk 650. I rode it more than 11,000 miles in those two years I had it, including from Oregon to Jasper, Banff and Kootenay National Parks in Canada, Glacier National Park in Montana, Yellowstone, and the Lost Coast in California. It was funny: every time I road it, men of a certain age – in their 50s or 60s – would walk over and start waxing nostalgic about the Nighthawk they had once upon a time. It was a perfect first bike for me – and I lost 25 pounds while I owned it, which meant that, by the time I sold it, I could sit on it and be flat-footed (I’m 5′ 4″). I sold it to a woman rider, which made me very happy – and I wept as it was hauled away.
How many have you owned? Just two. I’m now on my second, which I expect to have for many years. I switched to a KLR 650 in the Fall of 2011. It’s been a big learning curve: the bike is a lot taller than the Nighthawk, and much lighter. My husband, a Honda Africa Twin rider and experienced motorcycle traveler, lowered it an inch and a half, then bought a very expensive seat for it that would lower it another inch and a half. I also bought boots — Irish Setter work boots, size 8 for men (extra wide) — that add at least another 3/4 of an inch to my height. I couldn’t find any motorcycle boots that provided the height I needed, fit my feet properly, and that I felt were safe enough for riding – so glad to have found these work boots!
Why did you want to ride a motorcycle? I had started thinking about it back in the 1990s, when I was in my 30s. I researched Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses – and then never followed up. I had thought of it as a fun, economical way to commute – I was living in Austin, Texas at the time. But I kept talking myself out of it. I so regret not getting a license then. I moved to Germany, met a really cute German guy traveling through Ireland by motorcycle (we’re married now), and he took me all over Europe on the back of his bike. I loved being a passenger (still do), but I also really wanted to learn to ride myself. I knew if I could learn to ride, we could take a lot more stuff with us on trips. I also thought I’d enjoy being a motorcycle rider – and I was right! My husband was super supportive. Unfortunately, to get a motorcycle license in Germany is *terribly* expensive and much more difficult than in the USA: you have to take a written test that is way, way harder than what we have to take in the USA. Also, my German is dreadful – although I could take the written test in German, the actual riding test is in German, and all of the classes I would have to sit through for several weeks would be in German as well. At one point, I was thinking of going back to Kentucky, where all of my family is and which has a treaty with Germany regarding driver’s licenses, staying for five weeks, taking the MSF, getting my license, and then going back to Europe and getting a German license – which, including plane ticket, would cost about as much as getting a license the proper way in Germany. But we ended up moving back to the USA in 2009 – I was in a MSF course just three months after arriving!
Tell us about your riding. Since learning to ride, I’ve put more than 6000 miles on my motorcycle each year. We do one big, two-week trip every year, and as many weekend, overnight and day trips as we can squeeze into our schedule. We like scenic drives, and love to stop at beautiful vistas, historic sites and quirky sites along the way. Camping is a special joy – other campers always come over to say something, to check out our bikes and our gear and to ask us about our travels. I get a lot of men saying they wish I could talk to their wives, because they haven’t been able to convince them to start riding on their own.
I also am ATGATT – after seeing all the photos of road burn online by people that wear shorts and t-shirts while riding, I would never ride any other way.
My husband is faster than me. I told him long ago I’ll go my own pace, and he has the choice of following me at that speed, or going ahead at his own pace and waiting for me to catch up. He usually chooses the former. I am little Ms. Speed Limit. It’s not that I try to go the speed limit – it’s just so happens that the speed limit is usually as fast that I want to go. That’s so much slower than the majority of bikers want to go, therefore, I rarely ride with other motorcycle riders, except for my husband.
Most of the time, I’m riding with my husband. But I sometimes go on my own – to run an errand, to get my haircut, and a few times, on a ride of my own when he’s out of town. I’ve commuted to downtown Portland a few times, and found it absolutely wretched – traffic is horrific, and some of the stops, either because of traffic lights or traffic jams, are quite precarious – sharp hills, steep curves, etc. I also hate trying to park in a city. When I have to go downtown, I prefer taking twice as long via the bus.
We try to regularly practice on gravel roads – I want to be good enough to travel to some remote ghost town somewhere on back roads with confidence. I will never be a real off-roader – I accept that. I ride my own ride, and I don’t care if that’s slower or more careful than others. I’ve gotten a little flack from younger male riders who can’t believe I “don’t do more” with my KLR – I guess they think I’m supposed to be shooting up and dirt and gravel roads most of the time. I’m going to keep practicing on gravel roads, but I’m not aspiring to ride the Dakar Rally!
What advice do you have for women who ride or want to ride a motorcycle? Everyone says this, and I totally agree: take a MSF class, or similar course, to learn to ride. A friend or relative is NO substitute for a qualified, experienced, trained teacher – the reality is that a lot of veteran riders have very bad habits they will teach you. In addition, take a refresher course every couple of years – it will really sharpen your skills and identify bad riding habits. I have a lot more to say about getting started as a female rider, including how to choose a first bike, on my own web page on the subject.
What is the longest trip that you’ve taken on your cycle? We take a trip of more than 2000 miles at least once a year. I think the longest trip was up into Canada, as I mentioned before. We’ve also gone all the way down to the LostCoast in California, and this year, we took two weeks and went all the way to near Yosemite, and then back up through Nevada to home.
Do you belong to any motorcycle groups? I don’t. I’ve been to a couple of P.O.W.R. (Portland Oregon Women Riders) meetups, but since I ride most of the time with my husband or our friends, I haven’t really had time to do their rides as well. That said, I really encourage any woman who wants to ride to seek out such groups – it makes a really big difference to have lots of invitations to ride when you are a beginner.
Do you have a favorite riding story? Not really – they’re all my favorite!
What do you do when you’re not riding? I’m a consultant, helping nonprofit organizations here and abroad with communications, community/volunteer engagement, and management issues. In the last 10 years, my work has taken me to Germany, Afghanistan, Serbia, Australia, Egypt and Hungary. I also am a very slow bicycle rider.