I ride alongside my partner Alan, who is constantly suggesting through our helmet intercoms –
“It’s easier if you go faster”.
I learnt to ride motorcycles as a teenager in South Africa, on my older brother’s Honda in our backyard. It was an ancient red 50cc with a broken kickstarter – I got very good at push starting. When I got my motorcycle license, my mum got one too. I don’t know what she was thinking at her age.
Much later, when I’d flown the coop far away to the other side of the world, my mum got social media savvy and entertained her weekly sewing group with tales of my riding adventures on Death Road in Bolivia. I’m grateful that someone was interested, because by then I had three teenage sons who didn’t hear a word I said. In turn, my sons taught themselves to ride by borrowing my Suzuki.
About my bike
I ride a glorious Red Beemer. We won’t talk about what happened to my beautiful blue Suzuki, but no, it wasn’t me.
Red goes faster and is the perfect colour to ride across the empire that was the Soviet Union. Well that was our plan – to ride our motorcycles 30,000km from London to Magadan in Siberia. We spent a year learning Russian in preparation. Здравствуйте! We rode our bikes around the flat sands of Outback NSW training for the long hot Kazakhstan crossing. And then… well you know what happened to the year that was 2020.
After the red colour, the next thing my mum and her friends notice about my bike is always …
“It’s so BIG!”.
Really, its not that big. Once you sit on it, all you can see is the open road ahead.
Alan might get technical and tell you my bike is a BMW F700GS.
“700! That’s so Big! “
Reassurance for the sewing ladies: forget the size. My feet touch the ground when I sit on it. When I drop the bike, there is a sneaky technique for picking it up which involves a second (stronger, male) person. It’s called a monkey lift. Hint. I’m the monkey, he’s the lift.
About my gear
We don’t ride in traditional black leather, so put away that vision you have of me as a sleek Italian racing goddess.
As a teenager, I would have killed for knee high boots. I finally have them, all these decades later. Not quite what I had in mind.
The boots have a reinforced toe section for flicking the gear shift. And for kicking stray dogs that rush your bike as you roar through their villages. Also useful for hammering in tent pegs. The leather is thick with strategic padding for ankles. Strong clasps keep the boots closed, with no dangling laces to snag. Underneath, I wear long socks. The boots are not waterproof, despite what manufacturers claim – nothing keeps water out in driving rain or when splashing through rivers. Heavy and hot, you’ll smell my boots coming after a day riding. Even grandpa’s slippers are sexier than these knee-highs.
My riding jacket and pants are made from a technical fabric and have three separate layers for warmth, rain, and skin-meets-road protection. The outer layer has vents to cool off, and padded reinforcements for bony protrusions. There are a lot of flaps, zips and pockets. I wear it for days in a row on a long ride. Cleaning? Just ride, it freshens up in the breeze.
I have summer and winter gloves, and inner thermal gloves for when its really cold. The bike has heated hand grips to roast frozen fingers back to life. You can’t roll the throttle or squeeze the brakes when your hands are a block of ice.
Little known fact about helmets: they don’t have windscreen wipers. That’s a job for your fingers which get wet and colder. My helmet has a camouflage pattern and colours that would look great on a teenage boy riding enduro. The market for motorcycling gear that appeals to middle aged women is too small for manufacturers to care.
My biker ensemble is completed with a pretty neck buff (sun and wind protection), earplugs (hearing protection) and lucky charm necklace (evil forces protection). No lipstick.
Istanbul, Cusco, Wilcannia – oh the places you’ll go
There was a long period when I didn’t ride. Something about being a sensible parent. There is a well known biological clock that ticks for woman as they approach 30, but the one that ticks in your late 40s is louder and more incessant: get me out of here, I need to escape!
Off we went to Turkey, for a three week 4000km lap riding from Istanbul down the coast and back up the centre to the Black Sea before returning to Sultanahmet, Istanbul. Glorious freedom.
Turkey was followed by a 5000km ride across the Andres, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina – from Cusco to Foz do Iguaçu with Compass Expeditions. Later, I laughed as I watched Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor having a whinge as they crossed the Andes on Long Way Up – read my story of conquering the same road, Paso Sico, Death Road by Dark, in Traverse Issue 18.
Women adventure riders
Now, while we wait for the world to reopen, we watch Itchy Boots and find joy riding the trails on the Coffs Coast and hinterland.
I’m a member of Women Adventure Riders Australia, the most supportive group of courageous Australian women riders.
Are you an adventure motorcycle rider on the Coffs Coast? Shout out and say hello.