WMT: HI Jude, how did you get into motorcycling?
JR: Motorcycling was never on my ‘bucket list’. I never had that deep-seated urge to learn how to ride that many of the women I speak with have had. The riding bug snuck up on me.
I have a chronic illness that saps my energy. 10 years ago, during a particularly stressful time in my life, I realized that I needed a quick way to head into the mountains and take a break. My illness precluded hiking or climbing in the hills, and scooters were just coming back into vogue at the time, so I bought a 50cc scooter and ‘zipped’ around town and into the hills when I needed a quick break from the stress.
One day while waiting at a traffic light, my trusty scooter and I were rear-ended by a small SUV. Luckily, I walked away from the accident, and once I recovered from the sadness over losing my scooter my first thought was that I needed a bigger bike so that I could be seen by cars. It did not escape my understanding that when your first thought after an accident is ‘I need a bigger bike’ that you are apparently hooked on riding. So, at the age of 44 I bought my first motorcycle, a peppy little 250cc Nighthawk.
WMT: What type of riding do you do?
JR: After a season of riding the 250 I moved up to a Kawasaki Versys. At the same time my husband, who had started riding at the same time I had, bought a V-strom, and we became defacto ‘adventure riders.’ I now have an 800GS and a V-strom. There is nothing better than heading out for a day of riding in Utah and finding an unexplored ‘fire road’ that all of a sudden dead ends in a massive canyon, or winds behind a mountain and there is no one else around for miles. It’s a humbling experience, indeed!
WMT: Is motorcycling a physical, spiritual or emotional experience for you? (or all three?)
JR: No doubt, as with most avid riders, my riding experience is physical, spiritual and emotional, but for me the physical far outstrips the other two. My illness can be fairly debilitating and riding gives me back that sense of control over my own body that I lost long ago. Indeed, I sometimes find that riding helps me to feel physically better on days when I am struggling a bit. And, of course, I find that the more I accomplish when riding, the more this translates to be able to push myself in areas off the bike.
WMT: What’s the single most important lesson that motorcycling (or learning to ride) has taught you?
JR: Ahhh….. what have I learned through riding? I suppose it is the old adage that an old dog really is quite capable of learning new tricks. There is a saying that 60 is the new 40. In my case 40 was the new 60 (or 70). So, recognizing that I can develop new skills both physically (and mentally), again, impacts all aspects of my life.
WMT: If a woman came to you thinking about riding a motorcycle, what words of wisdom would you have for her?
JR: To women who are interested in riding I say this: engage with riding the way you engage with other aspects of your life. If you are someone who does quite well athletically in other aspects of your life, that is, you can run before you walk, then grab for what you want and don’t look back. If you are like me, and you need to ‘walk before you run’ where physical activities are concerned, then start small and work your way up at a pace that is comfortable for you.
But by all means, whomever you are, riding is achievable and worth the effort. And I would add that you need to make sure you calculate into the cost of your new bike the gear you will need (I firmly believe that whatever you ride it should be ‘all the gear all the time), the cost of modifying the bike so it fits you ergonomically, and the cost of training classes.
WMT: You spend a lot of time encouraging and supporting other women riders…can you tell us everything you’re doing (and also hope to do?).
JR: Because there were few women in my area that rode when I started out, I started the “Women Adventure Riders” Facebook page. It now has over 2000 members from around the world, and boasts of riders of all kinds of bikes, from scooters, to Spyders, to Ultra Glides, to 1200 GS’s. To me, all riders are deserving of the moniker ‘Adventure Rider’ as adventure is defined by the individual; and we certainly see women on tiny bikes having enormous adventures.
I have handed the page over to a good friend, now, to administer, but I am still involved in its activities. It is important to me that women are encouraged to ride their own ride. To me this means helping them, and the people around them, to understand what will motivate a new rider and what will discourage her.
I try to make it clear that as a ‘helper’ that you have to start where the person is. What is the best gear they can afford within their means? What is the most appropriate bike for them, and how will it affect them financially? Because I have limitations in my physical abilities I am uncomfortable when someone says, “of course you can do it, you just have to believe”. It took me years to develop a style of riding that worked within my limitations. Not everyone can just go out and ride an iron butt, though there are certainly those who can. If I tried an iron butt – even if I trained for years- I might put myself and those around me in danger. But I do love riding on dirt and I am excited to get a second DRZ so my husband and I can expand our dirt skills. My goal is to someday be excited when I see sand and mud in my path of travel rather than breaking out into a cold sweat!
So, I encourage women I speak with to know their strength and their limitations but to not be discouraged when they see others with fancier gear or better riding skills. Again, I have seen women in our group ride the Himalayas on scooters, or cross the desert on what are essentially mopeds. So, to me, riding is what you make of it, and it’s absolutely essential to keep that in mind.
I also want women to feel emotionally safe as riders. I am never comfortable when I see someone making fun of another rider, male or female. If an individual can laugh at themselves that is great and we can join them in that, but you never know what struggles another rider faces internally, so kindness is key.
My secret dream is to someday work part-time for a dealership and to cater specifically to women riders. To help women find the right ride and to get them started on their journey.
I also want to develop ways to support women in developing nations who use their motorcycles as a source of income for their families. Most women riders I know, like myself, are women of means. But we have women in our group who have to use their motorcycles to work, to take care of their families. Their motorcycles are their sole means of income. They need our support and I want to do everything I can to help them make a better life for themselves and their families.
WMT: You and I have hosted some of the same world travelers on their journeys. How did you get started hosting moto travelers?
JR: Hosting our biking friends was a given once I began the Women Adventure Riders group. I had developed so many powerful friendships in the 2-dimensional space of social media that the next logical step was, of course, to meet them in 3 dimensions! While our accommodations are somewhat meager (we embrace the air mattress), we delight in meeting members of the riding community and hearing about their travels. All the folks we have met have fascinating stories to tell. The women are, in my estimation, all true Amazons. Women of the most incredible power, and depth of strength. I am honored when they grace me with a visit!
WMT: What suggestions do you have for finding your (riding) tribe?
JR: Finding your tribe, riders who have like habits, can sometimes take time. Facebook Groups for women riders are numerous, many with far more members than ours, and they an excellent place for making connections, as are Women’s rides, rallies, and tours, which are also becoming more and more common. I have made some phenomenal connections through WAR [acronym for her Facebook Group] and have met women who I am deeply honored to count as friends. Our relationships now go far beyond riding!
So, a hearty thank you for this opportunity to tell my story. I am honored and humbled that you have provided me with a platform to reach out to women in the riding community. Cheers and hugs!