Women Riders Speak is an interview series with female motorcyclists. Through their stories, they illustrate the transformative relationship between women and motorcycles.
In this interview, read how Washington DC’s Joyce Davis faced significant challenges when she decided to take up motorcycling in her 50’s. Persevering through the course, three months of riding around her block, buying a first bike that was beyond her skills and a couple of spectacular crashes, she mastered not only the motorcycle, but her fear. The photo below of Joyce today, speaks for itself – and her courage.
I rode on the back of my husband’s bike when we were in our 20’s. I loved the feelings. The two of us would melt into the bike and become one with it. It was just wind, temperature, smells and the sound of the engine. Life and kids happened, the bike was sold and I never thought about it again until after my husband passed away.
At that time there was an older woman in my office that was getting ready to retire. She had been a passenger for years and was now planning a cross-country ride with her husband – on her own bike. I told myself if she could start riding at 65 AND go across the country, I could do it at 50.
I had begun dating a man with a motorcycle. He took me for a ride on a warm autumn day and all those sensations came back. I was hooked. With a lot of hard work, I passed the rider safety course and on July 4th weekend, 2002, at age 52, I bought my first bike.
What was your biggest challenge when you were learning to ride?
I made a poor selection for a first bike. It had forward controls, more engine than I could handle, was loud, heavy and frightened me. The first time I tried to ride it, I ran into the neighbors fence and broke the mirror.
After three months of riding around the block,, I summoned up enough courage to venture on the open road with friends. I was still not confident making left turns, something that was almost the end of me. At a T-intersection, fear took over and completely blocked out everything I had learned about looking where you want to go. The last thing I remember thinking was, “I’m not going to make this turn.” I got fixated on the white line, shot across that intersection, down an embankment and hit a tree. My arm and finger were broken and my beautiful blue bike was totaled. That riding season was over for me.
The following year I purchased a small 250cc Kawasaki and rode anywhere and everywhere, putting on 3,000 miles in three months. I even rode it in Rolling Thunder. People laughed at me and said that my bike looked like a Harley had a preemie. I didn’t care. I was riding my own.
Was the riding experience what you expected it to be?
I’m not sure what I was really expecting it to be. Maybe I just needed to feel alive again or maybe just needed to do something out of the ordinary or extraordinary. The longer I ride, motorcycling reveals to me another aspect of who I am and who I can be. I always liked the quote, “Well behaved women rarely make history.”
Where have you travelled on your motorcycle?
I’ve ridden from Washington, DC south to Mile Marker 0 in Key West and north to the New Hampshire seacoast. I’ve been to Sturgis, Mt Rushmore and out to Devils Tower in Wyoming. I’ve travelled to the Colorado Rockies, through Yellowstone, into Montana, stopping at the Four Corners (New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Arizona) on our return. Out of five motorcycles and 8 riders, I was the only woman riding her own bike, a HD Street Glide. Talk about empowerment!
What is your greatest joy from riding?
It’s the thrill you get from doing a well-executed curve. It’s dancing along a winding road with a hawk that is playing on the thermals above you. It’s feeling the warmth of the sun on your face while riding on a cold winter day. Whenever a particularly difficult situation has jumped in my path and I feel that the only out is to give up and become that failure that everyone is expecting me to be, I recall how I was able to get through one of the more dangerous and testing rides I have made. I know how to reach inside of me and pull out that last bit of energy that will sharpen my wits and give me the answer to succeed. Life has taught me to be brave when I ride and riding has taught be to be brave in life.
How do you look back on yourself as a beginner rider now?
I was successful because I did not give up. I’m a beginner rider every time I go out. There is always something new to experience, a new beginning for a new skill or adventure. I’m sure if I stop looking at myself as a new rider my wits will be dulled and I might stop trying to achieve. Riding then might become ordinary instead of the extraordinary part of my life experience that it is.