Women Riders Speak is an interview series about women and motorcycles. Through their stories, they illustrate the transformative role motorcycling has played in their life. In this interview, Kim Ellis of Toronto, Ontario, describes life as a new rider.
What prompted you to get into motorcycling?
I began riding a motorcycle this spring after contemplating it for a few years. I had been on bikes before but solely as a passenger. Quite frankly, I wasn’t really planning on buying a motorcycle and actually riding it around.
I am a single mom with three children, two of whom are legally blind. I have dedicated the past thirteen years to raising them and done little for myself. The kids are now old enough to do their own thing so when the weather was still cold, I borrowed an old motorcycle booklet from my son (who is still thinking about learning), intending to read up on what I was supposed to know if I were ever write the first test.
Surprisingly, I passed with flying colors. Since I was legally allowed to ride but had no clue how to do so, I figured I should sign up for lessons I had picked up a magnet from Humber College motorcycle training, at a motorcycle show a few years earlier and called them to book my lessons.
My handicapped children hear from others that they have limitations and can’t do things. I have always told them the only limitations they have are themselves. So when people told me and the kids that I am a girl and too old to be riding a bike, it became an opportunity for me to show them that you can’t limit yourself. Knowing I had enjoyed it as a passenger but unsure how I would respond to being a rider, it would also be a personal challenge. I PASSED and my motorcycle adventure began.
What was your biggest challenge when you were learning to ride?
Although the training course was excellent, I had a problem picking up speed, something that cost me demerit points on the test. This seemed to be my biggest challenge on the road as well. I have learned through experience and teaching that speed enables me to balance and turn more easily. Just ask the light pole I barely missed. I also learned that going from a 250 cc course bike, to my 800 cc cruiser, was a very different kind of ride. It continues to be a learning experience.
What impresses you most about another woman rider?
Women riders have broken out of a mold and are enjoying life; the freedom of the ride and daring to get out. One woman in particular supported me and encouraged me during my course at Humber and she motivated me to do well. Without singling me out, she made me feel like I really could ride even though I was scared.
What is your greatest joy from riding?
One thing that surprised me was ALL the support I received being the lone girl in a giant class of men. I really expected them all to focus on themselves and their riding but that wasn’t the case. Along with the instructors, this group of men supported, advised and motivated me to succeed. This was a pleasant and touching surprise. Both women and men riders I have met have all been happy to offer me advice and support. I have become part of a community of motorcyclists.
Where have you traveled on your motorcycle?
I haven’t traveled any major distances yet as I ride by myself and am sticking to my local area. My distances, speed and skills have improved with time and practice. I intend to continue that growth.
How do you look back on yourself as a beginner rider?
When I started, it would be riding around the block, my knees would be shaking and I would remember absolutely everything I did during that ride; how I shifted the gears, made the turn, rode down the block and even how I downshifted when I saw the Stop sign. Funny thing is, a few weeks ago I realized that I don’t remember any of that stuff so vividly anymore. When I go out now. I just ride! Kinda nice.
This whole thing has been adventure, a challenge, and a good example for my kids. Who knows where it will lead me, but I sure know that I have had a lot of fun and made some great new friends.