lifestyle

“Yes, I ride a motorbike. And yes, I’m a woman.”

 

motorbike riding
Meg and her sister Georgie, ready to ride.

“Oh… you ride a motorbike?”

That sentence – accompanied by the raising of eyebrows and a thinly-veiled expression of judgement – is invariably the response I face when people find out about this pastime of mine.

People also throw around words like “butch” and “masculine” when they hear of my motorbike, apparently figuring I must have persisted with this most macho of hobbies because I want to be a man. Sometimes, I also get brownie points for being a “tough-as-nails” woman who’s too much of a thrill-seeker to be satisfied with sitting on the back of the bike.

And very occasionally, I’m asked why I have a death wish and persist with a hobby so dangerous.

Don’t get me wrong – I know the statistics. I know that motorbike riding is roughly 30 times more dangerous than driving a car. I know that last year in Australia the motorcycle fatality rate spiked with 72 riders losing their lives. I also know it’s pretty damn unusual for an inner-city girl with a penchant for baking, writing and yoga to cruise the streets of Sydney atop a Suzuki GN250.

But what most people don’t know about me, is that I never got to meet my grandfather. And while motorbike riding isn’t the reason his life was tragically cut short, it sure was something he lived for.

motorbike riding
Speedy and his bikes.
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My family remember my (aptly-named) Grandad Speedy as a real lover of life and a go-getter, who was taken from the world too soon. My mum was just 16 when she lost her dad.

And although I grew up not knowing much about who Speedy was or what he did, there were always two things of which I was certain: my grandad loved his family to bits and he loved motorbike riding almost just as much.

This love was passed down through generations, with my parents spending a lot of time riding around Australia in the days BC (before children). My mum tells me stories of how she would fall asleep sitting on the back of the bike, propped up between two daypacks.

Speedy also rebuilt several motorbikes, most of which remain in my family to this day. My favourite of these has always been the 1950s bike with the sidecar that now belongs to my dad. I have fond memories of riding in this one with my little sister, in the days when we were both small enough to slide in the compartment side-by-side.

motorbike riding
Meg and Georgie, as kids, playing motorbikes.

I like to think that for this reason, motorbike riding is in my DNA. It’s a feeling unlike any other and one I can only describe as being one with the bike. I get on my bike, turn on the engine and my whole body is instantly both aware and relaxed at the same time.

There is nothing quite like feeling the rush of wind on your face as you ride along at 100km/hour on the freeway. Or the sense of freedom that comes from being unable to do anything other than melt into your surroundings and just enjoy the ride. The world suddenly seems a few shades brighter and the day becomes so much more worthwhile.

So while people may continue to question my enthusiasm for a pastime, I won’t let it bother me all that much.

My grandfather’s passion for riding is one thing I can share with him for the rest of my life. And I remember that he, like my penchant for speeding around town on my little black bike, will always be a part of who I am.

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