Beck

Today’s rider is an Aussie living in Vancouver, Canada! The one thing that I’ve noticed during the course of this project is just how small our world has become, and how much more women migrate across the planet than they used to even 50 years ago. I’ve come into contact with a Lithuanian living in Norway, a German living in South Africa, an American living in the Philippines, a Pole living in Ireland, and many other such curious patterns. As an immigrant myself, it’s an interesting insight into how woman are choosing to live their lives differently, freeing themselves from their place of origin and seeking to experience a new life in a different place. It posed an interesting problem for the Global Women Who Ride Project itself. I had started off envisioning interviewing women native to a specific place, wanting them to be a spokesperson for their country and the lives of motorcyclists within it. However, this project is also about showcasing the passion women have for motorcycling and for their experiences of riding in a certain region, both of which immigrant women have aplenty. I don’t have an answer to this yet and I’m hoping that it will sort itself out as the series moves on. 

Back to today’s rider! Her name is Beck and she lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a city that is a mere 300 miles north of my home in Seattle, and both cities have much in common. It’s not unusual for Seattle motorcyclists to venture north and ride around in BC, and vice versa. Beck is extremely well-traveled (she is only person I know who has been to Antarctica!), rides a cruiser, and is planning her first cross-continent trip across North America. Here is her story.

Name: Beck
Age: 36
Country: I’m an Australian living in Canada.  I left Australia almost 15 years ago.
Years Riding:  Almost 3 years in reality … more like 20 years in my head ;-)
Height: 178cm
Current motorcycle(s):  Honda Sabre VT1100
Past motorcycle(s):  Suzuki GS500
Current gear:  All of the above!  I believe strongly in wearing protective clothing :-)
Average km/year:  I put only about 9,000km on my first bike (I had it for 2 years).  I’ve had my current bike for less than 6 months and put almost 20,000km on her in the first 4 months :-)

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Hey Beck! Tell us something about yourself. :)
Hellooooo!  My name is Beck and I’m an addict … of life!  Seriously, I love to live. What more can I say? I love to do things, see things, feel things, to just be a part of this amazing, magical, wonderful world of ours, lapping it up like a thirsty camel and always wanting more :-)

I was born in Australia, where I spent the first 22 years of my life.  After I completed my Honours Degree in Psychology and Mathematical Philosophy, I headed to the USA, where I planned to gain experience as a basketball coach and then return to Australia to work my way up to be the first ever female Australian head basketball coach.  Alas, that didn’t quite happen … and almost 15 years later, I realise I kinda forgot to go back to Australia!

Since then I’ve lived in eight different countries and visited almost 120.  So yes, you could say I’m a travel addict — my true passion in life ;-)  And the more I travel, the more I want to see, to feel, to experience…

One of my focuses when I travel is my photography, but more importantly, it’s about getting to know the REAL place I am visiting.  I prefer to get off the beaten track, down the back alleys, and away from all those tourist traps.

I run a live theatre and musicals group here in Vancouver, attending as many shows as I can throughout the year…  I love live sport, local music, white-water rafting, independent films, spoiling my young nephews and niece, and running.

2014 is shaping up to be a huge year and I look very much forward to it.  I’ll be riding my motorcycle across the USA from the west coast of Canada, to get to a new job in Connecticut.  Then I’ll be spending the Summer in one of the most amazing places on earth, and then I plan to head to Western Africa for three months before returning to Australia to spend some time with my wonderful family.

 

RIDING IN CANADA

Do motorcyclists have any special rights in your part of the world?
By law, all bikers in BC need to follow the same road rules as cars/other traffic.  One thing we do get, however, is to load ourselves on to ferries first – even if we arrive last :-)

It’s the same on the other side of the border, over in Washington state where I live. Gotta say, I’m so *spoilt* by this law. Sometimes I see lines for the ferry that are like 3 hour waits. I just laugh inside my helmet, ride right past them and get on the ferry. First on, first off, yay! ;) Waiting for the next ferry that has room? What on earth is that all about? ;D

Are there any motorcycle specific laws? e.g. strict helmet laws.
We certainly have strict helmet laws here.  However, Sikhs do not have to wear them – so long as they are wearing their turbans.  There is a lot of controversy over this…

Ooooh… that’s very interesting! That’s something I haven’t heard about!

Beck if a rider from another country visited your next of the woods, what rides would you particularly want them to check out?
The Sea-to-sky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler.  And then up to Duffey Lake.

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What is the traffic like in Vancouver and how does it affect motorcycle riding?
Typical peak hour traffic for a large city, but nothing too horrific.  It can be frustrating sitting in traffic sometimes, if only ‘cos you’ll get wet – it rains here 9 months of the year!

It’s amazing that Vancouver and Seattle aren’t sister cities. ;) I find myself nodding and commiserating with all your answers. 

Are people aware of motorcyclists and give them room or are they considered to be a nuisance?
We’re not always seen.  But I have so far found other motorists to be very courteous towards riders.

Can you talk a bit about the riding weather?
The best weather is always during the summer.  Warm (ish!) and, for the most part, dry.  It rains 9 months of the year here, and can snow, and temperatures can drop to below freezing. In the winter months … so many riders (though not me!) store their bikes for 6 months during the off-season.

Fair weather riders, pshaw! :P

How does the topography/terrain of the place you live affect the kind of motorcycling you choose to do?
It doesn’t.  It’s perfect for it!  Though higher altitudes are often off-limits during winter, because of snow.

Is motorcycle theft a problem or do you not care too much about it?
I certainly do care about it.  And I take precautions to avoid it.  But, touch wood, have never experienced it.  And have only heard about one case of bike theft here in Vancouver.

Is it challenging to ride in the area you live in? 
Just crappy weather a lot of the time.  Not always fun when it’s always raining!  But I learnt to ride in the rain, so I can handle it :-)

How are women riders treated in your part of the world?
Well, with respect.  And with lots of encouragement and support from everyone in the community.

Do you have access to high quality motorcycling gear in your part of the world?
Yes, definitely.  Both in store and on-line.  And if we can’t find it here, we just skip across the border to buy it in the States :-)

A lot of riders have a classic Sunday morning ride. What’s yours? 
Anywhere through the back roads of BC’s farmlands (the Fraser Valley).  I loooooove riding through the farmlands on a sunny day.  I don’t have a particular route though … I usually follow the others in my group, the people who know those roads like the back of their hands.  We all love to end up at the Chilliwack Airport … at the I Fly For Pie cafe — where they have something like 50 different types of pies and the food is just amaaaazing.  We always sit out on the bank deck in the sun :-)

What was the last awesome ride you went on? 
I rode for four days through pouring rain out to the Okanagan and through the Kootenays at the end of September.  Wet wet wet, but oh so fun!!  Just me and the boys :-)

Ahhh… the Kootenays. That’s on my to-ride list for some day when I get up over there.

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RIDING IN GENERAL!

What is your first ever memory involving motorcycles?
I think probably when I was at university … but sadly, it’s not the happiest memory.  One of my friends was killed on his bike … he got his first bike (against his parents’ approval) for his 21st birthday and the next day thought speeding would be a fun thing to do … he didn’t live past 21 years and one day.

What was your motorcycle license test like?
I had never ever ridden a motorcycle before then … I underwent an intensive 7-day training course in April, but didn’t have a chance to buy my first bike until August.There wasn’t much practice between April and August (it was soooo hard seeing all those bikes on the road during the Summer – and me doing nothing but wanting to RIDE!) :-(  I finally got my licence in September — three days before I left for my big adventure in Vietnam :-)

Aced my Learner’s first time — in fact, it only took me 7 minutes to complete the 40-question exam and I got them all right.  The women at the front desk was flabbergasted — and me super proud!  I also aced my road test the first time — the guy testing me said, through the rain teeming down around us, “You know, you’re one of the best riders I’ve seen all day!”  Chuffed, I was :-)

Awesome! I… ummm…. might have taken slightly longer to get my license. What advice would you give someone else going through that step?
I chose to go with the company ProRide for my training course (www.proride.net).  They were FANTASTIC.  I hear great things about two other schools in my city as well, but I can only comment on one.  All I can say is one thing : JUST DO IT!!  Don’t put it off.  If it’s your dream to ride, do it!!  Take a professional training/safety course — I don’t regret that for a second.

Do you have a motorcycling achievement that you’re particularly proud of?
Riding a motorcycle (“Russian Buffalo” — some old, crappy Minsk 150) for 5 days through little-visited northern Vietnam, mostly through torrential rain and mud up to a foot thick at times. Mind-blowing scenery and adventure at its finest.

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Wow, how freakin’ cool! I want to ride in Vietnam someday too. Always wanted to after I saw the Top Gear special. ;)

What was the one story you like to tell from that trip? 
Probably part of the adventure above … when my bike broke down part-way up a hill that was a foot thick with mud and water.  I had to push it UP the hill, about a kilometre … which took about an hour or so … it was something like 35oC and super humid.  We took over 3 hours to go about 3km that day.  Talk about sweat and being red-faced!!  Crazy, crazy adventure.

Also, we rode through a typhoon for 5 days and, needless to say, it was quite the adventure.  Loved it :-)

What bike did you first start on and why?
I believe it was a Suzuki Marauder … or similar.  250cc.  I can’t remember the exact bike now, sorry!!  That was the bike ProRide lent me to learn on.  On the last day of the course, I moved up to the Suzuki GS500.  At the time I thought it was sooooooo big and was super nervous!!!  Now, less than 3 years later, I ride an 1100cc bike, lol.  
What is your favorite type of motorcycle riding?
I like ALL types of riding.  I mainly do street riding, long-distance riding (cruising), but love trail bike riding!  My dream job, however, is actually to be a stunt woman in movies and on tv … or racing bikes :-)
Kind of like the amazing Debbie Evans who was Carrie Ann Moss’ stunt double in the Matrix movies? Most excellent. I can totally see you doing that. ;) 

What do you like about riding? 
You know, riding is something that’s so hard to explain to a non-rider.  Riders just “get it”.  Personally, riding makes me feel so alive.  Like it’s something I was MEANT to do, born to do.  I don’t know why, and I can’t really explain it.  Maybe it’s exhilaration… adventure… fun…  I just feel so happy and free when I ride.  “Four wheels move your body … two wheels move your soul.”

Is your motorcycle your “fun vehicle” or do you use it as part of your job, to get to work etc. 
Both!  I only have one vehicle : my motorcycle.  I haven’t owned a car in almost 15 years.

Are you a solo rider or do you like riding with others?
I do ride solo a lot, but I prefer riding with a group.  I have a fantastic group here in Vancouver with whom I ride : Coast Mountain Ryders.  They are a truly amazing group of riders of all ages, races, backgrounds…  safe and fun and full of knowledge.  I’ve learnt so much from them!  I also ride with a couple of people I met on my training course.  Each year I also participate in huge group charity rides. Oh, the feeling I get when we all start our bikes at the same time … hundreds, sometimes thousands of us, revving up together … wow.

I have to admit that I’ve never experienced that, seeing as how I’m a solo rider. You make it sound like something I should experience at least once in my life though!

Do you have a particularly humorous or embarrassing riding experience that you’d like to share?
Last year I bought myself a new bike … a bike 600cc bigger than my first bike and a helluva lot heavier.  I wanted to ride her as much as I could, so after having her in my possession for only a couple of weeks, I headed over to Vancouver Island for four days for some solo riding.  My first day saw me head from Nanaimo on the east coast, through the middle of the island and over to Tofino, a ride I’d heard was fantastic and which I’d been wanting to do for years.  I was so excited!  Whilst rain and slippery surfaces slowed me down a bit on the way, I was excited to arrive on the hippy west coast … and after a wee look around town (which is really all it takes) I found myself a nice lunch spot at a restaurant that had come highly recommended by the nice and very helpful lady at the tourist office just outside of town.

I parked my bike and headed inside, sat down by the roaring open fire, and enjoyed a deliciously warm homemade veggie burger and yam fries.  After lunch, I washed up and headed outside to prepare for the (hopefully drier) ride back the east coast.  It was then I realised I’d done the silly thing of parking my bike on gravel … facing downhill.  Every biker knows you don’t do that.  You simply don’t do that.

I didn’t realise how difficult it was going to be to back my bike out, uphill, from the carpark … on gravel.  Still, I tried.  A centimetre here.  A centimetre there.  Two inches uphill, one inch back downhill.  Was I getting anywhere at all?  I stopped.  Took a breath.  Tried again.  Then I must have accidentally hit the throttle, as my front wheel (or was it the back?) spun out on the gravel, and the next thing I knew, my bike was lying flat on its side, me on top of it, narrowly missing both cars beside me, back wheel still spinning.  Crap, I thought.  My poor baby!!  But no biggie…  I’ll just stand her up again.  Easy!  I turned off the engine and stepped away from the bike.  I tried to pick her up … but I’d somehow forgotten that I had no idea whatsoever how to do that.  Crap.

I turned around to look behind me at the restaurant, only to realise the entire patio, filled with customers, were all staring directly at me.  How embarrassing.  I smiled weakly.  Oh man, what now?  I tried to lift the bike again.  No luck.  A young guy started walking down the steps of the restaurant towards me … he stopped next to me.  “Are you a new rider?” he asked quizzically.  I felt insulted.  No, I snarked.  Oh, do you want some help?  Um, sure, thanks.  He helped me lift the bike, kindly and gently.  She was back upright again.  Thank you, I mumbled, still embarrassed.  I turned back towards the patio.  An elderly lady towards the back was taking photos of me with her point-and-shoot.  I was so mad.  I yelled at her, what the fuck?  I covered my face with one hand, flipped her the bird with the other.  How dare she!  I was furious.  I was not a tourist attraction!

I thanked the man again for his help and got back on my bike.  A little gentler this time, I tried to back my bike out from the gravel.  I knew everyone was still watching, which didn’t help one single bit.  I realised I was shaking.  I stopped, turned off the bike, and took 10 deep breaths.  There was no rush.  I let out a big sigh and tried again.  One centimetre back, one centimetre forward.  I tried again.  Same result.  I wasn’t getting anywhere.  How stupid could I have been to park like this?  What was I going to do?  I was too proud to ask for help.  Just take your time, Beck.  No rush.  Easy does it.  You can do this … but I clearly couldn’t.  And everyone on the patio knew it, waiting with baited breath to see what I’d do next.

Thankfully, they didn’t have to wait too long.  An older gentleman was making his way down the steps, seeing me struggling yet again.  Can I help you?  Maybe give you a wee pull out?,  he asked, in a slight European accent.  I smiled through my visor, yes please.  That would be great.  He pulled me up the gravel, gently, easily.  Don’t worry, I’ve been in your position before, he said, making me feel a tad bit better.  Finally I was out.  I thanked the man profusely.  No worries, he said, we always help each other, us riders.

I turned to face the road.  Another few deep breaths.  Fearful I might skid out on the gravel again, I rode very carefully, very hesitantly, very slowly down the gravel path and on to the road … I was still shaking a little, but at least I was upright and on the smooth tarmac once more.  Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers!


BIKES

Tell us more about your current motorcycle. Why did you pick it in particular? 
After 2 years on my Suzuki, I knew it was time to upgrade … on my little 500cc I wasn’t able to keep up with my friends and I was getting leg cramps on the longer rides (I’m a tall girl) … she was just too small for me, and I’d outgrown her in terms of my own riding abilities as well.  I wanted a new bike … but I really had no idea whatsoever what I wanted.  I looked around a bit, but only half-heartedly.  I’d always been into sports bikes and thought that was what I still wanted.  But my friends reminded me : Beck, you have to test ride bikes to see what might work for you.  TEST RIDE TEST RIDE TEST RIDE.  And so, eventually, I did.

I found some that worked for me, some that didn’t…  and eventually narrowed down the list to about three different bikes.  But it was when I got on the Sabre … a bike I thought was WAAAAAY too big for me (interestingly, the female dealer disagreed with me) … and took her for a test run … that I knew I had found true love.  Once I had managed to maneuver myself and the bike out of the carpark, that bike and I became one.

It was like I was a different person and I knew then and there that was the bike I wanted.  It just felt right.  I hunted around for a few more secondhand Sabres and, finally, after much to-ing and fro-ing, purchased my current love — a 2005 black Honda Sabre VT1100.  She is beautiful and I love her to pieces.  I know I made the right choice and I know she’ll be with me for a very long time.  [on a side note, large jungle cats, such as Sabres, seem to run as a theme in my life … so again, another reason for the perfect purchase!)

What other motorcycles have you ridden in the past? 
A couple of bikes at my training course, but I’ve only ever owned one other bike — my baby blue Suzuki GS500.  I’ve also rented various bikes when I’ve ridden through Vietnam and East Timor. I loved that first bike to pieces — in fact, when I sold her, it was super hard to part ways!!  She was a FANTASTIC bike to learn on — I couldn’t have asked for anything more.  But in the end, she just got too small for me :-(

If you could design your dream motorcycle, what would it look, feel and ride like? Would it be significantly different than the others out there? 
My dream motorcycle is the one I’m riding right now … but in red with hot flames down the side ;-)

What do you wish your local motorcycling store would stock more of? 
Women’s gloves in bigger sizes (I have big hands!).
Women’s riding boots in bigger sizes (I have big feet and can only fit into the men’s boots :-( ).

 

TRAINING AND SAFETY

How do you keep your skills sharp? 
I ride often.  And when I make a mistake, I go over it in my head, looking back at what I did “wrong” and how to correct/prevent it for next time.  I would also like to take an advanced riding course in the future.

What do you do to stay safe out on the road? 
150% concentration on the road.  And reminding myself every single minute that there are BAD drivers in BC and I have to be super vigilant on the road.  Most of the time they don’t see me, so I have to make myself visible.  I also practice safe riding techniques.

If you wear gear while riding, tell us more about it.
Jacket (if cool out — I have a Winter jacket and a Summer jacket), jeans, helmet, riding gloves (Winter/Summer), riding boots (but oh dear, I really need new ones!).  Most of my stuff is M2R gear (www.made2race.com.au).

I can’t say that I like wearing all that safety gear … I mean, who does?  We want to look cool and sexy, right?  Not like a bright neon traffic cone.  But I also remember what I was taught right from the very beginning : safety safety safety.  I also know that if I hadn’t taken with me to South East Asia my riding gear, I would have been a lot worse off when I had my first accident.

I felt terribly ridiculous in my long, heavy riding pants … my armoured jacket … my thick, armoured gloves … with all the locals riding beside me in shorts, flip-flops (thongs), t-shirts.  I was sweating profusely, the weather outside over 30oC, but feeling more like 50oC inside my helmet and jacket.  I wanted to take it off … all off.  But I’m so glad I wore my gear on that trip through East Timor.  Without it, the scars and scuffs on my jacket and my gloves from my flying leap over the handlebars when I hit a pothole would have surely been war wounds on my skin … perhaps even exposed bone or worse, who knows.

To this day, I’m so very grateful for taking all that gear with me … no matter how silly I may have looked.  And even though I don’t wear my super heavy armoured gear every day, I still carry it with me, no matter what.

FAMILY AND COMMUNITY

Do you get any family opposition when it comes to motorcycling? If yes, how do you handle it?
I don’t actually.  In fact, my family is SUPER supportive of me riding and even helped me to buy my first bike :-)  They refer to me as “their tattooed biker chick” to their friends … and are super, super proud of me for following my dream and doing what I love the most — RIDING :-D

Are you part of a motorcycling group/club? 
Yup!  They’re called the Coast Mountain Ryders and are a Meet Up group in BC (meetup.com)

If you are part of a club/group, does it include woman of other races, religion, ethnicities etc.? Does it include lesbian, transsexual or transgender women?
Our group is FULLY inclusive.  It doesn’t matter your gender, whether you identify as a man or a woman, your age, your race, your background … nothing.  All that matters is that you love to ride :-)
Sounds like my kind of group! :)

Have you formed any deep female friendships due to motorcycling?  
“Deep”?  No.  But definitely some good friendships, yes.  I kinda prefer riding with the boys — they seem more adventurous ;-)

I hope you follow the rest of this interview series. By the end of it, you might change your mind about that. ;)

 

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ONLINE COMMUNITIES

Do you have any favorite internet motorcycling forums or communities? 
Couchsurfing has actually been a FANTASTIC resource for me, all over the world.  Meet Up also.

When you’re online, do you identify as female?  If so, has that affected your online experiences?  
Sure do!  Why wouldn’t I? It hasn’t affected my experience, but I definitely seem to get more responses and help from men than I do from women.

 

SOCIO-POLITICAL

 Are you involved in any activism related to motorcycling? 
Just big group rides, like the annual Motorcycle Awareness rides.

What do you think would attract more girls and women into motorcycling? 
I’m really not too sure.  I strongly feel that those women who want to ride, are riding.

 

MOTORCYCLING INDUSTRY

Is there anything in the current motorcycling industry that you would like to see change?  
Nothing that I can immediately think of.  Except maybe the bigger gloves/boots for women issue I have.

How do motorcycling magazines in your part of the world treat women motorcyclists in its articles and advertisements? Is there anything you would like to see changing? 
Interesting question!  I have a subscription to several motorcycle magazines … but don’t get a chance to read them very thoroughly … in most blogs and on-line articles I read, women are treated as “riders” — not as a separate “type” of rider from men.  We are riders, no matter if man or woman.

Do you think that the media effectively advertises to female motorcyclists? 
With perhaps a bit too much emphasis on the “sexiness” of being a female rider … but yes, they do.

 

DREAMING

If you could ride in a country other than the one you grew up in, which one(s) would you pick and why? 
I have already ridden in four different countries … but never in my own country … this is my dream :-)  My other HUGE dream is to ride from Japan to the Middle East, along one of the old Silk Routes…  I’ve had this dream for years and years, well before I ever thought I’d actually ride a bike.

Ahhh…. riding through the great interior of Australia is something on my to-ride list too.

Is there a motorcycling event that you try and attend regularly?
Yes : Ride To Live, Fraser Valley Toy Run, Poker Runs, Vancouver Toy Run … and regular social events held by my riding group.

Do you have a dream job related to motorcycling? 
Photographer or racer!

What would your dream garage contain?
A coupla different bikes … and an on-site mechanic ;-)

 Ha! Sign me up for one of those too please!

 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Do you enjoy any other two-wheeled fun or adrenaline-laced sport? 
Pretty much all of them!!  There aren’t many adrenaline-based sports I haven’t tried … and I’ll try most things once :-)

Do you have any advice for people who want to get into motorcycling?
Just do it!!  Well, try it at least … see if it’s really for you.  The training course I attended started with 10 people, but only 8 of us finished.  It isn’t for everyone.  And definitely take a course!!  Best decision I ever made.

 

BECK RECOMMENDS

Favorite movie:  One Week.
Favorite magazine: Motorcycle Mojo.
Favorite blog:  Globe Riders (www.globeriders.com)

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If you have any comments or suggestions about this interview, please leave a comment or email me at admin@globalwomenwhoride.com. Also, if you or someone you know would like to be a part of the Global Women Who Ride series, please email admin@globalwomenwhoride.com.  I am actively trying to find women from this country list and these states in the US



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