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Riding with kids

Posted by on Dec 6, 2015 in USA, Women Who Ride | 0 comments

Riding with kids

I learned to ride a dirt bike when my husband Mark and I started dating. Through the years it progressed to include our daughter Leeah, who sometimes rode her own dirt bike, other times seated behind her dad.  I like to say that our daughter is one of the first motorcycle adventure kids. A lot of times when people have kids they feel that their passion for riding and adventure has to be shelved. Not with us. We decided to kick it up a notch.

Women Who Ride: Leah Van Holten after riding through the mud. 10 years old and ready for more.

Leeah Van Holten after riding through the mud. 10 years old and ready for more.

Women Who Ride: Leah Van Holten riding her dirt bike at the age of 12.

Leeah Van Holten riding her dirt bike at the age of 12.

We rode our dirt bikes a lot in Baja California, Mexico, when she was eight. Soon after, we wanted to do longer trips, so we got street licenses and  a BMW F650 GS for me and an R1200 GS for Mark.  We found some BMW kid’s gear for Leeah that fit her well and was functional in all kinds of  weather.

Our first big adventure was rode up to Point Roberts at the top of Washington state, when Leeah was eleven. Leeah was in charge of setting up the tent and helping with the maps. She had managed to figure out how to read her books while riding with her Dad (placed square in the middle of his back). We got some pretty strange looks from cars passing by for that one! We also made a point of planning some fun things for the ride home, and we frequently stopped for ice cream so that she wouldn’t get too hot or tired.

Leah Van Holten on the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria Island, Canada

Leeah Van Holten on the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria Island, Canada

After the success of that trip, we planned a ride to Panama to visit a cousin. We took Leeah out of middle school for two months. We were a little concerned that she might get bored being on the road for that long without any friends but it seemed to work. She was in charge of being our Spanish translator. She handled all of the smaller coin money, helped pick stops along the way where she wanted to see or do something, and she kept a journal. We also had some radios so she was able to talk to us and listen to music.

Our biggest challenge was trying to fit all the books she was reading for fun in our panniers. We only had two zip-lock bags each for clothes, and space in the panniers was at a premium, since we also needed to take tools, spares, first-aid kit, laptop, maps and other things. Leeah gladly sacrificed her clothes space to make room for her books.

Some of the highlights of that trip were – us being the only people running around at a large Mayan ruin site in southern Mexico, zip lining in the Monte Verde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica, watching lava spew high in the air from a volcano at night from the roof of our hotel in Guatemala, and having the uncanny ability to stumble upon fantastic restaurants in the strangest places. That was such an awesome trip. At times it still feels like we just got back.

Women Who Ride: Luanna and Leah Van Holten outside a roadside café on the pacific coast of Mexico

Luanna and Leeah Van Holten outside a roadside café on the pacific coast of Mexico

I can’t wait to jump on our bikes and go somewhere new with my family. Sadly, Leeah is now away at college and cannot go with us. Traveling on motorcycles as a family is something I would recommend to anyone in a heartbeat.

The Van Holtens make it to Panama!

The Van Holtens make it to Panama!

Global Women Who Ride in American Motorcyclist magazine

Posted by on Oct 26, 2015 in Blog, Women Who Ride | 0 comments

Global Women Who Ride in American Motorcyclist magazine

I wrote a guest column about Global Women Who Ride for the November issue of American Motorcyclist magazine. Here it is for those of you who aren’t subscribers.

View PDF

Global Women Who Ride column for American Motorcyclist

Global Women Who Ride column for American Motorcyclist

Does your motorcycle helmet fit you well?

Posted by on Jul 17, 2015 in Blog, Women Who Ride | 3 comments

Planning to buy a new helmet? There’s nothing worse than dropping hundreds of dollars on a lid that ends up not quite fitting you right. An ill-fitting helmet can be at best uncomfortable and noisy, and at worst dangerous and inadequate to protect your head in a crash.

Do some prep work at home, then print off the cheat sheet below and take it with you when you go to try on helmets at your favorite local brick-and-mortar store! (Or if you already have a lid, run the checks below to figure out if it is indeed the right fit for you.)

HelmetFit

BEFORE YOU GO SHOPPING

Motorcycle helmet fit depends on the size of your head around the crown, and the shape (round vs. intermediate oval vs. elongated oval). While the size can be measured easily, the shape can be figured out only after trying on a few different helmets from various brands. Think about fit and comfort first, and color, style and price last.

To start with, measure your head at home if possible. This will save you some time in the store so that you can try on just the right size in all the available brands. Take a tape measure and wrap it around the crown of your head about an inch above your eyebrows. Helmet measurements are usually taken in centimeters. The following chart is a rough guide to figure out your size.

XXS  51-52 cm
XS  53-54 cm
S  55-56 cm
M  57-58 cm
L 59-60 cm
XL  61-62 cm
XXL  63-64 cm
XXXL  65-66 cm

Go into the store well-rested, with a couple of hours to spare. It this is your first time getting fitted for a helmet or if you want to try out a different brand and model than you’re used to, it could take this long to find a good fit. Purchasing a helmet is not something you should do when you’re tired, hungry, in a hurry, or if the store is about to close soon.

HELMET FIT CHECKLIST

Any respectable store should have assistants who will patiently assist you in finding you the best fit. However, I have occasionally had experiences where this was not true. To prevent this from happening, bring this cheat sheet with you. Even if you have assistance, it’s a good idea to keep some of these steps in mind. Try the helmet on in front of a mirror and run through the following steps for every likely candidate:

– Pull apart the chin straps and put on the helmet. If it goes on too easily, it’s probably too loose and could come off easily in a crash as well. Look for a helmet that provides a little resistance in putting it on. Of course, if it is way too difficult to put on, it is too small

– Once the helmet is on, your eyes should be right in the middle of the opening. If they are in the bottom third, the helmet is sitting too high.

– Check that you feel good firm cheek pressure, uniform pressure throughout the crown of the helmet, and no tight spots anywhere.

– Try to slide one finger between the helmet and your forehead at the center. It should not fit or if it does, it should be extremely snug. Now move your finger towards one temple and then towards the other. The distance between the helmet and your forehead should remain the same throughout. If you can jam your fingers all the way inside, it is too loose. This means that when you’re riding, your helmet is going to move around a lot, leading to noise and buffeting.

– Hold your head steady and push on the helmet from side to side (left ear to right ear). It shouldn’t move too much and the padding should not leave your cheek. The skin on your face and forehead should move as you move the helmet.

– Hold your head steady and push on the helmet from front to back (chin to neck). Again, it should not move around too much and the padding should not leave your cheek.

– Insert one finger between the helmet and your chin. There should be at least one finger-width of space. If there is very little space, there is a risk that the helmet will smash your teeth in a crash.

– Keep your head steady and twist the helmet sideways. If there is too much lateral movement, it is too loose.

– Do up the chin strap as tightly as possible leaving no slack. It should not choke your neck.

– Keep your head steady and pull the helmet down by the chin bar. If it covers your eyes, it is too loose.

– Hold the back of the helmet at the back of your neck and try to pull it off. It should not move too much.

– The cheek pads should feel very snug (although these can be swapped out with different sizes, if everything else fits well). If you open and close your mouth, you should bite down on your cheeks slightly. The cheek pads usually show a number on the back. The smaller the number, the thinner the pad. The right size cheek pads should be ordered if the stock ones do not fit well.

– Wear the helmet for 10-15 minutes. If any tight spots develop, it might be too tight.

– Take off the helmet and check to see if you have any red spots on your face. If you do, it is too tight.

You might have to go through a few helmets before you finally find two or three that fit you best. In fact, once you’ve found one model that fits you well, the sales assistant will be able to find you models in different brands that fit your unique head shape, whether you are a round oval, intermediate oval etc. Now you can base your decision based on color, style and pricing. And you’re done!

Note that the helmet will probably feel very tight in the beginning but it will break in after around 25 hours of riding.  Happy riding!

(This guide is only for full-face helmets with a chin bar.)

On a woman sleeping alone on the road

Posted by on Oct 31, 2014 in Blog, Women Who Ride | 0 comments

On a woman sleeping alone on the road

A few weeks ago I had coffee with my friend Tad who has recently started MotoStays, a homesharing service for motorcyclists. We talked a little bit about what measures the site could take to make the idea of staying with strangers more safe for women motorcyclists on the road and he requested that I wrote more about my experiences with traveling alone. I agreed to think it over and put my own experiences down in words. This article is what came of it.

HOTELS, MOTELS, INNS AND B&BS

A little background first. It has now been almost ten years since I first started riding and travelling long distance via motorcycle. Over these years, I’ve ridden solo across a lot of the United States and Europe. In the beginning, most of these travels were much closer to home in Washington state. In these first couple of years, my preferred accommodation was hotels, motels or B&Bs. My rides were generally 2-3 days long, and I would usually book all my hotels well in advance before I left. This was circa 2006-2007 when mobile phones and sites like Couchsurfing were still in their infancy. I would generally look on the internet for good deals and decent reviews and make bookings either online if they offered online reservations, or via phone. I would usually plan on riding 300 miles a day before I stopped, found my hotel and checked in for the day. My experiences in the hotels were typical of other travelers’. Sometimes they turned out to be true to what I saw on the websites, while other times they would be horror shows, complete with leaky bathrooms and questionable neighbors.

My favorite types of hotels were the really budget ones where I could park my bike right outside my room and keep an eye on it at all times. Sometimes I’d see fellow motorcyclists in and around town and get chatting with them, although I never really struck up any great friendships. The hotel stops were usually just a place to stop for the night, get dinner at a local cafe, then go to bed after watching some bad TV. Sometimes there would be breakfast in the mornings. The B&Bs usually served up some delicious food, while the hotels would occasionally have a serve yourself continental breakfast. In hindsight, these stays were generally quite expensive, setting me back about $60-$110/night. I didn’t know any better though and that’s what I went with. To this day, if I feel like being a little luxurious, I still prefer staying at nice hotels when I can. The nicest thing at the end of a long day’s ride is a nice hot shower, a soft comfortable bed and linens, and meals that someone else has cooked.

I would occasionally get questioned by friends about whether I wasn’t afraid of staying in a hotel room by myself. I found those remarks a little puzzling. What was there to be afraid of? As long as you used your common sense, there really wasn’t any more danger in staying at a hotel than in your own home. In all my stays, I can only really think of one place I stayed at where I stuck a chair under the doorknob at night before I went to bed. It was a place I had ended up at because it was the only real choice in a little town at least a hundred miles from anywhere else. When you pay $35/night for a room, you know you might be in slightly questionable surroundings. Outside of this one event though, my hotel stays have been great, if a bit expensive.

winthrop_inn

A fairly comfortable room in an inn in Withrop, Washington

An old school motor inn

An old school motor inn

CAMPING

A couple of years in, I was introduced to the world of camping. This was by sheer necessity because I was planning my big ride to Alaska with my friend Sarah. It was going to be a very expensive trip, so we planned to save money by camping as much as we could. My introduction to camping involved a lot of trial and error, and quite a lot of using things and returning them to REI before I settled on a kit that worked well for me. Tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, warm layers etc. are such subjective individual things that you really need to keep trying until you find the right combination that works for you specifically.

Camping did end up saving Sarah and I quite a lot of money on the trip, not to mention provided some incredible stories that we will remember and relate for the rest of our lives. We camped in terrible RV parks, in nice campgrounds, in people’s backyards, and this one time on the local police station’s lawn because it was supposedly the only safe place from the bears that frequently wandered into town. As far as camping went, this was boot camp for me (no pun intended).

While I’m still not fond of the amount of time it can take to set up and tear down camp, there is no other feeling quite like the one where you sit under the stars near your tent at the end of the day, perhaps by a river or the ocean. You could be alone and perfectly at one with your surroundings, or you could be with your best friend, sitting by the campfire and swapping tall tales until the last embers die out. Your motorcycle waits patiently a few feet away, resting like you until another brilliant morning awakens you. Of course there are bad days, of setting up camp in the dark because you didn’t stop early enough, of waking up to the sounds of rain pattering down on your rain fly, or of getting the last sorry spot in a campground infested with bugs. But if I had to look back at my camping days and do a fair assessment, there were just so many more good days. I’ve since camped alone as well as with friends.

Motorcycle camping

Motorcycle camping

Breaking down camp while breakfast is cooking.

Breaking down camp while breakfast is cooking.

When I rode cross-country across North America, I had the good fortune to discover some incredible campgrounds across this wonderful country. If you’re curious, the ones that stand out the most are Cumberland Bay State Park near Plattsburg, NY, and Horse Thief Campground in South Dakota, both of which I found quite by chance. Booking in advance didn’t quite work for me anymore, especially while wandering free around the country, not knowing where you’d be one night to the next.

About the safety aspect, I have never once camped in any place and felt unsafe. I have also never traveled with a gun, or with a weapon any more substantial than a Swiss army knife, or bear spray out in Alaska. Once again, most of us have enough common sense that we can make a fair assessment of where a camp spot is safe or not, both from human vermin and animals. Camping alone does mean that you are slightly more vulnerable, more exposed to the elements, and without the security of solid doors and locks. After you’ve done it a fair number of times though, you find yourself wondering why on earth people would deprive themselves of this most wonderful and cheap way of spending their nights on the road.

HOSTELS

Next up, we move on to hostels. These can be great for motorcycle riders on a budget, unless they live in the United States. Hostels are unfortunately not very popular here. I can only recall staying at one during all my rides, where I ended up paying $10 for a bed in a co-en dorm at a hostel in Fort Worden on the Olympic Peninsula. They were slightly more common in cosmopolitan Canadian cities and ubiquitous when I was travelling in Europe though, to the extent that I never ended up using any of the camping gear that I had lugged across the Atlantic. Beds ranged from $20/night in Berlin to $60/night in Basel, although the latter was a bit of an outlier. In general, I averaged $20/night.

My hostel experience has been a bit of a mixed bag. I’ve stayed in some brilliant places in the center of an exciting city, and some dismal ones that were clearly former prisons or mental asylums. Sometimes I’d meet interesting people, other times it would feel tedious to have to strike up conversations with people you’d probably never meet again. These weren’t motorcyclists so often the only common ground we had was the fact that we happened to be visiting the same city at the same time. There would be times when you’d share a dorm with noisy people – or people who arrived and unpacked their stuff at 2 AM – so that earplugs were a strict necessity.

For motorcyclists travelling on a budget and wanting an alternative to camping, hostels – if available – can be a really good, cheap, clean and safe places to stay.

A hostel in Fort Warden State Park, Washington

A hostel in Fort Warden State Park, Washington


HOME SHARING NETWORKS

Which brings me to the final form of accommodation, namely other people’s homes. Strange people’s homes, to be precise. If I had been writing this ten years ago, this would have been a no-no. However, in the era of Couchsurfing and Air BnB, those barriers have long been shattered. While people renting out rooms in their homes to travelers is nothing new, it’s only recently that these have become so easily discoverable. The best experiences I’ve had have been on Couchsurfing, not on Air BnB, which has always felt a little transactional and more hotel-like rather than community-oriented to me.

I first got onto Couchsurfing around five years ago when I decided that I wanted to dip my toes into this new territory and find out for myself what it was like. My first experience was about the most terrible one I can imagine, and one that I wouldn’t wish on any one. I agreed to host a young man from North Carolina who was visiting Seattle. He claimed to be a motorcyclist, a Harley rider. While I perused his profile, I had an uneasy feeling and I didn’t really want to host him. Since I was new to Couchsurfing, I didn’t realize that I could just say no and that it was quite normal for CS requests to be ignored or refused by hosts. I also didn’t realize that Couchsurfing had a way to “verify” member locations and identities. This person was not a “Verified” member. To cut a long story short, I hosted him, we talked about bikes, had dinner with another friend of mine, then came home and went to bed while he crashed on the couch. I woke up the next morning to find that he had stolen my motorcycle, gear, my iPod and whatever money was lying around. He had taken my bike and – because he must have been pretty stupid – ridden to the nearest military base, where he was stopped, questioned and arrested. I did recover my bike, but the entire incident cost me $600 and a lot of trust in human nature. Couchsurfing wasn’t able to do anything about it because it was purportedly out of their jurisdiction. In hindsight, there were some very simple things I could have done to avoid this from happening, which I will describe in a bit.

After that first bad experience, I held off of Couchsurfing for a long time before I decided to give it a shot and host people again. What changed my mind is the amount of amazing Couchsurfing experiences I had while riding in Europe, where I was hosted by people – all male motorcyclists from all over. I found a motorcycle to ride in Europe from a guy I who emailed me after I made a post about wanting to ride in Europe in a Couchsurfing community for European motorcyclists. I was hosted by both him and his brother in Ljubljana, Slovenia, both of whom were wonderful hosts who introduced me to their city and their friends.

I started my ride from Slovenia and rode to Austria with an Austrian KTM rider who contacted me on ADVRider after I had posted on there. I rode with him and his friend Daniel to Vienna. They took me down some great roads and he hosted me at his place for three nights. While I was there, he went above and beyond to make sure that my bike was running properly, he took me out with his friends every evening, and he helped me plan the next phase of my journey. At the risk of sounding maudlin, I almost felt like he was an angel sent to keep me safe and to show me kindness and generosity at a time when I really needed it.

Later on in my journey, I Couchsurfed with another motorcyclist in Hamburg, who was also a lovely host. He helped me book some train tickets I needed to get for a little side journey, and he took me discover some of the best eating establishments in his city. My fondest memory with him is riding on the back of his bike while he took me on a scenic tour of Hamburg at night.

In Luxembourg, a fellow rider from ADVRider met me at my hostel and took me on a nice little tour around his city.

All of these guys are people I still stay in touch with to this day. I even hosted some of them at my place in Seattle when they visited and met with them in other cities while traveling.

Couchsurfing in Slovenia

Couchsurfing in Slovenia

Oh, and I also ended up staying with a few non-motorcycling friends whom I had only ever met online before. A slight variation in Couchsurfing!

After all these incredible experiences, I feel like I have to do the same, not just to give back to the motorcycling community but also to allow myself to be open to the universe and to experiences like these. To host a traveler was so easy and asked for so little from me. A couch, a shower, and a safe place to rest for the night – my guests didn’t really need a lot more than that. Some of them have even gone on rides on my bikes.  In exchange, I’ve been able to meet wonderful travelers with unique experiences and stories, with whom I stay in touch on our various social networks. This last is the other beautiful aspect of hosting – once you connect a new node in your network in the form of a traveler from another country, their network opens up to you as well, which can be great if you decide to go travel there someday!

This is why I am so excited about MotoStays – a home-sharing service where motorcyclists around the world can register themselves and either host travelers or stay with other hosts on the network. In other words, it is a structured way of creating a global motorcyclist network so that us riders can always be assured of finding other motorcyclists in a strange city with whom to stay, to find a garage and tools, rent or borrow their bike, or just to reach out to to go get some coffee or go riding with. It could potentially replace an assortment of such networks already in place, like the BMW MOA Anonymous book , the ADVRider Tent Space post, the motorcyclist groups on Couchsurfing, and the various long distance riding motorcycle forums out there. I really look forward to seeing this site grow so that five years later we wonder how we ever got along without it.

Going back to staying safe while using sites like these, some of the things I do on Couchsurfing are: I ensure that they are Verified members, I check that they have had positive reviews from at least a handful of real people, I restrict the people I host to women and couples only. I host males only if they are motorcyclists who check out okay. I restrict stays to one or two nights only, and I reserve the right to refuse to host someone if anything about their request feels wrong. This last is the biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone considering hosting a stranger or being hosted by a stranger – our instincts are very fine tuned to warn us of danger and we absolutely need to trust them and listen to the nagging voice that tells us that everything isn’t quite right. If anything about the interaction feels wrong, be prepared to walk away, even if it means sounding rude or having to ride off in bad weather to find another place to stay. I’m not sure what kind of safety features MotoStays has but I hope they will be well thought out and tested. I will try to use it on future long distance rides and report back.

 

To summarize, if you’re a rider who is hesitant about staying with a stranger or hosting another stranger, I hope this article will reassure you that there are some amazing people out there and some great experiences to be had! The motorcycling community consists of a lot of kind, generous and interesting people. We share a bond that’s unlike any other. No matter what our age, race, sex, job or educational background, we know we can have great conversations when we get together and go out of our way to help a fellow rider in need. Connecting with each other via Couchsurfing, MotoStays, the Anonymous Book or the tent space thread puts an amazing network of people just like us at our fingertips. If you find that it just doesn’t work for you, of course there is the comfort of old school hotels and camping to fall back on! :)

Fleeting thoughts about this project

Posted by on Jan 25, 2014 in Blog, Women Who Ride | 1 comment

I want to take a brief moment to post a short update about the Global Women Who Ride project.

A mere two weeks ago, this idea was just a tiny spark in my head. Now, my inbox is flooded with emails from amazing people around the world, all of whom want to be a part of this project and contribute to it.

The only way to describe what I’m feeling right now is this – I feel blessed. I’m so very fortunate to suddenly have such incredible people in my life, all of whom want to share their stories with me and have me be a channel for spreading them across the world.

This world has changed so much since I was little. We all know how much smaller it has gotten. Most of us are aware of how we are all interconnected in so many ways. With every email and every completed interview I get back from women who have some things in common with me and yet are so completely different from me in terms of their rich life experiences, I learn more about the world and grow as a person. I’m filled with delight as I learn more about riding, about the world, and about the lives of each woman who takes the time to talk to me.

Every now and then I feel like I’m stretched thin because it’s difficult to answer every single query I get. Occassionally I feel plagued with self-doubt, wondering if this whole thing is a good idea at all, because I’m incorrectly using the output of social media (Facebook likes!) as a metric to measure the progress of this project. But then I get yet another message from a woman in a country I know nothing about, or a word of praise and excitement from those who have just heard about it. That’s when I know that this is important work and that together we can make an important addition to the sum total of the world’s knowledge.

To those of you who have contributed to this project and to the ones who have just stumbled across it and expressed interest in being a part of it – thank you! I am continually humbled, thrilled and excited about the direction it is taking. :)

Country And Region Tracking

Posted by on Jan 10, 2014 in Blog, Women Who Ride | 1 comment

The following list reflects the number of participants I have per country/region in the world. A great start but also a long way to go! :)

[Places where I already have volunteers are bolded. If you are from a place from where we already have volunteers, please volunteer anyway as you will still bring  a unique perspective to the series.]

AFRICAAFRICAASIAASIAEUROPEEUROPEAUSTRALIA
Northern AfricaWestern AfricaEast AsiaSouth AsiaNorthern EuropeCentral EuropeAustralia
AlgeriaBeninChina (PRC)AfghanistanDenmarkAustriaNew Zealand
Canary Islands (Spain)Burkina FasoJapanBangladeshEstoniaCroatia
Ceuta (Spain)Cape VerdeMacauBhutanGuernseyCzech RepublicNORTH AMERICA
EgyptCôte d'IvoireMongoliaIndiaIcelandHungaryCanada
LibyaGambiaNorth KoreaMaldivesIrelandLiechtensteinUnited States
Madeira (Portugal)GhanaSouth KoreaNepalIsle of ManPoland
Melilla (Spain)GuineaTaiwan (ROC)PakistanLatviaSlovakiaSOUTH AMERICA
MoroccoGuinea-BissauHong KongSri LankaLithuaniaSloveniaArgentina
SudanLiberiaCentral AsiaNorwayBolivia
TunisiaMaliKazakhstanWestern Asia, Middle EastFinlandBrazil
Western SaharaMauritaniaKyrgyzstanArmeniaSouthern EuropeEastern EuropeChile
NigerTajikistanAzerbaijanAlbaniaBelarusColombia
Eastern AfricaNigeriaTurkmenistanBahrainAndorraKazakhstanCosta Rica
BurundiSaint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaUzbekistanCyprusFranceMoldovaCuba
ComorosSenegalEgyptGreeceRomaniaDominican Republic
KenyaSierra LeoneSoutheast AsiaGeorgiaItalyRussiaEcuador
MadagascarTogoBruneiIranMacedoniaUkraineEl Salvador
MalawiMyanmarIraqMaltaGuatemala
MauritiusCentral AfricaCambodiaIsraelPortugalSouthEastern EuropeHaiti
Mayotte (France)AngolaEast TimorJordanSan MarinoBosnia and HerzegovinaHonduras
MozambiqueCameroonIndonesiaKuwaitSpainBulgariaMexico
Réunion (France)Central African RepublicLaosLebanonVatican CityCyprusNicaragua
RwandaChadMalaysiaOmanKosovoPanama
SeychellesRepublic of the CongoPhilippinesPalestineWestern EuropeMontenegroParaguay
South SudanDemocratic Republic of the CongoSingaporeQatarBelgiumSerbiaPeru
TanzaniaEquatorial GuineaThailandSaudi ArabiaGermanyTurkeyPuerto Rico
UgandaGabonVietnamSyriaLuxembourgUruguay
ZambiaSão Tomé and PríncipeTurkeyMonacoVenezuela
ZimbabweUnited Arab EmiratesNetherlands
DjiboutiSouthern AfricaYemenPortugalISLAND COUNTRIES
EritreaBotswanaSwedenTrinidad and Tobago
EthiopiaLesothoSwitzerland
SomaliaNamibiaUnited Kingdom
South Africa Wales
Swaziland

More info about the Global Women Who Ride Project

Posted by on Jan 9, 2014 in Blog, Women Who Ride | 12 comments

More info about the Global Women Who Ride Project

My initial proposal for the Global Women Who Ride project has received some pretty enthusiastic responses and I’ve gotten email from lots of really amazing women who want to be a part of this project. This makes me so happy that I have no words. Looking at some of these womens’ achievements and credentials is humbling and inspiring! The first round of interview questions has gone out to riders across the world. I’m so looking forward to hearing back from them.

For those of you who might be visiting this blog because you were linked to the project, I thought I’d write a little bit more about this idea and try and explain what I am trying to accomplish and why. When I look at contemporary motorcycling literature and media, I find very few women being represented or in positions of influence like writers, editors, test riders, product testers etc. This is of course in large part because we are such a minority. And yet, I long to see other people like me and to hear their stories. I know that there are amazing motorcycling women out there with whom I’d love to sit down and talk over a cup of tea (or beer!) and listen to them talk. And I know that most of us want to hear each other’s stories and learn a little more about the other’s life. So my aims here are manifold. I want us all to have a platform to tell the world about our experiences, I want to make women motorcyclists more visible to the motorcycling industry, to advertisers, to non-motorcyclists, and to the world, and I want to create a global community where we all learn from each other and get a deeper understanding of each other’s lives seen through the lens of this shared passion of ours.

In my mind, no experience is too small or unimportant. Whether you just got your license and picked up your first bike or you’ve been riding for 50+ years, I’m sure you have had experiences that others would love to hear about. When you’re writing about your experience, think of someone geographically far away from you. So for example if you live in Canada, think about a Japanese rider reading your interview. The most mundane detail of your life and rides would be hugely fascinating to her! And vice versa. Even within the United States, as someone who lives on the West Coast of the United States, I’m intrigued to understand what the life of a rider in New York City or San Francisco must be like. And that’s just geography. Even within the same country or state, we have incredible diversity in our experiences, whether it’s because of the type of motorcycle we ride, the kinds of rides we do, whether we race or not, whether we wrench on our own bikes or not. In addition, our various “real-life” identities like race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, profession, marital status, economic status, disabilities, if any, all subtly affect the way we motorcycle, how safe we feel out on the road, the amount of leisure time we have to ride our bikes, the kinds of group motorcycling activities we get involved in, the extent to which we join online motorcycling communities etc.

Finally, I am very keen on these not being “fluff” pieces. Most women I know are intelligent, hard-working people who have rich lives, ambitions and dreams, and complex interactions within the socio-political landscape. They all have a very real impact on their immediate environment and the world. I’d like to highlight this side of the women I profile, and some of my questions reflect this. In my mind the ideal interview will be a combination of fun stuff like your bikes, rides, gear, favorite stories, and somewhat serious stuff like your thoughts around community, female friendship, activism, experiences with online motorcycling forums and communities etc.

This interview series will begin on my blog. I will start with posting an interview per week and work my way up to doing one every 2-3 days. (I do have a fulltime day job, which unfortunately restricts how much I’d like to do.) As I post them, I will continue to try and find women in more countries as well as those with more diversity of experience. Maybe 6 months to a year from now, I hope to have enough interviews to start pitching a book idea. I think a beautiful coffee table book would be a fitting end result for this effort! This will be the difficult part as I don’t have much experience with the publishing industry outside of getting some of my articles published. If nothing else, I will at least create a beautiful eBook that people can read on their tablets until a publisher picks it up.

If you’ve read this far and you like what you’ve heard and would like to participate, email me at womenwhoride at red-baroness dot net (replace “at” with @ and “dot” with . to form a normal email address).

I look forward to hearing from you!

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Image courtesy of Lady Salt Smoker.

The Global “Women Who Ride” Project

Posted by on Jan 8, 2014 in Blog, Women Who Ride | 72 comments

The Global “Women Who Ride” Project

Hello, would you like to be a part of the “Global Women Who Ride” project? :) My aim with this ambitious new project is to highlight women motorcyclists across the globe and provide an insight into what a motorcycle rider in another country looks like, what she loves about riding in her particular part of the planet, and what commonalities and differences there are in her riding experiences vs. those of other riders.

I would love to cover a woman rider from every country across the planet.These riders will be featured in my blog on a regular basis and who knows, hopefully also be a part of a full-color coffee table book (either self-published or the real deal if I can find a publisher). [Note: I also have a sub-project to cover a woman from every state in the United States! And perhaps more such sub-projects set in other large countries like Canada, Australia and Russia if I get enough participants from there.]

The kinds of people I am looking to profile are – people who identify as women and are passionate about motorcycling. It doesn’t matter what you ride – street, dual sport, dirt, trials, stunt bikes, trikes, sidecars etc, are also welcome. The more diversity the better! I would also love a variety of experiences, passions, stories, ages, appearances, abilities etc. :) No experience is too small or unimportant! More than one person per country/area is ok too!

I anticipate that participation in the project will take up 1-2 hours of your time where you fill out a questionnaire and email it back to me with a few high quality photographs of you with your bike. I will then follow that up with personalized questions to learn more about the participant and any interesting experiences she has to share.

If you are not fluent in English, please don’t let that discourage you! We will try our best to make it work by finding an interpreter. I’m especially keen on finding women who diverge from the ones we typically see in Western motorcycling media. I also have access to a lot of people who speak languages other than English who could help with translation. I am also keen on publishing interviews in the speaker’s native language as well as English.

How you can help:
1. If you are a female rider who would like to be a part of this project, please contact me at admin@globalwomenwhoride.com.

2. If you know of a female rider in your country/area or another country/area who you think would be a good candidate for this project, please connect her to me as well.

3. If there are regional motorcycle forums where this is likely to be seen by more people, please cross-post a link to my blog post on there [http://www.adventuresinfinite.com/blog/2014/01/08/the-global-women-who-ride-project] OR ask them to email me directly at admin@globalwomenwhoride.com.

Since this project has gotten such a big response, I might not be able to chase down people who are recommended to me. I’d really appreciate it if they could contact me directly.

Please read more info about the motivations behind and the end goals of this project here: http://www.adventuresinfinite.com/blog/2014/01/09/more-info-about-the-global-women-who-ride-project.

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(Image courtesy of this Tumblr blogger.)