Rayna Hennen

Today we talk to American adventure rider Rayna Hennen. She’s going to give us the lowdown on riding within New York City and surrounding areas. [Rashmi Tambe, Editor, Global Women Who Ride]


Name: Rayna Diane Hennen
Age: 36
Country: USA (New York City)
Years of Riding: 3.5
Inseam: 32”
Current motorcycle(s): Husqvarna 650 Terra
Past motorcycle(s): 2006 BMW F650 GS
Gear: Arai helmet, Klim & Firstgear pants, Michael Thomas jacket, Alpinestars boots
Miles/year: 8,000 miles in 3 years


Please introduce yourself. I was born in West Virginia, a beautiful state that I love to visit often. My parents moved to New York when I was almost 5 to do theater and we lived in Brooklyn for 4 years. We moved to Queens and I’ve been there for almost 30 years.

I love New York and I have a hard time imagining living anywhere else right now. I am a graphic and digital designer and work for myself which is an amazing and crazy adventure at the same time. When I’m not sitting in front of my computer pushing pixels and code, I am usually reading, crafting, writing, watching hockey, riding my motorcycle, or cooking up something in the kitchen.

What bike did you first start on and why? My first bike was the 2006 BMW F650 GS. The bike was used, inexpensive, and came at the right time. We decided that a used bike was better so I wouldn’t worry about beating it up or if I didn’t like riding it wouldn’t be too much of an investment.

What do you ride right now? For better or worse, I have not had much input in the bikes I’ve gotten. My boyfriend is the researcher: he researches everything about a topic or item when he decides he wants something, which I think is great. When he makes a decision or choice, it’s a good one. The current one, the Husqvarna, is set up better for off-road and he’s hoping this will help my confidence. He read a lot of reviews and I went to the dealer twice to sit on it. It’s definitely weighted differently but I still don’t think I could pick it up.

What is your favorite type of riding? I currently ride on and off-road. Until I got my bike, I only knew of street riding or motocross which I will probably never do! I had no idea there was this whole middle ground of adventure riding, going off-road on trails and organized group rides. I’m still learning but I do love off-road riding. It’s challenging and the people are great.

Women Who Ride: Fun on trails!

Fun on trails!

One of the highlights of my trip to Hawaii in 2013 was renting a bike and having a 5 hour guided trip around the big island. I mentioned to my boyfriend that it would be cool to rent a bike there and we found Hawaiian Adventure Rentals. I rented Kawasaki KLX 250 and it was SO different from the BMW! It was light and going off road was so easy. I felt like a pro! Maybe it’s good to learn on the wrong bike because you get on the right bike and you’re like, oh yeah, I’ve got this!

Women Who Ride: Rayne Hennen riding in Hawaii

Rayne Hennen riding in Hawaii

Can you relate a good story from your rides? In the fall of 2012, I was at a ride called CroMag in Silver Lakes, Vermont. My boyfriend, who is a more experienced rider, was riding with a bunch of other guys on routes I couldn’t do so I found a rider who just wanted to take it easy, maybe some gravel roads, nothing too crazy.

We found a road that seemed perfect: wide, sunny and gravelly. The road started to get narrower and more overgrown. Before we knew it the road was barely wide enough for a car, was covered in medium and large size rocks. It was rutted out – you could see the water pipes through the ground and some of the holes would have come up to my knee if I stood in them. This was WAY over my head but I just kept repeating in my head what I was taught: stand up and lean forward, don’t death grip the handles, pick your line and look where you want the bike to go. I went down twice – the second time was really hard and I ended up with a dent in my bone and a broken mirror.

The guy was great – he was so apologetic, he picked my bike up for me and help me navigate a really wide crack. I think he was more concerned my boyfriend was going to kill him when we got back.  There was a moment when I froze. I got back on the bike after the second fall and I froze. I couldn’t let go of the throttle or pick up my feet but finally managed to pull it together. Even though it was a rough day, at the end of it, I DID finish. I kept it together and considering my inexperience level, I did only go down twice.


What’s it like to ride in NYC? There aren’t a lot of places to ride in New York City. There is too much traffic to make it enjoyable and so we only ride through the city to get to where we want to ride. It’s not a motorcycle friendly state from what I’ve been told.

I have not experienced it firsthand but that incident last year where that group of bikes on the West Side Highway attacked that guy in the SUV I’m sure didn’t help. I was really ticked off about that because it does not represent the community as a whole at all. Everyone I’ve ridden with is respectful, rides in an orderly group and obeys traffic laws because we don’t want our rights taken away or for people to have a negative image of riders.

If we had one morning to ride together, where would you take me? As a non-commuting rider living in New York City, riding is more of a challenge to your skills of paying attention, being alert and maneuvering rather than being a relaxed, enjoyable experience. There is a lot of traffic and drivers (particularly cab drivers!) make a lot of sudden moves – changing lanes at the last minute, pushing the gas hard then making sudden stops. There are buses stopping and starting, a lot trucks out for delivery and during the day, rush hour is pretty much all day and it’s hard to find parking.

Of course I would want to take you out for a ride so I would probably take you to a diner called Rosie’s in Haverstraw. The ride there is a little over an hour but the roads there are long and windy. There isn’t a lot of traffic and during the spring and summer all the trees are blooming and it’s a nice, easy ride for a morning trip. You will still get to experience the challenges of New York City riding as you have to go through the city to get do this and pretty much any of the rides we do but there is a good breakfast on the other end!  [Link to route]


Riding down a country road

Riding down a country road

How are women riders treated in your part of the world? From my experience, they are welcomed. The guys we ride with are very supportive and always encourage me. They are always asking my boyfriend why I’m not at a ride and to bring me to more rides. That and talk their girlfriends or wives into riding if they don’t!

I really like them as people, we have a good time and they are supportive of me riding. I feel like they watch out for me and more than three of them have helped me pick up my bike or maneuver it out of a tight spot and they are never rude or condescending about it.

Are there any motorcycling related issues that you feel strongly about? I have been reading more about the restriction of land for off road riding for motorcycles and ATVs and I do feel like they can get overzealous about restricting use. I appreciate efforts to conserve the environment and endangered species but at the same time, what’s the point of all that land if no one can enjoy it? It’s a social and recreational activity and it seems a lot of the restrictions come from negative associations with riders.

Do you have any advice for people who want to get into motorcycling? I think the best advice I’ve gotten is to ride your own ride. Don’t try to keep up with people who are faster than you as that’s when accidents happen. And practice. Even if all you do is ride in your neighborhood for a half hour whenever you can, the more time you spend on the bike, the more comfortable you’ll be. favicon