I have been frequently asked: How did you become a motorcyclist? The enquirer often has a puzzled look on their face which, if expressed in words, translates to: you just don’t strike me as the motorcycling type. Well, women are entering the motorcycling industry at the greatest pace of any demographic at the moment! The reasons are as diverse as the women themselves, however many say that it is about freedom and the sense of independence; they were told they would never learn and so they were determined to prove they could, or perhaps they had always wanted to ride a bike!
I learned how to ride on the farm in rural Manitoba. It was largely a practical skill because an extra small motorbike or two on the farm meant that anyone could hop on and go deliver a message, lunch or coffee to the ‘back 40’ where our dad was cultivating a field and one did not always need an extra pickup truck or to walk the distance. There was no texting!
The Honda 90 was my first bike so I had to learn to shift and we made paths in the ditches or on the fields to ride in the evenings for fun after the chores and other farm work was done. My cousins and I had hours of fun riding and I loved it more than anything else! My brother was the first one to get a motorcycle for leisure riding on summer trips. This went a bit counter to the farm lifestyle because summertime is a busy season on the farm and most farmers do not take summer vacations. However, my older brother also loved riding more than almost anything. I remember the smell of the freshly cut grass and smoke from a bonfire as I rode on the back of his bike in the evening just before sunset. We rode every evening!
It was not until I had my own career, money and adult life that it occurred to me that I too could get my license and buy a motorcycle for leisure. Even then, one of the male instructors said: I had you pegged as one of the people who wouldn’t get the hang of riding a motorcycle but you surprised me! REALLY?, I thought! Well, whatever stereotype he had in mind is what women have described many times. Gradually the landscape is changing and there are more women in leadership in the motorcycling industry, including organized associations, training and riding groups. In the last 5 years I have had the opportunity to serve on the provincial Board of Directors for the CMMG (Coalition of Manitoba Motorcycle Groups) and learned from the best about lobbying for the rights of motorcyclists and understanding how legislation can impact the safety and wellbeing of travel on a motorcycle. In January 2022 I was elected as the President of the CMMG. While this is a huge undertaking, there is an energetic set of new Board Members who are enthusiastic and committed to promoting the motorcycle industry in Manitoba!
Recently, motorcyclists would not have been eligible for the two insurance rebates in Manitoba without the CMMG lobby. In addition, insurance rates have remained more reasonable with the CMMG engaging a lawyer to represent all Manitoba motorcyclists at the Public Utilities Board (PUB) hearings.
CMMG also promotes safety, information and resources to motorcyclists across the province. As a Coalition of numerous motorcycle groups, this is the organization that is consulted about proposed legislation that could impact motorcyclists.
CMMG also publicly promotes May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and this year the National safety message is: Watch Out for each other! I have had the privilege of representing Manitoba by serving at the national level on the Motorcycling Confederation of Canada (MCC) Board of Directors. Currently, I co-chair the MCC Road Riders Council. We are working on engagement strategies for road riders nationally and also actively promoting continuous skill improvement opportunities from across Canada with the belief that advanced training prevents accidents and injury, keeping riders and others road users safer. Quebec is carrying out a longitudinal study that is showing preliminary results illustrating this principle: continuous training throughout the lifetime of a motorcyclist prevents injury and accidents!
The MCC has also been actively engaging with the international motorcycling community through multiple collaborations. FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) is an international organization that brings riders from all regions and types of riding together. FIM Beyond Sport is the on-road, off-road, and adventure riding side of the sport. This includes priorities such as international tourism resources, support for continuous skill development and engagement in the sheer enjoyment of whatever type of motorcycle riding matters to you.
I am thrilled that my daughter and her women friends are becoming motorcyclists as they join the growing demographic of women riders. Additional work is still needed to decrease discrimination and increase access for other populations. Manitoba is growing in its inclusivity in motorcycling. The Motosocial gatherings throughout Winnipeg welcomed more than 300 different types of motorcyclists and offered a good example of inclusiveness prior to the pandemic in Winnipeg. Even during the pandemic, motorcycling interest is growing! While we wait for the community to be safe to gather again, stay safe, and ride within the provincially recommended guidelines.