Before you roll your eyes and skip over reading this article, I ask that you give it a second thought on behalf of your mother, sister, wife, daughter, or lady friend in your life that shares the same passion for motorcycling that you do.
You may have read my last article called “Born to Ride” about growing up as a motorcyclist. In that article, I talked about how my mother started riding at a young age and was one of the role models in my life that encouraged my passion for riding motorcycles. And so the saga continues …
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At the Toronto Motorcycle Show a few months ago, I met a woman named Vicki Gray. For those of you who don’t know Vicki, she is a motorcycle racer, instructor, coach and journalist who has been riding since 1983. She created Motoress, an online motorcycle magazine for women motorcycle and scooter enthusiasts, and she also introduced “International Female Ride Day”.
I liked this woman the minute I met her; she had a spark in her eyes and passion in her voice as she spoke about her love for motorcycling. I decided right away that I wanted to become friends with Vicki and learn as much as I possibly could from her. So, after a few conversations and meetings, it was decided that not only would I would participate in International Female Ride Day, but I would also assist with coordinating the Toronto Female Ride Day event!
A few years ago, I didn’t know what International Female Ride Day was. I had heard about it, but I was never involved in the event and didn’t know much about it. So, here’s a brief history for those of you who are also wondering what it is all about.
In 2007, International Female Ride Day was created with the primary goal of highlighting women who ride motorcycles. The only request for women of all ages and experience levels was to get out and “just ride,” whether on a motorcycle or scooter, regardless of make or model of bike. This is a globally synchronized event that brings together thousands (maybe even millions) of women motorcyclists across the planet, including: Canada, the United States, Australia, England, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Poland, India, Russia, Germany and more. So, after months of planning, it was time for me to “just ride” for Female Ride Day, and that’s exactly what I did.
On Saturday, May 3 (with an 80% chance of rain that day), I jumped on my 2008 Suzuki SV650 and made the two-hour trek from Niagara Region to Toronto. I wasn’t going to let rain stop me from riding on the eighth-annual Female Ride Day. So, I made sure to pack accordingly. I wore my rain gear and brought a change of clothes just in case. My family later told me that they thought I was nuts to ride the distance to the big city on my own. Maybe I was; but I was determined, and I was really looking forward to meeting other women who shared the same interest as me. I won’t lie, though; I did question myself a few times as I rode towards a large black vortex cloud in the sky. I hit rain about halfway there but made it through safely and arrived at my destination with a few minutes to spare.
When I got to Toronto, I connected with Vicki Gray and her friend, Nina, to pick up coffee and donuts for the event. We then proceeded to our first meeting spot of the day, located at Toronto City Hall. We pulled up to a few motorcycles that were already parked and waiting for us to arrive. Within 10 minutes, more motorcycles arrived, and then a few more. Before I knew it, there were close to 25 motorcycles lined up on the side of the street.
Now is the time where I feel I need to mention that I am a country girl, and as a result, I find that big cities intimidate, yet amaze me at the same time. I remember standing in downtown Toronto, just blown away that I even made it there, and amazed with all the monster skyscrapers around me. There’s no doubt; I was overwhelmed at that moment. I quickly pulled it together and made an effort to talk to as many riders as I could. I met women from all over the Greater Toronto Area; women who rode all different brands and sizes of cruisers, scooters, sport bikes and touring motorcycles. I met some women who, like me, were attending Female Ride Day for the first time, and some who had been attending the event for several years.
“Let’s ride!” After getting to know each other a bit, it was time to move to our next location. We fired up our bikes, and rode as a group to the waterfront at Corus Entertainment. What a beautiful spot! The afternoon was spent getting to know everyone a bit more inside the Against the Grain restaurant. Prizes were handed out by representatives from BMW, Kawasaki, Honda and Harley-Davidson, while refreshments were provided by Kymco and Riders Plus Insurance.
While sipping coffee, I chatted with company representatives who took time out of their busy schedules (and their weekend) to attend this event. To them, it wasn’t an option to miss Female Ride Day. I met individuals who were professionals, moms, bloggers, and students from all different walks of life. We talked about work, life, and, of course, motorcycles. I was fortunate to get a few contacts and made some tentative plans to join a group ride to Port Dover for the upcoming Friday 13th Rally. It was amazing how well everyone got along in this group; there was an immediate acceptance and understanding between us all.
The final activity of the day was a group ride through downtown Toronto. A big thanks to Mike Jacobs from What a Ride who planned the route for us. We rode through the streets of downtown Toronto, beeping our horns, revving our bikes, and just having a blast at the opportunity to participate in this global event. I felt liberated and energized. People on the streets stopped to take pictures as we rode by, and some people asked us what was going on when we were stopped at stoplights. I heard a few women excitedly shout that we were celebrating women motorcyclists worldwide, and the response I heard was “Wow! That’s so cool!”
We ended our ride at the Direct Energy Centre and had fun taking more pictures. I felt like I had known some of these new friends for more than just a day. I couldn’t get enough of their stories, knowledge and passion for motorcycling!
Eventually, the day had to end. We all said our good-byes with promises to connect this summer for some more riding. I made my way back to Niagara and had to pull off the highway during the ride back because it was raining so hard. I stopped at a local coffee shop and took a few minutes to check out some pictures from the event that had been posted on my Twitter and Instagram pages. I then found myself looking at pictures from other Female Ride Day events across the globe; some pictures had been posted from India, Sweden and the United Kingdom! I don’t think I realized how large this event really was, and I smiled to myself at the thought that I had a small part of this growing, international event.
The number of female motorcycle riders is increasing each year across the world. Let’s support this growth by encouraging the women in your life to join you out there on an adventure (because we all know every ride is an adventure in one way or another), and “just ride.”