I remember the excitement of getting my first ever road going motorbike. It was a Yamaha R125, and it was the bike of my dreams. I was looking forward to the freedom it would give me. I’d no longer be on the back of someone elses bike, and I could go wherever I wanted to go. It felt like getting a breath of fresh air.
My first few times out on the bike, I went with my Dad, and occasionally with my godfather. Dad wanted to make sure I was confident enough on the road, and although I had a lot to work on, I thought I was brilliant. I started heading off on adventures on my own. Sometimes just because I loved being on my bike, other times to clear my head from whatever was going on in my life at the time.
At that time, social media wasn’t really a thing. We were still in the MySpace/Bebo days, so the only way to find bike meet ups was either by already knowing the people, which I didn’t, or else by logging onto Boards.ie. It was a wealth of information that only the people of the internet can provide. Most of it made up, wrong, or down right stupid. Full of the opinions of everyone who knew better than you.
Despite this, it was where the groups of people who rode motorbikes together on a Sunday were, so I joined up. Seeing how a lot of the lads spoke about women on the forum, I made my username decidedly gender neutral. Women on bikes were few and far between, and it wasn’t a battle I wanted to fight yet. Finally a Sunday spin was announced that was going to be suitable for lower powered bikes. I signed up straight away.
The Sunday came around, and it was a bright summers day. We all met at a previously agreed petrol station. I introduced myself, and tried not to roll my eyes at the many “but you’re a girl” and “oh good for you, you wouldn’t want anything bigger than a 125” comments that came my way. I scanned around looking at all of the 600 and thousand cc motorbikes that were parked. Mine was the only 125.
Nobody meant any harm, but it was grating. Immediately obvious to me were two men who turned up, one on a Hyabusa, and the other on ZX1100. They loudly spoke about who was the fastest, and how they wouldn’t be waiting for slower bikes because they’d only get bored. I decided to stay out of their way, and spoke to a few other people about where we were going.
I had been given the advice to just stay at the back of the group, and that way not so many people would have to pass me. I didn’t want to get in anyones way, so I did what was suggested. Two of the guys present had offered to stay at the back with me, so that I wouldn’t get lost. We set off, and I let everyone go in front.
As we rode along a stretch of motorway, I began to worry that I was indeed going to get left behind on this spin. I didn’t have anyones phone numbers, so if I got dropped, I would have to just return home. They all sped ahead, and I was regretting my decision to go on the spin at all. Just as I was debating turning off and heading home, the group exited the motorway.
We got onto some back roads, and I prepared myself to make a decision about staying after a couple of minutes. Suddenly everyone in front of my slowed down, almost to a stop. I wondered if there was some hazard in the road that I hadn’t seen. Maybe there was something around the bend. I slowed down, into second gear, and rode along. Once I got around the bend, everyone had taken off again. They had slowed down for the corner.
I took off after them, my little bike revving almost to its red line as I clicked up the gears. As we got to another bend, I had to stand on the brakes and dump my gears as everyone had slowed down so much. This was ridiculous. As we came out of the bend onto a short straight section of road, I passed a few of the riders. The spin went on in this manner for what seemed like a long time. I wasn’t riding particularly fast, but stopping at every corner was ruining my fun.
I made my way towards the front of the group as we meandered through the twisty back roads. I could no longer see some of the riders in my mirrors. Once we got onto a straight section of road though, the guys would open up their more powerful engines and blast past me. This got boring really fast, and I didn’t want to race anyone, so I settled into my own speed, and just made sure to be far enough back that they had time to get around each corner without me nearly running into the back of them.
As the spin came to an end, we pulled up at a pub for a bit of food. The guy on the Busa and ZX were already inside, food eaten and all. The rest of us parked up, and prepared to go inside. I was instantly surrounded by a few of the men who hadn’t spoken to me at the first meeting point. They asked questions like how long have I been riding, and who I go out with a the weekends, and had I bored out my 125, as it couldn’t be that fast.
I answered their questions, as we ordered and ate our food. The guy who had told me to stay at the back of the group apologised and said he assumed that I’d be slower than I was, and how great was it that there was a girl who could really ride a motorbike. While he meant no harm with his comments, once again they were grating. It was the first and only group spin I went on while I owned my R125.
Thankfully now social media has made some group spins more accessible, and I also know many more female riders. I’ve been out on a few spins in more recent years, and the atmosphere has been completely different. It’s good to see the change, but just remember to never judge someones riding ability based on the bike they show up on. They might just ride around the outside of you at every bend on the spin.