Friends, Community and Good Causes
It was back in the summer of 1983—I was a curious teenage girl from a small village called Mindemoya, on Manitoulin Island. My cousins were in their twenties and had ridden up in from Toronto for a tour around the island. As their motorcycles sat in my parents' driveway, I couldn't help but check them out. Noticing my curiosity, my cousin asked me if I'd like to go for a ride, and the answer was clear—YES! We rode along windy local roads, past Ice Lake, feeling the exciting rush of summer wind in my face. There were butterflies in my stomach and a big grin on my face. For a short time, my eldest brother also owned a Kawasaki that I watched come and go. This all stayed with me.
Later, as I thought about my career and moved to Toronto in search of new beginnings, I had to let my thoughts of motorcycles go—I was in no position at the time to be getting my own motorcycle. Starting a family and building my careers was the focus… but every time I would hear the rumble of a motorcycle, my head would turn. Still, my children were my first priority. Maybe once they were old enough, I'd finally own a motorcycle.
It was in 2011 that this dream came true, and over the years I've gotten to know many fellow riders, from independents to club bikers. I'm not ashamed to say that I failed my M2 riding test at Centennial College the first time around, due to nerves and stalling the bike. Not being one to give up though, I kept practicing parking lot drills and before long I was ready to roll out onto real roads. My first bike was a 2006 Shadow Aero that I nicknamed "Baby HonDa". Before buying, I did a lot of research to try and figure out which motorcycle would suit me best as a first bike. The Honda Shadow was a great choice.
Next I joined a riding meet-up group called Let's Just Ride, which has been around since 2008. When I first started, I always made sure that I wore my full safety riding gear, and always had a riding buddy to ride with for support. After I got a bit of experience under by belt, I rode alone for the first time and it was a great feeling of accomplishment.
My first charity ride was the annual Ride For Sick Kids, which is held every August. The route starts at Mackie Harley Davidson in Oshawa. Since it was a Sunday, I decided to take the 401 for the first time, from Oshawa to Whitby. Filled with adrenaline and excitement, I arrived at the meet-up telling everyone that I'd just ridden the 401 for the first time. I got some funny looks but I didn't care, I was proud of myself. Overall, although I've had a few slow speed mishaps, I've never hurt myself and always gotten back into the saddle. Having supportive biker friends is great. I've taken part in many group rides with friends, riding an average of 400-500 kilometres a day—Buckhorn Road, Highway 507 (great curvy Ontario road), Bobcaygeon, Algonquin Park, Orillia's Upper Big Chute, Wasaga… there've been so many awesome days that I can't list them all.
After a slow start, many people were surprised at how well and fast I learned to ride. Throughout the learning process, I was always very social and listened to the advice of a lot of experienced bikers, constantly taking in their smart advice. I've since been asked to be an assistant administrator for the LetsJustRide.ca group, and I agreed to volunteer my time because it's such a supportive group for bikers of all sorts and I felt it was important to give back.
In 2013, I took part in the B.R.O (Bikers' Rights Organization) Charity Ride in the Niagara Region, where they held their 30th annual "Cover the Kids Run". The ride was extremely successful, with all proceeds going to COPE in Fort Erie. It was a great group of bikers and a beautiful ride. I'm proud to say that I took part in over 8 charity rides that year, supporting and meeting biker friends from all over Ontario. The HHR Highway of Heroes ride, Ride for Dad, Ride for Sight… these rides draw people together and support bikers who have lost loved ones, have sick ones who need help, are fighting cancer, or have been victims of cagers on cell phones. There have been a lot of fun social bike nights, too.
I also rode home to Manitoulin for the Ride Manitoulin Rally, organizing a group ride to help show some bikers how beautiful the island is, which I'm planning to do again this year. Be it charity rides, day rides, or making new friends along the way, motorcycling in this province is awesome. Many of us use Facebook as a communication tool, and I've met so many great people over the years. My riding experiences have been wonderful, and I know that I have many more years and adventures to look forward to in the years ahead. I'm always happy to meet new bikers, hear their interesting stories, make new friends from all walks of life, and encounter caring people with families, everyone enjoying those moments of freedom that we as bikers know, while supporting many good causes along the way.