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Silver Bikers: Mastering Midlife On Two Wheels

3 min read

Everyone has their own personal reasons for wanting to ride a motorbike. Whether it’s for freedom, adventure, independence or a new sense of belonging, middle-aged women are taking up motorcycling mostly because it is a way to confront personal challenges, societal stereotypes, and cultural expectations. In fact, once on top of their two wheels, ladies feel more powerful and in control of their life: they believe that if they can master their motorcycle, they can master anything.

What I enjoy most of riding a motorcycle is the freedom and the pure adrenaline rush I feel when I’m in control of those powerful two wheels – Claire Maltby, 51, from Lancashire, says-. I spent the past 30 years thinking that motorcycles were too dangerous, then I saw a colleague at work who has been riding his whole life and before I knew it I was telling him that I wanted to start riding. My friend quickly referred me to a centre for training and then helped me locate a great deal on a beginner bike which is now the love of my mid-life.

Nowadays attitudes toward female bikers are far more accepting than decades ago. The statistics show in particular that the number of women over the age of 40 taking up motorcycling is growing at almost double the rate of men. And it’s not just because women in their 50s are boldly reframing the way they experience this stage of life but also because being more economically independent makes them able to afford their own bike, and makes it part of their identity.

My only regret is that I didn’t start ten years earlier – Katia Rowland, a biker from Cornwall says-. My family thought I was crazy to start riding a motorcycle at the age of 53 but I wasn’t scared. I was excited; I think the adrenaline took over. I’d made a decision that I wanted to bike and that was that. Now I ride my dream motorcycle, a Yamaha Virago .

Welcome to the tribe

Motorcycling also offers chances to forge new links in middle age. Clubs all around the world provide an outlet for women to meet up on a regular basis and share their passion for the two wheels, a way to get integrated into a community of like-minded riders waiting to welcome and provide support.

One of those organizations is Women On Wheels (WOW), a not-for-profit international, family-oriented organization that serves to unite all-female motorcycle enthusiasts. The Women’s International Motorcycle Association has also become very popular. It was launched in 1950 by Louise Scherbyn in the USA and now it has WIMA divisions all around the world (including the UK) organising events and regular updates.

Other great groups to be involved with include The Curvy Riders (the fastest-growing female-only motorcycle club in the UK, with members mostly in their 40s or 50s) or Lippy Ladies, a Yorkshire group ‘for ladies with attitude’. In the US, the most popular biker clubs are Motor Maids (with approximately 1300 members across the United States and Canada), Leather and Lace and The Litas.

There is a sense of community in these biker clubs, women are reaching out and creating strong relationships. Females are supporting each other through these clubs and making riding more accessible- Vicky Rowe, 44, from Midlands says-. It’s not a case of a mid-life crisis, it’s the opposite. As people get older they take stock and start to think differently. There’s a sense that time is precious and if they don’t do something now, they never will. 

Exploring the world on your bike

Travelling on two wheels is also becoming very popular. Women are seeking out this style of riding and enjoying all the rewards that come from venturing outside of a set comfort zone and exploring off the beaten paths. Tour operators like womensmotorcycletours.com or horizonsunlimited.com are great places to check out if you are interested in motorcycle adventure and travel. But what if you want to ride on your own? Whether you have solo-wanderlust or are solo-curious,  Hit The Road, A Woman’s Guide To Solo Motorcycle Touring, a book written by Tamela Rich, helps readers experience the joy of a solo road trip and includes real stories from the road as well as checklists, tips, and resources for anyone who wants to get the best out of a two-wheeled adventure.

Group riding is great, and so is solo – Tamela Rich says.- Yet, my research shows that two-thirds of women riders have limited or no experience travelling alone by motorcycle. I belong to several women rider groups on Facebook where members confide that the men in their lives discourage solo travel, but that’s not the only reason they tend to tour with companions. Fear and lack of confidence in their mechanical skills are also reasons that hold some women back. I have faced these obstacles myself, and share my experiences, advice, and encouragement in the book. 

‘Hit the Road’ discusses travel safety head-on, including how to deal with the travel dangers that women fear most.

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