– By Brittany Seki, Senior Editor –
Can you feel it? Winter is finally melting away, with buds peaking through the soil and Robins beginning to nest. Spring is in the air, which means motorcycles are being dusted off and tuned up to hit the streets. Although it’s a lovely time to be outdoors, the roads can be a dangerous place for motorcyclists. Now is the time that motorists (or “cagers” as bikers like to call them) need to be vigilant as their two-wheeled cousins join the daily commute. Safety is a priority for all riders and separates the good motorcyclists from the bad – and, in extreme cases, life from death.
Experienced riders know all too well the risks associated with Spring riding – they need to watch out for wet, oily, salt- and debris-covered roads, unaware drivers, cold pavement (takes longer for tires to warm up) and rain. Although there are many risks, revving that engine on the open road is one of the most exhilarating experiences you will ever have. Has riding a Ducati or a Harley ever peaked your curiosity? With the right motorcycle safety education, those interested in riding can gain the knowledge and skills to take these bikes for a spin, without harm. So if you’ve always wanted to ride into the sunset, it’s more than possible to do so safely. Motorcyclist Goldie Eng shares her experiences, tips and how you can hit the open road safely.
“When I ride, it is the ultimate stress relief. It forces you not to think of anything but the act of riding. It’s freeing for me. I am one with the bike when I ride.”
For the motorcycle community, riding is life. Goldie has been on two wheels for nearly a decade. She is a Motorcycle Instructor with Learning Curves in Toronto, Ontario, teaching and testing new riders about bike safety. Think of Goldie (nicknamed Goldie Tiger) as the barrier who protects commuters from those unfit to ride. Learning to ride from Goldie will start you on the path to becoming an expert rider yourself. She has a solid foundation of riding experience, but also remembers being a beginner rider herself.
“My family owned a Chinese restaurant in Quebec,” said Goldie, as she remembered her first encounter with a bike. “When I was seven or eight years old, our delivery guy came to work on his motorcycle and I wanted it even before my driver’s license. I thought it was so cool, considering I wasn’t even allowed to have a bicycle. My mother had a fear of her children being on two wheels, her younger brother died from an MVA [motor vehicle accident] when she was still a teen.”
The risks associated with riding didn’t stop Goldie from purchasing her first bike in 2007, a Honda CBR 125. Most riders learn on 125cc-powered motorcycles, with a maximum speed of 100 km per hour. She has since upgraded her motorcycle to a beautiful black stallion, a 2011 Suzuki GSXR 750. This is an extremely powerful bike, and should only be ridden by experienced riders. Even Goldie knew she needed practice before she could tame such a speed demon. She took the beginner motorcycle course at Sheridan College in Brampton, Ontario, with her boyfriend at the time.
“I didn’t ride with him much because he had a Honda CBR 600 and I didn’t feel comfortable going on highways with him,” Goldie explained. “But I was fortunate to have met other female riders that took me out on the bike to get comfortable riding.”
When you’re first getting used to a motorcycle, it’s important you ride with experienced riders who are willing to teach you and ride at your comfort level. Goldie knew it wasn’t safe riding with her boyfriend at the time, so she went online and discovered motorcycle communities that offered a space for beginner motorcyclists to ride safely. GTAMotorcycle.com, ChicRiders.com and womensportbikerally.com were just a few sites she was able to find other female riders to help build her skills on the road.
“Some guys tend to have big egos, and mixing this with inexperience is a recipe for stupid things to happen. Sometimes men try to impress women on the bike by doing wheelies or speeding, which could endanger both of them,” said Goldie, as she explained why riding with men sometimes isn’t ideal for new female riders. “I also find that I get followed by cars when I’m alone riding. Sometimes being in a group is safer.”
Riding is more commonly a male-dominated activity. As a female rider, it’s difficult to find proper fitting gear, and unfortunately unwanted attention from male drivers and other male motorcyclists is common. This makes riding more of a risk for women dealing with distractions, so it’s even more important for lady bikers to stick together and create riding groups of their own. The support system allows women to build their skills on the road in a safe and comfortable environment. Despite the challenges female bikers face, it is still one of the most fulfilling activities to participate in.
“Riding is one of the most empowering experiences for women. They understand that they are the ones in control of the bike, instead of being a passenger sitting on the back. She, the rider, decides when she wants to go, how fast, how far, where to and more. It’s ultimate freedom.”
When Goldie first started riding, she took a chance and went to a bike meet held in Mississauga, called Spring Bling. That’s where she first saw the Chic Riders group of women. “I met a special member named Liz Metcalfe. She did so much for me. She would ride all the way from downtown Toronto during rush hour to meet me in Brampton, just to ride beside me all the way back downtown. She even stuck to the side streets, since I wasn’t comfortable taking the highway. Just having someone there to ride beside in case anything went wrong was such a relief and allowed me to build up confidence on the bike.”
Liz Metcalfe was an integral part of not only groups of female riders but also the motorcycle community as a whole. She helped fundraise for organizations such as the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre and more. On one tragic day, after leading a charity ride, Liz was struck and killed in a motorcycle accident on her way home.
“Liz was a good friend, advocate for safety, editor for newspapers, blogger, a mother, a sister and so much more. She did a lot for the bike community. I can only try to be as much help as she was.” Goldie and her brothers and sisters in riding felt the loss of a leader in their community. But it was the creation of this community that carries on Liz’s legacy. There are many benefits for motorcyclists who ride together.
“Motorcycle groups and communities are important for bringing awareness to rider safety on the road, and it needs to be shared,” said Goldie. “There is also a negative stigma that all bike clubs are gangs, so joining groups and organizations, whether for fun or helping charities, aids in removing that stereotype.”
Along with battling these stereotypes, riding is more often safer for bikers in a group. The main reason is visibility. Riding in a group forces motorists to become more aware of motorcyclists on the road and gives them no choice but to share the space. However, there are many more ways riders can prevent and lower risks of injury. Goldie has offered her tips for beginner riders to ride safely, but put simply, practice makes perfect.
“My advice for new riders, whether male or female, is to just ride. Get on the bike and get more riding time under your belt. The more you’re on the bike, the more comfortable you will be.”
GOLDIE’S BEGINNER MOTORCYCLE TIPS 101
1) TAKE A COURSE! Learning from a certified Motorcycle Instructor will help develop the foundation for safe riding and encourage good riding habits on the road.
2) BIKE INSPECTION! Before getting on the bike, make sure you check tire pressure, brake lights, brakes and that your chain is lubed and clean.
3) ATGATT! Make sure you wear All The Gear All The Time!!! Full-faced helmet, proper riding boots, gloves, armored jacket and armored pants or jeans!
4) EYES UP! Make sure you always look where you want to go. If you look down, well…you’ll go down!
5) CHECK MIRRORS! Don’t forget to scan the roads around you and check your mirrors and blind spots often. Always be alert, even when you’re at a red light. Likewise, do not ride in someone’s blind spot – always be aware of your surroundings.
6) DON’T SPEED! Never try to keep up with other experienced riders, especially around curves that may involve aggressive leaning. Know who you’re riding with and discuss your riding level before you hit the road. Ride at the speed and skill you’re comfortable with.
A little about the writer: At heart, Brittany is a motorcycle riding, craft beer loving, Basilisk lizard rescuing, fun-to-be-around bartender. Through writing, she is able to satisfy her desire to try new things – to discover, learn and share one-of-a-kind experiences with all of you!