summertime … and the riding is easy

Shieldaig, Torridon

What is the perfect ride?

Scottish HighlandsMay be many things: a busy rally, a desert trip, a cruise along Sunset Boulevard – there are so many bikers out there, so many different ideas what a perfect ride should be like.

Even my own idea of a pefect run differs occasionally.

But very often, this one song goes through my head as my bike takes me to the horizon: Summertime and the living is easy….

 

chopper dreams

sea and gorseA perfect ride – what does it take?

Fun, for a start. And sun, not to forget. Me and my bike and some breathtaking scenery – that is a perfect ride for me. No breakdowns, no annoying cars, not a soul in sight.

Just summer and the coconut smell of Scottish gorse, a sea breeze and a powerful engine roaring through the wilderness.

….and the riding is easy indeed.

 

With a little treat – a fruit scone, home-made jam and cream when the road takes you back into civilisation.

Perfect!

 

women at war

I have fought against stereotypical images of woman since I can remember. That was one of the reasons, why I bought a Harley-Davidson, I guess.

It is not only the woman I am but the woman I was perceived to be, that made me want to change things all those years ago.

I bought my first bike, I was nineteen then, with the revolutionary spirit of a student ready to fight all odds. Especially the machos who tried to impose their views of how a woman should be. I was determined not to let that happen.

And it didn’t. But it was a hard fight.

Many women on wheels will know the feeling. They might have fought the same battles. Some did decades before I did. Real battles, too.

The female dispatch riders, common in World War II and not unknown of in World War I.

What amazing women they must have been. A life at war, much harder than it is today of course but the gender roles seemed easier to transgress at a time when nothing was as it should be and the men were fighting far away.

Celebration of the Centuries 2014

In the UK women started their Enfield bullets and rode through wind, weather and war. Truly spirited and very brave females.

Inspiration that still exists and quite obviously so in historical re-enactment: female performers with costumes and bikes of the forties proved that this weekend in Fort George in Scotland.

http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/celebration/events/event_detail.htm?eventid=26900

 

Celebration of the Centuries, 2014

To re-create the past is what historical re-enactment is all about.

Sometimes the past seems more modern that the present, at least where women on wheels are concerned.

900 miles (part2)

Why had I chosen the night ferry?

So I could get enough sleep for the second part of my long trip.

on the way northI was tired and fell asleep the minute I lay down, even though my whole body was aching and tense. I woke up half an hour later. An alarm had went off on some car on the deck right underneath my cabin. Somehow I managed to go back to sleep, only to be woken up again around 4 am. More alarm!

I cursed cars, engineers and ferry companies alike and went back to sleep. The Intruder has no alarm system, no need to be alarmed.

There were about 12 bikes on the ferry. All racers. A small English group who did not look left or right never mind greet and a Manx group talking races. We were all crammed together in a line, bikes secured with the straps provided. Considering the wobbly sidestand and my fear of my bike falling over I had strapped her tight, real tight. So tight, I had to muster all my strength and I still couldn’t get that bl**y thing off. The lock had jammed.

I turned round and said: “Hey guys, can one of you give me a hand?”

They were at it with the speed of light, started pulling and poking and cursing but they would rather have lost a few fingers than admit failure. It took some time but they managed to get my Intruder free. I thanked them and looked into two big grins. My need for help had made them happy.

I had not liked to ask. A matter of pride I guess. But staying behind, strapped tight to the ferry, wouldn’t have looked much cooler, would it?

But still I felt more “girlie” than I was happy with.

ScotlandThe rest of the long journey was smooth and uneventful. I took several breaks for petrol, coffee and toilets and arrived early and with a sore bum at my final destination.

night on the roadSoaking in the bath I pondered why I had found it so difficult to ask for help.

Does independence mean, you have to manage everything yourself?

Does emancipation mean you have to manage without men completely?

I doubt both.

Real independence and emancipation leaves freedom to ask for support.

I would never hesitate to help somebody who asked me for help. Maybe it is because male bikers never do ask female riders for assistance, that it felt so strange and uncomfortable when I had to. Which it shouldn’t, actually.

Men and women on bikes do the same things but they are not the same.

Or to say it with George Orwell…

All bikers are equal but some bikers are more equal than others.

 

addiction, passion, obsession

I am nuts. I know that. Crazy because I have this passion for riding bikes.

It has become rather addictive now. I enjoy the Harley thoroughly.

But…..

I want more. So I went and got another bike. I had seen it late at night on the internet and drove to the dealer who was selling it the next day.

A couple of local men were standing at the counter as I walked in. I saw the Intruder in the show room straight away. What a dangerous looking beauty. I walked around, taking in every detail. So were the guys at the counter.

A woman, all by herself……???? They exchanged glances. What is she doing here…???

I ignored them while I adored the 1400 cc engine. It was in good nick.

When I asked if I could take her for a test drive the local jaws dropped simultaneously.

I took my helmet and jacket out of the car. In the meantime  the shop owner had maneuvered the bike outside in front of the entrance.

Suzuki Intruder VS 1400

Sitting down I realized just how big that bike was. And what a sound it had. It felt a very male thing to me. I can’t say why. Much more than my Sportster did.

I took off and felt a bit wobbly at first. The sound was fantastic. I soon came to the first roundabout. Some challenge that was!

custom

That was the moment when I was sure.

I would take it. And why?

Because it was not an easy bike to ride and not at all a girlie one.  That one would probably cause me a lot of trouble and nerves.  I would fear every tight corner I had to master. And I would relish the challenge. I had to have it. A beautiful and loud piece of ultimate emancipation.

I parked her in front of the entrance and walked in, putting the key on the counter. The locals were still standing there, openly staring now and not even pretending, that they had anything to do in there anymore.

“”I take it.” I said and smiled. “I need another one.”

intense longing

I miss her. Think about her every day.

How could this mass of nuts and bolts, rubber and steel become a true part of me so quickly­? Flesh of my flesh.

Maybe that is the secret behind the myth. A Harley-Davidson has the power to stop being just an engine. It can become you. Part of you. Flesh of your flesh. You in your purest and most authentic form. The essence of you.

I miss her. I had to leave; it will be another month before I can go back. Will things be the same? The way I feel about her?

I ride another bike just now. In another country.  My old Suzuki Savage. Of course there is the joy of the ride, the surge of power, the taste of freedom. But I am not invincible now but an ordinary biker again.

Suzuki Savage

LS 650

I am a bunch of deputy sheriffs, not  John Wayne.

A realization dawns on me – there is no way back. You just can’t downsize anymore. Once you are part of the myth there is no other road you can take.

Owning a Harley-Davidson means there is only one way left to ride into the sunset.