Hi, My Name is Suzanne …and I’m a Motorcyclist

Story by Suzanne Payne// Photos by Suzanne Payne
May 1 2008

To say that I’m an addict is somewhat of an understatement. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want a bike. As a little girl, I remember my excitement every time we went to visit my Uncle Andrew. To me his Honda dealership was the coolest place on earth. I’d drive him crazy with all my questions and although I knew the price, displacement and name of every model, I was just a little girl in pigtails. No one took me seriously.

As a teenager I begged, borrowed and stole my brother’s bike regularly. I hung around guys who had bikes to get my fix, but it wasn’t enough. Every once in a while I would test the waters. I’d mention to my dad how one of my acquaintances had a bike for sale. No reaction. Once, I told him a friend let me ride his bike for an afternoon. I thought for sure he’d be upset since I didn’t have a bike license at the time, but instead he repeated his monologue about good girls and how they behave. His exact words were, ‘What were you thinking? What if the neighbors had seen you?’ Now, don’t think that my dad wasn’t a nice man. It’s just that in his time, girls didn’t ride bikes. At least not the good girls.

So off to university I went. Again and again I repeated to myself that I didn’t need a bike to be happy. I was living a lie, but denial is a powerful tool. For a while I almost convinced myself. One day during summer vacation my friend, Paul, invited me for a ride. That’s when I saw it, a 1979 Suzuki GS750. That was the beginning of the end.

For days I thought about that bike. At the time I had no idea what year it was, what shape it was in, how much they wanted for it. Heck, I didn’t even know what brand it was. All I knew is that I had to have it. I convinced Paul to take me back to see if it was still for sale and it was. In less than an hour, without taking it for a test drive, or even starting it, I bought it.

Then came the unpleasant task of telling my parents. I knew they’d have a cow when I told them I had completely depleted my savings account. Would they pay for next year’s tuition or would they let me fend for myself? But more so, I knew they’d be disappointed. They had worked so hard to raise me right. Where had they gone wrong? Things were rough at home for a while and we were all glad when September finally arrived. The bike was parked in a corner of the garage and I made my way back to university with literally no money in my pocket but a promise that it wouldn’t get sold while I was gone. I was poor, but I was happy.

I sold the bike before finishing my degree. Money was tight and other priorities snuck their way into my life. Relieved, my parents never said a word. They were too scared to ask if I planned to get another one. Little did I know it would take me 15 years to do it again. In my mid-thirties, freshly divorced, the first major purchase I made was a motorcycle. The fact that my ex got all the furniture and that I had once again, no money to speak of, didn’t bother me. At the time it seemed like the only logical thing to do. And again, I was faced with having to make another unpleasant phone call.

Much to my surprise, my parent’s reaction was a positive one this time. A lot of water had passed under the bridge and times had changed. My father reminded me to be careful, but he was also quick to tell me how it would be a great way for me to relax and meet new friends. Ugh? Apparently good girls now rode motorcycles.

Truth is, the times have changed. Not so long ago, the mention of the word biker gave most people the chills. But today’s bikers aren’t scary anymore. They are upstanding citizens. They have jobs, families, they go to church and the best news of all is that women bikers are now getting the recognition they deserve. More and more, the motorcycle community is taking them seriously.

Sure, we still have a long way to go but look at where we were twenty years ago. Every year, more women graduate from motorcycle training courses. Sales people no longer assume that we are only browsing when we walk into a showroom. And the motorcycle manufacturers are catching on. They have noticed us. Women’s buying power has never been so strong. We are more financially secure than we’ve ever been. We are independent and we know what we want. But most importantly, we are no longer regarded as ‘the bad girls.’

I for one am so happy that I came out of retirement when I did. I don’t regret my 15-year hiatus. It has only made my convictions stronger. Today is a great time to be a female rider. To all of you out there who are still hesitant, I say go for it. You’ll be happy you did.

My name is Suzanne and I am a motorcyclist.


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