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Girls revved up by motorbikes

Women find ultimate peace and quiet on motorbikes

By: Susan Jones

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 09, 2013 06:00 am

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  • FULL THROTTLE – Sturgeon County resident Ireland Perrott is a competitive motocross racer. The 13-year-old is seen here with her 250 KTM SXF bike.
    FULL THROTTLE – Sturgeon County resident Ireland Perrott is a competitive motocross racer. The 13-year-old is seen here with her 250 KTM SXF bike.
    APRIL BARTLETT/St. Albert Gazette
  • BELT DRIVEN – Renee Charbonneau, AKA Belt Drive Betty, is a Grande Prairie author who writes The Busted Knuckle Chronicles, an online publication.
    BELT DRIVEN – Renee Charbonneau, AKA Belt Drive Betty, is a Grande Prairie author who writes The Busted Knuckle Chronicles, an online publication.
  • QUIET RIDE – Kelly Wood, who started riding a motorcycle in 2007, says it's a way to connect with nature and experience peace and quiet.
    QUIET RIDE – Kelly Wood, who started riding a motorcycle in 2007, says it's a way to connect with nature and experience peace and quiet.
  • GIRL GEAR – Manufacturers have responded to a surge of female riders by producing equipment and apparel geared for women.
    GIRL GEAR – Manufacturers have responded to a surge of female riders by producing equipment and apparel geared for women.

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Just before Ireland Perrott’s third birthday she told her parents she wanted to ride on a dirt bike. Her father Chad Perrott, owner of Riverside Honda, told the little girl that she couldn’t have a dirt bike until she was able to ride a regular two-wheeled bicycle without using her training wheels. That didn’t stop the toddler for long.

“Later that day I heard something out in the garage and went to check on her. There she was, in her dad’s shop, trying to take the training wheels off her pedal bike. It was just in her. She wanted to ride that much,” Ireland’s mother Jenine Perrott said.

Now 13 and a student at Camilla School in Riviere Qui Barre, Ireland has been competing in motocross time trials since she was four years old. For her, riding a motorcycle is easy and in her own way, she plainly explained why it doesn’t frighten her.

“Sometimes I’ve fallen when I went over jumps. If you fall, mostly it’s just a quick little bounce, especially if you aren’t going that fast. You just get up again,” she said.

Ireland is just one of hundreds of thousands of female riders who are taking to the sport of motorcycling, whether it’s on touring bikes, or as in her case, in competitions.

This weekend the sixth annual She Rides Night, which takes place Friday, Jan. 11, will kick start the 2013 Edmonton Motorcycle Show at the Expo Centre at Northlands. It’s a night that’s geared especially for those women who either ride now, or think they might like to give the sport a try.

“The female segment is the fastest growing part of the motorcycle industry. That’s why we sponsor the She Rides Night,” said Jay Padilla, of Cycle Works in Edmonton.

Padilla, who will be the master of ceremonies at the event, will also give away a $5,000 door prize of motorcycling equipment made specifically for women.

“Every manufacturer is making bikes now, that are for women. There is also more apparel that fits women better and helmets are better fitting, plus they are more colourful, because unlike most men, women know what they like and they want to look good on a bike,” Padilla said.

Of course women always rode motorcycles but the phenomenon has increased dramatically in the past decade, says Renee Charbonneau, the Grande Prairie author, who under the pen name of Belt Drive Betty, writes an online publication called The Busted Knuckle Chronicles.

“The biking community as a whole in Canada has grown in the past decade from 300,000 to 600,000 and of those new bikers, some 48 per cent are registrations to lady riders,” Charbonneau said, adding that many of those women are between 40 and 50 years of age.

“It’s an expensive sport. Those women have disposable income. Maybe they always rode dirt bikes – say on the farm – or maybe they rode on the back of their husband’s bike. Then life got in the way and they had their families. Now they are free of those obligations and they take up biking because it makes them feel empowered,” Charbonneau said.

St. Albert’s Kelly Wood fits that demographic exactly. She started riding a motorbike in 2007, after her husband Corry purchased the two of them motorbikes in celebration of their 10th wedding anniversary.

“I thought I’d get something, big, flashy and sparkling. Well it’s big and it is flashy, but it doesn’t fit on my finger,” Wood said.

Wood, who is a case-aide worker for Alberta Home Care and works out of the Sturgeon Community Hospital, agreed that it is somewhat ironic that she and four other female co-workers are all motorbike riders. She has rationalized the fears about safety issues in her own mind.

“We have a theory about that. Even though we’ve seen (the motorcycle injuries) at the hospital, we know about it, so we won’t make the same mistakes. And it isn’t such a bad thing to be scared if you’re on a bike,” Wood said, adding that she finds that driving her own bike is safer than riding on the back with someone else.

“It’s a hundred-per-cent safer because if you’re on the back you can’t control the throttle. You can’t control where you’re going. I prefer to ride alongside of my husband, rather than behind him.”

In addition to riding with her husband, Wood joined the Edmonton-based Babes on Bikes motorcycle club and began touring with other women. This summer she and the other Babes plan to ride to Whitefish, Mont. along the mountainous Going to the Sun road.

“It terrifies me but it’s also exhilarating. It’s so much fun to get up and out to the other end to see where you’ve gone,” she said.

Surprisingly she lists peace and quiet and the ability to experience nature in exciting new ways as her main reason for riding.

“I ride because of the rush of the air, but it’s not so much the wind in my hair as it is the smells: the new grass, the trees. Everything is so alive and you are experiencing it with speed. It’s like this awesome drug that’s legal,” Wood said.

Belt Drive Betty agreed, but went even further, as she described the experience of riding a motorbike as being a metaphor for life.

“Riding a motorbike is an intense experience. You have the rhythm of the road – the road talks to you. You must be quiet and centred. Riding a bike is a life lesson because if you spend too much time looking in the rear view mirror, or looking to the side, you will crash. You must focus on the road ahead. You must focus on where you want to go,” Charbonneau said.

The noise of the machine itself is less than the noise of the wind, Charbonneau maintains.

“That’s why I wear earplugs. The noise factor comes from the wind full in my face, not from the motor,” she said.

Ireland is too young to have a road licence but nonetheless her machine, a 250 SXF is big and powerful. She competes against similarly aged friends on tracks operated through the Alberta Oldtimers Motocross Association. Her favourite thing is the race itself, even though it is physically demanding and the competitions sometimes take place in mud and often rough weather conditions.

“When you’re going fast and you’re in the air, there’s a lot going on. I love the ‘whoops,’ the jumps and the turns,” she said.

Like Charbonneau and Wood, Ireland has learned that riding a bike requires a lot of responsibility.

“You have to be aware. You have to be cautious at the right time but also confident. I don’t want to break an arm so that I cannot ride anymore, so I cannot just go crazy. But when there’s a girl in front of me, I’m so determined to pass her. It’s so much fun to be in a tight battle like that. I love it,” Ireland said.

For more information about the 2013 Edmonton Motorcycle Show that takes place Jan. 11 to 13 at the Expo Centre Northlands, visit www.edmontonmotorcycleshow.ca.


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