Blustery wind, bouts of torrential rain, thunder and a lightning show didn't keep women from showing up for the Toronto Rally for the Ride Home for the 2010 International Female Ride Day tonight.
The rally was organized and hosted by International Female Ride Day founder, Vicki Gray, aka Motoress, at the Keating Channel Pub on Villiers St. in Toronto. A former racer, instructor, coach, and writer, the Ontario native was sponsored by the likes of World Championship team Ten Kate Honda and Ducati during her racing years. Gray’s now teaching at Canadian National Superbike Champion Michel Mercier’s FAST Riding School in Shannonville and has been tirelessly promoting the sport to women, working with local dealers to host women's bike nights and other events.
Since inaugurating International Female Ride Day in 2007, Gray has been encouraging women to ride their motorcycles to work on this day. Here in Toronto, the skies have poured on us three out of those four years but women keep showing up on two wheels. I've braved the rain on my bike every year until this one, when I (and a few others) wussed out and caged it to the celebration of the day.
But Vicki rode in, as did many other women, including one who rode all the way from Hamilton Ontario, which is almost an hour and a half away. In previous years, women met in front of Princes Gates downtown before work, which made it difficult for some people to make it.
Because the celebration was after work today instead, this year probably would have been a huge gathering, had it not been for the weather. Before drawing tickets for prizes being raffled off, Gray read us messages from women around the world who are now using this day every year to promote solidarity among other women who ride.
When I bought my first bike (a 1977 Honda CB125) in Montreal in 1979, I knew only one other woman in the city who rode: the wife of a British bike repair shop who happily rode a Triumph around town. People kept telling me about another woman, who was (they said at the time) in her fifties and had been riding most of her life, but I never met her and always wondered if she was an urban legend. So it's been pretty amazing to witness the number of women who have joined the sport in recent years.
A women's rider social group that started off with 20 members on GTAMotorcycle.com, Toronto's largest chat board for motorcyclists, at the end of the last riding season grew to 80 strong over the winter.
We may still be only 13 percent of riders on two wheels, but we're making inroads and are forming a community both locally in the GTA and online. I've been invited to join no fewer than 20 Facebook groups of women riders in the last year alone. And I've met a growing number of women tearing up the track in the last few years, one of whom has started racing and another who's gotten good enough we're encouraging her to race. I used to celebrate the racing achievements of women I've never met and may never get to meet. Now I'm celebrating the racing achievements of women I run across in my own community. Ride on, sisters!
Liz is a Toronto writer and editor with extensive experience in Web product management. Part of the teams that launched Canada.com, Yahoo.ca and AOL.ca, she has created content and content promotion strategies for almost every major portal in Canada. Known for creative problem-solving combined with solid technical skills, she has been building online audiences for almost two decades. Less well-known is her obsession with poetry and motorcycles.
A motorcycle instructor for Learning Curves and a dirt girl wanna-be, over the years her rides have included a Honda CB350 and 450, a Honda Shadow 500, a BMW R75 and a Honda CRF230. She currently owns a Yamaha YZ250F and a Kawasaski ZX7-R that’s had so much plastic surgery it’s been dubbed “Hollywood Baby.”