Motorcycle mommas

More women hitting the open road on motorcycles

Nancy MacPhee nmacphee@journalpioneer.com
Published on April 27, 2013

Krista Silliker and Crystal Little are two of the Island riders who are taking part in “Run for the Borders,” which takes place Friday to mark International Female Riders Day. A convoy of female motorcycle enthusiasts will be riding from parts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to P.E.I. on May 3 to connect with a P.E.I. group to promote awareness and celebrate the day, in its third year. Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer

SUMMERSIDE — Krista Silliker hated the rumble of a motorcycle in the far distance.

“I used to be one of those people who, when I heard a motorcycle coming down the road, I’d say why do they have to have such loud pipes?”

That was until she got a bike of her own.

“Now I don’t mind loud pipes. I love the rumble. My bike really shakes,” Silliker said with a laugh.

She’s part of a growing group on P.E.I. and throughout Atlantic Canada.

More women are getting off the back of the bike and sitting in the driver’s seat.

“It is the freedom, as everybody says. It’s great. It clears the mind,” said Silliker. “It’s a different kind of feeling. I know that I can just get on the bike and go by myself. That’s what I like.”

It was little over a year ago that her husband, Wade, bought her a bike — a 950 Yamaha V-Star.

“I used to ride mopeds and mini bikes when I was a kid. My dad always had me on go-carts and kept me busy in the summer with that,” said Silliker. “I always enjoyed riding but never, ever though I would ride a motorcycle. I always though I would be on the back with my husband, which I was for the first year.”

The first time in the driver’s seat was admittedly scary.

“It was sheer terror,” recalled Silliker. “ (Wade) took me out to Slemon Park to the parking lot there and I was in first gear the first couple of nights. After that it got a little easier.”

She took the motorcycle course last May, a confidence booster, she admitted.

“I felt 100 per cent better after that. They teach you what to do in an emergency situation and, if you drop your bike, how to lift it.”

Crystal Little of Bedeque grew up driving almost anything with an engine.

“My father put my brother and I on a bike, a street bike, and our feet couldn’t touch the ground,” said Little. “That’s when I learned how to drive. It was then dirt bikes and stuff like that.”

Four years ago, she and her husband decided to each get their motorcycle licence.

“My father gave me a `78 Honda. He bought it for $50 and it was bought in pieces and he restored it,” Little said of her first bike. “That’s what I drove the last two or three years.”

She recently upgraded to an impressive 2006 Yamaha V-Max while Silliker moved up to a 2012 1688 cc Harley Switchback.

“It’s just the power and the freedom,” Little said of hitting the open road. “You are out on the road and you can smell summer, the sea and all those wonderful smells. It’s just awesome.”

It’s a feeling Little and Silliker hope more women get to experience.

That’s one of the reasons long-time biker Ann Savoy-MacKelvie decided to organize a women-only ride next Friday to mark International Female Riders Day.

The Halifax woman has been riding for almost a decade.

“When I turned 50, my husband bought me a motorcycle. I had my licence before but I never had a bike,” said Savoy-MacKelvie, who will turn 60 in May. “It’s so cliché but it is really that sense of freedom. You are in your own world. I just like the silence and the road and the smells. Oh, my God, the smells are amazing.”

For the last few years she has been a member of the Motor Maids, the oldest women’s riding group in North America.

Each year, its 50 or so Atlantic Canada members each clock at least 16,000 kilometres, whether it is merely hoping on the bike to go to work or the grocery store or touring the region and beyond.

“It is just about getting out and riding,” said Savoy-MacKelvie, who says the number of female riders has increased in the past decade. “I can’t give you numbers but I can tell you that just from visuals, riding down the road. The demographics are something that motorcycle companies are realizing and going after.”

She rides a 2011 1600 Harley Heritage Softail Classic, a relatively big bike.

“We have women who are small in stature who ride big bikes,” added Savoy-MacKelvie. “The bikes now, especially the cruisers, are low and they are so well balanced.”

Silliker feels that the sheer size and power of most motorcycles scares most women.

“We want to get women involved. We have quite a group of people we ride with and a lot of women sit on the back. I’m like, why don’t you learn? Why don’t you take the motorcycle course,” she added. “I think they are afraid they are going to hurt themselves or fall off.”

The women hope, as a result of the upcoming International Female Riders Day event, more women will be encouraged to hit the open road.

“I hope it ignites a passion,” said Savoy-MacKelvie. “There are a lot of women that look at a bike and say they are heavy and it is something they can never do. I hope they can see us, in all shapes and sizes of bikes, and say I can do this.

“If we can do it, you can do it.”

nmacphee@journalpioneer.com