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"Men worry about dropping their bike too, they just don't talk about it"

Published: 22 January 2019

Updated: 09 January 2019

Being 50 years old wasn’t going to stop MCN reader Sue Gibbons getting her bike licence and nor was being a woman in the largely male-dominated motorbike world.

As a pillion on her husband’s motorbike, Sue started to wonder about riding herself and soon discovered that she much preferred the feeling of freedom she got from being in control of her own motorbike.

Now 55, Sue has completed multiple trips around the UK and Europe on two wheels and wants to get more mature and female riders to take their tests, too.

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"At 16 I had a 50cc moped because it was the only transport I could afford," explains Sue. "I loved it, but I lost count of the number of times I ended up on the ground with a car driver saying, ‘sorry love, I didn’t see you.’ That was my only experience of motorbikes until I started riding pillion with my husband."

Find a decent riding instructor

Unwilling to let this limited experience put her off, she set about finding an instructor. "The biggest piece of advice I would give to someone thinking about getting their licence is to find a really good trainer.

"I asked a lot of people for recommendations and ended up meeting Karl Karmenz who is well-known locally and was just fantastic and a really good guy. In terms of advice I would give specifically to women, bear in mind that the instructors can be quite direct and if you do something wrong they will tell you.

"Training and tests don’t stop for bad weather either, it has to be really extreme before they don’t go out. I took my Mod 1 in Hurricane Doris!"

Sue took her CBT (Compulsory Basic Training), the first step towards two-wheeled freedom and then set about practicing her skills ready for her Mod 1 test.

There's no rush after you take your CBT

"There’s no rush after you take your CBT and riding a small bike is a great way to learn. I went out a lot with my husband on my 125 to gain experience."

On one of these rides, Sue had an accident leaving a lay-by and this made her question whether she was up to the task.

"Before I started to learn I was apprehensive about whether I would be able to physically handle the weight of a motorbike and then when I had the accident it really knocked my confidence.

"I went straight back to Karl to work out what I had done wrong and he quickly spotted that I was cancelling my indicator too soon when I pulled away, which sometimes led to dumping the clutch. I was basically pulling a wheelie."

Taking the Mod 1 motorbike test

Once this problem was sorted, and with a lot of practice under her belt, Sue booked her Mod 1 test.

"After all the practice and rehearsal, I put my foot down riding around the cones and failed. I rebooked for a week later by which time Hurricane Doris had set in and managed to pass."

Sue then passed her Mod 2 test (at the second attempt) and started racking up the miles on her trusty BMW F700GS.

Sue Gibbons astride her BMW F700GS

Sue thinks that there must be other pillions out there who would benefit from getting a bike licence and is particularly keen for more female and mature riders to get on two wheels.

"I think the biggest thing people worry about is physically handling a motorbike. I was really worried about dropping it and then I joined a female-only Facebook group for bikers called Motorbike Women and realised that I wasn’t alone.

"I also came to realise that I will probably drop my bike from time to time and it can be embarrassing but it’s not the end of the world. I think men worry about this too, they just don’t talk about it."

What advantages do mature motorbike riders have?

Sue also thinks that being a bit more mature can help with learning to ride if, like her, you drive a car. "Being a confident driver means that you can concentrate on learning to ride the bike, which is an advantage.

"I think the only advantage that younger people have when learning to ride is that they are fearless, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing either. You need to be reasonably fit and healthy to ride, but age is in your head and shouldn’t hold anyone back."

Sue has recently joined the #ride5000miles Facebook group, and already has some plans in place for building the miles in 2019 including a three-week trip to America and a ride around the North Coast 500.

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