Photos: Women Riders World Relay
Heard about the Women Riders World Relay? It’s one of the biggest things happening in motorcycling this year, and it shows how much impact social media can have on the modern motorcyclist.
The Women Riders World Relay is a round-the-world event, with female riders receiving a baton, riding with it, then passing it to the next rider, until they circle the globe.
Sounds like the sort of thing that’d take years to coordinate? Not so. Maria O’Reilly, Canadian ambassador for the relay, says the whole undertaking started in August 2018, when Hayley Bell (from the UK) created the event. Thanks to the power of social media, O’Reilly says Bell it took less than four weeks for almost 11,000 members to join her Facebook group for the event, from 100 countries. Now, more than a year later, there are more than 19,000 members for the Women Riders World Relay group, including 1,361 Canadians.
So, why is everyone getting excited about this relay? What’s its purpose? As the website says, “To unite and inspire women globally and to show the motorcycling industry that women are not only the fastest growing market segment but that we are already a viable market and deserve consideration from the manufacturers and retailers!”
In other words, they want to build the female riding community, and get the industry to take them seriously.
The rally started February 27 at John O’Groats, the most northern point of Scotland, and traveled through much of Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand before arriving in Canada last month. The baton’s trip across Canada lasted 11 days and 6,500 km, starting in BC and ending in New Brunswick, where it crossed the border to Maine; after crossing the US, the baton will head to South America.
More than 250 female motorcyclists rode with the baton on its journey across Canada, including Ontario’s Lesa Jordan, who received the baton from O’Reilly at the start of her leg.
“It brought me to tears then and still does now recalling the moment,” Jordan says. “It never occurred to me that I would be privileged to carry it, so it truly blew me away when it was handed to me. I was thinking about all the women who had already carried and would continue to carry it after me.
“I had a double mastectomy in early August due to a breast cancer diagnosis and the relay gave me something to focus on that was positive and life affirming. It continues to be that to me even though my part in it is past. I was aware of how every woman that had carried it has faced their own challenges, which is so inspiring.”
Jordan rode with the baton for about 640 km, from Parry Sound to Hamilton, with stops midway at Mildmay and Grand Bend (where she ran her bike down the drag strip, all part of the fun of the event).
Jordan took her Honda CB900F on the ride, but it’s not just for sporty machines. Cruisers, adventure bikes, sportbikes — the machines are not the point. “The very best part of the relay was meeting the people!” says Jordan. “It didn’t matter what motorcycle brand anyone was riding; we were united in the ride.”
Part of the point of the relay is to have women connect and do things outside the actual baton-carry, with other, smaller rides, or other forms of networking. One of the things they’re doing is exchanging rider bells between members, and Jordan exchanged bells with Ann Katherine from Luxembourg, who later flew to Canada, accompanying Jordan on her ride with the baton. She’s a cancer survivor too, and the WRWR Luxembourg Ambassador. She’d never met Jordan in person before being picked up from the airport — now, they’ve made plans to ride in Colorado next August.
She wasn’t the only Euro rider who came across the pond, either; O’Reilly says another participant came all the way from the Netherlands to ride with the baton through Canada.
At this point, the baton has passed through Canada, crossed the US and is headed for more southerly adventures. But has the whole event been a success?
The socializing aspect certainly seems to have worked, with women forging lifelong friendships. As for the industry taking notice of women and their interest in motorcycles, well, Jordan says that remains to be seen. That could mean she has to get together with other women riders for another relay, to emphasize the message in the future. If so, “if there is another relay I would participate, the good Lord willing.”