Her Story. A series of blog posts telling the stories of 'women who ride' from all corners of the globe. We hope that by sharing these stories we can help encourage other women to build their confidence, learn from others and inspire others.
This month we have a story from Corrina from Northamptonshire, UK.
Corrina takes you through her roller coaster of a ride to obtain her motorcycle licence. From nothing to a new Harley, a support network of new riding friends and a new vlogging endeavour in the moto community.
We hope you enjoy her story.
My name is Corrina Milner, I currently live in a rural little village in Northamptonshire, UK but am originally from a town on the outskirts of London. I ride a Harley Davidson Sportster: Iron 883. My first bike.
I never had any inclination or desire to ride a bike. I was always drawn to motors, as a kid I would seek out go-karts and as I got older always wanted to have-a-go in whatever family car and campervan we might've had at the time. I started driving lessons as soon as I was old enough. I passed (2nd time around) and lost no time in looking for an old car and getting on the road. I LOVED driving, loved having my own wheels - which signified freedom and independence - having something that was mine and represented me. From there on I had a bit of a fascination for cars, light tinkering and hanging out with the boys in doing (very) homemade mods that cost more than the car was worth. Whatever else I was dealing with or going through, my own space and my own car and going for a drive was a life line. My first (real) jobs were in the car industry and they let me drive anything I could persuade them to let me get my hands on.
Fast forward a couple of decades and the career path may have taken a change but the draw to cars hadn't. In working an event, the guy doing security for me (Bill) admired my 'truck'. Lovingly termed The Beast, I had treated myself to an old LandRover Defender 90 after making a little profit on a recent house move. I tried to convince myself (and my husband, Graeme) it was because we now lived in the country and was therefore completely justified but, in reality, it was completely impractical for day-day use and cost a fortune to fill up. Bill worked in the motorcycle industry, having developed a nifty little product called BikeTrac (plugs are ok, right?) and told me of an initiative called 'Get On'. A campaign in the UK to get more people on two-wheels, offering free tasters with professional Instructors. I knew my other half would jump at the chance and figured it would be a fun afternoon out. As soon as I arrived, I was excited. The only other women there had come with guys- boyfriends/husbands/sons etc. so I found myself a little defensive when the assumption was made that I was simply accompanying my husband. I think that spurred me on. When they asked who wanted to go first, I stepped up. I was scared but the desire to not be underestimated and dispel assumptions made me stubborn (and focused). My husband still recalls the moment he saw me get both feet on the pegs and rode towards him with a maniacal smile on my face. I. Was. Hooked.
And so it began. I smashed the initial CBT (Compulsory Basic Training) on a 125cc. It didn't seem real, like a pony gymkhana on a bike, just a bit of fun weaving between cones. We carried out basic drills and skills in a car park and I was itching to get out on the road. The Instructors started joking I was 'top of the class', 'a natural' - they said. I was chuffed to bits to get that certificate. It was few months before we had the time and money to book the training for the full license but when we started that training, jumping straight to a 650cc, I bottled it. I didn't like the size, sportier type of bike or the way the weight felt. All the little manoeuvres and the sound of the higher revs was intimidating. That ripple of insecurity became the bane of my life! Most of the time, I was fine. The minute I made a little mistake, I reinforced it and fear would creep in. I was always better out on the road, which made me focus and stop overthinking. Unfortunately the Mod 1 test is ALL about those manoeuvres. The first test, I dropped the bike as soon as I entered the test site. I didn't even wait for the Examiner to speak. I just turned tail and walked back inside. The 2nd time I left ALL my paperwork at the training school and couldn't even take the test, resulting in a 100mile round trip for absolutely nothing. The third time, I managed to find a small patch of gravel and get the bike stuck in it. FINALLY, at the edge of giving up, I had a drama free test (but not without having a death wobble on the ride up there!) and all I felt was relief when the Examiner muttered, "Well done." Mod 2 is observed road riding and I passed 2nd time - the bike Gods were kind that day.
My husband always loved everything Americana and the romanticised culture of roadside bars, bikes, and rock music so it was no surprise that his heart was set on a Harley. Having worked in many a car showroom and then noseying around some small, local bike dealers I wasn't prepared when we first walked into a Harley Davidson showroom, you feel cooler just being in there. I didn't know where to look first. The bikes gleaming, the clothes, the people - just sitting around eating and talking just for the excuse of a ride-out. Even now pulling up outside any Harley dealer, underneath the unmistakable bar and shield, gets me like a kid at Disney. After passing our CBTs, we put down deposits on TWO Sportsters, I knew I had to have my own (but it did mean selling my beloved truck). My husband passed two months ahead of me and, knowing that I was nearly at the end of my tether, he didn't question it when I said I would give it a break for a while. Maybe I'd revisit it in the Spring, I said...but I didn't - give it a break, that is. I immediately booked all the tests again and continued training. In secret. I hope the level of deceit in our marriage at this time will never be repeated, even to the point of being fully geared up and laying in bed as he went off to work, only to jump out of bed as soon as I heard the front door slam shut so I could get to the test centre in time. This time, no distractions, I was doing this for me. The only person that knew was my best friend from school (I felt someone should know where I was, since I wasn't at work!), Gavin - who, having been out of touch with each other for over a decade, came back into my life and was also about to buy a Sportster that would bring us back together in possibly the most badass of ways but that's another story.
I passed on a Friday and called the dealership from the Training School, they said I could come and pick her up THE NEXT DAY. I nearly wet myself. I wasn't ready to do the ride on my own. So three of the School Instructors cleared their schedule and came with me! Which was my first taste of the bike community (bike people ARE the best people). I went pillion on the way up and was literally herded back between two bikes on the way back. I was so over-excited I was told to settle down for a bit and have a cup of tea. I have no idea what I signed that day. I didn't care, I wanted to get my bike home and, more importantly, couldn't wait to surprise Graeme. We'd made firm friends with the guys at the Training School, Rebel Dogg, so he didn't seem too suspicious when I asked him to meet me back at the Training School, under the guise that I needed to book more training in the Spring. He arrived, on his Harley 48, before us and was waiting as I pulled in, sandwiched between the two school bikes. He didn't react at first and then did a double take as he, first recognised the bike and then beamed with emotion when he saw me proudly riding it! I think he may have looked more full of love and pride in that moment, on that day than our wedding day and the moment he saw me walk down the aisle.
We rode away together that day and, within the next 9 months clocked up thousands of miles together and with others as we found the most amazing community of people through Sportster Sickness UK. Because you do get infected and it is most definitely a sickness. The Sickness guys have welcomed us with open arms, my old school friend and I roll around together with mutual friends and joke about calling ourselves a Club, my husband and I spend every spare moment we can making plans to ride...but to date, there are no local female riders to share the road with. We are few and far between. And so Free Bird was born.
I am lucky that we are not a million miles away from London, where the amazing VC girls are based who are proof and inspiration of what can happen when you get like-minded women together. Instagram has been a great tool in connecting with, learning from and batting ideas off of other women who ride. Big Instagrammers, 'All About Holly', 'Girl on a Bike' and 'Tomboy-a-Bit' literally just responded to me bugging them on their dms. In helping to organise a launch for my friend's new venture 'Bike Shoot', I wanted more females represented and went for the big dogs! The launch went well but I was disappointed that only one woman went through the studio that day...so I kept bugging them! Holly liked the idea of doing more bike meets and even more so, dedicated meets for women who ride. We met at at the infamous Bike Shed in Shoreditch, London. Holly helped me reach out to a load of amazing women in my bid to #empowerwomenwhoride and now continues to support girls in the region, with another meet-up planned to get any 'bike-curious' (love that term) girls onto bikes and see if it's for them.
However, for us girls in the Home Counties, London isn't exactly a quick trip and isn't conducive to regular meets. Is it selfish to try and create something so that I have like-minded girls to ride with? Maybe. But the scene is so very male dominated and carving a piece for us girls feels important. In saying that, my rides and future events, whilst aimed at women are not exclusively female. My approach will always remain inclusive because of the respect and love I have for the guys that I ride with and have supported me to this point and continue to support me.
Without getting completely sidetracked, equality and toxic masculinity is still largely discussed from a female perspective but it is just as damaging for our modern males trying to find their way, often feeling attacked and tarred with the same brush. For equality we need to stay open - in our communication and our minds. Most of my best friends, and most favourite people to ride with are guys, and I bloody love 'em. The explosion of the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride (which I passionately support) across the globe and startling statistics surrounding men's mental health and male suicide rates, serves well to remind us that this isn't a one-way street. We only rise together. For me, I want to remind all females that we need to change our language (and maybe our expectations), to stop using terms like, "Be a man,"Grow a pair" or, "Man up." Man-hating isn't the answer. For guys, especially those of you that fit-the-mould, remember that you are automatically born with a privilege - a step-up - and if you are lucky enough to never have really experienced discrimination, don't judge or call a women 'emotional' when she has suffered at the hands of (habitual) sexism that is so commonplace we don't even see it anymore. Anything that gets 'posted' out there via Free Bird will run with the line, 'For girls and the guys they ride with, ' there's a female emphasis, for sure, but we don't need more barriers in this world. We can all break our moulds. In the words of a good (guy) friend of mine, "It shouldn't matter what bits you have. Meet people and learn who you want to associate with." - Swanee, Simple.
Since starting to write this piece (months ago!), having had to keep reminding myself to practice what I preach, I have met with some great bike folk and started new friendships and planning to attend and start new events. I would never have had the confidence to vlog on my own but have bitten the bullet, with the help from two fellow bikers, to develop a biker series called, "Coffee Shop Talks" (look out for my new channel on You Tube) where we interview fellow bikers, some unsung heroes and big Instagrammers talking bikes, the community and mental health. What biker do you know that doesn't have a story about how bikes (and the biking community) have helped them through a difficult time in their life? As long as the bike community keeps coming up trumps and opening up my world, I'm all in.
Stay wild and free, brave > perfect.
Free Bird (Moto).
Thank you to Corrina for sharing her story. To find out more about her adventures and the Coffee Shop Talks please hit the follow buttons on her social links below:
YouTube: Free Bird Moto
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