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 Jessica Williams of Sydney, Australia. Jessica is a keen motorcycle rider but also loves photography and found a way to bring both passions together.
We hope you enjoy her story.
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"Moxie, Moto Women, Curiosity, Cameras, Motorcycles.
Where to start?
Jessica Williams, 33, I live in the inner west of Sydney, Australia.
I have held a motorcycle license for just on five years now, which when I think about it isn't very long. I have packed a lot of adventures and lessons into this short time, I don't see a future day where motorcycles won’t be a part of my life in some way shape or form. I have moved from spectator to rider and now growing into a grease monkey and loving it.
At present I own three motorcycles - Aprilia shiver 750cc, Honda CX500 and Suzuki Across gsx250f. All my bikes have nicknames, I would assume many other riders are the same with their machines. The Aprilia is little dragon, the Suzuki is little beast and the Honda is baby hippo (this may or may not change it all depends on if she/he/it stays in my garage family).
Jumping back many years more than half a life time ago, Malcolm a friend of my dad was the one that sparked my interest in bikes. He would rock up to family events on his Harley, loud and totally cool. My first pillion ride Christmas Day when I was 16 years old, a day I will never forget partly due to the fact I burnt my calf on the exhaust leaving a hefty scar, still fairly visible today. My first major lesson for bikes was taught this day, always wear pants skin is precious and bike exhausts get really hot. As a rider today I am a firm believer of all the gear all the time!
In my late teens / early twenties I had various friends that would take me out on the back of their bikes. Enjoying every minute of it, some evenings we would be out till sun rise and a long way from home. I developed a lot of trust for the people I rode with, my life was in their hands and some evenings they wouldn’t exactly play by the road rules. I have had more moments than I care to admit where I thought "oh god we are going down" but lucky that never happened. The guys that took me out rode fast and hard, flying low through corners and countless wheelies. My instincts were to hold on tight and just trust. The adrenaline rush was addictive and was a major draw along with this slight disregard to the rules. It all appealed to my slight rebellious nature.
The other side that drew me in was the sense of community this world had. I saw these guys as big brothers and was amazed at how other riders would just chat to you. Strangers finding common ground, always willing to help. This sense of community is now something I hold very dear, getting to meet interesting people every time I head out there is always someone to chat to. Learn something new either and not just about the stranger but yourself too. A powerful reminder that the world is full of amazing people, just need to be open and ready for the chat.
For years I was always bugged, "when are you going to buy a bike jess?” Soon would always be my answer, “just need to save more money”. To be honest I was scared to ride my own bike, they were so powerful and big/heavy. I didn’t think I was capable. Self-doubt is a horrible thing! It kept me on the side line for years, a passenger watching others doing cool fun things.
I don’t know what changed my thought process but one day I decided fuck it, what do I really have to loose. I wanted to know if riding a bike was for me or if I was happy just being a passenger.
Searching through all the online sites I finally came across 'the little beast' a 90's motorcycle, with a funky storage compartment. As a photographer this was the bike for me, a bit different and somewhat practical plus she looked pretty sweet. With a short 4 hour drive and the help of a dear friend we picked up my first bike. Without a license at this stage I only got to sit on it for the first time at a petrol station, as corny as it sounds it just felt right. I have always followed my gut in life and I knew this was totally for me. I was now a motorcycle owner!
A month later I was doing my pre learner and shorty after hand my L’s. Armed with the basic knowledge from the course I was now allowed out on the road with this bike and no supervision. This was a daunting experience, I was on my own. I had no one to come out with me. I remember the first time rode and how fast 30kms felt, I was so open, so exposed even with all my riding gear on, I was afraid. I found it hard, harder than what I anticipated it to be. On top of this the people whom had once encourage me to get a bike were now no longer around for various reasons. My support network was gone.
Solo riding it was! I soon connected with other riders via social media, a whole world was opening up and a new support network was developing. I naturally wanted to connect with more women riders. Crossing paths with some cool chicks the photographer in me turned this side of the community into a photographic project, “Moto Women” was a series looking at the diversity of female riders.
12 months (shooting time), 75 women, about 13000kms across NSW, epic riding experiences, learners to open license I had a photographic collection that became my first solo exhibition. Proud rider, proud photographer, just proud. The project forced me to get out riding, to get out and meet new people, focusing on that I tried (I use the word tried very loosely) not to over thinking my riding skills and they just naturally improved with time.
Baby hippo is the newest member to the family. This bike has been my first "project" build, cafe racer/scrambler/who really knows vibe. Life became a little crazy/overwhelming/interesting early last year and I also threw going nicotine free into the mix for good measure, so this little Honda was my distraction a challenge to focus energy on. I found this little cx on gumtree, something in my gut told me I had to have it. It wasn't registered, covered in rust and had electrical issues so wasn't running. I didn’t care I wanted it, I was pumped for the simple challenge I saw it offering me. With the help of some mates we collected the bike and got it back to mine. Quickly discovered how broken it actually was. Bent forks and stuffed steering head bearings were the first major problem I had to sort to get this thing registered again. My inner voice just kept saying "it's fine, easy fix..." I got this!
I wasn't a stranger to bike tinkering, I had done all the servicing on the little beast (Suzuki Across) my learner in more ways than one. I had rebuilt the carburettor, forks, master cylinders, installed new brake lines and fuel pump. Google, YouTube and a workshop manual where all amazing resources to teach me what I needed to do. I am also grateful to Malcolm, for showing me the basics for working on a bike, from how to change sprockets and chains, to installing new brake pads.
The CX build took fair longer than what I had first thought and I hit so many hurdles I almost gave up on it a dozen times, but I now have a tidy-ish bike, registered, new paint and lights, it is a far cry from what it looked like when I first got it home. There are still a few bugs I need to sort out but I have taken it for short a spin or two. They would have to have been my favourite rides to date. I am now thinking about more upgrade, more mods and more cosmetic improvements to continue to watch this little hippo turn into something a little random and a little more me. (This build was loosely documented by me on Instagram mmw_ccm, just in case you wanted to check it out not hunting followers)
Over the years many people have crossed paths with me in the riding world, they have all taught me something. Some things have been completely positive and wonderful experiences whilst others have been not so positive but I learnt more about myself and who I am so in a rounded way it became a positive for me. I have had my fair share of condescending remakes about chicks and bikes and doing the mechanical work myself. Making it out as if as a woman I cannot do this, and I need male supervision or that my bike too big for me and I should consider something smaller. (I will note I have had these same comments made when out on my 250cc and my 750cc). I have just learnt to ignore it now, trust that I know what to do or am savvy enough to find out how to do it. Yes it is hard to ignore but you can’t let it stop you from giving it a go. Also keep asking questions, I ask the same question 5 times in 5 different ways to 5 different people just to get my head around it. The good experience’s will always out way the not so good, I figure I will continue to meet amazing people and hmmm interesting people. They will all teach me something.
Just keep doing your thing, follow your curiosity and give it a go!"
- - - - -Thank you to Jessica for sharing her story and if you would like to share your story with us simply go to the GET IN TOUCH page of the website and fill in the form and we will gladly be in touch.