After raising her kids, a daring 60-year-old woman found freedom and adventure by riding her motorbike.
Motorcycling can be a therapeutic activity for individuals. Riding long or short distances requires physical engagement and mental focus. Indulging in motorcycling as a hobby can keep individuals of all ages fit and agile. The most crucial element of motorcycling is the freedom that comes with it. For Joanna Barthrope, a 60-year-old based in France, motorcycling was a welcome escape from her routine life. When her adult sons learned that their mother was undertaking motorcycling lessons, they were shocked as she did not let them ride bikes. Speaking to The Guardian, she talked about her husband's stance: "He hates bikes. He thinks they're too powerful, noisy and dangerous."
While the glamour and danger of it all appealed to Barthorpe, she primarily yearned for the freedom of riding a motorcycle. Having bought up three kids, she said that she had to prioritize her children for many years and put off her dreams for later. Determined to explore, now that her kids are adults, she said, "Now it was my time." Nobody else in her family was a biker and had no connection to the hobby, but that did not stop her from pursuing her passion. She even went out and bought a Yamaha TDM850 while she was training for her test.
Even though it took her a few attempts, she managed to pass and immediately embarked on her first solo ride to Royan, a town on Atlantic Coast and then south to Biarritz. Reflecting on her first ride, she said, "I loved it. I was just happy to sit in the saddle for hours, much longer than if I had been driving a car. Everyone thought I was loopy! They'd say: 'Aren't you frightened on your own?' Or 'What if you drop the bike or break down?' But what people don't realize is that actually, as a woman riding alone, people want to help you. They look out for you."
She has managed to shock men who mistake her for a man before she takes off her helmet. In fact, a motorcycle dealership would not let her take a test drive when she went to get her second bike. Thankfully, her visit to a Royal Enfield dealership proved to be successful as the staff there encouraged her and she ended up buying a Himalayan. Even though she prefers riding alone, she wanted to get to know other female riders and reached out to the Women's International Motorcycle Association (WIMA), a club that was created in 1950 with members from 39 countries. After making contact, they invited her over to Ace Cafe in London. Once she got there, she decided to play a role in the Women Riders World Relay, an initiative to show the male-dominated motorcycle industry that women bikers were a new market that should be noticed. The plan involved passing around a relay baton from rider to rider around the world and Barthorpe would be the French coordinator.
In October 2018, Barthorpe was involved in an accident at a roundabout and broke her pelvis. She spent the next five months in the hospital recovering and soon after, slowly returned to motorcycling again. She embarked on a massive 5200-mile ride across Australia in September of 2019, which even included covering a difficult 590 miles in a day. Women bikers from all over the country joined her and the group rolled into Sydney with over 100 riders. Reflecting on her newfound hobby, she says, "I can go anywhere I want, any time I like."