Spyder Woman

By Morna Scott-Dunne | morna@canadiangothic.com | @dunnemor

Suffering from what can best described in a facebook meme as PMS (parked motorcycle syndrome) I complained to my bestie about the inability of a Torontonian to write a motorcycle article in the winter.

“Remember Linda from high school?” she asked.

Of course I did.  She let me take pictures of her jumping in puddles when I was first learning to use a camera.

“Well she’s got a garage full of motorcycles now. You should go interview her,” she said.

I wondered if my best friend was exaggerating. There was only one way to find out. I contacted Linda immediately. She was hesitant. “I ride a Spyder now. Do three wheels count?” she asked.

I know the “Litas” motto is women supporting women on two wheels, but in this case I wanted to make an exception.

Now this story would be so much better if I’d hopped on my bike and streaked down the highway like a bolt of black lightning. Sadly, it’s January and the Greater Toronto Area is a big frigid mush puddle. So instead, I climbed in my Honda Civic and headed out to investigate the garage full of motorcycles and get a gander at a white 1000cc Spyder.

Linda and I met for lunch and tea at this little Vegan place in London. As we talked, it became clear that Linda didn’t just randomly take to biking out of the blue. She had a plan.

“I think I heard of people having a bucket list, and wondered what would be on mine?” she said. Linda continued, “I thought of a number of things that I wanted to accomplish in my life and learning to ride a motorcycle whether or not I ever owned one was on the bucket list. I just wanted to be able to say ‘I’ve done that.” 

I already loved her list:

-Become a Doctor

-Learn to ride a motorcycle

If there was some sort of “Litas” medal for strong women who represent, I would have handed it over immediately. She hasn’t accomplished these things without facing challenges either. For example, Linda suffers from Scoliosis. To pull out the webMD (and I shake a little nervously because a doctor is definitely going to read this) Scoliosis is a lateral (toward the side) curvature in the normally straight vertical line of the spine. It started to affect her riding even during her introductory riding course.

“When I was doing the motorcycle course, they kept calling me over and saying: ‘Why are you leaning off the motorcycle?’” she recalls. “Then I’d come closer and they’d say ‘Oh no, you’re sitting right in the middle of the bike.’ Then I’d go off again and they’d say ‘Come back here, you’re off centre.’ As soon as I’d come close again they’d say ‘You’re clearly sitting in the middle of the seat.’”

The instructors couldn’t understand why from far way Linda looked like she was leaning off to the side but from close up, she was perfectly in the middle.

“I finally told them it’s because I have scoliosis. Everything is slightly off to the side. Since the beginning I loved it but I never felt all that confident,” she explains.  Still Linda persisted in her dream to ride the iron horse.

Her very first bike was a Honda CBR 600, that she bought from her then boyfriend, who later was to be her husband. It was his old track bike and needed some work to become street legal. In case you’re not a track enthusiast, making a bike suitable for track means you need to remove your side-view mirrors, blackout your headlights, tail lights and signals with tape, then pull the fuses so that the tape doesn’t melt to your lights. To make it street legal, Linda had to reverse those steps. With her future husband’s helping hand, Linda was able to make it street worthy.

Even with all this work, she found somethings still weren’t right with the bike. In many ways she found it a little too big for her liking.

“It was too tall for me so I lowered the suspension, shaved down the foam and brought it a little bit lower,” she says.  Even with making adjustments to the bike, she still found handling it difficult.

“I still couldn’t get my feet flat on the ground and it was so heavy. I’ve seen lots of other teeny tiny girls riding these big heavy motorcycles on their tip toes and I think that’s awesome, but for me, I found it really tough.”

She wondered if a lighter bike may be the way to go and so she bought herself a Ninja 250. After getting over the power difference, she was still having balance problems especially at slow speeds due to her scoliosis.

Like Goldilocks after two bowls of porridge, she started to doubt herself as a rider.

“I began to wonder if this was for me, and whether I was going to have to give it up,” she recalls, adding that it was extra disappointing because she really enjoyed riding and sharing in this passion with her husband. Because of him, riding was always going to be part of Linda’s life. Moreover, she liked the culture of riding, attending the bike shows and even watching the sports bike rallies in Parry Sound, Ontario.

“I thought what am I going to do about it; Am I going to go back to being a passenger?

Sadly, that hurts my back too. To make it even worse, all his bikes are sport bikes. I’m very much leaning forward and bracing my weight on the tank.”

It looked like the passion may be lost, that is till that fateful day a woman in Burlington, Ontario rode by Linda on a Can-Am Spyder. It was 798 pounds of pure possibility. Later that month Linda was at the Parry Sound Sports Bike Rally and she once again encountered a lady on a Spyder.  This time Linda made the most of her opportunity to talk to her about her choice in bike. 

The lady explained that she had recently had an accident and her leg had been pinned under her very heavy bike. She broke it, went through rehab and had started to think she wouldn’t ride anymore because she didn’t feel confident on two wheels with the weak leg. 

Moreover, the lady also told Linda that despite being on three wheels instead of two, she still considered herself a biker. As far as Linda was concerned, this was great news as even though she was pondering the Spyder, she wrestled with her identity as a biker because it wasn’t a two wheeled bike.

“I thought ‘Am I still a rider?’ There was a lot of that Then I thought you know - better to be safe, better to be confident, better to be enjoying it. “

Linda test drove a white 1000cc Spyder and she was in love. It was a quite the journey. Still persistence paid off and she found the bike for her. One that gave her the confidence to once again have that feeling of owning the road. I asked her what it was that made her persist with a passion for motorcycles despite the hurdles she faced.

“I don’t know how to say it without being cliché; It’s the freedom, the open road and all that,” she says. “I can’t say I’ve ever been one to love driving a car, but when it comes to riding a motorcycle, it’s all about the experience. I love travelling in all forms. There are places you fly off to but sometimes just having a backpack of stuff and going off for the weekend is thrilling. I like the culture too. I remember when I was first riding 2 up with my husband I thought -

‘WOW he knows a lot of people!’

She recalls thinking that everyone was waving at him and that he knew everybody.

“It’s the best feeling when you get the wave, and I was worried when I got on a Spyder people wouldn't wave at me because it has three wheels and not two. But they all still do.”

It seems for Linda at least, owning a Spyder is exactly what the doctor ordered. 

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