Over 80 women motorcyclists glided into the Ace Café in London on Saturday to mark the official launch of the Women Riders World Relay. Led by founder Hayley Bell, with the ornately carved hand-baton firmly strapped to her back, the women arrived to cheers of delight from the crowd and a flurry of media activity. The event started just over a week ago from John O’Groats and has already zig-zagged the length of the country, including a trip across to Ireland. Among the riders is Colette Tindall Edeling, who aims to complete all the legs in every country on her Yamaha MT07, bought from the Superbike Factory in London and delivered to John O’Groats just in time for the start of the relay.
As the journey progressed the number of riders joining in swelled as did the number of ladies registering their interest in other legs of the baton’s journey. By the end of the weekend over fifteen thousand women had expressed an interest in riding or supporting the relay. The event is set to continue for a year and involve more than 90 countries before returning to the UK next January.
As well as a warm and vocal welcome for the riders, there were demos and stalls running all day as well as talks from inspirational women in biking, including Kerri Cameron (the only female Wall of Death stunt rider), Jodie Fieldhouse from Go Pink racing, Mide Emans, world record holder for the highest altitude a woman has ridden to and Elspeth Beard, first female solo round the world motorcyclist and author.
The aim of the Relay is to empower women to take up the sport in all its forms and to show the industry the volume of lady riders out there in the hope that they will begin to offer more range and support to this growing market.
On Sunday, WRWR had laid on a tester day at Sittingbourne Speedway where girls could get an introduction to off-roading and demos of speedway, flat track, trials and side cars from some of the UK’s up and coming female off-roaders. Included in the line-up was 14-year old Taya Thirtle who has been riding since she was five and is currently competing in her fifth year of the Speedway British Youth Championships. Taya was given the baton to carry around the circuit before handing it back for it to continue its journey across the channel.
From here on the girls will face multiple challenges both logistical and weather-based. Even leaving the UK on Sunday presented a few problems as the winds were reaching gusts of 51mph as the relay left Sittingbourne for Folkestone and the tunnel. The blustery weather gave the girls a taste of the unpredictability of international riding with travel delays anticipated as ferries were cancelled and roads closed.
The event as well as the baton (live) can be followed on social media channels @WRWR2019 or on the website womenridersworldrelay
Louisa Swaden (Existential Biker)