As sales of motorbikes soar among women over 60.....
As sales of motorbikes soar among women over 60, what’s behind the remarkable rise of the blue rinse bikers?
Our sixties is a time to try something new, to challenge ourselves and more than anything to be active in something that makes us happy. This is a choice, its an effort and I commend these ladies for doing just that!
Christine Langton, 64, from London, took up the hobby when she turned 60
Since 2011 she's travelled thousands of miles and owned seven bikes
Joy Smith, 68, from London, rides four times a week with her husband
She has spent over £20,000 on her hobby and owns a Harley Sportster
The only person in her family to take up the sport, she passed her motorcycle test first time in January 2011, has chalked up thousands of miles and ripped through seven (rather expensive) bikes, which she affectionately names after family members or their colour.
‘I remember waiting to board a ferry in Southampton in July last summer,’ says Christine. ‘I spotted a petite elderly woman on a huge Harley Davidson bike in front of mine with a sticker across the back that said: “I’m riding my grandchildren’s inheritance”.
‘I looked at my bike and thought, yes, that’s about right.’
Christine is part of a growing breed of sensible 50 and 60-somethings who are shunning free bus passes in favour of two wheels and a lot of leather.
Last year, almost 3,000 over-50s passed motorcycling tests — 8 per cent of all new passes — while a report for Saga this month has found over-50s are behind nearly 30 per cent of all spending on bikes, up 17 per cent from seven years ago. It’s also little coincidence that Saga, looking to capitalise on this new interest, has just bought motorbike insurers Bennetts, 43 per cent of whose clients are north of 50.
More surprising, perhaps, is that it’s women fuelling this spike, not men.
Karen Cole, a director at the Motorcycle Industry Association, says: ‘Of all over-50s gaining a licence in 2013, nearly half were women. This represents a steep rise for women, up from 268 in 2012 to 2,588 in 2013.’
Then there are all the groups. Women-only bike gangs are two a penny — just ask the Curvy Riders, a 300-strong gang run ‘by lady bikers, for lady bikers’; Hells Belles (whose membership is strictly invitation-only); or Lippy Ladies, a Yorkshire group ‘for ladies with attitude’ who document the best places to ride to for tea and cake.
For Christine, learning to ride a motorcycle was a way to finally take some me-time. ‘I reached 60 and realised that my life was absorbed by family, and I was always doing things for them but never myself.
My only regret is that I didn’t start ten years earlier. I’d encourage all older women to have a go — it opens up a whole new world.
‘I’d secretly loved bikes for years, ever since I rode on the back of a friend’s boyfriend’s bike when I was 16. It was thrilling and something about it stuck. I never bought one but now I could.’
Her ex-husband, though encouraging, assumed it was a mad phase that would wear off and she didn’t tell her children initially, for fear they would put her off.
He helped her research and to buy a £175 second-hand bike from eBay, which she took to a nearby field for its first ride and spent most of the time falling off.
‘I knew I needed lessons but I wanted to have a go first and see how it felt. My family thought I was crazy but I wasn’t scared. I was excited; I think the adrenaline took over. I’d made a decision that I wanted to bike and that was that.’
By the day of her CBT (compulsory basic training) test four weeks later, which every motorcyclist must pass, she’d spent hundreds of pounds on lessons and training. ‘The night before I couldn’t sleep; I was terrified of failing,’ she says.
Happily, she passed and, since then, Christine has toured France, Spain, Switzerland and roamed all over the UK to see its beauty spots.