59, Female, and Formidable On Her Motorcycle

How proper training, safe riding gear, and defensive riding skills boosted this rider’s confidence

By Alison Prentice, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Do you have a story to share? Please send it to us, but followthese submission guidelines.

Apparently I am at an age where people are either walking away from motorcycling after many years of riding or taking it up for the first time. I am in the latter group, having acquired first a Vespa Super GTS 300 in May 2016. Two months later I got a Yamaha V Star 250 (thank you dearest spouse for an early 60th birthday present!).

It is the first time in my life I have even ridden a motorcycle and bam, here I am with two! Am I crazy? Ha! Crazy like a fox maybe.

Women Riders Now E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date on all things motorcycle! Latest gear, bikes and products reviews. Travel ideas, great product giveaways, and more.

Alison on her Yamaha V Star 250, an ideal beginner motorcycle. Check out our list of other beginner motorcycles here.
59 female and formidable on her motorcycle alison prentice
Alison on her Vespa Super GTS 300 scooter. Despite it being an automatic transmission two-wheeler, Alison found it helpful to practice her newfound riding skills, including getting used to the feeling of being on two wheels, cornering, and maneuvering. She also rides in full protective riding gear.

What Does it Mean to be 59, Female, and Formidable, Riding a Motorcycle for the First Time?

Being age 59 and riding for the first time seems to surprise people the most, more so than being female. So far I have not had a single comment about being a woman and riding a motorcycle.

When the helmet comes off, my silver hair causes the first double take among random strangers who then start a conversation with me. From 88-year-olds to teens, that silver hair seems to make me very approachable and people want to not only know all about my experiences so far but share their own. (Although it might also be the Vespa as that puts a smile on everyone’s face when I ride by.)

As for the formidable part, the best decision I made on my journey towards becoming a formidable 59-year-young female rider was to take a course through a certified motorcycle school with certified instructors.

The school is Pacific Motorcycle Riding School in Surrey, British Columbia in Canada, and from all accounts, it does not matter whether you think you have all the skills because you have ridden for years, or whether you are a first timer like me. The instructors have something to offer everyone—not to mention they are a very pro-female group (to the point of making the bathroom “female” and insisting males put the seat down!).

We had eight hours of classroom instruction, 10 hours of “parking lot” instruction, a motor skills assessment test (the written test had to be passed before you can take the course) and two days of road rides. Amazing! If someone had told me that within five days of school I would be on the highway at 90 kmh—on a motorcycle!—I would have said he was crazy! But there I was, and it was awesome. I was in love. Scared spitless,

The next decision made was to practice, practice, practice. Within two months, I had added more than 2,000 kms on the Vespa, otherwise known as “Mighty Red.” Restricted from dawn to dusk, I was out there as soon as the streetlights were off, riding for hours. Day after day after day. I wanted to learn everything about the bike, the balance, how it turns, how it stops (yes, yes, the brakes, I know). I mean how I stop/start/turn on the bike.

We had a few mishaps Mighty Red and I, and more than a few bruises (and dents) to show for it; always at a standstill though. This happened mostly because of the high center of gravity of the scooter versus a regular motorcycle, and me being vertically challenged and forgetting about the extra inch needed at a stop if there was even the slightest bit of a slope.

When it came closer to booking the actual road test to pass the full Class 6 unrestricted licence, I knew I needed to practice with a motorcycle with gears and a manual clutch, as the Vespa is fully automatic. I booked a private lesson with one of the instructors from Pacific Riding School, followed by a “mock road test” (filmed by the instructor), followed by a private road ride. That was when my spouse surprised me with the Yamaha V Star 250, a motorcycle I had said I wanted to buy next summer.

59 female and formidable on her motorcycle starter bikes
Alison’s Yamaha V Star 250 and the Vespa 300cc scooter, the two vehicles that helped her realize her love of riding on two wheels.

The week before the road test, I managed to put more than 800 km on the V Star (aka the Red Baron), so by the morning of the road test I was feeling very confident. According to the tester (and driver), apparently the hours put into practicing were quite evident; only three minor errors in nearly an hour of road test. Whoohoo! I was free of restrictions!

How Formidable “Happens” and Stays

That is not the end of becoming a formidable rider. It is only the beginning. I am still out every single day practicing on different roads (local, highway, city, rural). I ride (very carefully) when it is raining to learn my limits, and the bike’s limits. I wear the appropriate gear—full face helmet (with the exception of hopping on the Vespa to run a few blocks to the store; that is when I use the retro half helmet), Kevlar suit, and either leather or Kevlar gloves depending on the temperature.

I practice defensive riding, and am thankful for the lessons in class that taught performance under stress. Those skills have already helped me avoid a few dangerous situations!

I now have more than 3,400 kms under my belt in the two months since completing the riding school. I’m already planning to join the 35th annual Oyster Run, the largest motorcycle run in the Pacific Northwest. I will ride down from Surry, B.C., to Annacortes, Wash., just to see all the motorcycles. Then, I will join the 38th annual Vancouver Motorcycle Christmas Toy Run.

What was that phrase, crazy like a fox? That is me. On the surface it seems like a crazy decision to take up motorcycle riding for the first time ever in my life at age 59, being female, and yet the “crazy like a fox” part comes in with the foresight to take the accredited riding course with accredited instructors, wear the right gear, and practice defensive driving.

What would I tell someone else my age considering this experience? Lots! Go for it!

Do you have a story to share? Please send it to us, but follow these submission guidelines. 

Related Stories
Never Too Old to Ride a Motorcycle
Motorcycle Training Classes for New Riders
Textile Jacket Reviews
All Reader Stories

5 thoughts on 59, Female, and Formidable On Her Motorcycle

  1. Great story! I too, began my journey as a 50-something on a Yamaha V Star 250 and rode it more than 10,000 miles on goaty mountain roads, 75 mph on freeways on a nearly 800 mile long weekend, and split lanes in California highway commuting.This is one super starter bike. I took an individual lesson and a Basic RiderCourse, but I like BC’s rules as they give more hours of practice.The one thing that was key to my confidence was consistent practice, in less-traveled times (very early weekend mornings, and weekday evenings. I actually spent much of my first four months riding at night).Now in my fifth year of riding, and second year on my larger 2004 Yamaha V Star 1100. There is nothing as meditative for me as getting on my bike. I am happy to hear of other older female riders enjoying the journey. As I read the comments, Belinda makes the points that were made to me when I first began riding, and it’s certainly helped me avoid accidents.Keep on riding, and always ride your own ride—don’t let a riding partner goad you beyond your limits.

  2. Great story. Matter never the years, just the miles and experiences! Kudos to the spouses that support and encourage our riding our own, or behind them. It’s a wonderful way to meet people, see our great country and world! Good luck. Stay safe. My hair is getting more gray too after 22 years of riding. It still blows in the wind.

  3. So great to hear your story! I, too, am 59 and I am taking up dirt biking. I took a one-day class and then spent several days at a dirt track, practicing balance, stopping, and shifting. I plan on taking a motorcycle class, too, so I can get a license to ride on public roads from trail to trail. It’s good to know I’m not the only older gal getting started on motorized two wheels.

  4. Wow, girlfriend! Congratulations! You sound like a smart, sensible rider,one I would like to ride with. Here is some advice I received when I first started riding: 1. Everybody is out to kill you. Not literally, but ride defensively. Anticipate that the people around you will do something stupid so watch for it.2. Never ride above your skills but if you find yourself in a situation, like passing a car and having an 18-wheeler truck round a corner toward you, commit, don’t hesitate.So the lesson is, watch, keep alert and keep honing your skills. Above all, have fun.

  5. Interesting and good you took training classes. The more you know about the machines and personal protective gear, and the greater your attention to the road, the more comfortable you ride. Never ride afraid, never ride distracted. (Maybe wait a moment before you get a helmet cam and start motovlogging.)Just curious about one big thing.Scooter vs motorcycle; does it make a difference to you? If so, how you adapt to that difference?

Scroll to Top