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Never too old to ride a motorcycle Pamela Wiker
Pamela Wiker on her 2008 Harley-Davidson 1200L Sportster, her first motorcycle, at age 62!

Age has never been a roadblock for reaching my goals. When I was 51, I went back to college and completed my Bachelor’s of Arts degree. At age 54, I took a dog-sledding trip and slept in a tent in the snow for three days. Then, at 62, I learned to ride a motorcycle.

To paraphrase Friedrich Nietzsche, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and I live by that motto. I rode as a passenger with my husband for several years, and seeing other women riders, I began thinking “why not”?

Browsing websites of used motorcycles only fanned my flame of desire, and at this time, a new law in Florida required motorcycle riders to pass a safety course before riding. I scheduled the course and then began a two-day motorcycle safety class filled with nervous sweats, heart thumping and stomach-churning moments.

After dropping the small Honda 250 I was assigned, wondering how I was going to coordinate my feet and hands all while remembering the pointers, I became discouraged. The instructor wanted me to drop the course, but then I hit the jackpot. The owner of the teaching course—a former Florida highway patrolman—offered to let me learn to ride on a scooter. I decided that if I could pass the course on a scooter, I could learn how to shift later. My strategy worked and I passed the course on a scooter.

When I returned home, waving my certificate, my husband took me outside, opened the motorcycle trailer and surprised me with a used 2008 Harley-Davidson 1200L Sportster. I had fallen in love with this motorcycle two weeks before while sitting on several to find one that fit and allowed me to straddle with my feet flat.

Never too old to ride a motorcycle Sportster 1200L
Pamela practicing on her Sportster 1200L in a parking lot.

My next step was to learn how to handle the clutch, gears, brakes and steering while keeping the motorcycle upright. My husband removed the saddlebags and taped up any surfaces that could be damaged. We started practicing behind a small strip mall, but while making wide turns in first and second gears my motor revving Evil Knievel-like leap over a curb and bushes convinced him we needed more room. Bruised and sore, I waited more than a week before trying again. Finally we drove to an old abandoned airport where I practiced for several weeks, eventually moving to areas of higher traffic. The stomach butterflies still churned, but eventually subsided.

All that practice has paid off. Today, I ride through city traffic, highways along the Atlantic coast and quiet back roads in central Florida. Last summer we took our motorcycles to Tennessee. I still practice and I am still learning, but I have completely fallen in love with motorcycling. What a thrill!

After reading the stories of other women riders on Women Riders Now, I know my incidents of dropping the bike and all the stomach-churning feelings that go along with learning to ride, are not unusual. It helps to know others experienced the same feelings with learning how to ride. Thank you all for sharing.

Never too old to ride a motorcycle Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200L
Pamela posing by her 2008 Harley-Davidson 1200L Sportster, which she felt was ideal as her first motorcycle.

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41 thoughts on Reader Story: Never Too Old To Ride a Motorcycle

  1. Reading about riding while older has motivated me. I’m 60 and for the first, ever, my plans are to purchase and learn how to ride a motorcycle.

  2. Insanely comprehensive!Thank you so much. Now I have something to read during the holidays. This will take a while but well worth it like always.

  3. This article is dated 2013 and today is 7/27/2020, but this article touches a question very heavy on my mind. How many women 60+ are out there riding? Would love to see WRN feature and report about older women riders still or newly riding.

  4. How inspiring. he will always be young at heart. Love it! This is me in 3 wheels.

  5. What a sweet sportster! I learned how to ride my own motorcycle three years ago, in my forties. I took the MSF Basic Rider Course without as much having turned a motorcycle ignition key before, and I surprised myself by passing the evaluation tests! I almost didn’t show up on the third day because I was so sure I’d fail, but I didn’t give up and mustered all the courage and it paid off.What a great feeling to be able to ride one’s own motorcycle! It is an entirely different ride. I was so nervous riding on the back of my husband’s motorcycle that I thought I’d cause us to get in an accident, not that my husband wasn’t good at it. On the contrary he was a very skilled rider, but riding with him gave me a feeling of uncertainty. Is the motorcycle supposed to make that noise? Is the motorcycle supposed to lean this way? I was a terrified passenger so I thought why not learn to ride my own. That way I can have that sense of being in control. I am glad I did!

  6. I decided to learn to ride at 63. I am nursing a broken foot right now but it was my fault (grabbed that front brake) but I’m not deterred. I bought a little Honda Rebel and Jr. and I are going to make this relationship work.

  7. It was great to read your story! I learned at 54 at a state run three-day class and started on a Sportster. I love to ride and ride 12,000+ miles every year! I just bought my third bike, a 2015 Street Glide in jade pearl. It’s so great to see women our age out on the road having the time of our life! Ride safe my sister!

  8. Loved this article. Have been a passenger for years. My husband bought me a 1200 Harley-Davidson XLC Sportster in 2013. I was scared, to say the least. I took a motorcycle riding safety course that fall after five hours of practice on my bike. Passed it and never looked back. I had butterflies. Nausea too sometimes but worked through it. Mostly excited. The next spring went on my first group ride and continued to build my confidence. Then that May decided to ride our bikes in Tennessee. We drove our truck down “the Dragon” just to see how it was and I thought I can do this. Of course I was extremely nervous. I told my husband you go first and I’ll follow your course.I also told him don’t stop because if you do I may not have the courage to go on. A couple of hairpin turns gave me “pause,” but I found my groove and enjoyed the rest of the ride. So much so that we did it again. Prior to riding the dragon I watched several videos of the ride. No crashes just success. Don’t get me wrong — many hours of practice got me to this point. I love, love, love riding so much so I think we might do a cross county trip this year. First we are riding the Shenandoah valley then off to California, stopping wherever we want along the way. I am truly addicted to riding. Oh, by the way I’m 62 years old soon to be 63. No limits for me. Just enjoying the life I’ve been given.

  9. Well, now there are so many women riders! Good on us all! I rode for about two years at age 42, then gave it up because my “guy” didn’t feel right that I could ride and he couldn’t. About 2007 I decided to do it again at the age of 62. Now or never syndrome. In 2009, I was hit, went down and was out of riding for about a year. I traded in that Sportster as I was now afraid of it, too small to be seen I thought. I sat on a Heritage and felt like I was in heaven. Bought it right then and there! Have not looked back. Am now going to be 70 in August and riding more than ever. My hubby (different fella) just got his trike license last summer at the age of 79 and loves to ride it everywhere! Ladies, it IS never too late if you can drive safely you can ride safely on a trike if not a motorcycle.

  10. How wonderful. I returned to riding two years ago after a 20-year hiatus and I am so glad I did! What a freedom. I am so proud to be a woman rider and hear such awesome stories of other women riders! Shiny side up!

  11. Enjoyed your article. I got my motorcycle license many years ago. I’ve just returned to riding but on a 41-year-old Honda. Looking forward to spring. Only three more months. I hope you have many happy miles ahead.

  12. Wow! I enjoyed reading about your experience. I’ve always been scared to ride, but always wanted to ride. I took the class back in 2008 and passed the written portion but the instructors were not comfortable with me riding so I did not pass the course. The figure-8 in the box was the hardest. The part about not turning your head and body when making a turn took all my points. I was not too upset, but was happy that I even got on the bike and was able to not drop it. After reading your story, I may just retake the class soon. Learning to ride has always been a desire of mine. I got past the butterflies, but now I need to have the determination to get through it again.

  13. I started riding at age 35 after strong encouragement from my guy friend. The biggest mistake I made was not listening to them about what to buy as my first bike. My friends wanted me to buy a mid size Harley (Softail or Low Rider). The sheer thought of a bike that big terrified me so I went the Sportster route. What a mistake! After six months of riding the Sportster my friends made me ride one of their bigger bikes. Talk about being nervous and feeling sick to my stomach! Me, the big bike and five of the best male riders in our area riding through the mountains of central PA. Needless to say I came home, sold the Sportster and ordered new 2002 Road King. The big bikes are so much more balanced which makes them much easier for women to handle. You height is not any issue either. With all the accessories that you can buy you can customize the bike to fit you. Well its now 2015 and I still have the bike. In 2007 I checked off my bucket list riding to Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. We rode 4600 miles in 10 days. My next destination is Memphis!

  14. Very inspiring article and comments. I’m 59. After a year on a Suzuki GZ250, I bought myself a BMW G 650 GS. The butterflies? The doubts? The shakes? They are all still there. But that’s part of the adventure. It keeps me humble! I have realized I must simply go at my own pace and never forget my skill level. Riding season is short up here. I just started having fun last year and the season was over. It’s like starting all over this spring.

  15. Shout back at you Gail! I’m 54 and ride a 2004 Suzuki SV1000. Never want to live or ride the HD lifestyle. It’s all about the curves! Congrats to all the ladies who got off the back and into the saddle. Been there done that and wouldn’t go back!

  16. Hi Pam,I am so grateful for your post. Now, at 52, I decided I really wanted to ride my own bike. Being a passenger is nice, but I wanted to fly solo. I just passed the MSF course at the end of September. However, that was not without being the first in my class to come off the bike. Still determined, I found a great deal on my first Harley. An 883 Sportster Low. Excited about my new baby is to say it mildly. So, I practiced the friction zone and the brakes and got the courage to try our long driveway. Unfortunately, 1/4 mile of it is gravel with a hill on either side. Of course I know the warnings of stone and gravel but we live in the country and I was convinced that I could do it.Sadly, my confidence was shattered when I made it up one side of the hill to lay the bike down on the other side. I guess I will have to haul the bike to a practice zone. Thanks to your inspiring story I know I will find a way.

    1. We highly recommend starting out with a used motorcycle for this very reason. It’s likely a new rider will drop her or his motorcycle when practicing new skills. The cost of the repairs (especially on a new Harley-Davidson) sometimes can equal the cost of a used motorcycle. Please visit our section on How to Choose Your First Motorcycle to learn more.

  17. Pam, I loved reading your post. When I first started I was so thrilled, my family was not. I’ve been on two wheels since I was 4 years old and always dreamed of some day taking the next step; that was nearly 17 years ago.Now at 51 I’m just back to riding, still a bit nervous because I feel my skills have lessened. Reading these posts by other women in my age group is very encouraging.To all: don’t be shy, stay safe, stay free, enjoy the ride!

  18. I decided to start riding at 59. I love it and ride year round, having completed a solo round trip across the U.S. and back 65. Some day I will probably have to trike it, but my Harley-Davidson Street Bob and I are the best of friends and plan to stay that way for many years to come. BTW, my 68th birthday is only a few days away, so anyone who is hesitating because they think they are too old, go for it!

  19. I’m a 74-year-old female senior citizen who rides a 1994 250 Honda Helix scooter. Just could never get the hang of shifting and now would have a problem getting my leg over a motorcycle with my arthritis. Would love to find some women my age to ride with in or near my area. I still work two part time jobs (substitute teacher and demonstrator at Publix). I love to ride every chance I get. When I go grocery shopping and my two trunks are full I can be seen with the plastic bags hanging from the handle bars. Gotta save on gas!

    1. Two of the best ways to connect with other women riders in your area is to become a member of the WRN Forum. There are hundreds of women from all over the country signed up who share, connect and network there. It is free to sign up. Visit this link.You can also check out our list of Women’s Motorcycle Clubs at this link. You might find one near you and meet some like-minded women to ride with. All the best to you!

  20. Giving a shout-out to the older metric riders out there. Not everyone wants to live or ride the HD lifestyle. Some of us want to go fast!

  21. Go girls! Yep, been there alright. Being told to give it up…what are you thinking? I rode quads on the farm and various other machines, so the love for riding was no big deal. It was a bike. You ride it. So what? However a few years ago by chance, I started back on bikes. Riding on the back of a Harley and a Honda CBR 650. I had been encouraged to get a bike for years by a friend and her husband. But of course I never did. The urge wasn’t there. But the urge slowly but surely got me. Current boyfriend suggested that I get a bike but first had to upgrade the license. That was not fun. I dropped his Harley Super Glide a couple of times. I gave up. But I pushed past the butterflies and absolute terror and rode that 1500cc Harley 140kms down the tar. So long story short. I bought a 1995 Harley Sporty 1200, and does it go! Floggs the big bike. Haha!

  22. Congratulations and welcome to the world of riding, Pamela! It’s great to see more women riding motorcycles…in the front seat! I’ve been riding since 1989…and I’m 45 now. I’ve never ridden with a group of women before. One day I will find women to ride with. For now, I’ll keep reading these types of articles that make me happy happy! Pamela, enjoy your beautiful ride and the wonderful adventures to come!

    1. Janet,We have the most comprehensive calendar of events for women riders, so if you want to know what it’s like to ride with other women riders, find an event on the WRN Calendar of Events, and get yourself out there to meet and ride with other women. I promise you’ll make instant friends.A good place to also get started connecting with other women is the WRN Forum where hundreds of women riders network online. Check it out at this link. It’s free to sign up.

  23. Back in the late 60s I rented little Honda 90s as they were all that were available to rent. Bought my own bikes in the 70s, then life happened in the 80s and gave it up. At 55 I retired, got bored and wanted that exhilaration I once knew from motorcycling. So, at 60, I got back in the saddle and never looked back! Love it so much. Problem is, so many of the women I ride with are quite young compared to me. While I never have a problem keeping up on my 2013 Victory Cross Roads Classic, I wish there were more of us elders who love to ride! Anyone out there know of more women riders that like to enjoy the ride and cruise? Not just see how fast you can get to the next stop?

    1. Marge,Thanks for sharing your story. A great place to connect with other women riders is the WRN Forum. You can start a thread called “seeking elder women riders.” There are hundreds of women who converse on the WRN Forum so it’s a good place to start. Click this link to go there. It’s free to sign up.

  24. Way to go Pam! I’m 52 and decided it was time to get behind the bars and ride my own ride. That was one of the best decisions I’ve made! The feeling of empowerment goes beyond words. I was able to get 200 miles under my seat before having to put my bike away for the season. Spring cannot get here fast enough!

  25. Bless this beautiful, courageous women for sharing her story as a reminder to women everywhere that dreams really do come true. Ride safe.

  26. Pamela thanks for sharing. I agree this website is wonderful. I have used the forum to ask for tips. It is great to know we have all gone through the same thing. This past summer was my first riding season. I have a Sportster 1200 XLC, I am still practicing, still learning. I haven’t braved the highways yet. Being in the north my riding season is over. Can’t wait for the spring. Keep up the great work.

  27. You go girl! I decided to ride my own at age 49, but my story is just about identical to yours with jumping the curb and crashing at the MSF course and deciding to drop out so I wouldn’t hold everyone else back. I was determined and took a private lesson to get my MSF but still had butterflies – even do still 3 1/2 years later. But, I’m on my second bike; traded in my 2008 Sportster XLC for a 2007 Harley-Davidson Deluxe and love riding! My boyfriend and I routinely ride 100+ miles on the weekends, and we’ve taken a couple trips of nearly 1,000 miles in and around Texas. Last year we rode almost 2,000 miles in NW Arkansas, part of Route 66 from Missouri, through Kansas and Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle and into New Mexico, and back home to North Texas. Soooo many more rides on the bucket list. Ride on sister!

  28. Great inspiration! I learned to ride at 54 after being a pillion too. Had the same moments of terror, and a couple of whoopsies. Still ride a 250 Honda. We are restricted here in Australia for a couple of years. Just coming up to 3,000 kms in saddle and just starting to feel I may be able to actually do this.

  29. Way to go Pam! Congratulations on sticking to it and accomplishing your goal. We’ve all been in the parking lots, and all have much to learn with every ride. Way to go hubby with the Sportster surprise! Enjoy and safe travels.

  30. What an inspirational story! I’m 69 and sat on a motorcycle for the first time ever this past September, 2013. I had to take the course again in October before I passed, and going from the Honda 250 that I learned on to my Harley Sportster SuperLow was a challenging transition. I’m still practicing in parking lots but am slowly gaining confidence. Unfortunately, however, the weather is turning cold and blustery and I don’t want to tackle the roads in anything other than favorable conditions. I figure I have enough to worry about! So it will likely be next spring before I get on the roads…although if there’s a warm snap, I might be ready to give the back roads a try.At any rate, I was very encourage by your story, Pamela, and the reinforcement it provided that we older gals can actually become proficient enough to take to the roads. Age has never been a roadblock for me either, but I do find that I’ve become a bit more cautious with age…especially when it relates to jumping on a two-wheeled vehicle that can probably go faster than my car! But as I said, your story has been an inspiration and one that will help me build my confidence while also underscoring the message that it’s important to take the time I need to build my skills. Thanks for sharing!

  31. It just proves you’re never too old to learn something new! I took my first class at 60 and failed; took another one and failed. Finally two weeks after my 61st birthday I passed the class and bought my first Harley. Like you, I’m in love with riding! Congratulations to all us old gals!

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Pat. We have an article on WRN for people who fail the MSF class. It’s proven very helpful for figuring out what to do from here. It can be found at this link here on WRN.

  32. Congratulations on allowing your interest and courage to prevail! I too, just began riding a few years ago (mid-50s) and love it. I am thrilled for you, Pamela!

  33. Yay for you! I started at 50 after riding on the back for 30 years. I also love reading these stories. I also practice that former motor officer’s techniques, Jerry Palladino. I am blessed to have my own personal retired motor officer trainer. But he thinks I should take Jerry’s class too; says I’ll learn from someone else better!

  34. Her story is so similar to mine. I was a correction officer in a “close” male facility for almost 16 years. During that time I completed my bachelor degree in sociology and graduated at 58. Now at 59, I completed the four-day rider’s course at Buckmin’s Harley-Davidson in Xenia, Ohio, and got my motorcycle license. I have a 2013 Harley-Davidson Sportster Seventy-Two model. I love to ride. I love Harleys!

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