As some of you know, I have long been a proponent of women riding their own bikes, so I pay attention to articles like the one posted below. Karan Andrea would have been an interesting person in her own right, for her determination and accomplishments, but she also had the good sense to fall in love with another 1974 Shovelhead, which makes her my sister…. or sister-in-law, at least. 😏
Riding, Wrenching, & Empowerment
Antique Motorcycle Club of America Riveters Chapter founder Karan Andrea brought a vintage Harley back to life, despite all odds
by Karan Andrea, Buffalo, New York, February 27, 2022 at https://womenridersnow.com/riding-wrenching-empowerment/
AMCA Riveter Ride—Chix on 66
Note: per the Riveter Chapter’s website, they will host a run to Berea, Kentucky May 30 – June 2, 2023. Visit them at https://www.riveterchapter.com/ for more info.
AMCA Riveter Founder’s Herstory
I started riding motorcycles in 2011 when I was 45 years old. Prior to that, I hadn’t been around bikes all that much. I never rode dirt bikes and didn’t have a parent or relative who rode. When I was 19 years old, I dated a guy for a minute who had a Yamaha Virago. I rode with him a few times and loved it! But after we broke up, I didn’t have the opportunity to ride a motorcycle again for 25 years.
At that point, I had a friend who had a motorcycle who was going through a rough patch in life. The only solace he had was riding, but he had a hard time getting himself to leave the house to go for a ride. I started asking him to take me for rides. I’d cover the gas, and we’d ride for hours.
After a while, he said, ‘You know, if you like riding that much, why don’t you get your license and get your own bike. That way, you don’t have to date some asshole in order to ride.’ My answer was, ‘I can do that?’ It never occurred to me that I could learn to ride a motorcycle. I had no idea how one learned to ride, but in some part of my mind I think I assumed that if you were a dude, you just automatically knew how, so of course I did not know how. I didn’t know any women who rode, although that wasn’t a huge factor because I’ve always done things that were non-traditional for a woman.
Learning to Ride a Motorcycle
My friend told me about a motorcycle class for beginners, and I went for it. I was a nervous wreck. I have no idea how I passed the riding evaluation, but I did it. There I was, an endorsed rider with no friggin’ clue how to ride a motorcycle. This is not a shortcoming of the class at all. The beginner’s class teaches you how to operate a motorcycle and teaches you the basics of safety, but we never went beyond the parking lot.
The only way to learn to ride a motorcycle, is to ride a motorcycle. Karan, meet anxiety, anxiety, Karan. The next three years were a struggle. I bought the wrong bike, was getting (no) help from the wrong person, and I just never felt comfortable riding. But I wanted to ride so badly, that I refused to give up.
My stubborn streak served me well. Just five years after I got rid of the wrong bike, I became a certified Motorcycle Safety Instructor. I’ve also fallen in love with vintage bikes and long-distance riding.
My First Vintage Motorcycle
When I left a damaging relationship in 2018, I was left with a 1974 Harley-Davidson FLH Shovelhead in my garage that was the most terrifying beast I had ever faced. That motorcycle needed a lot of work. It was barely ridable as it sat, and even after I conquered my fear and rode it, it was a physically exhausting—but strangely exhilarating—adventure. Along with needing major motor, clutch, transmission, and fork work, the bike needed to be completely rewired. Wrenching still intimidates me even though I will do it, but wiring… I was pretty sure I could do that.
Quite a few people told me I was crazy and that I would get frustrated and end up hauling it to a shop for them to finish. They said I didn’t know what I was doing, and I would screw it up and would never finish the job. My answer was, “So what? I’m gonna try.”
I did get some help (although it was the wrong help) and I built up some confidence. I taught myself how to read an electrical diagram and learned to trust my instincts with the bike, people, and myself. I finally finished the rewire job and took the Shovel on its first journey. I did a 1,000-mile trip, fixed a few things along the way, and never felt more in control of myself and my bike.
Again, people told me I was crazy to travel on this old motorcycle. What was I going to do if it broke down? My answer was always the same, “I will figure it out.” My second trip on the Shovelhead was 2,000 miles. During both trips the bike had minor problems, but I got some fabulous stories out of it, and I was forming a bond with that old Harley that I had never had with any other vehicle I have ever owned.
Nothing about riding or wrenching has come easily. I am grateful to the short list of people who have been so generous with information, advice, parts, and encouragement. I am also grateful to the longer list of people who tried to derail me, who said I’d never succeed, who tried to sabotage my efforts. Because in the end, I have shown myself who I am.
As I read Karan’s article, I found two lines that really spoke to me, because they so perfectly mirror my own feelings. First, Karan wrote that, after teaching herself to rebuild and rewire the bike, she:
‘…took the Shovel on its first journey. I did a 1,000-mile trip, fixed a few things along the way, and never felt more in control of myself and my bike.’
That sense of competence and control Karan cites – the sensation I get from knowing my Shovelhead inside and out – is so precious to me. I’m pleased to know it is to her, as well.
She follows that by saying:
‘Again, people told me I was crazy to travel on this old motorcycle. What was I going to do if it broke down? My answer was always the same, “I will figure it out.” My second trip on the Shovelhead was 2,000 miles. During both trips the bike had minor problems, but I got some fabulous stories out of it, and I was forming a bond with that old Harley that I had never had with any other vehicle I have ever owned.’
The bond Karan mentions is why I still get loquacious AF about my Shovelhead after all these years. See previous post, f’rinstance. What can I say? 🤷♀️ The Bitch is in my blood, and my blood, sweat and tears are in hers. 😁
Thank you, Karan Andrea and Women Riders Now for sharing that essay with us. Sláinte!
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