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Common Tread

A Mothers Day story: I am my mother's daughter

May 06, 2016

Back when I was in high school, people would look at me a little weird when I said that my mom rode motorcycles.

Editor's note: Most stories of being inspired to ride involve fathers, brothers and uncles. But sometimes it's a mother who sets the example. In honor of Mothers Day, here's one such story.

I would beg her to let me off her motorcycle a block before reaching my high school, so as not to be spotted riding on the back. But although it embarrassed me a little in my teen years, eventually Mom’s passion for riding became an inspiration for me.

news clipping
A woman taking a small engine repair class was rare enough at the time that it made the local news. Photo by Teri Conrad.
In her day, it wasn’t as common or socially acceptable for women to ride their own bikes. Mom was not compliant to the norm. She took a small engine repair class to learn more about motorcycles, and was featured in the local paper because she was the only female in the class.

Despite my teenage embarrassment at being different, I secretly admired her for pursuing her passion. She looked great in her leather gear with her long brown hair gracefully blowing in the wind. Heads would turn when she passed by in the little Northern California town where we lived.

Cas Breen
My Mom and her Shadow. Photo by Teri Conrad.

Twenty years later, I got the bug and it was Mom who I confided in. I had mentioned the idea to a couple of friends, but they thought it was silly, so I kept future discussions to myself. I planned to take the MSF class with another girl, but when it came down to it she backed out. I was nervous. I signed up three times before I finally went through with the class. Throwing a leg over that little 250 cc Honda motorcycle brought out my inner rebel and I haven't looked back since.

Cas Breen
My Mom rode when it was far less common for women to ride motorcycles. It took years before I followed her example, but then it became a big part of my life. Photo by Teri Conrad.

Teri and Shadow 750
Me with my first bike, a 2003 Honda Shadow Spirit 750. Coincidence that I had a Shadow, like my Mom? Photo by Teri Conrad.
Learning to ride was a total boost to my self-confidence and it fed my independent side. Now, as editor of a motorcycle magazine, I often get asked about motorcycles and how to get started riding. The best advice I can offer is this: "Take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation class and learn the proper techniques from the start. It is much easier than trying to break bad habits later down the road." It is never too late to learn. You might even surprise yourself and have a great time like I did.

Living on opposite coasts has proved challenging for Mom and me. We never really had the chance to ride together on our own bikes. But, a few years ago, while attending a rally in North Carolina, I was able to show Mom the Ladies Edition Vulcan 900 Classic loaned to me by bike builder Scott Britt. It occurred to me then that this was the first time she’d seen me pilot my own machine.

Teri on Vaquero
That's me riding one of my all-time favorite motorcycles, a Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero. Photo by Teri Conrad.

As I reflect on my journey, I must give credit to Mom for setting me on the path to a wonderful and exciting life. Mom has since hung up her helmet and given her riding gear to me, but she just might be using it again when she comes to visit. This time, Mom rides pillion.

I am, in fact, my mother’s daughter.