Never could I have anticipated that it would feel this powerful, I had just signed up to join the ride and meet the girls and yet there I was – one of the Guardians carrying the baton from Zaragoza to Andorra. However, symbols are powerful and should not be underestimated. Slowly, woman by woman, this baton had made its way from John O’Groats in northern Scotland, via Ireland, Wales, England, France, northern Spain and Portugal. Hundreds of women before me had held the baton, signed the scroll and passed it on. And this was just the beginning, onwards to the north and then to the east and further east, on to Australia and New Zealand, over to Canada, down through the Americas and finally up through Africa. This week it all ends in Dubai and next week we’ll have the final party in London. I can’t wait to meet all the women I have met through the WRWR, Women Riders World Relay – a game changing idea by Hayley Bell – that the world of women motorcyclists came to embrace and ride for.
My first contact with Hayley was shortly after she put her idea up in a woman’s motorcycling group on Facebook. As the purpose of the WRWR and the aim of WIMA overlapped in large part, I contacted her immediately when I saw the message. I wanted to help in my capacity as international president. Please boil down the essence of WRWR into one paragraph so I can help spread the word, I asked Hayley. “We co-ordinate women motorcycle riders across the world to participate in Women Riders World Relay, bringing fun, experience, confidence and a sense of unity to women riders globally” was her answer. The overarching goal for WIMA is to promote international friendship through motorcycling, so yeah, there you go, match made!
My own actual riding participation in the relay was small, just one leg, but the experience was great. I met the Spanish Ambassador Eva and the girls in Zaragoza. I had arrived late, riding straight from work, but just in time for the interview with the TV crew broadcasting live on national TV. Our ride to Andorra was a breeze, nice weather and pleasant food and coffee stops, no hardship at all. However, when we arrived in Andorra it was raining and the team from Andorra, Penya Motorista L’Esquirol, had been waiting for quite some time at the border. They were cold and wet but very welcoming. They escorted us into the city where we were welcomed by people in general and the mayor in particular. The high street was closed off and there were photoshoots, meet and greets and then, off to our hotel. Muntza, the Andorran Ambassador, had arranged everything very neatly and we were very well taken care off. At dinner, I learned that the French girls taking over the baton were actually WIMA France members, amusing as I had tried to recruit them to WIMA before finding out. On the other hand they tried to recruit me to the following leg, and I had decided to tag along but a severe headache put a halt to that plan and I had to wave my goodbyes in Andorra de la Vella while they rode on towards Italy.
Back home, networking continued and now, by contrast, I was contacted by women who wanted to bring their country’s WRWR participants together under the WIMA flag. WIMA Norway was initiated by Emilija and Ann Kathrine did the same for WIMA Luxembourg. In the meantime, the baton was kept moving through northern Europe despite rain and snow. The baton continued on through eastern Europe and into Asia. I kept a close eye on the progress and followed the informative and entertaining daily live videos provided by Colette, the amazing Australian who was determined to follow the relay for as long as she could.
Summer came and I arrived in Sweden to spend some time with family between jobs. Simultaneously with the world relay, many countries arranged ripple relays with the purpose of involving all the areas that the baton had not been able to reach. As I had enjoyed being part of the kick off for the French ripple relay on International WIMA Day back in May, I thought that it was a pity that there wasn’t a ripple going in Sweden. Lots of people had shown disappointment that the relay didn’t come to their area or that they were not able to take part on the actual days the relay passed. I thought that there would be enough interest to make a ripple happen, if only someone would kick start it. I was thinking all these things while I baked the traditional midsummer cake for my father and when I put the cake in the oven I thought, why could it not be me? By the time the cake had baked I had made up my mind, I would do it!
The Swedish WRWR Ambassadors, Ina and Berit, had already arranged a reunion ride in Gothenburg on Midsummer Sunday and they let me take advantage of this as the kick off. I had a day to prepare and set up the Facebook page with information about the ripple and about its philanthropy. I had decided that the ripple would raise money for MJ Piki, a female workshop and transport service in Tanzania. I hoped to raise 327 euros, enough to pay for the full driver’s license training, paperwork and test of another woman rider.
The kick off went overwhelmingly well and people were very positive. Slowly the flag, together with a guestbook and a roadmaster t-shirt, made its way up north, all the way to Trerikesröset, where Norway, Sweden and Finland meet. One of the riders, Margareta, hiked 20 kilometres to make it to the actual point. In Stockholm, 1500km to the south, Susanne organised a ride within the very heart of Stockholm, at 5am, when the city was still asleep! The flag was then taken over to Gotland for a ride and some iconic photos by the mediaeval city wall of Visby. It then continued further down to Skåne, before finishing at WIMA Sweden’s autumn meet near Gothenburg, covering a shade over 5000km over 23 riding days with around 90 participants in total. There, Ina took the flag on a final tour on frosty roads before sending it off to Hayley. The roadmaster t-shirt and the guestbook have now been auctioned and in total we have raised about 750 euros for MJ Piki. As this is a lot more than the initial goal, we can contribute to the general running of their workshop.
Of all the things I set out to do last year, I must say that the ripple relay is what I am most proud of. For the ripple, just as for the relay, my riding contribution was small, but my main work was behind the scenes, networking and connecting people. The WRWR has been a very intensive experience where I have communicated with so many women, literally from all over the world, and I look forward immensely to seeing some of them in London on Valentine’s weekend, when we celebrate our achievement and of course Hayley – the woman who was brave enough to dream big.