WIMA rally in Derbyshire, England

Finally it had arrived, yet too soon it would fly by, the International WIMA Rally, that I’d been looking forward to since buying my ferry ticket back in February.

Parade day! Photo courtesy: Okunishi Sonoko

It is hard to capture the essence of a WIMA rally in words and do it justice, I struggle every year while typing up my blog post. WIMA is an organization with a long history, indeed it will be celebrating its 70th year in 2020. The international rallies started in 1958 and I’ve been attending them since 2005 (Sweden and New Zealand) and I’ve become addicted to them – but what is it that brings me back year after year and makes me plan my summer around being able to attend the rally?

Our international rallies are always a shade under a week, arrival on Sunday but official opening on Monday night. This includes the welcome dinner and speeches, and a party. During the week we have trash night with silly performances, the parade with national flags, visits to local cultural places, suggested ride outs and a treasure hunt, disco, live music and more. It ends on Friday night with a farewell dinner, awards and presentation of next year’s rally. Departure is Saturday morning. There can be some variations to the content during the week, but I would say that the opening and closing evenings are rather fixed structures, as is the parade. Quite a lot of stuff is crammed into the rally week, most of them included in the fee, plus you get a goodie bag. I love the way we have lots of social activities on offer and I can choose to take part or just hang back and chill with friends, some I only meet every two or three years. 

If I were to choose one element that I valued the most from this year’s rally, it would be re-connecting with old friends, making new friends and meeting some famous people.

For the opening cermony WIMA GB had invited Anna Zee, president of FEMA, to give the welcome speech. What a treat to be seated with her during dinner and learn about motorcycle culture and FEMA’s work in different countries. It was so interesting that we re-filled our wineglasses and withdrew to continue our discussions in a more quiet place. I believe there was a band on that evening that I missed.

The red wine was very tasty and I ended up in the office, having a few more glasses while discussing motorcycle travelling and rallies with Tiffany Coates and Caroline Carver. Tiffany has attended plenty of Horizons Unlimited events, so has Caroline (she is also the organizer behind the massive HU event in Baskerville Hall in Wales). With this background, their view on WIMA rallies interested me, what they found similar, different and the demographic of the participants. We concluded that the events are vastly different. The HU events are based on presentations and workshops whereas the WIMA rallies are based on social activities, fun and games. In addition, many of the HU attendants are round the world travellers, in WIMA most of us are more modest in our distances but still dedicated travellers.

So, already on the first night I had met 3 famous people! This resulted in a serious headache the next day, totally self-inflicted by too much delicious wine – Carolina and Tiffany had no blame in that at all, nor had Anna. The next day was a busy one, oh dear: first a visit to the Blue John Cavern in the morning, then an assessed ride with an IAM instructor after lunch, followed by the Pikilily presentation, national presidents’ meeting and dinner back-to-back. Sometimes it is difficult to understand how it was possible to muster the energy for all the things scheduled but somehow I managed to get through it all.

Some rock information: The name of the stone, Blue John, comes form its colors and the fact that there were many french miners working in the mines in the early days. In french blue is bleu and yellow is jaune 🙂 linguistics is fun! Blue John is only mined in 4 places in the world, all in this area, there were quite a few circumstances that needed to coincide for the stone to be created therefor its rarity. In a few years’ time this cave will be fully excavated and from then on only used for guided tours.

Our excellent IAM instructors! I got Linda Ashmore and I know hear her voice my head when Im riding, which is a good thing! Btw, Linda is also famous! Photo courtesy: Keiko Osawa.

Throughout this summer the weather has been rather chilly wherever I’ve been (apart from a few days in Spain and France). England was no exception, we had plenty of rain and some rather chilly nights when I had to layer up with all my clothes to stay warm and cosy in my tent. I slept well, though, and my tent didn’t leak. I find it super cosy to be snuggled up in my sleeping bag listening to the rain. A side-effect of the rain was the slugs, more about that later.

Clear sky and full moon – we’re in for a cold night at the campsite. Photo courtesy: Sue

Losehill Hall was a perfect venue for the rally, especially for such rainy weather. Lots of rooms, nooks and crannies where we could socialise indoors. For example, Sue and I spent a long morning drinking mug after mug of coffee and catching up on things. Then we dragged Georgina with us to take in the view from Lose Hill. 1 1/4 of a mile, yeah, we were all sure it was much longer. It was admittedly quite a hike and I wasn’t quite prepared, wearing my running shoes and woolly long johns however my new Knox Olivia jacket kept me warm and dry. In fact, I wore the jacket all week, both on and off the bike, very flexible piece of gear!

Another highlight of this year’s rally was meeting Hayley Bell, founder of the Women Rider’s World Relay, and listening to her talk about the relay and beyond. As international president of WIMA, I have been involved from the start and spent a lot of time networking both within WIMA and for the WRWR and I have followed its development with great interest. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the next step will develop. The WRWR can best be described as a movement and it is highly dynamic, involving and connecting women from different cultures and countries and broadening the horizons for everyone. As well as showing the market how many women we are and that we want better adapted products, the relay is showing us how many strong women there are out there and how different our situations can be just depending on what country we are born in. In Western Europe we want gear without pink and at the same quality as men’s gear. In Pakistan they want gear, any gear, because the availability is very poor. This gives greater awareness of the inequality in the world, we might not have the gear we want, but they don’t have anything.

One way that WIMA as an organisation is making an immediate impact is by our support of MJ Piki. We were fortunate to be able to hear Anne talk about the latest development in the Pikilily workshop and the progress of the women riders at MJ Piki. There are now 6 trained women and WIMA continues to support them, aiming to raise money for the training of another woman and to fund a motorbike. The rally successfully raised money for MJ Piki – the fundraising was split between our official WIMA World support project and the Derbyshire Air Ambulances, a local charity. So we are working towards our goal already. We also collected protectors that can be sewn into their riding gear, I find it amazing how crafty they are in creating their own riding gear when there isn’t any on the market.

On a more personal aspect of women empowerment, Tiffany Coates held a workshop on how to keep yourself safe and how to act in a dodgy environment. We learned about how to show security through body language, break free when held by the wrist and other tips to deter an attacker. The old tip, key between your fingers, was something I used all the time when running the trails in the Gothenburg suburb where I lived before moving to Spain, but I had no idea how easy it can be to break free from a wrist grip if you know how to do it. Tiffany was fresh back from India, where she led a ripple relay from Chandigarh up to Khardungla, probably the highest altitude ripple ride yet performed – they called it “the Ultimate Ripple”. I hope that, in the future, I will have the possibility to travel with Tiffany in India on one of her tours. She is an inspiration, and it was amazing to finally meet her, she is such a humble person yet extraordinary. As you can see, I had to take some photos of her famous bike Thelma as well.

Too quickly, the rally began drawing to a close. There was the farewell dinner, awards ceremony and concert, this time I didn’t miss out! Thor – the gods of rock kept us well entertained with their 70s and 80s rock, they’re seriously one of the best cover bands I’ve seen.

The first impulse of me and many others was to photograph or film the band, later on the dance floor was full with rocking women!

Thank you WIMA GB for an amazing rally, you did brilliantly!

Also, please accept my humble thanks for the “Slug in the boot award”. Very much appreciated 😀