Why I Ride…. In the Beginning…. Barb Cook

Peering over the fence, I could see a couple of teenage girls firing up their road trail bikes…. I thought they were the coolest chicks on earth.

I was 15 years old then, and never before had a second thought about motorbikes… until that day. Kitted up in their bike gear, the rev of the engines as they started them, completely captured me. I was hooked there and then in an instant.

At this point in my life I didn’t know I was Aspie. All I knew is that I didn’t fit in. I got teased for the fluoro green tight cord pants I would wear pretty much every time I went out, outside of school. To me I thought they were cool, I was different to everyone else who were blending in… but standing out doesn’t exactly attract the right attention either. Well not the way I was doing it.

I hated high school, the girls were merciless. Oh to have the skills and to even have a teaspoon of insight into how they managed to transform into young adults, be beautiful, have cool friends, and boyfriends… what the hell was all this.

I still longed for my BMX pushbike that I had when I was younger. Racing up and down the dirt tracks with the boy next door, back in Australia. It was so easy back then…. Maybe this is where my hidden motorcycling passion was coming from.

Riding a motorcycle back in the 80’s was still pretty much male dominated. Being a chick on a bike was looked at with great respect and it certainly turned heads, especially with the tousled blonde locks waving out the back of the helmet.

I knew that day, seeing those girls on their bikes that I wanted to be like them. They stood out but were not treated with bullying or teasing…. They had an air of their own. They were cool.

Barb Cook Honda Vision 50X
Barb on her Honda Vision 50X, trying to look cool wearing pink ankle warmers….

Dad on the other hand had completely different ideas for me. A motorbike!? Nice girls don’t ride motorbikes! Why don’t you get a scooter? You can wear a nice skirt or dress on those….. You can imagine inside the walls of my head echoing, a skirt on a bike…you have got to be kidding me.

As long as I could remember I hated wearing dresses and skirts. They were simply not practical. On the other hand my beloved maroon tracksuit was another of my favourite selectively matched clothing items that you pretty much couldn’t get me out of. It was comfortable and practical. When climbing a tree, where is the sense in a skirt?

So, with my dad’s very impressive persuasion and menacing glare, a scooter it was for my first set of motorised two wheels. At least I had some sort of freedom I guess…

At this point in time I was living in the UK and owning and riding a scooter up to 50cc (yes such a big engine) was allowed in the last year of high school. Problem was, dad decided a white with pink racing stripes Honda scooter would suit me nicely. I wanted to die. How much more unwanted attention is this going to bring me?

So I dealt with the torture of having a very girly bike for a very ungirly chick. I wanted to be a real biker, not this torture of being something I most certainly wasn’t. This very girly feminine thing I could have sworn was going to be the death of me. Someone shoot me now.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being female. I love having a very nice sized pair of assets to remind the male population that I am female (growing up I was always called a boy because of my ungirly nature and really got sick of saying to people quite firmly I AM A GIRL!). But the unpracticalness of so many girl things drives me nuts. Why wear insanely uncomfortable high heel shoes, a short skirt that you constantly tugging so you don’t get this whistling sound (I think you get my drift here) and enough makeup that the local plasterer would be proud of owning.

A nice pair of jeans, boots, leather jacket, gloves and a helmet… that is all I desired. Plus it was a way for me to finally have my own personal armour from the world that never accepted or got me.

I stuck it out with the pink and white hairdryer on wheels. And I also soon realised that I could hide in this helmet too. I started to blend. After 6 months of pretty much thrashing the life out of my scooter (I have no idea that was possible but I tried pretty damn hard) and even taking on the novelty of sitting right at the back of the seat so I could pop wheelies (yup still not that girly hey) I finally waved goodbye to a now broken machine.

Not treating it well meant that bike was dying a very fast death… and I secretly smiled the day I convinced my dad it had to go before it was too obvious and get some sort or reasonable money for it.

Barb escorting her dad on her Suzuki GS125 for his fund raising walk for the Big C Appeal (Cancer) in the UK
Barb escorting her dad on her Suzuki GS125 for his fund raising walk for the Big C Appeal (Cancer) in the UK

Now I was 16 years and 7 months when I finally got to own my very first “real” motorbike. A glorious black Suzuki GS125. Pretty much at this point in time didn’t have a great idea on how to ride a “real” motorbike. Somewhat different from a scooter which was throttle off or twisted as far it would go and leaning into the handlebars to hopefully get that 1/8 of a mile an hour faster. On or off …. sounds like a that black or white thing… hmmm.

Rewind a tad, I did at the time have a boyfriend that had a 100cc motorbike (see I’m feeling proud already because my bike was a whole 25cc bigger). He gave me a couple of rides of his bike so I did have a little bit of knowledge…

So, living the UK and owning a motorbike. This equals to it will rain EVERY day, plus there is the added challenges of black ice, snow and sleet to throw into the mix. My first experience at one of these wonderful forces of nature was rain. Two days after owning my seriously impressive black metal steed, I failed to realise if you grab the brakes quite hard when it is wet, bike will most likely want to lay down, and this will also make you lay down with it.

Picking myself up off the road and looking at the back end of the car I just ploughed into gave me a very good lesson in respecting thy machine.

But I was never deterred. I loved my black bike. I found my sanctuary. No one could hurt me, mock me, call me names or drag me down to the depths of despair when we were together.

I was now cool. I found my biker tribe (and I swear a very good percentage are just a little different like me. I can see them all now thinking is she talking about me….). They accepted me and my differences and we all had something in common. We ride.

We are connected as a group without any need for social skills, no talking is needed when on the road. We are graceful as we wind our way around the roads. Our minds become at ease. We are one with the bike and the bike is an extension of who we are. I had found where I belonged.

Wearing my black attire, my armour, I could take on the world. I had a way to navigate this mysterious world with a grace that could be only found on my two wheels. I no longer felt alone, even though when riding you are alone with yourself. As an Aspie Biker Chick, I now had the grace that I never had before when my feet were firmly planted on the ground.

 

Barb Cook Aspie Biker Chick Spectrum Women Magazine
Barb on her Suzuki 1000 V-Strom. Half way at the tunnel on the old Grafton Glen Innes Road, a total of 100km dirt road.

About Aspie Biker Chick – Barb Cook

Barb is Founder and Editor in Chief of Spectrum Women Magazine, is a highly committed Autism/Asperger advocate, keen motorcyclist and web/graphics guru.

Barb is Australian Ambassador of the International Aspergirl® Society, empowering autistic women with the vision of making a positive change.

Barb has made numerous appearances on Australian television and radio, in national newspapers and magazines, a documentary on women with autism, Co-Founder/Director of the Australian Autism Aspergers Network Inc. a registered not for profit national charity specifically for Autism/Aspergers families and individuals and Founder/Director of Bikers for Autism Australia. Read more about Barb Cook here.

Barb currently rides a Suzuki DL 1000 V-Strom and loves to ride both on and off-road.

 

International Aspergirl® Society   http://aspergirlsociety.org/

Bikers for Autism Australia   http://bikersforautism.org/

Australian Autism Aspergers Network Inc.   https://www.facebook.com/AustralianAutismAspergersNetwork

 

 

About Barb Cook 14 Articles
Barb Cook - Editor in Chief Formally identified on the autism spectrum along with ADHD and phonological dyslexia in 2009 at the age of 40, Barb is founder and editor in chief of Spectrum Women Magazine and editor and co-author of Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Barb is a highly committed advocate, writer, speaker and keen motorcyclist, making a variety of appearances on Australian radio, television, in newspapers and magazines and the SBS television documentary, The Chameleons: Women with Autism. She is co-founder of Bikers for Autism Australia, Community Council Member of AASET (Autistic Adults and other Stakeholders Engaged Together) and an independent autistic peer reviewer of the journal Autism in Adulthood. Recently Barb was awarded a Special Commendation in the 2017 Autism Queensland Creative Futures Awards by the Queensland Governor, his Excellency Paul De Jersey. Barb is also currently studying a Master of Autism at the University of Wollongong (Australia) and a businesswoman providing consulting, mentoring and life coaching services as well as workshops, webinars and presentations for the neurodiverse community. Barb was recently awarded the University of Wollongong Community Engagement Grant as part of and Community of Practice Lead for a research project "Facilitating the voice and self-determination of young adults on the autism spectrum. Barb currently rides a Suzuki V-Strom DL1000 called Ron ‘Strom’ Burgundy and implements a combination of her passion for motorcycling with her dedication in advocacy, creating acceptance and pushing for action to improve the lives for women and girls, increasing opportunities for employment for all and supporting the neurodiverse community in attaining meaningful and fulfilling futures.

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