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Inspirations with Karen Ramsay

This entry is part 13 of 17 in the series Adventure Rider Issue #20

Karen Ramsay points out we’re surrounded by motivational people, if only we take the time to look.

Cold, wet and foggy. Perfect weather for the pink handguards and no problem for Karen, solo or in a group.

I didn’t grow up in a motor-cycling family. At one stage during my childhood Dad had a farm bike with a homemade sidecar. In truth it was a metal box for carting tools and parts around the farm, but he’d also take us for little joy rides up and down the track beside the house. I seem to recall that stopped when Mum took my sister for a ride. The sidecar and bike began parting company and they ended up through a barbed-wire fence.

In his youth Dad spent a bit of time on bikes. Speaking to him now, it appears it was mostly without a licence. When he eventually went for his test, the cop asked him how he’d got to the police station.

Dad said he’d come on the bike, to which the cop replied, “Well you can obviously ride,” and gave him his licence.

Apparently my grandfather also rode motorbikes. I’d always known he rode incredible distances on his pushbike, but never knew he had a motorbike rather than a car for many years.

Karen Ramsay

You can do it

So apart from farmers riding ag bikes after their sheep and the experience of mustering and tailing out cattle in the Northern Territory, I thought the only people who rode bikes were your stereotypical bikies. This might be really hard for people to comprehend, particularly anyone who has grown up with bikes. I was brought up to believe I could do any-thing and be anything I wanted. Much of my childhood was spent on tractors, building fences and in sheep yards, so it wasn’t as if I didn’t think women could ride motorbikes; it just never entered my head that anybody would ride bikes ‘for fun’. That’s why when I saw Charlie and Ewan’s Long Way Round it was such a revelation. All judgements about them doing it the easy way aside, they’ve inspired a lot of people to ride – so now you know who to blame when you see me wobbling around in your way.

I was talking to a good friend Meg about this, and she had the same sort of epiphany that started her riding.

It was an article she read by a bloke riding through South America that made her realise travel by motorbike is possible. It ignited her passion.

Sometimes that’s all it takes for you to start thinking about the possibilities.


Sometimes inspiration can come from unexpected people. Another friend, who I’ve only ever known as a special ed teacher, one day revealed she’d ridden to Cape York back in the 1980s with her husband and a couple of mates.

Which just reminded me we should never be too quick to judge other riders based on their speed or bike (apart from me. In my case those assumptions are probably correct), because you just never know what they’ve achieved and how capable they are.

Kim, who’s riding smoothly in the pack, did a solo trip around Australia. Sarah, who’s your sweep today, rode solo and unassisted across the Simpson. Col and Mick who’re riding buckets of bolts held together with gaffer tape, made and rode those scrappers halfway across the country and back. Georgia, who appears too tiny for her bike, rode solo from Scotland into Africa.

Kylie, who’s about to roost past you, has been riding enduro for 25 years. Liz, who’s in the support vehicle nursing a torn shoulder tendon, is a retired teacher and was a beginner rider before her recent 18-month trip through Asia to Iran with her partner.

Recently I had to go to Melbourne for Uni. I was surprised by how many of my workmates thought I was crazy, in the first instance for riding that far and in the second for riding on my own. Compare that to a riding friend I spoke to as it was raining and approaching dark 700kms from Melbourne who asked if I was going to make it that night. To me it’s perfectly logical to ride 1800km to spend three-and-a-half days somewhere then turn around and ride home again. I think to most of us it would be. As for riding alone, why would I not?

I’ve got a first aid kit, spare tube and half a block of chocolate and I’m quite capable with each of them.

All the rain out west meant I couldn’t take the dirt roads I wanted to. But by far the worst part was having to ride to a deadline. Two days down and two days back again meant there was little room for detours. I hadn’t realised how much I enjoy just filling in the blanks between the start and end of a trip. The necessity of covering a set distance in a time frame is a lot different to having two days to wander around before ending up back at home.

Riding enjoyment is directly linked to attitude.
The rain out west meant the dirt roads were impassable.

All in

Each of us has a different reason for being into adventure riding. It could be the thrill of pushing ourselves and our bikes to our limit. Perhaps it’s the chance to discover new places, countries or cultures. Maybe it’s the opportunity to challenge yourself. Perhaps it’s the best way we can think of to be exploring the country. Whatever your motivation,it’s a shared love and passion that transcends age, culture, social status and ability.

Who knows, perhaps you might be the inspiration for someone to start riding.

Riding alone? Why not?

What I’ve learned

• People soon stop laughing at my pink handguard covers when the weather turns cold and wet
• Deadlines can sap some of the joy out of riding
• You might be surprised by some of the people you know who’ve got their own bike story
• Not all of us can ride like Toby Price or Amy Harburg
• Riding enjoyment is directly linked to attitude

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