Zoe’s Duke


Here’s how one woman got mobile

Six months ago, if you had told me that today I’d be riding my very own Ducati monster 696 I would not have believed you. Growing up on Sydney’s North Shore, all I heard from various sources were warnings and horror stories about terrible motorcycle accidents and I guess it scared me off ever really entertaining the idea seriously.

About a year ago, however, my partner at the time was looking to buy a scooter to make travel to and from work easier. We decided to embark on the journey of getting our motorcycle licences together more as a romantic thing to do as a couple than for any serious intention about me becoming a fully fledged motorcycle rider.

We completed our learner training at HART in St Ives and then bought a Vespa 250 GTSie as planned. My partner rode to work every day but I was too scared by the traffic and ended up not having the confidence to ride the scooter at all. So my licence lay dormant for the best part of a year.

It then came time for the Ps. I was no longer seeing the same person and I had three months before my Ls expired. It seemed like a waste to let my licence slide, so I took the plunge and set myself the challenge of finally developing the new motor skill. I decided to complete the post-learner course (again at HART) as well as having some private tuition to help build my confidence. It was the best thing I ever did. Using their Honda 250 manual bike I sat my Ps (one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I’ve encountered for a long time) and thankfully passed.

All of a sudden I felt quite invigorated by this new skill and enjoyed a taste of the freedom that I’d heard riding a motorcycle gives you.

As a woman with very few friends with motorcycles, I had absolutely no idea where to start when it came to choosing a bike. Upon asking many, many questions of as many people as I could find (thank you to everyone who was so patient with me) I found myself presented with a copy of Australian Road Rider’s Bike Guide which lists every bike available in the market. This was a fantastic place to start. I figured if I at least narrowed down the bikes that I liked the look of, even if I had no idea about the specs, I would be one step in the right direction.

During these early stages I looked at Harley-Davidson, Triumph and Ducati. I loved the retro look of the Harleys and was overwhelmed by the choices in their range but figured that if I was to have a Milwaukee motorcycle journey then perhaps that was a brand that I could grow into after I’d tried some sportier looking styles.

I then went out to Fraser’s motorcycles at Concord. And this was where my life changed. If you haven’t been to Fraser’s you do not know what you’re missing. Not since Cosmopolitan shoes in Double Bay have I fallen in love like that with a store. This wasn’t a motorcycle shop, this was a shopping experience. And I know most women will relate to that!

It had the full range of Harleys and Ducatis, so it made the early comparisons easier. Once I had chosen Ducati, the next issue was which bike? Obviously given my limited riding experience, there was no point putting me on an 1198 even though I am in love with that bike. Taking all the elements of style, power and feel into account it pointed very clearly to the Monster 696 as being the bike for me.

It actually rides similarly to the Honda on which I got my Ps, so the transition was easy.

The next choice was the colour. Initially I was drawn to the classic Ducati red. But then I figured that everyone would have one and liked the idea of trying something a little different. I did love the black but safety was a big issue for me and I was worried that drivers wouldn’t see me as clearly on the road. Once they showed me the Pearl I fell in love with it. It was bright, different and looked so sexy.

The importance of safety was one of the things drilled into me during my training at HART and I was very aware of needing a good jacket with body armour, helmet, gloves and boots. Luckily Fraser’s is a one-stop shop, so I was able to get totally fitted with all the gear while I was there. Girls, I never knew shopping in a motorcycle store was so much fun!

At the time it came to collecting my new bike (yeeaahhhhh) I still felt a little nervous about riding in traffic, so I had the team at Fraser’s deliver it to my home. I wasn’t quite ready to face the fear of Parramatta Road in peak hour.

The day I received the bike … well, I have never been more excited. It was the best present I ever gave to myself and I now fully appreciate why people having a mid-life crisis often get a bike.

Slowly and steadily, I began with rides around Centennial Park, which led to rides around Queens Park, which led to rides to Bondi until finally I rode out to Oran Park raceway. Wooohooooo! It was scary, exhilarating and everything in between. It was just what I needed to build my courage in traffic and the extra push I needed to advance to the next stage of my riding

Now I can’t get enough of it and I am having a new love affair with the motorcycle. I often go down to the garage just to look at it (sad, I know!) and every time I start it up and hear that whirrrr of the Ducati engine I can’t wipe the smile off my face.

If you are thinking about getting a motorcycle or your licence, go do it! What are you waiting for? It has transformed my experience of being on the road; it is cheap to run, easier to park and so much fun. I’m no Casey Stoner – yet – I am a safe, cautious Ducati rider if there is such a thing.
Take the plunge, ladies and I look forward to seeing you on the road very soon.