For some women, riding their own bike came naturally because of a childhood filled with motorcycles. For other women, the desire to ride came after a life-changing event. For Washington State’s Karen “Biird” Allen the decision to grab those handlebars is a combination of both.
Karen’s dream to ride started when she was very young. Her father fueled in her an independent desire to be her own person and relished in her every accomplishment – especially when those accomplishments were a result of her stepping out of traditional gender roles. It also didn’t hurt that her father owned motorcycles!
The second part of the makeup of Karen’s desire to ride came in June of 2008 when she was diagnosed with Stage IV Follicular Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (fNHL). For her, the bottom line became to spend time differently, to seek love and spirituality, to go for the adventures and authentic experiences, and to enable her dreams.
Of course, part of the dream was to learn to ride a motorcycle. Karen signed up for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation class on a Honda 125cc trainer and got her motorcycle endorsement in May of 2009.
In the meantime, Karen had been cruising women riders’ forums and came across Flo (of the Conga for a Cause). They became online friends and finally got to meet in person when in 2009 Conga II rolled through Karen’s area. When Karen was ready for her first motorcycle, Flo found for her a 2006 Yamaha V-Star 1100cc Custom. So Karen went to Vancouver Island to pick up the bike. While there, Flo gave her private Ride Like a Pro lessons in a parking lot and had her doing slow weaves and U-turns in no time.
Wanting to bump up her motorcycle skill set a bit, Karen signed up for Northwest Motorcycle School “Ride Like a Cop” program in April of 2010. In 2011, Karen once again took the Northwest Motorcycle School class, this time with Flo. The owner, Ed Melroy, personalized the course for them, making it even more difficult for these two experienced riders.
Karen purchased a Harley-Davidson Street Glide in May of 2010. She rode it on Conga III and Conga IV but as she was heading home after Conga IV, she started having problems with the bike just as she was crossing Homestake Pass on I-90 near Butte, Montana. She eased the bike over to the emergency lane, called for a tow truck, and then went shopping for a new bike. Karen currently owns a 2011 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic and has plans to ride it to Conga V this July 12-15, 2012.
Karen calls herself a typical woman: she is married, works full time, has a couple of teenagers and perhaps too many pets, and she has cancer. However, she does not let cancer define her. Although there is currently no cure for her type of cancer, she intends to LIVE to the tail-end. She has been blessed with wonderful support system of friends and family in addition to a caring medical community. Her bit of advice to anyone else facing cancer is to get multiple opinions (even if insurance doesn’t cover the costs), educate yourself, and become an advocate for your care.
Today Karen is continuing her treatments and her cancer is in remission. She is also giving back to back to the medical community by enrolling in a clinical trial at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. There she donates extra blood and bone marrow for the researchers to study in hopes of someday finding a cure for fNHL. She loves doing that because, as she says, “It is an aspect of my cancer that I control. With the realization that I could gift from my cancer, it helped me get my brain around my cancer and look at it with a healthier head. I’ve found my cancer to be a blessing.”
Karen also finds a way to tie cancer and motorcycling together. “When one has cancer, it forces you to look at everything more broadly. You look further down the road to the next ride. You don’t just focus on today or what is immediately in front of you.” Currently her only regrets are that she just doesn’t have enough time to ride!
And bringing this story full circle back to her father, Karen says, “From Heaven, I know he is absolutely delighted with all my recent decisions and would say to me ‘Go live your life big with love in your heart.’”
As the fastest growing segment of the motorcycling public, women are more inclined than ever before to move from the passenger pillion to the front of the seat and to grab those handlebars. In this series of articles called “She Rides Her Own” we will profile a woman motorcyclist, what makes her unique, and how she got started riding on two wheels. If you would like to share a story with our readers on nextooze.com, email to: Patty.Davis.USA@gmail.com
Other She Rides Her Own articles:
- Meet Flo: motorcyclist, adventurer, crusader
- Meet Lisa: a motorcyclist who knows perseverance
- Meet Darlene: a motorcyclist proving it’s never too late
- Meet Ralyn: leaping head on into motorcycling
- Meet Cat: she really does have nine lives
- Meet Brittany: teaching us how to avoid being skinned alive
- Meet Linda: showing us that love endures
- Meet Robin: her inner strength changed her life
- Meet LeftLane: living a life that matters
- Meet Abby: she rode back from Hell
- Meet Pinky: she is passionate about motorcycles
- Meet Laura: enthusiast, racer, and mentor
- Meet Jackie: trading up and enjoying the ride
- Meet Lori: living a meaningful life
- Meet Leilani: find a motorcycle that is just right
- Meet Liz: Making my way to the motorcycle
- Meet Sharon: she overcame addiction to find passion and purpose