'Biker granny' born to ride
To her grandchildren, she’s ‘biker granny.’ To her motorcycle group, she’s just another one of the guys.
But to some women who are unsure about jumping on a bike, Joni Miles could be called an inspiration.
The White Rock resident said she bought her first motorcycle four years ago after divorcing her husband of 30 years who wasn’t keen on her desire to ride. She was 68 years old.
“It did (scare me) in a way, but I was determined to do it,” Miles said. “It’s in my blood.”
Her interest may have been sparked by her parents early on – very early on. Her father had a Birmingham Small Arms motorcycle; her pregnant mother would ride in the sidecar. Or it could’ve started with the first ride she remembers, with one of her first boyfriends – a 24-year-old who had moved from Scotland and was 10 years her senior.
Exactly when her yearning began doesn’t really matter; Miles just knows it has been present most her life.
“If we were riding in the car and a bunch of motorcycles would go by, it would just give me goose pimples,” she said.
Unbeknownst to her husband at the time, Miles took a motorcycle course while in her 30s, but she was sick the day of the program’s final test and never received her licence.
When looking to buy her first motorcycle four years ago, Miles searched for the same model she had trained on three decades earlier – which was smaller than most, allowing her feet to touch the ground – and found one secondhand in Vancouver.
“I didn’t have any money so I put it on my credit card. Then, of course, I didn’t have a licence and couldn’t ride it anyways,” she said, noting her son-in-law rode the Yamaha Virago 250 home for her.
Miles began practising by sitting on the bike at the top of her driveway and coasting down the small slope with the engine off.
“Finally I got brave enough to start the engine.”
She then rode around the neighbourhood with her feet near the ground, as she was too nervous to bring them up.
Miles had been teaching herself for two years on a learner’s licence when she was introduced to the co-founder of the Over 60 Riders Club, Art Carrington, who encouraged her to join the 30-person group on an outing. She has been the club’s sole female member ever since, and now meets her fellow riders weekly for breakfast and a day trip to various destinations around the Fraser Valley.
“I learned a lot from riding with them,” she said, noting they are like big brothers to her.
Miles went on to earn her full licence two years ago, after taking a ladies-only course that taught her new skills and corrected bad habits.
Since first delving into the industry, she has owned a number of motorcycles, and plans to look for a replacement for her current Honda 500 at the upcoming Vancouver Motorcycle Show, where she will be on a panel of female presenters.
It will be the fourth time she has participated in She Rides Night, an evening catered to women, Jan. 22 starting at 5 p.m. at the Tradex Centre in Abbotsford. Miles’ seminar is to focus on the theme ‘Stop Saying Some Day and Get Going Today,’ with an aim to encourage women to give motorcycles a try.
“I’m living proof that it’s never too late,” she said. “If it’s just fear that’s stopping them… once you get used to it, it’s no different than driving a car.”
The Vancouver Motorcycle Show will be held Jan. 20 to 23. Admission is $13 for adults; $8 for youth (six to 15); free for children (under six). For more info, visit www.vancouvermotorcycleshow.com