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MOTORCYCLE WOMAN ON A MISSION

ASH THOMPSON

Graphic Designer, Motorcyclist & Creator of Neutral Moto

@neutral_moto + @ash_

Ash Thompson is a motorcycle woman on a mission, a graphic designer and founder of Neutral Moto, which is a platform for rider education & creating an inclusive riding community. She aims to spread the message about lane filtering and increase motorcycle awareness on the roads.

This is Ashleigh’s journey into the world of motorbikes.

I’ve been riding for about a year and a half seriously, but I’ve been pretty on and off with motorcycles for most of my life. I grew up in rural Queensland, Australia. Which is pretty much a lot of open space and not a lot else. Most of my weekends and holidays were spent with friends on peewees and four-wheelers.

It took a while for me to properly get into motorcycles after childhood. I started not long after a pretty horrible time in my life. I lost my Mum to lung cancer and was at a bit of a loss. Here I was, 18 and trying to connect with my Dad. Mum was always the glue in the family and we suddenly found ourselves without her. Dad and I decided to take a weekend ride together from one small rural town to another. The ride was long for a first trip, over three hours each way but from that moment I was hooked on motorbikes and knew that I wanted them to be a big part of my life. I also realised why Dad rode so much.

Skip forward about ten years, one pretty major failed relationship in my wake and I was in a situation where I could choose my own path again (figuratively and literally speaking). I got back on a bike and promised myself I would never give it up for anyone or anything ever again. Luckily this time I had a hugely supportive Fiance (who is now riding too) to help me along my journey.

“One thing I would encourage all women to do is find a few good riders that they are comfortable being themselves around when they first start riding.

 

Motorcycle commute

Riding has become a staple in my week. I’ve realised what riders mean when they talk about not feeling themselves if they haven’t ridden for even a day or two. I’m lucky that my day starts and ends with a ride about an hour long each way. I commute in pretty heavy traffic but genuinely enjoy that type of riding.

On weekends I spend time riding around with Jen to coffee shops near and far with a few local groups that we love like BCR, Caffeine and Gasoline and Ellaspede to mention a few. We’re really fortunate to have a solid group of friends who we have met through motorcycles. They are patient and kind and really willing to help.

One thing I would encourage all women to do is find a few good riders that they are comfortable being themselves around when they first start riding motorbikes. You can ask all your questions, make all your mistakes and know that you aren’t being judged! It makes all the difference.

Watch for motorcycles

Initially, Jen wasn’t riding but she wanted a way to spread the motorcycle message and to tell people to look out for bikes. She worried a little with me on the road and I would text her every time I rode (I still do it now I just do it more to be cute rather than to calm her down). We looked online for a few stickers that had the message of ‘watch for motorcycles’. However, we struggled a little to find ones that we were super happy with. There are some really beautifully designed ones but the message was sometimes quite hard to read, or the text was highly legible but the design left little to be desired.

By the way, full disclosure; I’m not a design wanker but I can be a bit particular about things sometimes. Generally, I keep it in check and try not to take myself too seriously. Anyway, we wanted the sticker to be well designed, but functional. As a result, I decided to create my own. I got a few extras printed and discovered that a lot of other people wanted them too! And people wanted to pay or at least cover my cost, I couldn’t really give them away!

Lane filtering is legal

From that Neutral Moto was kicked off! It’s a small side project but it gives me a creative outlet and a way to build a really nice community. We’ve extended the sticker range to lane filtering stickers and one to spread the message of driver putting their phones down (that one is pretty popular). And of course, we have a bunch of black and really dark blue moto tees! Every rider knows they can’t have enough of those!

I wanted to share my story but I also wanted to consolidate as much solid riding advice as I could think of to help new riders. I searched for content like this when I started riding and couldn’t read enough of it! Every bit helped.

About two weeks ago a motorcyclist was severely injured at an intersection I ride through most days.

In the afternoon, I rode home a little more carefully than my usual careful demeanour on the bike, but nevertheless, I rode.

The accident happened only a few minutes before I got to that section of my ride, and it really got me thinking. I spoke to a guy at a coffee shop close to my work, who was going into some detail about the accident, the rider went under a truck, he was lucky to have a helmet on as the truck wheel went over his head. His helmet was cracked but it saved him. The guy at the coffee shop concluded by saying “That’s why I never ride in the wet”. He further explained this was the advice of his Dad.

After I left the conversation with him it really made me question my choices on the bike. Am I taking a huge risk riding in the wet? Am I reckless? It is just too risky? I commute after all. My Dad never told me to avoid the wet, he has however told me to never trust blinkers.

There are so many mixed opinions about riding in the wet and really, every choice on a bike. Some people will tell you “Ride in the wet, don’t be afraid of a little water, it’ll make you a better rider.” Others like my friend at the coffee shop will say don’t risk it, it’s not with it.

Sharing motorcycle tips

So what makes us all so different? Why are some riders out in rain hail, shine, wind, afternoon, early morning or even late at night? I think the most important thing that we can all do is be honest with ourselves and our ability on the bike. It’s less to do with the conditions we ride in and everything to do with the micro decisions we all make daily on the bike.

Our state of mind is everything on the bike. Getting on your bike after you’ve had a fight with a friend or a loved one isn’t the best idea, conversely, getting on your bike after you’ve had an amazing night out and a few drinks is never a good idea. Being focused and composed on the bike is exactly where you want to be.


I’ve put together a few motorcycle tips in another post

COMING SOON 

in the hopes of helping motorcycle riders in various conditions.

All Photos and text courtesy of Ashleigh Thompson of www.neutralmoto.com

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