3,500 women, 6 continents and a year of riding high

February 10, 2020 By Susan Carpenter

The night Hayley Bell threw a leg over her KTM motorcycle and pointed the front tire toward Scotland, it was pitch black and sleeting — exactly the sort of miserable weather most bikers would avoid. But she isn’t like most bikers. Bell, a 28-year-old from Northern England, was on a mission.

It was Feb. 26, 2019, and she was wheeling through the dark for eight hours straight, hauling a few weeks’ worth of clothes and a wooden baton that has become a kind of talisman for the yearlong event she pioneered to bring attention to female motorcyclists: the Women Riders World Relay.

It’s exactly as it sounds.

More than 3,500 women from 79 countries have spent a year circumnavigating the globe on two wheels, logging some 63,000 miles. Some of them rode a few hours, others spent days or months, and a lot of them didn’t even speak the same language. But together, they broke new ground and forged personal connections as the baton was passed from rider to rider on a journey that spanned six continents.

Social media played a key role, as did a woman from Santa Cruz. The women were most recently in Dubai as the event was wrapping up. A final celebration is set for Saturday in London.

“There was no ‘Shall we do a little trip ’round the U.K.?’” said Bell, who was inspired by an affliction common to adventurous women with office jobs: boredom. Forget that, they said. “Let’s just do a world relay.”

“I was at work one day, and I just wanted to travel with women who enjoyed motorbiking and not shopping,” she added. “I wanted that adrenaline excursion with females.”

Bell had been riding for five years, but she struggled to find other women as passionate about motorcycling as she is. So she posted her bold idea on Facebook.

“I sort of got dragged into...

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