It was the BSA in the garage that did it. Viv’s Dad imported it when he emigrated from the UK and, to a young girl who loved nothing more than exploring everywhere on her bicycle, the Small Heath machine had an irresistible allure. Her mum was also a rider and soon her dad taught her to ride.
That was 38 years ago and in between there’s been something of a Kawasaki habit: thirteen in total. Although her first bike was a Honda CB250N, “which looks identical to the 400, along with being the same size and weight,” says Viv, with tongue firmly in cheek. If she has a favourite it would be the last bike she sold, a ZX-636.
Her current green machine is a 2011 ZX-10R. While she’s looked at replacing it with a newer and technically ‘better’ model Viv isn’t tempted at present. “It’s so nice to ride, you just put it onto a corner and it goes round it, and it has ample power.” With 160 horses at the rear wheel, you’d have to think so.
Viv has, however, strayed away from her Kawasaki calling recently. “I got a V-Strom 650 just so I could go off and do gravel roads; have a change out from the usual rides.” Although she says she is still getting used to how much the front suspension dives compared to the sports bikes she’s used to.
Taking the reins
Viv has acted as President of WIMA NZ since 2019, when long-term head Janice Millman stood down. Janice contemplated winding the club up but, as a member since its inception in 1984, Viv wanted things to carry on while evaluating its longer-term feasibility. “WIMA had been in New Zealand since the 1950s,” says Viv. “But that was as a branch of WIMA Australasia. Then in 1984, there were some girls who started WIMA New Zealand and I was probably the tenth to join. As someone who’d been with the club ever since, I put my hand up and said we can’t wind the club up. We’ve got money in the bank and one busy group in Wellington plus a few other members elsewhere. So I’ve not been voted President but I’m standing in as President.”
By her own account Viv was enthusiastic initially but then, weighed down by a mountain of paperwork (the Treasure had stood down too), her essential role in her and her partner’s trucking firm, then the impact of Covid, things have been slow to get going again. But she still has her Wellington WIMA meetings every month and the club is growing. “They’re just casual get-togethers where the girls have dinner and a chat, and talk about motorcycling in general,” says Viv. “But I am getting my A into G. I’m lining up a special AGM. I’ve talked to all the members and they’re happy with what’s going on.” The aim being to re-energise the club and attract more members.
A proud legacy
While WIMA has reduced in scale at present, it has long played a prominent national role on the motorcycle scene. “We used to put on the Pink Ribbon rides and other charity rides, especially for Women’s Refuge,” recalls Viv. “But really the future remains open. Those big rallies are a lot of hard work when there’s so few people to do it. I don’t want to scare people off! So I think for the time being we’ll focus more on casual weekend rides and get people connected again, building the membership base back up gradually.”
Viv also looks back fondly on the contribution made to the Women Riders World Relay back in 2019. Starting in Scotland in February the relay reached New Zealand in September. Over four days the relay went from Waitangi to Invercargill. “There were so many women attending,” says Viv. “Some did the full four days, other did relay stretches. I went from Bulls to Christchurch. We had over 300 riders in the actual relay. It was amazing to see. I wanted to use it to grab girls to join WIMA and there were some who did, especially in Wellington. Now they’re part of the group of us who meet on the last Tuesday of the month for a group catch up and dinner.”
A focus on training
One of the things Viv is really keen to promote is rider training for women. “A lot of the women I ride with here in Wellington have taken the Ride Forever courses. It’s something I’ve noticed and I really want to encourage it. Though there are a lot of women out there who haven’t done it, one of them being myself,” she admits. But she does have the legitimate excuses of taking on the role as WIMA NZ President at such a turbulent time and her commitment for the past five years to the trucking business. “Even at the weekends, I couldn’t just say ‘I’ll go and do that Ride Forever course’ because there was always something to do with the truck, or GST or something.”
Now that they’ve sold their truck, taking a course is high on her priority list. “Here’s me saying you should go and do this Ride Forever course and I haven’t even taken one myself. So, along with getting WIMA back off the ground that’s top of my to-do list. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has done it has gotten something out of it.”
It’s been a hard slog for Viv but she’s both realistic and determined about her plans for the coming year. “I really just want to get the club going again and, hopefully, be able to hand it on to someone who’s as motivated as me to carry it on,” she says. “I’m simply trying to support women in motorcycling. For years you hardly saw a woman on a motorcycle. I could count those I knew on one hand back in the day, but now I have this vast friendship with so many women through WIMA.”
Visit wimaworld.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the club, including how to join.