Words by Joy Burgess Photos courtesy of Women Riders World Relay
Created by Hayley Bell, the Women Riders World Relay got its start in just a few moments of thought. Bell wanted a chance to ride and share her passion for bikes with other women. “What about having a world relay,” Hayley thought. It would be something to show the rest of the world how many women riders are out there while building an international community of women who loved to ride.
Just a month after its creation, Bell had over 10,000 members from countries around the world. The goal – for women riders to circumnavigate the globe on two wheels, passing on the baton Olympic-style to one another along the way. Some women rode for several hours, others rode for days and several took to their bikes for months, forging new bonds and breaking barriers as the GPS-outfitted, wooden baton was passed from woman to woman.
Starting on February 26, 2019, Bell took off on the first part of her trip, heading towards Scotland. And by the time the Relay wrapped up a year later in February 2020 at The Bike Shed in London, these women had logged over 63,000 miles on six continents.
Indian Motorcycle jumped in to sponsor the United States portion of the Relay, offering bikes to lead riders and having meals available at Indian dealerships along the way. “Indian Motorcycle was key to the success of it,” Bell said. “We wanted to work with companies that are in line with our visions and what we believe in. Indian is exactly that.”
It’s not just incredible that thousands of women came together to share a love for two wheels while logging miles across the world – it’s the individual stories that came out of the Relay that are extraordinary. “The Relay really resounded with a lot of women,” Bell told us, “and they all have their own individual stories. It was awe-inspiring hearing about all these women, their histories, backgrounds and challenges, and then throwing them into a mix. Different backgrounds, religions and situations built an eclectic community that would normally run a risk of arguments or disrespect, but there was none of that. We were glued together by this common course, and everything was set aside – politics, religions, war.”
“The number of groups created as offshoots of the Women Riders World Relay has been incredible,” Bell continued. “We’ve got women flying across the world to meet up with others they’ve met through this. It’s taken the lid off the community and let everything pour out. With these international connections, we have family across the world that we can relate to, and it creates real special bonds.”
Today, more than 20,000 members from over 100 countries have joined the Women Riders World Relay. And while Bell doesn’t plan to have another big worldwide relay for about three years, that doesn’t mean the group is taking a break.
“In the meantime,” Hayley notes, “we want to focus on helping women improve their skills in different aspects of motorcycling. For many women, it’s a lack of confidence and there are many stereotypes out there that women can’t ride or work on bikes as well as men. I want to help set the tone for women moving forward and provide them with the knowledge and confidence to do things they didn’t think they could – mechanics, skills on the bike, trying different types of riding. The goal is to push womens’ boundaries and build their confidence in a friendly group where they have other women as examples.”