Photos courtesy of Hayley Bell/WRWR
Hayley Bell hails from the UK and grew up around bikes. Her dad rode, her brother rode and her cousins rode. But she didn’t. “I was never allowed a bike when I was younger due to being a bit reckless as a kid,” she laughed. “Wasn’t to be trusted on two wheels – or four, either – so I didn’t pick up riding until I was 23 years old. My cousin had taken me to my first TT race when I was younger, but it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind until I settled back in the UK and my ex-boyfriend took me on the back of a bike and I just had to buy my Kawasaki ZX-6R.”
Once she started riding she never stopped. Bell was seeking a community of female riders and a bit frustrated with the industry, which led to the creation of something amazing – the Women Riders World Relay. “I was at my office desk thinking, and I was pissed at seeing naked women in media on bikes all the time and the message that sends to female riders,” she said. “I wanted to connect with other female riders to see if they wanted to ride with me and enjoy bikes together. The idea came to me like a panty drop, really. I thought what about having a world relay to show how many of us there are, building an international community of women interested in the same hobbies as I am. It just clicked.”
By the time she got home from work that day the Women Riders World Relay already had 365 members. Four weeks later she had over 10,000 members from 80 different countries. “It’s a real testament to female bikers,” she told us, “and that organic spread of word of mouth. I think it shows women wanted this…and they needed it!”
Women around the world banded together and did the relay in Olympic fashion, meeting up and passing the baton on, connecting with one another on a global scale and logging over 63,000 miles around the world as a whole. And Bell rode many of those miles herself, taking on the whole of the UK, all of the Americas, and more. And while the first relay came to an end in January 2020, she plans to do another relay in about three years.
Beyond continuing her work with the World Relay with women around the world, she’s also working in her community within NW England where motorcycle meets are dying off. “We’re working in the community to pull together a café,” she said, “a home away from home where you can have a brew, hang out and enjoy talking about bikes. It’ll be a place where people can work on custom builds, use our workbenches and welders, watch bike films and documentaries, and just bring a community together.”
One thing she wants to continue spreading throughout the industry is this: “It’s important to have role models that are ‘real’ and tangible and relatable. Women are real; we’re not all models. We’re not fake Instagram accounts or naked women on bikes. We have real lives and real situations, and we’re doing really amazing things in the industry.”
For many women the motorcycle community becomes home, and that’s true for Bell. “If you’re searching for family,” she noted, “or a sense of purpose and a community that has your back through thick and thin, and if you want to get your heart pumping and feel some adrenaline – motorcycling is for you. You won’t find freedom or family anywhere else like you will on a motorcycle. It’s the only place I’ve ever felt like I belong, and that’s a powerful feeling that never leaves you.”