By Rob Beswick, resident journalist
Shiraz is the perfect antidote to those who think that riding round London on two wheels is a young man’s game.
Shiraz – proudly 52 but as she puts it, “feeling much younger” – says that she loves the sense of freedom she gets from riding her Honda 125cc around the capital.
“I love the freedom it gives me,” she said. “No matter how busy the roads are, I can get to work, I don’t have to worry about car park charges, or whether the trains, Tube or buses are running. I love it!”
She first rode a powered bike in Bombay, where she grew up. “I started on a scooter – like the ones the pizza delivery guys use – and then started riding a motorbike after my friend lent it to me. It’s got to be said, India’s laws on motorbike riding were very lax then!”
That’s not the case in London, however, so Shiraz has made sure she passed her bike test. “I got my motorbike licence in 2008. It’s important you train hard to get your licence.”
She describes her own riding style as “careful but confident.”
“I’m confident in traffic, happy filtering with care, but I make sure I take it easy, particularly if the weather isn’t great. I watch other road users carefully. Having good observation about what’s going on around you is vital to staying safe. You never know what the other person’s going to do, so keep an eye out and be ready to respond to anything.”
She cites cars and vans who follow too closely as one of her pet hates.
“Sometimes, when the traffic is heavy or when the weather’s not great, if it’s very windy for instance, I’ll keep my speed down so I’m in full control of the bike. The problem is other vehicles will come up really close behind me. They don’t understand why I’m going a little slower. I wish more people were aware of the issues bikers have and give them a little space.”
She also finds it irritating when road users overtake “but don’t leave enough room, so they pass by really close.”
That doesn’t put her off riding, though.
“I’ll be using my bike now to get to work. I admit to being a bit of a seasonal rider so when it’s too cold or wet I don’t ride, but most of the time I’m on the bike. It helps that work has a free parking spot for bikes.”
What advice has she got for younger bikers?
“Get properly trained and make sure you always wear a helmet and decent clothing to protect yourself. I’ve a padded bike jacket that swear by.”
Once they are on the road,
“pay attention. I’m an experienced rider so I think I know how other road users will behave in certain situations, but if you’ve just got your bike you won’t have a clue. That’s why it’s really important that inexperienced riders take it easy. It takes time to learn how to read the road and get used to the traffic. Don’t be in a rush; inexperience leads to mistakes. Take your time.”
That’s a message she would particularly stress to the capital’s army of PTW delivery riders: “ I know delivery riders are always on a time limit., but we would like them to ride safely, too.
Spring’s here and so will Shiraz be riding today?
“Of course, it’s the best way to get about London!”
2WL note: All motorcycle clothing sold in the UK and Europe has to be tested and certified as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE for short).
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