Kelly-Ann Fields, 30, and Rhanda Williams, 28, are two very girlish girls. Both love the colour pink and all the trappings of hair, clothes and make-up, but they also share an uncommon interest – their love of riding bikes.
Kelly said she loved seeing and hearing them as her dad used to own a bike, but her interest peaked in 2011 when she saw a female schoolmate riding one.
Rhanda said: “I was about 13 or 14 years old and I thought I was going to be the first female to ride a bike because at the time, I didn’t see any women [on bikes] other than on the back.”
Kelly said after enquiring she was given the number of instructor Marlon Weekes.
“I sold my car in February last year and immediately started taking lessons. I was learning on a YBR125 and in about a month’s time, I moved up to a Yamaha 600. In three months’ time, I went for my licence. I bought my first bike then – a Honda CBR600 in my favourite colour, orange.”
A graduate of the University of the West Indies with a BSc in biology with chemistry, Rhanda started lessons in 2009 but stopped after she enrolled in the Masters in Business Administration programme at Durham University.
“It was doing my Masters or buying a bike and I picked the Masters.”
Last April, during her final semester, she bought a bike – black and red with pink decals – and went for lessons from Russell Wilson. The pharmaceutical representative said she was saving consistently towards her dream, even against the advice of her parents.
“My mum and dad said no, but I was adamant,” she said, laughing.
As for Kelly, she was supported by both parents.
“My mum was learning, but she got pregnant with my brother and, as I said, my dad used to ride one.”
Both women said the lessons were not hard.
“We learnt figure 8s, starts and stops, [to] balance [the] clutch and balance the bike, period.”
Kelly, a clinical assistant, said: “The hardest part for me was the cones.” For Rhanda, it was “the sudden stops. The weight of the bike was hard to manage.”
Rhanda related how once during practice the bike fell on her: “I wasn’t hurt, but my ego was bruised. I was very embarrassed,” she said, laughing.
Kelly’s bike has also fallen during practice but she took it as a lesson in how to get the bike standing again.
“I asked how to get it up, he showed me and I did it.”
Both women said they have become more comfortable with their bikes, but always practised safety.
“I don’t speed and I don’t do stunts on my bike,” said Rhanda, with Kelly agreeing, also saying that they used all available protective gear: helmet, with face covering, gloves, special boots to protect their ankles and shins, elbow pads, shoulder pads and back protector.
And speaking of gear, both women said the colour pink factored in well as they wanted it to be known that they were female riders.
“When you have on the full gear, it is only when you take off the helmet people really see that you are a woman . . . so the pink in it helps,” said Rhanda, who rides her bike on weekends and sometimes after work.
Kelly, though, rides her bike to work everyday.
“I sold my car, so it is my only means of getting to and from work. My boss loves the fact that I ride. I wear my gear to work and then change into my work clothes in the office. When I emerge, I am in full make-up and my hair is done up and stuff,” she said, chuckling.
“The bike is parked outside and people think it’s the doctor who rides it. I get many eyes when I mount up to go home.”
The women said they were both extra cautious as they have seen some serious accidents involving motorbikes.
Rhanda explained that she doesn’t overtake at junctions.
“I use my mirrors. I watch the vehicles in front of me and my blind spots. At nights, my gear is reflective and my lights are bright. You don’t want accidents to happen, but accept they can happen to the best of riders.
“Don’t panic. That’s when things go wrong. Look for spaces you can get through in tight spots.”
Kelly said she also practised much of what Rhanda highlighted and added: “I ride from Christ Church to St Michael everyday, so my route is familiar. I especially look for the gaps where a car can just suddenly pull out. Also, the paint lines in the roads are dangerous for us – [they] make the bike slide.”
Kelly, who has a diploma from Erdiston in Early Child hood Education, and wants to open her own daycare some day, has stepped up her bike game and has started motocross.
“Cross teaches you much more stuff as it is a different bike, different terrain and so on,” she said.
Rhanda is yet to learn but is interested.
“I am looking to get a trail bike also to do some fun, relaxed stuff and where I don’t have to ride that big monster on weekends.”
The girls have made many new friends from just riding their bikes and sometimes use the bikes for social outings.?And while their boyfriends also ride, they have formed a bond with other.
“We have gone almost all over Barbados on our bikes, exploring or just to go riding and chill and talk. And the bikes make great conversation pieces when we go to some places. People will just approach us and say: ‘wait, that’s a girl!’ and ask questions and say they also want to learn to ride bikes.”
Next time you see a black and orange bike or a black and red with pink decals, that’s Rhanda or Kelly, just needing a little wind in their hair and some space to pass safely.