(Editor’s note: All photos are courtesy of the Expat Motorbike Riders Club.)
BY JACKIE HARDING
They say only a motorcyclist understands why a dog sticks its head out of the car window. When you are an expat motorcyclist, living in the horizontally-challenged Netherlands, only fellow riders can understand the yearning for hills, curves and “twisties.”
Three years ago my husband Martin created the Expat Motorbike Riders Club, an expat motorcycle group to satisfy that yearning, and as a means of connecting with other expats living in the Netherlands. As with all expat social groups, one of the delights is meeting fellow travelers far from home and experiencing similar issues and needs, but with bikers one of the greatest advantages of riding with a group is the camaraderie.
Regardless of nationality, job, salary, gender or motorcycle brand, these enthusiasts bond over one thing; their love of the open road and the thrill of the ride. With this need for swooping curves, the group recently set off for a weekend to Luxembourg. Eleven bikes, 12 riders, nine nations represented (England, Scotland, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Portugal) and 800 kilometres of tarmac.
The Ardennes area merges into Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and France, and its beautiful countryside – now loved by travellers – once was the site of battles during both world wars. As we rode through this bucolic area in the sun, it was impossible to imagine these scenes as they must have been during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944-45.
The swooping roads past sun-painted fields and meadows and the cool mysterious forests fed the souls of the bikers. The curves and bends created joyous expressions on many faces. “Thanks,” one rider said as we took a break, “I’ve just felt like I was home in my own country.” Although another rider admitted she’d been screaming in her “lid” as she’d become so used to the Dutch straight roads!
It’s when you stop riding though that the character of the expat biker emerges. You are in a “brotherhood” and as such look out for each other regardless of race, age or gender. If someone has a problem with a motorcycle then it’s everyone’s problem; someone messes up or takes a wrong turn then be prepared for friendly ribbing and, above all else, it is a great equalizer with people from all walks of life and far ranging careers joining together just for the fun of an open road.
Motorbike gangs can seem intimidating to some people, although these days many motorcyclists are of the silver haired variety and according to Saga, the over 50’s insurance company in the United Kingdom, 43 percent of their riders are over 60. Our group covers a wide ranging age group, but we were still out-done at the hotel by the bus tour of British seniors who out lasted and out drank us at the bar that evening!
The ride home was equally uniting when a particular challenging “switchback” road was explored. One rider found it almost too challenging. But did these riders leave him to negotiate slippery curves alone? No, after the air punch and a few “who-hoos, that was awesome” and screams of delight, a few riders rode back to encourage, whilst the others patiently waited at the top. When the rider made it unscathed – and maybe a little stronger because of the challenge – the group quietly recognized the personal test and we rode on … in heavy rain but hey, if you are a biker or a motorcycle passenger, you take the rain head on … literally!
Interested in being part of the fun? This is from the Expat Motorbike Riders Club’s meetups page:
Calling all bikers! This is an International ‘expat’ Motorbike Riders Club for all English-speaking people. All are welcome, whatever bike you ride and wherever you come from – including local Dutch riders who also speak English. All are welcome, Gents and Ladies and whether you ride a Sports bike, Cruiser, Japanese, German, British or American – we don’t care! We’re all bikers after all! The only restriction is that your Bike must be capable of Motorway speeds (so sorry, no mopeds) and that you are safe and confident to ride with a group. It’s all about riding together and
having fun. kick your kick stands up – and let’s ride! I plan to set up meet and ride at least once a month (weather permitting) in the winter months and probably twice a month (or more!) in the warmer months.
About the author: Jackie Harding was born in the United Kingdom. As a longtime expat, she’s lived in Boston, Mass for 12 years, and in the Netherlands for the past six years.
Jackie is becoming an expert at re-inventing herself! Trained as a nurse in UK, in the United States, she worked for nine years as a special education teacher’s assistant. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has discovered writing and runs the Hub newsletter and writes for the Eindhoven News. She’s married to British businessman Martin Harding and is the mother of two international adult children.