I Started Riding My Own Ride in 1974, When Riding Wasn't Cool!

by Katy Ishee
(Normandy, TN USA)

My first ride was on the back of a Honda which we ended up in a ditch (1969). That was the last time I wore shorts and flipflops riding. LOL

My first solo experience was on a little Vespa scooter in 1970, but that was enough to make me want to get my own ride. After my ex and I got divorced the first thing on my list was to get my own bike.

I packed on the back of a few Harleys, but I felt out of control. I wanted my own bike.

It was May 1974, I bought my first bike, a 1960 R\R50 BMW. First time I saw one, a big heavy guy was riding it and I said. God is that bike ugly or what?

The BMW's handling was great, only it wasn't very fast. I wanted more.

Some one sugared the gas tank and when I went to the BMW shop in Greensboro. NC, I saw a beautiful 1967 R69S BMW. This was the largest bike BMW made back then.

I made him an offer and got the BMW two days later. I did some changes. I didn't like the funky handlebars with the blinkers sticking out, so I changed the handlebars to a buckhorn style, replaced the dual seat to a solo and a small chrome luggage rack on the back fender.

First, an R69S was the Hot Rod of the line up featuring BMW's 590cc boxer twin making 42hp compared to the 30hp of a standard R60/2 which BMW accomplished with a higher compression ration (9.5:1 vs. 7.5:1), dual 26mm Bing cars (vs. 24mm), higher spec pistons, bigger valves and a crank balancer. The R69S was able to do the ton and on paper hit 109mph. On the road, mine hit 120 MPH.

She's been known to whip quite a few HDs drag racing at Five Flag Speedway in Pensacola. That was the last time I went drag racing drunk which is a chapter in my book. LO I couldn't stop and hit a 10 foot chain link fence about 60, pushed it out 3 feet and slung shot me backwards about 35 feet before stopping. I never fell down, but it sure did scare me.

The R69S also featured an additional lower steering damper. This Earles fork bike features the standard 4.5 gallon was changed out to a 6 gallon tank. The telescopic Earles was a variety of leading link fork where the pivot point was aft of the rear of the front wheel - this was the basis of the Earle's patent. Designed by Englishman Ernest Earles, this triangulated fork actually caused the front end of a motorcycle to rise when braking hard - the reverse of the action of a telescopic fork.

My old BMW has one many trophies including Best Daily Ridden Antique. This year I will be taking her with me to my book signings.

My old BMW has been the best friend I ever had and when the time comes she will go to my son who also rides.

I was the only woman riding her own ride when I started in 1974 in my area and learned to ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

From time to time I'd meet another woman rider at the BMW Rally but there was no one to ride with but my brothers in the wind. Those are the people who gave me back the confidence that had been taken from me years before.

After one party, when I was teased about riding a Singer Sewing Machine because it was so quiet, I went home and took a broom handle and knocked the baffles out. Now you can hear me coming down the road. Loud pipes save lives!

I was elected State Director for BMW Riders and put on the High South Spring and Fall Rally up on top of Beech Mountain back in the late 70s.

After putting over 450,000 miles on her, I put her in semi retirement when my husband bought me a 78 Shovelhead in 98.

After meeting so many people at my book signings and them asking, "Do you still have your old BMW?" I knew I had to get her back on the road.

I recently had my BMW gone thru and was happy to know she is good as ever. I hate to say it, because I always loved HDs, but my old BMW will run circles around a Harley. My HD left me stranded more the first year than the BMW left me in 3o + years. It's only been in the shop 5 times.:)

Last year my autobiography Pieces of My Heart was released and was selected Book of the Month at bikernet.com It has been featured in Road Rash and Full Throttle magazines across the South and will soon be in Thunder Roads, Rumblenews, Cyril Huze Blog and Biker Up.

You can read an excerpt and my reviews online.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share about my BMW.

Comments for I Started Riding My Own Ride in 1974, When Riding Wasn't Cool!

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Feb 07, 2011
To Roxanne

I was scared too when I started riding. I'd freeze in the curves which ended me up on the shoulder of the road if there was one. LO Few times it was the ditch. LO
Just back off before you go into curves and accelerate as you get 2/3 of the way thru for starters. After a while it will be natural.

When you really pay attention you will realize you are keeping the front wheel straight. It's when it turns that slams you into the pavement.
Roxanne if you have Southern Biker in your area, they did the centerfold on my story Pieces of My Heart www.katyishee.com Also in TN Thunder Roads:)

It's my life story and full of road tales. I got a few hardbacks left and am waiting for softbacks to come in.
Appreciate your comments and hope to meet ya on the road some day or maybe at a book signing.

Where are you?


Jan 23, 2011
Loved Your Story
by: Roxanne

My hubby just bought me a 1985 BMW K100RS so that I can ride with him and not just "with him". I have only been on it 3 times but we have only had it a week. Today we rode 60 miles and while I am scared to death and don't seem to handle the turning like I think I should, the hubby says it will come with time. Thanks for your story and inspiration.

Jan 16, 2011
by: Ms. B

I'm so jealous. I love your story!!

Jan 13, 2011
I wasn't confus'n anything. I know the world I live in.

No my friend. I'm not confusing the fact very few rode back then. I said that.! Been in the saddle 44 years. I agree very few women rode then but even today I bet I haven't met 2 doz.

I put on the Hwy 41 Toy Convoy so I see a lot of bikers come in, but still very few women.

I'm not missing out on an entirely new world. Ive had to opportunity to ride Honda, owned an 800 Intruder, Triumph and Guzzi.

They don't compare to the handling of the old BMW.
You would find a whole new world if you jumped on a BMW. Had no clue what counter steering was til I road the Suzuki and HD.

You can almost think about what direction you want to go in and it goes. No doubt I LOVE MY BMW!

Jan 13, 2011
When Riding Wasn't Cool
by: Anonymous

I did ride a 93 Suzuki Intruder 800. It had an electric start and it spoiled me but it wasn't m e.

I don't think I'm missing a whole different world.
I rode a GW one time and it was so top heavy. Felt like I was falling over.

I chose to ride my 44 year old bike because she is as much a part of me as I am here. People don't call me BMWKT for nothing.

I don't care for the style of most of the new bikes including BMW. Lost its style.

Definitely would love to meet any of you. I keep my book signing schedules posted on several bike sites.

Jan 13, 2011
Riding has ALWAYS been cool, but...
by: Quicklimegirl

...maybe you're just confusing the fact that as a woman solo rider in the 70s, it was very uncommon.

I've been riding solo since the late 60s / early 70s, and legally on the street since '77, and it was literally years, perhaps decades, before I saw other women that weren't riding on the back.

BTW, have you ever thought about trying out different types of bikes than just vintage standards and Harley's? You're missing out on an entire world of different bike types if not!

Jan 13, 2011
First Bike 1980
by: char

Yup, I got lots of smirks when I started riding my own back in 1980. It was a Suzuki and I could even wrench on it.

Still riding 30 years later.

XLCH 1200 Custom.

Been on the back of a bike ONCE since 1980.

Jan 12, 2011
Lady Biker of the '70's
by: Sandra

I started riding, pillion, at age 13 behind my big brother. He was already married by then; he and his wife had a pair of Harley's for a while - I remember her being an "oddity" because she handled a big bike as well as any man...but it never seemed strange to me.

Now some 30 years later it finally dawns on me that if I love riding as much as I do, there's no reason I have to take a back seat! I never even THOUGHT about riding my own until last fall...now I can't imagine being quite so accepting of taking a back seat to anyone, even my big brother (who now rides an "old man" full dresser Honda w/heat, a/c and even a reverse gear) or my sweet husband on his Harley. Me and my Suzuki Boully will just fall in and follow!

Jan 12, 2011
Rding Our Own
by: Denise Wilson

I have been riding well over 30 years. Your story is awesome. Never road a BMW but have had Harley s triumphs, Honda's and Yamaha's. Next time I'm up around Tennessee from Alabama where I live, maybe we can take a ride.

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