For Andreea Maciuca, becoming a lady biker was something of an act of rebellion. She spent her formative years in the Romanian capital of Bucharest, where stereotypes at the time still prevailed about a woman’s place being at home to cook, clean and look after the children.
Even the simple act of reading motorcycle magazines would lead to a barrage of negative comments about why women and bikes didn’t mix. Plucky Andreea was not so easily dissuaded from the adventure and freedom she craved, taking her motorcycle test in 2008. And, since moving to England six years ago, she has created the Female Riders UK online community, giving women a safe space to pass on information, talk about their biking experiences and connect on a personal level.
Andreea shared her experiences with LadyBiker, explaining how Female Riders UK came about: “Everyone back home would put me down about wanting to be a lady rider. But I wanted to do something different and push the boundaries. When I got my licence, my dad supported me 100 per cent but my mum was scared and didn’t speak to me for three weeks! Luckily now she is very supportive of my lifestyle and they are both big fans of my adventures on two wheels.”
“My first bike was a Yamaha Thundercat YZF 600. When I rode around Bucharest, people in cars would pull in front of me and shout out of their windows, saying that ladies should stay indoors and not ride. But every single negative comment made me want to ride even more. I loved the freedom, the travelling, meeting people with a similar mentality.”
When Andreea’s adventurous nature brought her to live in London, she found herself somewhat isolated from the biking community, familiar with a few motorcyclists but not knowing any other female riders personally. So she joined some web forums and attended the World’s Largest All Female Biker Meet in Shropshire to broaden her circle. From there, the idea of creating her own online community was born.
“I wanted to give other ladies a place to have a voice; I didn’t want them to feel how I had in Bucharest and in London,” she explained. “So I set up a blog and a Facebook page called Female Riders UK. At the time, I was working as a concierge and would work for four days and then have four days off. On my days off, I’d go and ride spontaneously in Germany, Holland, France. I’d share what I was doing, and I’d talk about any biking issues I might be dealing with.”
Andreea, who has a full-time job for a freight forwarding company, added: “The idea was to bring people together, to connect and empower female riders. I also wanted to give people the confidence to give biking a go. I do it all in my spare time and don’t gain anything from it financially.”
Female Riders UK certainly struck a chord with lady bikers across the UK, and Andreea’s Facebook page now has just over 12,000 followers. “I still can’t believe it when I have a new like on the page, I’m like a kid!” she said. “I’ve met some amazing people through it, including my dearest friend Denise who helps me with the Facebook page. Anna, another lovely female rider, also approached me to volunteer her time to help with Facebook. Both are so amazing and supportive, and help me keep the community active, friendly and safe for lady bikers.”
Alongside the online camaraderie and support, Female Riders UK has organised two odometer challenges for women to enter. Through these, bikers logged the number of miles they rode over a six-month period, starting on International Women’s Day in March. Those with the most miles logged received special prizes including goody bags from LadyBiker. Andreea said: “The idea was to encourage more ladies to ride, promote the active bikers and show them our appreciation.”
And, in the first such national event of its kind, Female Riders UK co-ordinated 39 meet-ups around the country on the same day last March. Aiming to help members of the community meet in person, share their stories and strengthen their friendships, local hubs included Newquay, Leeds, North Lanarkshire and Canterbury. A video of the Essex hub’s event can be viewed on YouTube.
“It was really nice and there are now lots of local Female Riders Facebook groups, which is great,” Andreea said. “We’d planned to have an event every other month but needed to cancel them because of Covid. I definitely want to do the event again in future to reach even more ladies.”
Andreea says she is thrilled by the success of Female Riders UK so far. “I’ve shown ladies what motorcycling means to me; that it isn’t a hobby anymore, but a lifestyle. By talking about riding, travelling and motorbikes, I’ve inspired people to become riders; they tell me that my stories were the impetus they needed to do it.
“I’ve also had ladies reaching out to me via private messages because they liked my story and what I was doing. A few have asked if I am local to them and if I want to go riding with them, because they feel pushed aside by other riders and don’t feel confident riding on their own. So I’ve gone out to places like Bristol or Brighton or Southend to ride with them. They’ll say, ‘I’ll pay for your petrol’ but I always say that a coffee is enough.”
Andreea added that one of Female Rider UK’s biggest fans is actually a man - her husband Robert. She explained that, when they met almost four years ago, he had a 125cc L plate and was thinking about giving up motorbikes.
“He would stay at home while I was riding crazy miles abroad,” she said. “We had a chat about it and I told him that my motorbikes were here to stay, as they were in my life long before him. But I’d send him photos from all the places that I was visiting and he decided that he wanted that too! So in February 2018, he got his big bike licence to keep up with me.
“Now, every time we’re going out riding, he asks me where his FRUK hoody is. He wears the logo with pride everywhere, whether he’s riding with me or not. He always steps up when he sees female riders put down by misogynists, because he knows how hard it is for us ladies to be in a man’s world.”