I’m seventy-eight years old and live in Stratford, east London, though I’m currently staying with my daughter in Marlow, Buckinghamshire because of the pandemic and will soon be moving to Bow. I’m retired and volunteer quite a bit, but my professional background is in sales and marketing and I was previously a Director of Brands Hatch circuit.
I was married to the Formula 5000 racing driver Jackie Epstein, who died in 2009. Jackie was a close friend of Mike Hailwood and in fact bought a BMW 1000 from him, which was his pride and joy. One day Jackie and I were having an argument and, to defuse the situation, I said: “If we get divorced, I want custody of the BMW!” I was joking but he took it seriously and got very cross, stating that I couldn’t even ride! Challenge accepted and, at the age of fifty-two, I determined to prove him wrong. I learned on a Suzuki 125 and stayed on this for about three months until he surprised me with an old Benelli 750 Sei.
I had to give up riding for a couple of years after I developed Labyrinthitis, but on my seventieth birthday my daughters surprised me with a Suzuki Intruder and I was hooked again. A couple of bikes later, I now ride a Yamaha XVS 950 Midnight Star. I love the brakes on this – much better than my last bike, an old Suzuki Marauder 800.
What prompted you to join LAM?
I felt that I’d got into bad habits and needed some objective feedback and advice. I’ve always believed in the importance of training and joined for that, but I hope to take the test as soon as I can.
What do you think of your LAM experience?
I’ve loved it. I’d particularly like to thank my mentor Eddie Wright and Observers Claire van den Bosch and Mike Seary. I realise that I need to keep improving, but I feel more confident now. When riding the hairpin bends of the Sequoia National Park in California with my daughters, the Observers’ advice to ‘keep your vision up’ echoed in my mind.
I’ve been on the Norfolk weekend and greatly enjoyed the camaraderie. Everyone I’ve met so far has been really nice and supportive and Mark Barling kindly took me on an OR between lockdowns.
What sort of riding do you do mainly?
My daughters Claire and Hester and their partners all ride, so I have a ready-made group for social rides. I really enjoy the roads around Marlow and I try to get out for a few hours at a time but I’m not really an all-weather rider and will put the bike away from December to March.
I really love riding in the States. The US meant a lot to Jackie and after he died my daughters and I decided to spread some of his ashes there. It seemed appropriate to do it on motorbikes, so we hired Harleys in Miami and rode to North Carolina. Although the trip was chaotic as we hadn’t really prepared properly, we enjoyed the challenge so much that it has become an almost annual trip. Each time we choose a different state and spend around ten days just riding. We've made some wonderful biker friends there.
How do you keep your bike in good condition?
I’m very observant of the need for POWDERS checks before every ride and I keep my bike clean, but fortunately my daughters’ partners are mechanically minded and they take care of most other things. They’re all very protective of me and like to make sure that I’m safe.
What’s your favourite snack when you’re out for a ride?
I like a cup of tea and a cinnamon bun or croissant.
Any cafes you’d recommend?
I like the ‘H’ café near Wallingford and also enjoy the Bike Shed and Ace Café in London.
Your immediate family are obviously supportive of you as a motorbike rider, but what about other people?
My cousin Malcolm, with whom I flat share, is not very keen on me riding. If I’m honest, I rather enjoy the reaction when I take my helmet off and people see that I’m not only a woman but that I have white hair. It’s still quite unusual, particularly in the States, to see women riding, all the more so when it’s three of us together.
I can see that you don’t have a beard – any views on whether they’re a good thing?
I like them. Somehow bikes and beards seem to go together.
Any suggestions you’d like to make for the future?
It’s difficult for me to get to the meetings, which are over an hour from where I live. I’m not shy, but for new Associates who are it may be an idea to have a Member or Members who’re responsible for greeting them and making introductions.
Thanks Isabel, you’ve had a very interesting life and hopefully we’ll be able to meet in person at some stage.
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