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A letter to subscribers: Hello Amplify readers. As we announced a couple of weeks ago, this is the Amplify newsletter’s final issue. The Globe and Mail newsroom started it seven years ago with the goal of – you guessed it – amplifying the voices of our female employees and, in more recent months, members of our contributor community. Amplify has been unique in publishing essays not just by The Globe’s editorial staff, but by employees from across the organization’s many departments (including marketing, events, administration and more). Amplify’s contributors have pondered almost every topic under the sun, from marriages, mortgages and mammograms, to astrology, allergies and aging, to friendship breakdowns, the Barbie movie, and 99-year-old boyfriends. Publishing women’s voices on any topic is important, but when it comes to women’s health, body image, career prospects and more, there really is no substitute, and we’ve been proud to have a space to publish these points of view over so many years. Amplify’s essays will always remain available on The Globe and Mail’s website, and the paper will continue to publish great pieces by women across its many sections. I’m happy to say that, as an editor for the paper’s Opinion section who is lucky to work with and publish great female writers as part of her day job, this really isn’t goodbye – just a “See you later.” – Kate Wilkinson (assigning editor for Amplify since January, 2023)

This week’s Amplify was written by Sierra Bein, content editor at The Globe and Mail and author of the Globe Climate newsletter.

I was a lot more nervous than I expected. The engine vibrations were shaking me to my core – or was it my nerves? Opening the throttle let out a rumble I wasn’t prepared for, and I jerked forward, embarrassed.

My sister’s boyfriend, Eric, stood a few feet away, intermittently yelling out tips at me in the empty parking lot of my elementary school. It seemed silly to feel this way on the motorcycle – it was my motorcycle. I chose it and paid for it. But this was my first time taking it out since it had come home from the shop.

I hadn’t been on two wheels in almost two years and felt like I was learning everything all over again. While I had initially taken riding lessons in 2021, it took time for me to save up for my own bike. By the time my purchase arrived and I could start riding it, in June last year, I’d already forgotten how to time the opening of the choke. Here I was, just outside my old kindergarten classroom, feeling like a little girl again learning to ride a bicycle.

Reassuring me, Eric said he had felt the same way the first time he rode his own bike, which has an engine far stronger (and probably louder) than mine.

But still, for a second in that parking lot, I wished so badly I had the safety of being inside the walls of a car. I had forgotten how exposed and alone you are on a bike. I tried reminding myself that there was a time I didn’t know how to drive a car, either. The learning curve was part of the process, and being scared was important – it was a sign of understanding the power you wielded while operating a vehicle. But then, an unwelcome memory from my motorcycle driving course crept into my head – a classmate who was sent to the hospital after their bike fell over while they were on it and crushed their leg.

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Sierra Bein gets ready to take her motorcycle out for a practice ride in Etobicoke, Ont., in June, 2023.Shakeela Omar/Handout

It was time to leave the parking lot, Eric told me. We had practised as much as we could without a road.

Okay: Throttle is in my right hand. Clutch is the left hand. Gear shift is under my left foot. Brake is under my right foot and by my fingers. So much to remember.

Nerves scrambled, I edged my bike onto the road, trying to pretend this was no different than a bicycle, but my armoured gloves and full-face helmet quickly broke the illusion. As the bike moved forward, I put all my effort into balancing the clutch and the brake, coaxing the engine into a smooth sputter. I gradually increased the speed, moseying along at a 40-kilometre-an-hour pace, which, in my mind, felt like an F1 race. But hey – no one was honking at me. I considered this a win.

When I first got my motorcycle licence, I was one of only three women in the class (I wrote about this in Amplify back in 2021). The looks on the faces of everyone from friends to family to my boyfriend when I first told them I was learning how to ride a bike (the kind with an engine) were a mix of incredulity and concern. I’m sure they were wondering how a 5-foot-tall, 115-pound woman would operate something that weighs nearly 400 pounds. I kind of wondered the same thing.

In a surprising turn, however, writing about my trepidation actually led to encouraging comments on my motorcycle journey – some readers went as far as to personally e-mail me advice (if you read the comments on most online articles, this would surprise you, too.)

I also found a supportive environment at the motorcycle shop. If I was asking stupid questions, the male workers didn’t let on. One guy nonchalantly gave me the run-down of how to operate the bike I had just purchased and bid me adieu with “Have fun!” rather than “Be safe” – it felt like a small but important vote of confidence.

With my grit bolstered, I kept practising – gradually managing to push myself past that initial 40 km/h trot. As my confidence grew on subsequent trips, I could see it transferring to my loved ones. My dad took pictures of me with my bike like it was my first car.

After months of practice, I felt comfortable enough to navigate traffic across the whole city, and even had the chance to go on a short trip with a bike-riding friend during the summer. I also went back to the school parking lot – it’s nice to get some practice maneuvering in tight spaces. When I went to drop the bike off for winter storage, I proudly rode it myself instead of asking Eric to do it for me.

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Sierra Bein on her first out-of-city bike ride in July, 2023. She and a friend drove to Bronte Creek Provincial Park in Oakville, Ont.Benjamin Reyes/Handout

The feeling of being exposed on a bike, which had scared me so much in the beginning, is now the highlight of the whole experience. As I ride, I can feel the temperature drop when clouds move in. I can tell when it’s about to rain. It’s really special to feel so connected to the elements.

I’m also more connected to my engine – I can hear and feel when it’s time to change gears and am happy to report I haven’t stalled in months. It’s refreshing to feel so alert – when you’re riding, you need to pay such close attention to everything around you. You are alone and you are exposed, but it’s a freedom you can’t experience while driving a car.

Learning to ride a motorcycle has had everything to do with confidence and nothing to do with being a woman. I’m counting down the days to getting my bike out of storage in the spring.

What else we’re thinking about:

I’ve heard too many stories from the women in my life about how they’ve been sold unnecessary services at the mechanic. I think it’s time for me to find a female mechanic – or even better, to learn how to take care of my car (and my motorcycle) on my own. Now, at a time where demand for skilled-trade workers has reached record-high levels, maybe there’s a chance to encourage more women to do just that. High schools are trying to fight the stigma of hands-on work, and hopefully they can overcome the stigma of women working in the trades at the same time.

‘So long’ from Marianne:

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Marianne Kushmaniuk for The Globe and Mail

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