Classic Bike Girl lives on top of a mountain in Wales, between Swansea and Llandovery. Known to her family and friends as Zoe Caines, she is training to be a doctor, bakes award-winning cakes, and documents her biker life on Instagram.
Motorbiking runs in Zoe’s family. As a newborn, she came home from hospital on the back of a motorcycle and her father built her first bike, a 175, when she was just three years old. We caught up with Zoe on the winding roads of west Wales to chat about her lifelong love affair with motorbikes.
Zoe, when did you get into motorcycling?
My father builds classic and vintage motorcycles, so as a young girl I was always on the back of a motorbike. I am an only child and was brought up on overnight motorcycle camping trips. I think I’ve been to every castle and every mini-railway in Wales, and every road in north Wales. That was my childhood! And now, I ride all year. I don’t put it to bed. It’s in my DNA.
Even now, I can’t go to my father’s for a cup of tea without him going, ‘Right, come to the shed and have a look at these…’ Sometimes I’m there in my overalls, looking horrific. Other times, he won’t care if I’m dressed up, ready to go out for dinner. He’s like, ‘Oh! Zoe! Come and see this!’
What kind of motorcycles do you own?
I don’t own a modern motorcycle; it’s all classics. The one I use every day is a Honda Twin, CB 450, from 1974. My dream bike is a BSA DBD34, which is a single-cylinder 500 - a proper Isle of Man TT racer from the 1950s.
I’m building my own bike, a Honda 400 Four, to make it look like an old-school, 1950s café racer. It’s a bit of a special project for me. Mark Purslow, a wonderful guy that made the alloy seat pan and alloy tank for me, was a friend of mine, and his father and my father were friends years before I was born. Mark was an alloy welder for TAB Classics in mid-Wales. He was also a racer in the Isle of Man TT and he died in an accident during the training week last year. It’s a special build now, because Mark had finished his work on it for me just a few months before. It’s a bike that I’ll always keep.
What are the best motorcycle rides in Wales?
Well, I live about six miles away from the ‘Top Gear’ road’ also known as the Black Mountain Pass in the Brecon Beacons, so I’ve got to say that! Also, the Horseshoe Pass, Talley near Llandeilo road, the Elan Valley close to me, and Epynt - one of the largest military training areas in the UK. It’s wild and rugged. If there’s a red light, you can’t go through for 20 minutes until they’ve stopped firing.
Do you ride your motorbike abroad?
Not yet, but I’m planning to ride through Italy – the land of the Ducati, which is my second favourite bike makers! – next summer. I’m just going to take my time, enjoy the scenery and culture and ride all the way to the bottom.
Do you have any tips for female riders starting out?
My advice would be: just get out there and do it and ask for help, because the majority of people are so supportive. Especially for female riders. There’s so many more female riders now than there was 30 years ago, when my mother was riding around all over the place. So, I think I was lucky; I never saw the stigma. Now, there are so many more female instructors, and men are so much more aware of trying to support women into motorcycling. It’s still seen as a male-dominated industry, but I’m more than happy for any woman reading this to drop me a message on my socials. It’s all about empowering women. It’s perception. I’m a blonde on a bike, but then most of the time I can probably talk and have more understanding about bikes than most men. And I have to thank my father for the knowledge instilled into me from a young girl.
Have you ever had a motorbike accident?
No… well yes, I have actually. So, I followed my father up to a triangulation point on top of the mountain. My father decided it would be fine to go on a road bike, but it was wet and slippy and we had road tyres on. I had the worst crash ever, in the sense that it was about 2mph and I put my foot down and there was nothing there. I fell over but I held on to the brake lever and crushed my second finger and broke both knuckles. I fell on to the ground then cartwheeled off the bike in slow motion. My father stood there laughing hysterically then made me continue riding around the Gower for another 50 miles.
What do you wear on the bike?
Well - Roadskin leggings, obviously! And then I’ve always loved the 1950s and 1960s look, the ton-up BSA era… I’ve got the whole long-boots-with-the-woolly-socks-rolled-over-the-top look - café racer style. I’m really lucky that motorcycling is in my family - my grandfather, my father, my mother. I wear my mother’s jacket that she had from the 1970s and I’ve got my father’s jacket, which is a Lewis leathers one. I’ve always bought retro vintage motorcycle jackets; I’ve never bought a leather jacket new. The red one on Insta I bought as a vintage 1970s purchase myself and the blue one is my mother’s. On some of the photos, you can see my father’s pin badges. He bought them when he used to go to the TT, racetracks – wherever - in the 1970s. I’m adding to the collection now - if I go somewhere and they’ve got a pin badge I’m like, ‘Oh, can I get a pin badge?!’
You’ve got a fast-growing following on Instagram… what’s that like?
It goes two ways. The large majority of the time, everyone I encounter is supportive. Obviously, judgment is passed. People see a blonde and think: ‘Does she even ride.’ Then there are one or two occasions when you get unwanted attention in your inbox and you end up blocking them. But each to their own and I take it on the chin. I’m part of the South Wales Female Bikers Facebook group. Some of the girls get challenged along the lines of ‘Why are you riding?’ ‘That’s not yours’, etc. It affects the younger and the not-so-confident ladies the most. Then they get put off riding which is upsetting for us as a community. It’s very few and far between but it is upsetting when it happens.
I want to empower women. Riding is an achievement. For me, it’s freedom. It’s always been about just getting out there without the technology - time out to find my inner peace and having that mental health break.
Zoe’s AA-rated Roadskin Kevlar leggings with stretch for woman bikers are available to buy here.
And here’s one we prepared earlier on riding in Wales: Five great motorbike road trips in Wales – Roadskin®