Michelle Chamberlain fell in love with motorbikes as a teenager, and inherited a serious Harley-Davidson habit from her parents. Ten years later, she’s best known as Lady Harley, sharing her passion for motorcycling with over 100,000 Instagram followers. We caught up with her in the depths of South Wales to talk about biker life - on the road, and online - and her ever-growing collection of Harleys.
You currently ride a Harley-Davidson, but how did you get into motorcycling and what was your first bike?
I've been riding for about 10 years now. The first time I went on the back of a bike, I was 15 years old, and I just completely fell in love, and I knew I wanted to have a motorcycle myself. In 2011, my father, who was a biker, was diagnosed with cancer. And before he passed away, I promised him I'd take my bike test, get a Harley-Davidson and do the Route 66 in his name. So, I do it for my Dad. It's a silver lining in a bad situation.
Before I took up motorcycling, I was very much into Miss Wales and beauty contests. I was definitely not a biker kind of girl. I've dabbled between beauty pageants and badass biking - I’m a funny mix of girl!
What is your favourite motorcycle and why?
No surprise - I have a soft spot for Harley-Davidsons. The reason for that is, my mother and father used to go to Las Vegas two or three times a year, and every time they came back, they brought me Harley-Davidson stuff from the dealership, and they always joked that one day they’d bring back a Harley-Davidson. That's why, when my Dad became unwell, and I made that promise, I knew the bike I would get was going to be a Harley because we've just got that connection. It's my favourite bike and it's my favourite brand; and it's a good little community. My father died in 2012. I passed my bike test in January 2013. I bought a brand-new Harley-Davidson from the Swansea dealership with the little inheritance that my father left in May 2013. It's classic; it’s authentic; it's as biker as you can get, to be honest with you; there’s nothing quite like a growling Harley-Davidson up the road - you can hear it coming!
The motorcycle I've currently got is a Harley-Davidson SuperLow 883. But what I've always said, after my bike turns 10, which is this year, I'm going to get her a companion. I'm never going to get rid of my bikes. I'm just going to keep collecting them. This year, I'm planning on getting a Street Bob 114. That's my dream motorcycle. It's not the most expensive or the most flash bike. It is obviously a brand-new Harley-Davidson, but it's what I like; it’s what I'm into; it’s what I'm comfortable with. I’ve ridden it a lot of times and it's made for me.
I always say I'm not going to have kids. I'll collect bikes, because it'll work out cheaper in the long run!
What is your favourite bike ride?
I’m Welsh, and my neck of the woods is the Brecon Beacons. It's a rolling national park with mountains and more bends and fantastic views than you could ever want for being on a motorbike. That's one of the best things about being in Wales and having that on your doorstep. Literally every corner, every kind of road you go to, you're going to end up with some fantastic views, some coastal scenery, some fantastic rides. I'm very, very lucky to live where I do; it's made for biking and bikers. The Brecon Beacons is my favourite ride, say from Llandovery, then Abergavenny and then back to Swansea. It's like a big circle around the edge of the Beacons.
What are the Welsh roads like to ride on?
The roads are fairly quiet. There are motorcycle cafés dotted along lots of routes, too, so you can stop and talk to other bikers, and find other routes that they've found that you’ve probably never seen before. The community is a good thing about being a biker, because if I’m stuck for somewhere to go, I can always put it out on Instagram or just have a chat with someone at a café who’s going to put me in the direction of another fantastic scene.
What it’s like being part of the Instagram motorcycle community?
It’s been a stepping stone towards integrating into the biker community. When I first started riding, I wasn't on Instagram. My riding was just for me. My father, the only biker in my life, had just passed and I was learning. So, I was the only female aged 21, 22, going into a dealership with all these burly men around me. I had to find my own way.
On Instagram, I meet bike enthusiasts across the UK - people doing the same thing that I did. I live in the middle of nowhere but I've got more friends, and more connections, than I ever had before. People say I inspire them to ride. It's strange, because I do it for myself. And it's interesting, that other people want to do the same thing. And they might have advice or information that I could use.
It's good to be part of a biker group of women. Six of us did a ride down to Coventry. It took us about six hours. It was the first time I've ridden predominantly with women. It was so empowering for me. I’ve finally I've got a little clique of people who are like me and who share my interest in bikes.
Do you encounter much sexism?
It's few and far between, but you always get people making generic comments like ‘Is that your boyfriend's bike?’ The other day I had a man comment that I should be in the kitchen. I'm thinking: it's 2023! There’s always someone with that backwards view; it’s a case of educating them. I always say: it doesn’t take a penis to ride a bike.
What advice do you have for riders starting out?
Go out and give it a go. If you are a woman, reach out to a local training school, explain you want to have lessons, and they'll probably try and match you up with either a woman tutor or a female instructor, if you're more comfortable in that environment. Don't be put off by biking being a predominantly male community. Be brave, take the first step and reach out to other people - other female bikers who can offer advice, encouragement and tips in a relatable way.
What do you wear on your Harley-Davidson?
I've always got my Roadskin motorcycle jeans on, which are Kevlar and have all the relevant protections. There is no rule you need to look unglamorous when you're riding a bike. You can be as fabulous as you want. My clothing essentials are: face masks, helmet, gloves, leather biker jacket and bike jeans – it’s basic. You dress for the slide, not the ride! If it's rainy, I've got a full rain suit. I've got my Gerbing heated jacket for winter and spring riding. I'm somebody who will buy good quality key pieces and wear them until they’re not useful anymore.
Do you have any other essential kit for a motorcycle ride?
I don’t go anywhere without a hairbrush, because helmet hair is the death of any decent photo. I take a tripod to capture the moment, because I'm a lone wolf. I ride 98% on my own. I'm also navigationally challenged and I don't know where I'm going. I just pick a direction and go, and because I'm in Wales, I'll always end up somewhere fabulous. Wherever I am, I've got the ability to do to share it - I can do it with my phone, sitting on the edge of a mountain.
How do you feel when you are riding alone?
It's beautiful. Indescribable. I haven't long come out of a toxic relationship, and when I was in that situation, I got on my motorcycle. That was an escape. I felt in control; I felt free. To be able to get up and go – that’s one of the most liberating things you can do.
Steal Lady Harley’s cool biker style
Lady Harley wears Roadskin protective armoured ladies motorcycle leggings.
Follow Lady Harley’s motorbiking odyssey