In Episode 5 of Ride With Norman Reedus, motorcycle journalist Becky Goebel joins Norman for an adventure through Uruguay. Talking with AMC.com, Becky shares her favorite memories from her time in Uruguay, plus the wildest trips she’s been on, tips for first-time riders and more.
Q: When did you first get interested in motorcycles?
A: I grew up on a farm in Canada, so we always had vehicles to drive around to get to one side of the property to the other. We had little dirt bikes, quads, farm cars. And don’t picture anything nice; I don’t know how any of this sh-t was running. One of the cars that I learned how to drive in had no back on it — literally it was just the front end of a car with some wheels on it. So I’ve kind of always been into driving anything — anything I can get my hands on, I want to learn how to drive. I got my drivers license the day I turned sixteen years old. Motorcycles just kind of came naturally to me. Alongside my love for snowboarding — I was a semi-pro snowboarder before I was into riding motorcycles on the internet. So it’s kind of an easy transition from snowboarding to motorcycles in our day and age. The adrenaline that crosses over, being alone in somewhere you love, and being independent.
Q: How did you transition your passion for motorcycles into a career?
A: Pretty much I transitioned riding motorcycles into a job through social media. I kind of got into it at a time when there weren’t many girls riding motorcycles on the internet. When I started posting myself riding motorcycles and popping wheelies and standing up in my seat on my Instagram, I would get thousands of followers in a day, which doesn’t happen anymore. I started kind of making money by writing articles for magazines. Lots of magazines at the time didn’t have any women involved in their fields on staff, and it was known in the motorcycle industry that lots of women were starting to buy gear and buy bikes and stuff. I just started hitting up these magazines and going on trips with them, and that kind of crossed over into doing content creation stuff and trips that were paid for, and then me producing my own content creation trips, which crossed over into TV, and I don’t know what my job is. It’s super weird, the freelance life.
Q: You seem like you’re constantly travelling. What does a typical day look like for you?
A: It depends on the time of year, and what’s going on. Pretty much I’m usually on a trip, or I’m in a coffee shop working on going on my next trip. I’m on my computer and on my phone, not only researching trips, but also hitting up brands, and when I’m not doing that, I’m on my bike riding all over the place. Lots of times I’m riding where I live with my friends, or I’m getting paid to ride somewhere for a brand. Lots of times I’m doing shoots for brands, like I just did a shoot for Harley Davidson in L.A., where I was chasing cars around, with photographers hanging on the back of them all through the city. But then the next day I’ll just be in bed until noon being like, “What should I do today? I don’t know.” But you’re always hustling. I’m at the point where I’m still always reaching out, always working my ass off. It doesn’t stop. I’m just like every other freelancer out there.
Q: Do you have any advice for women curious about riding but not really sure where to begin?
A: I get questions all the time that are from women, like “How do you know what’s the first bike to buy? How did you even know you were able to ride?” I’m a puny little girl, and I’m not strong at all, and my mom is even smaller than me and she rides. My suggestion to women, and to anybody who wants to get into riding a bike who doesn’t have much experience, is just going and taking a course. There’s lots of courses in every city that offer learning how to ride. It’s sit-down learning, but it’s also active learning on bikes. Find one that’s like that. One that lets you ride all types of different bikes. And then you can get a feel for yourself. It’s hard for me to say stuff like, “You need to wear all the gear, you need to start off on a dirtbike.” Not everyone’s the same. You need to find out what you like yourself.
I started riding on a small bike, a 1982 Honda Rebel 250, which is a really good bike to learn how to ride on because it’s small, light, and they have it at almost every riding course that you will ever take. … But it just takes time. The bikes that I post on my instagram are not for everyone. I have a lot of experience, and I have a lot of experience riding big bikes, but it’s taken me years, basically my whole life, to be able to ride the bikes that I ride around L.A. right now. And anybody could do it like I can if they put that much time into it.
Q: How did it come about for you to be on Ride With Norman Reedus?
A: Norman and I had been following each other on instagram for awhile, for a year or two, maybe even more. I didn’t even really know who he was. [Laughs] One day my sister was like, “Norman Reedus follows you on Instagram!” and I was like, “Who’s that?” But after a while of following each other, and I started watching his show a little bit, he had his producer, Lizzie [Ashe], hit me up, and she reached out and asked if I wanted to go to Uruguay, and I was like, “Is that in Africa?” [Laughs] She was like, “No, South America, and you have to be able to leave in like a week.” And of course I was like, “Yes, OK, cool, yeah I’m down.” I was also totally homeless and living out of a van when she called me because I was moving to America from Canada. I parked my van on some random street, and then this limo car came to pick me up from my van. I was like, “Sick, a week of eating good and showers.”
Watch Norman and Becky meet a baby seal and its “mom” in Uruguay:
Q: The motorcycle convention you go to with Norman in Uruguay seemed intense. Is that typical of motorcycle conventions?
A: In California, they’re definitely a little more chill and very niche to the community of whatever the show is. In Uruguay, it kind of just seemed like, “Oh there’s an event going on,” and everybody goes to it, which is really cool. But in California, if there’s an event going on, typically it’s specific to women, or choppers, or vintage bikes, or dirt bikes — it’s more specific and cohesive. Whereas [in Uruguay] it seemed like people were just going to an event, but it was really cool because there were so many people there learning about bikes.
Q: Speaking of conventions, you created your own annual motorcycle event, the Dream Roll. How did that come about?
A: I met a woman named Lana McNaughton at one of her exhibits. She’s a photographer who shoots women that ride, and she shot photos of me and we ended up getting along really well. This was in like 2014. She asked me if I wanted to do some sort of event with her, and over the course of the next two years, we came up with the idea to do the Dream Roll, a women’s motorcycle camp-out slash retreat in the Pacific Northwest. She had a big instagram following at the time, and I was growing really fast, and together we kind of grew on social media together, since she was a photographer and I was riding all types of bikes. We made a social media account for the Dream Roll and it kind of just blew up. Our first event had 350 women at it. It was a two-night event right outside of Portland. It was awesome. We had little ride outs, a group ride, bands that played, we had a beer sponsor, tattooers. We’re on Year 6 this year, I believe, and we’ve changed the venue a few times just for fun, and we have about 1,000 women who come every year. The show says 8,000 though, I don’t know where they got that number from! I was like, “Oh my God!”
Q: What are some of the wildest rides you’ve ever been on?
A: One of the first paid for rides that I ever went on was to the European Alps. We had these really tall sport bikes things that were given to us, and I had never even ridden one of these bikes, and we ended up riding 6,000 kilometers around all of the biggest mountain passes in the world: Italy, Switzerland, the Czech Republic. I don’t even know, all these countries. We couldn’t even handle these bikes. We’d drop them in a ditch, we’d get in a rainstorm. When we returned them they were so trashed, but they loved it, and we documented it all. That was pretty awesome.
Ducati, I swear to god they were doing a science experiment on me this one time. I went to New York — I had never been to New York before — and I picked a motorcycle up from downtown Manhattan. And they were like, “OK, here you go,” and I had to write an article on my experience riding in the city, and at the end of that weekend, I was laying on the floor of an underground parking structure, crying, just saying to myself, “Why did I come here?” [Laughs] But all of those experiences just make you a better rider. And now, if they sent me there to do something like that, I would nail it. But you just need to go through that experience of crying and dumping your bike into a mud pit on the side of a highway in Europe to be like, “Yeah, I got this now.” Now I’m in L.A. lane-splitting on a massive SXR with a huge faring on it, every day just not even thinking about it.
My first ever trip, I don’t think I got paid for it, but I got hit up by a dealership in L.A. when I still lived in Canada, and they were like, “Hey, do you want to come ride a Harley from L.A. to Babes Ride Out in Joshua Tree, and we’ll have a meetup and then you’ll lead a ride out there?” And I had never ridden a Harley before, I had never been to L.A., and I didn’t know anyone who was going. I just had 10,000 instagram followers at the time, which was bigger than everyone else, and everyone was like, “Oh let’s use her.” So they put me on a plane and flew me out there. There ended up being a group of about 65 women there, and we had to drive about two hours to Joshua Tree, just driving in sh–ty traffic, highways and stuff. And I just had this other girl lead the way and I just followed her and held on for dear life. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I think about it every time I get on the freeway and on a bike. [Laughs] Thank god I didn’t die.
Now I host the largest meetup of women on motorcycles in Canada. I’ve been doing this meetup for seven years — it’s the International Women’s Ride Day ride. So all these women meet up in Vancouver. And then the Dream Roll is almost a thousand women, and we do a ride-out in Portland. I’ve led groups of almost two hundred women from Portland to our space, which can sometimes be almost two hours away. It’s the coolest thing ever when you look in your mirror and there’s just so many women riders stretching all the way back, popping over the hilltop in the distance on the road behind you. I just teared up; it’s the coolest thing. If I was a little girl in a car and I passed by that, all these riders who are all women, I’d be like, “I’m gonna grow up to do that too.” If girls can ride motorcycles, what else can they do? That’s what I love about my current job, just helping girls and women see they can do something they maybe thought they couldn’t do.
Q: And speaking of rides, what are some of your favorite memories from your time in Uruguay with Norman?
A: I think some of my favorite parts were actually the roads, and just riding. We were escorted through this big traffic jam that was along the ocean, which was so pretty, but there were so many cars. There were so many police bikes and police cars, and literally the cars split for us and our camera cars. And we just went through all of these cars that were stuck in a traffic jam, and I remember just thinking, “Wow, I’m in Uruguay doing this and we’re so VIP.” It was just so cool. In America that wouldn’t even work, people would just honk at you. And then another fun memory was when we met up with Norman’s friend. We were riding on a gravel road for a while before we even met up with her, and then we were just in the middle of nowhere, I don’t even know how they planned that all out. But then she’s just like, “Ok, let’s go,” and gets on her horse, and we’re just riding alongside this galloping horse through a field in Uruguay, and I’m just like, “This is unreal.” You have those moments where you just tap out of the coolness around you, you can’t take in any more. And it all happened so fast. The other people Norman has on these shows are actors, and they’re used to doing wild stuff and being on camera, but I don’t really do that all the time, and I’m not really on camera all the time. I’m just a normal girl who just got thrown into this, so it was more overwhelming for me. …But we really had fun riding together. I don’t usually ride side-by-side with somebody, usually just my dad, but Norman’s a really good rider, and we actually rode side-by-side and talked the whole time, and we had fun actually riding, and that was my favorite part of being there, was the riding.
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