Toby Myles • February 28, 2019
I have always been curious (translation: nosy) about how other women got started riding motorcycles, and in particular, moms who ride. Every woman's story is different, and for each of us, the journey to motorcycle riding is unique.
This week I interviewed Lili Dobert for the "Biker Mommas - Slow Roll Vlog Series". I'm sure Lili had no idea what to expect before the call, but she modestly, yet enthusiastically agreed to the interview. What I love most about Lili's story is that she is unapologetic about her love of riding, even though it takes her away from her family at times. She has a healthy respect for the risks involved, and even feels this makes her a better rider. Riding is something Lili does for herself and she hopes to set an example for her 3-granddaughters to also follow their passion, whatever that is. Meet Lili Dobert…
"In all these years as a woman, as a mother, as a grandmother, I always gave to the family. I was always there for them... carting kids around. And I'm just saying, this is me and yeah there's a risk... but I love this. And I think they've accepted that."
~ Lili Dobert
Lili's youngest son is a Type 1 Diabetic. To educate the public, she's painted her motorcycle with the blue ribbons which represent Type 1 Diabetes. "I want to rid the world of Type 1 Diabetes" she said.
Read the Full Interview Here:
Toby: Hey everybody, this is Toby at Ride Like a Girl Designs and welcome to the second live interview in the Biker Momma series. I'm excited today to have Lili Dobert, is that the correct pronunciation of your last name?
Toby: Okay, great. Lili agreed to join me on a Sunday morning for an interview. We both have super busy schedules so we were able to carve out some time to do this. And I'm just excited to get to know more about you, Lili. So I had your pre-interview, so I know a little bit of your backstory, but why don't you just give us a quick intro to yourself. How long have you been riding? What are you currently riding? That sort of thing.
Lili: Okay, so I live in upstate New York currently. I'm 56 years old, and I've been riding… this is gonna be my fourth season. So actually I started when I was 52, technically. Going to work, coming home, I always passed by the Adirondack College, which they have the motorcycle safety program.
Lili: And I'm like, I wanna do that. I wanna do that. And I know that I've been on bikes before when I was younger, 'cause I grew up in Japan, even though I'm American. So my parents used to have a house on the foot of Mount Fuji, it was outside of Tokyo. So it was lake Yamanaka. And at that time, and I'm aging myself, we're talking early 70s. So of course dirt roads and everything. I had two brothers, and we had a 125cc and a 50cc, and they would always ride. But I would get on too.
Lili: And I'm like, I could probably still ride a bike. So four years ago I took the class. I didn't buy a bike, I took the class. And they put me on this Eliminator, which was like 30 years old.
Toby: Oh my gosh.
Lili: The gears were sticking and everything. And I passed the course on that.
Lili: Yeah, passed the course first time. So my first bike, which I still have, is the Vulcan-S 650. So being in upstate New York I live in the Lake George area, so it's kinda rural. I would go early in the morning Sunday when no one was on the road, and go up and down Bay Road to get it up to 55-60mph. Thank god cops weren't there 'cause the speed limit's 45. 'Cause I didn't wanna be a burden to anyone, you know?
Lili: So that's how I built myself up. So currently I have two bikes. I have the F-700 GS, the BMW which is a venture bike. I still have my 650 Vulcan, which I can't get rid of, that's just such a fun bike.
Toby: You’re attached to it also probably, 'cause it was your first bike, right? So I know I read in your pre-interview about how many times you passed that community college, and then it just dawned on you one day. So your story's a little bit different. It wasn't really a lifelong dream to one day ride, it just kind of dawned on you like ‘I used to ride, I think I still know how to ride’ right?
Lili: Absolutely. Well yeah, well you don't know if it's like riding a bicycle.
Toby: Right. Exactly. They say you never forget, but motorcycles might be different.
Lili: Right, so I'm passing it by. I mean I've been in this area 28 years, so this is 28 years of passing this by, you know. And I'm like, hmm I think I could do that. Hmm, I think I could do that. So I think what happened was my youngest he's 17 now, but he was 13 at the time. I was like, okay I could do this.
Toby: Right. So you think maybe you might not have thought that, maybe 10 years prior when all of your kids were younger?
Lili: No, with the older two I was a single parent, so no. There was no way. You know now I can just go because my husband watches the little one. I have more freedom.
Toby: Right. Exactly.
Lili: And it's a bonding time for them. Mom's gone, they do whatever. And I think it's good. Actually I think it's good that I'm not there.
Toby: Yeah they do guy stuff. So that said, and I also know that you mentioned that you're also a grandma, which I find hard to believe because you look so young. But you're my first live interview Biker Momma who's also a grandma, which I think is amazing. I absolutely love it.
Toby: Being a mom who rides, are there things that you think about or have ever gone through your mind where you think, I'm taking this risk... we know it's a risk. I mean we do it because of the rewards, but there's also a risk. And I'm doing this because of these reasons, it's fulfilling, I love it, it's fun. It makes me feel in control. Makes me feel free, or it clears my head, or a multitude of reasons. And then the flip side of it is, I'm a mom to these three kids and what does that mean? How do I balance that risk with also feeling responsible to those people?
Lili: Well I have three granddaughters too, oldest is nine. So I guess I was a grandma when I started riding.
Lili: Well that risk and that fear I think keeps me safe. 'Cause every time I leave the home I get on that bike, I am anxious. And I'm like, okay you know I gotta watch for other drivers. Don't be stupid. I have all the gear, well my husband doesn't let me leave the house without it ... I am geared top to bottom. You know?
Lili: But that anxiety I think keeps me safe. I know that there's a risk. I know I can ... well I have dumped the bike. Yeah, that anxiety. It's like saying a little prayer before I ride.
Toby: Yes, exactly.
Lili: [I tell myself] remember what you need to do. There are a lot of curves here. There's a lot of sand here. I mean, really my number one danger here are the animals. The deer, the rabbits, the chickens, the cows. The old people. I know this, and to have patience, you know?
Toby: Yeah. I mean it sounds like you have a healthy respect for what you're about to do each time. And I think a little bit of nerves are good because it kinda reminds you, yeah this is potentially dangerous. And let me go through all the safety things that I know that I learned in my course and on day-to-day rides. And just not be disrespectful of the danger of what I'm about to do.
Lili: And be prepared. Like I always check my tires. I have all my equipment. There are times, like my little one, the Type-1 Diabetic, so he has all his gear. And I have the technology in my helmet. But one time, I'm riding and his alarms go off, and I almost fell off my bike because it was so loud and I'm like, oh! So I had to pull over and check his numbers. And of course as a mom, I have to go back. But those are the things I have think about, like the sound in my helmet. All my gear. You know, do I have in case I ... I don't know. Like I have all my tools.
Lili: I have everything with me. Yeah.
Toby: That's good. I'm glad to hear that you're a safe rider. And I don't know, maybe some of that is not just being a mom, but it's also being a mature adult, I guess you should say. You know, that you're prepared for anything, which is kinda how it should be. And then you can go and you can enjoy the ride knowing that you're prepared for anything.
Toby: What are some of the reactions you've gotten from people in your life with regard to learning to ride at a, I say older age, but I'm your age, I'm actually a little bit older. And I was also older when I started to ride. So, are people supportive? Do they wanna tell you about the worst possible horror story they ever heard? Is it a mixed bag of things?
Lili: They think I'm crazy.
Lili: I don't know how else to put it. My oldest who's 34 was at first really angry with me, so he's a Marine, [did] two tours in Iraq. A chemist. So he's fear based. Always protective, always protective of his daughter. So he was a little upset with me. The middle one who's 30 now, he's like, oh are you gonna do pop-a-wheelies? So we get those jokes.
Lili: No, and I can't do one of those.
Lili: Let's see, yeah your friends and everything always tell you the worst type of stories. My brother who's also a rider, my dream was to go to Nova Scotia, so the second year I rode he's like, we're going to Nova Scotia. So I'm a beginner biker and I went with a 650 to Nova Scotia, so that was like bootcamp motorcycle. I think he's like, you're on a bike, let's go. You know?
Toby: Right, exactly.
Lili: And I did it. And I did the Cabot Trail in torrential rain. And I did it, so yeah you get the gamut. My little one, he wants to ride a bike, but of course he has the Type-1 diabetes, so there's a little caution there. So he's the only one that wants to ride the bike.
Toby: That's interesting. Your Nova Scotia trip, sometimes those long road trips are really the best for us even with all of the things that might go wrong, or things that do go wrong, and the adversity I think it makes you [a better rider] ... You have that many more experiences under your belt, and it makes you a better rider because you've faced those challenges and figured out how to deal with them 'cause no long road trip is ever gonna be perfectly sunny and perfect roads and no traffic. I mean it's not ever gonna be that type of trip.
Lili: Oh absolutely. And Nova Scotia, there are a lot of bikers up there, so with the torrential rain. And it wasn't just [on the] Cabot Trail, it was a lot. I was at the tail end and my brother made me put the construction worker vest on, I think it's yellow or orange, bright, bright, bright. And so we get to a diner and we walk in and people were thanking us for wearing that. We can see you. We saw you.
Lili: And I was like, wow they're thanking us for being visible. That was just amazing. And then thanking us that we were wearing out gear. Yeah.
Toby: That's very cool, I love that. So aside from that, I mean do you have any funny experiences or stories with regard to being a mom who rides? Do friends of your sons parents or his friends ever comment, or anything ever along those lines?
Lili: No, very few of his friends know. The keep me kind of a secret. And I don't know how funny this is, but when I first got the BMW, the 700 GS, I came to a corner and I just got in. And of course on the corner I dumped it. And so everyone stopped in town and they come, and these guys are picking up the bike and everything. And they're more worried about the bike than me. You know, and it's like, I'm okay.
Lili: And they're like, did you scratch it? Look at this bike, blah blah. Of course, I was okay, 'cause... but no one asked me how I was. They were so concerned about the bike. I'm like, okay I got it.
Toby: Yeah. I actually had a similar thing. My husband is from Iowa. And we had ridden to Iowa to look at his home town and we rode around and there was a little park there and so we went through the park. He has a brother who passed away, and so there was this memorial bench for his brother in this park, and he wanted to go check it out and make sure it was being taken care of.
Toby: And so we pull into this little parking lot and it was kinda on a slant and so my husband's been riding forever, since he was a teenager. But he does this u-turn and I go to try do the u-turn as well, but I hadn't given it enough throttle. And so when my bike stalled we both went over. And my husband is immediately picking up the bike and he's looking at the bike. And another gentleman who was standing there in the parking lot runs over to me and says, are you okay?
Toby: And it was at that point my husband looked up and he's like, oh are you okay? I'm like, I’m good. You know? So I can totally relate to that story. Well that's great.
Toby: Would you have any advice or words of wisdom for other moms who are thinking that they want to start riding and are concerned about it? I mean just from your own experience, what would you tell someone else in your same situation?
Lili: Oh that's a tough one. I mean I think it takes a certain type of personality. I think you have to know that there's risk in anything that you do. You have to know your risks. And always when you ride that that is a risk. But that keeps you safe. Lili: Also, know the rules. Especially in group riding. Also, what keeps me safe is I think I'm honest about my abilities, and I'm honest about my fears. And I know what I can do and know what I can't do.
Lili: And to keep true to that. And it's not competition with anyone else, you just do your own thing.
Toby: Right. I feel like almost what you're saying is look at the risk, but also look at all the other risks in life. And what's the alternative to just not experience all these amazing things? I think about all the things that I've [seen]... places I've been on two wheels and people that I've met, that I never would have met or been exposed to had I not been willing to pursue that passion.
Lili: Absolutely. And also I think I set an example in my family. And not that everyone should ride a motorcycle, but as a woman this is what I wanna do. You know? And it's not that I'm ignoring you guys, or you guys aren't important, but I am doing something I want. You know?
Lili: In all these years I think as a woman, as a mother, as a grandmother, I always give to the family. I was always there for them. I'm always like, carting kids around. And I'm just saying, this is me and yeah there's a risk. Maybe there's a risk to be me, but I love this. You know? And I think they've accepted that.
Lili: And I wanna teach my granddaughters not that you have to ride a motorcycle, but just do what you like. Be true to yourself. Because I think as women we give up so much just the roles we're put in. And I'm not saying that is good or bad, it's just that's just life. And there's comes a point, and mine came at 52 years old, that I said that's what I wanna do.
Toby: Yeah. I think that's amazing, and I think you state it so well because we, as women, or at least our generation we're raised to be the caretakers, you know? It's not necessarily that someone puts us in those roles, I think that's kind of who we are and who we feel we should be. And to always be giving to other people and wanting to take care of other people, but then also finding a way to be true to ourselves and to do something that is ... I wouldn't call it selfish, but we're being true to ourselves. It's something that lights us up and we're passionate about.
Toby: And I think, I mean it may be true for you, I know it was true for me, it made me so much more confident in who I am. I kind of turned a corner, it was like, wow look what I can do that a lot of other people won't or can't. And it gave me confidence to pursue so many other things in my life.
Lili: For me it's absolutely what you said is true. I just found my place. I think I'd been lost for so long doing what, I don't know what I'm supposed to do. You know? But this is like, wow, this is me. You know? And I could look a little stupid because none of my equipment matches, I'm not one of those people. I buy stuff that fits me, and works well. And there are times when I ride that I start out at 40, 50 degrees.
Lili: I think rode in November, maybe end of October. I came back and it was 30 degrees, and my helmet didn't fog up. I was good on that BMW. So my equipment can change temperatures because I'm in the mountains here. And I was riding with other women and they were so uncomfortable. [It’s tough] to find women’s equipment. I wanna put that out there.
Toby: I am with you on that 100%. I have made some connections in the industry, with a handful of women who are really out there trying to change that, and put more gear out there that is functional and safe and protective, but also fits women. It's made specifically to fit women. And I'm kinda on a mission to help support those women and bring their stories to light as well. So I'm kinda with you. I'm pretty picky about what I wear.
Toby: I have big ears, so not all helmets are comfortable for me. I have tiny hands, so not all gloves are comfortable for me. And like a lot of riders, not just women, I've gone through so much gear and given it away or sold it because I bought it thinking it was gonna work and then it didn't. You know, wasn't comfortable, wasn't warm enough, wasn't whatever. You know? So more power to you, you gotta find what works for you and if it's doing the job, who cares if you match or not.
Lili: That's what I say. And you know I can ride in 30 degrees and I'm good.
Toby: Exactly. I've had people say, oh ... 'Cause I have a heated jacket liner and I have heated gloves 'cause my hands get really cold. And I've had people say, oh I don't bother with that heated gear. I'm like, that's fine, but I can't ride when my hands are cold, and it makes it a safety issue. And so you can call me a wuss, they can call me whatever they want, but if my hands are warm I'm good to go.
Lili: Right, when you're uncomfortable you're absolutely right, it's a safety issue.
Toby: Yes. But I did wanna just hear a little bit more about what you do when you're not riding. I know from your pre-interview you talked about you're an instructor, so can you real quick just tell us a little bit about life aside from riding?
Lili: I'm a psychotherapist. So I have my private practice and I provide therapy, counseling, for mental health clients. So that's anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma. So I do that. And that's on my own. And then I do have a little, what they call a dojo. I have a little karate studio that I run. Yes, that's what I do. I have three boys, I have two daughter-in-laws. And I have three granddaughters. And a husband.
Toby: And a husband. Who helps you with your [tech issues] this morning.
Lili: Yeah, well my husband is very important to this because he takes care of all my equipment, he takes care of my bike. So all I have to do is ride. I'm so spoiled.
Toby: Yeah, that's very nice. Lili: He researches all my gear. He's an engineer so yeah I couldn't do this without him. And then when I ride he watches the kids.
Toby: Very cool. Lili: And he does not ride.
Toby: Yeah, I know you said that.
Lili: It's an issue because people think that that's odd.
Toby: It’s just not his thing. But I think kudos to him for supporting you even though he doesn't. I think that's pretty amazing. So great, thank you so much. I've enjoyed getting to know you a little bit. And I so appreciate you being willing to do this. And I'm just so excited to keep [talking] to women all over the place and hearing their stories, so I'm very much appreciate you being willing to participate.
Lili: Well thank you for having me.