FROM across the hall at Excel London, I saw Nor Zaidah Saidin limp in at the entrance of the Carole Nash MCN Motorcycle Show, aided by her crutches. Better known as NZ York, or Tok Mama, the 59-year-old was attending the Grand Finale of the Women Riders World Relay (WRWR) event on Feb 14, which saw women riders from 79 countries, including Malaysia, roaring through countries and continents around the world, clocking a total of approximately 102,223 kilometres in 333 days since the relay started in John O’Groats, Scotland on Feb 27 last year.
The WRWR Grand Finale was not an event that Nor Zaidah, a former Malaysian ambassador for the WRWR, was likely to miss, not even after an accident which broke her ribs, legs and wrist.
On day 164 of the WRWR, Nor Zaidah and her team of Ma-laysian riders had received the baton from the Thai WRWR ambassador at Bukit Kayu Hitam. With other international riders in tow, the group were ascending Cameron Highlands when the accident took place.
The accident put paid to any further motorcycling adventures for Nor Zaidah for the rest of 2020.
Nor Zaidah, a grandmother of a 10-year-old, grew up with the roar of motorcycles in the background emanating from her grandfather’s motorcycle workshop in Sungai Petani, Kedah.
Her first adrenaline rush came at 14, when she rode a 125cc scrambler. Motorcycles, apparently, was a passion shared by the women in her family.
“I saw a picture of my mum riding a motorbike, wearing her kain pelikat,” said Nor Zaidah, whose passion for bikes eventually led to her career of becoming a traffic policewoman.
Walking around with Nor Zaidah at the event, was not unlike walking with a child in a toyshop. There were Nortons, Triumphs, Harley Davidsons, Kawasakis of different cc (Cylinder Capacity) with enthusiasts in their leather jackets jumping on the machines and squeezing the handles.
Nor Zaidah took me to see a BMW bike, similar to the one she was riding on when she had her accident.
An expert in the art of selfies and Facebook Live, she would stop once in a while, put down her crutches and give a live report on the day’s events and people she met. And there were plenty.
Playing host and opening doors to women bikers from all over the world, as well as being founder of the Malaysian branch of the Women International Motorcycle Association (WIMA) makes Nor Zaidah a familiar face.
There were plenty of squeals of laughter, hugs and certainly motorcycle rides down memory lane of journeys shared.
People stopped her as she limped along, with recognition inviting even more peals of laughter and photo sessions.
“In the biking world, we help each other. We have a network
of friends from all over the world,” she said.
Nor Zaidah, who rode solo through Thailand and with friends in Germany and in Europe, and recently the Asian Women’s Force Ride 2018, said the door to international motoring association such as WIMA World was opened to her by former WIMA president Sheonagh Ravensdale, whom with fellow female rider Pat Thomson, had travelled across Central America and Asia.
“When they rode through Malaysia, my house became a transit home for them. I also passed the baton to friends who are willing to host these riders or take them sightseeing. We didn’t know each other but through the networking of motorcyclists, you tend to open your door to everybody. We are never lonely, especially with networking through social media.
“With motorcycling, you see and learn about different cultures and lifestyles,” said Nor Zaidah, who owns a Yamaha Virago 535 and a 500cc Kawasaki.
When Nor Zaidah met with her accident, it was her allies in the motorcycling world, both Malaysian and foreign, who helped crowd fund her medical expenses.
On the accident, Nor Zaidah is resigned to the fact that she will have to follow the doctor’s advice until she is fit to ride again. Her trip to Excel London was the first time she was testing her steps, sometimes without the use of crutches.
This however, wasn’t her first accident. Nor Zaidah, who also wrote for motorcycle magazines such as Roda-Roda and Kapcai, had her first serious crash in 2008 when she was on a three-nation charity ride.
She was riding from Kedah to Surat Thani in Thailand when her motorcycle skidded and she broke two ribs.
“I thought I wasn’t going to ride anymore. But when I went to the Himalayas, that ride broke my fear. It was very challenging, but it broke my fear,” she said.
Her trip back to London is a homecoming of sorts as her husband, Keith York, lives in Waltham on Thames. Since the death of her mother, Nor Zaidah had been flying back and forth to Malaysia to be near her father.
At the closing event, Nor Zaidah was cajoled to put aside her crutches and riders from different countries helped her onto a bike where she stood high, waving the Malaysian relay flag.
The WRWR meet has certainly revived Nor Zaidah’s passion and will keep the fire burning until she is fit again to put the pedal to the metal.