Jerry Foster-Julian, now 80, recently hung up her RiderCoach hat, but she hasn’t hung up her helmet yet. The former middle school teacher, who started riding in the 1960s and has traveled the world by motorcycle, served as a RiderCoach for more than 20 years. While you won’t see her on the range anymore, you might catch her on the road on her Vespa.
By Jerry Foster-Julian
Retired school teacher and MSF RiderCoach
Motorcycles were not part of our family, but I always thought they looked like fun.
After l got out of college, in 1964, and started teaching, l went on my first adult vacation to the Virgin Islands without my parents. Since I would be there for a week and needed a way to get around, I rented a 90cc Honda scooter. It was so much fun. My next vacation was to Hawaii, where l tried to rent a scooter but the man said they didn’t have any. However, he had a Yamaha 100cc. Little did l know, it was a motorcycle and not a scooter. So, after speaking with him on the phone, l went over to the rental place and discovered it was a motorcycle. He gave me a 10 minute lesson in the parking lot on shifting and braking and sent me off in Honolulu traffic. Good thing I did know how to shift a manual transmission car, but it was a real experience exploring Oahu for the next week on that thing.
Along came the Vietnam War, and my younger brother, who enlisted in the Air Force, sent a BSA motorcycle home to my parents house before he was sent to the Far East. With his permission, l got the bike registered and insured and started to learn how to ride a big bike.
l took the test for a permit, and then in 1968 or 1969, I took my test for a license. I rode the BSA until he got home, took it back, and then sold it. Well, l wasn’t going to be without a bike, so I bought a used Honda 350 and that was the start of a new beginning.
My next bike was a Harley-Davidson Sportster 1100, which I kept for a couple of years, then I moved on to a Harley-Davidson Super Glide in 1983. In 1991, I discovered shaft-drive bikes and moved on to Honda Gold Wings. By this time, l had been riding for 25 years without any formal training.
Soon, I found an all-women’s motorcycle club in New York City, the Sirens MC, and they invited me to join, but I had to take a formal class before l was allowed to become a member. So, in 1992, after riding since the late 60’s, l took my first motorcycle class with the Trama’s Motorcycle School, which taught the Motorcycle Safety Foundation curriculum. I was taught by Gasper Trama and Lori Taub. What an eye opener that was.
Here I was riding a Gold Wing, and yet after the first exercise, I realized that I didn’t really know anything about how to ride.
As a middle school teacher, I would frequently ride to work. It was fun to walk into homeroom, take off my leather jacket and helmet and welcome the kids in and take attendance. One evening, at a middle school open house, a parent in the gym stands asked me if I was still riding my Harley to the school. I told him I was now riding a BMW. He smiled and told me how, when he was a student, he used to look at my motorcycle when it was parked in the school parking lot.
When I retired from teaching middle school after 35 years, I decided to sign up to become an MSF RiderCoach. I was so impressed with what I learned in that class at Trama’s that I wanted to give back to the motorcycling community some of what I had learned, because riding motorcycles had changed my path in life. Gasper, who had become my mentor, hired me after I got certified as an MSF RiderCoach, and I have been coaching since then. In fact, one of my students in my MSF class was once my student in middle school. I had taught him in gym class and now I was teaching him how to ride his motorcycle!
In October 2022, I turned 80 and I hung up my hat as a RiderCoach. It has been quite an adventure. I have bumped into other riders along the way who would tell me they had been my students and something they learned in class saved their lives. It’s things like that that make you realize you made a difference.
Motorcycling opened up a whole new world to me: it expanded my wardrobe, increased the number of friends I had, and expanded my traveling experiences. I’ve ridden in New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Austria, as well as much of the American west plus Canada. l have ridden from New York to Seattle and back, and up and down the East Coast, too. And l have ridden in South Africa, from Johannesburg to Cape Town and back — a little over 4,000 miles.
Even though I will no longer be an MSF coach, I will still be riding my 2022 Vespa 300cc scooter and my BMW F 700 GS. I’m not quite ready to stop riding yet.