The iron butt motor maid

Gina Tottle from Canmore, Alberta, is into motorcycling for the long haul

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Gina sitting astride a Harley Road Glide.

Gina Tottle went through several bikes before finding her perfect match, a 2003 Harley Road Glide. — Photo courtesy Gina Tottle

If Gina Tottle were keeping track, then she’s probably nearing the 600,000-kilometre mark on a motorcycle.

Gina, who sometimes rides with her husband, Les, but is also comfortable going solo, has been riding for 53 years. In that time, she’s been through North Carolina, Florida, North Dakota, New York, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Ohio, Oregon, California, Montana and across Canada—several times. For her, motorcycling is more than a hobby, it’s a way of life that dates back to childhood.

Born in England and raised in Ontario, Gina grew up listening to stories involving an old sidecar motorcycle her parents had when they lived in London. Evidently, it was their main mode of transportation.

When she turned 16, Gina rented a motorcycle of the same sort and was hooked. A year later, she got her own bike—a Honda 90 that she quickly outgrew. Next, it was a Yamaha 250. Over the years, Gina has tried many different brands, including Bridgestone, BSA and the Honda GoldWing.

She claims to have no brand loyalty (“I love all bikes”), but her perfect match is a 100th anniversary edition Harley Road Glide that she bought in 2003.

Gina holding up a sign that says she's been across Canada.

Gina Tottle has been across Canada many times. She loved the Maritime provinces. — Photo courtesy Gina Tottle

Affectionately named Karma, this bike now has 265,000 kilometres on it.

“The first two years I had her, I put on 87,000,” said Gina. “After that, I would put on at least 25,000 a year.”

It’s less these days since Gina now lives in Canmore, Alberta, where the weather isn’t always conducive to motorcycling. But so long as the roads are clear and it’s above zero, she rides through wind, rain and snow.

Gina standing underneath a sign that says, Watch for Rattlesnakes.

Sometimes, she rides solo and other times, she is joined by her husband, Les, or members of the Motor Maids. — Photo courtesy Gina Tottle

“We never really put the bikes in storage,” she said.

And in all her years of riding, there have only been a few minor mishaps.

“Well, I had my cruise control stick on the I-90 and that was sort of scary,” she said.

Not as scary as the time she rode by herself through the tail end of a hurricane from Ohio to Toronto.

“I didn’t realize that’s what it was at the time, but you could barely keep the bike on the road it was so windy,” said Gina.

It was a memorable ride, but not her most thrilling.

“The most exciting was maybe one of my very first long rides because I just love to travel and we were on our way to (the Americade Motorcycle Rally),” said Gina. “The way we were going to go was closed, so we decided to go the long way down the east coast through Maine and New Hampshire. It was so beautiful.”

When Gina embarks on a long-distance ride, she always puts in a good day.

Gina and Les Tottle standing by their bikes in the bay at Tofino, B.C.

In June 2003, Gina and Les rode from Toronto, Ontario, to Vancouver Island, B.C. — Photo courtesy Gina Tottle

“I try to keep it to about 10 (hours a day),” she said.

Gina is happy riding solo, but she appreciates when her husband, Les, joins her. He too, has logged hundreds of thousands of kilometres on a motorcycle, but not near as many as Gina. In fact, Les never rode until he met Gina.

Now, the couple are lifelong motorcyclists and keen members of the HOG chapters in Calgary, Alberta, Cranbrook, B.C., and Oshawa, Ontario. For the past 20 years, Gina has also been a member of the Motor Maids.

This organization has allowed her to form countless friendships with women throughout Canada and the U.S.

Gina and a big group of women riders.

She has met many other women riders along the way and believes that she helped introduce others to the sport. — Photo courtesy Gina Tottle

“It’s a wonderful club for meeting a really diverse group of women,” she said.

Gina has found that unity is a common theme among all motorcycle riders.

“I love bikers,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how crazy or tough they look, I have never been scared of any of them. I would leave my children in a group of bikers and feel way more comfortable about it than at a yuppie party.” 

With the exception of riding in the heat, Gina, who is now 69, is not showing any signs of slowing down. When asked if she will ever hang up her helmet, she answered with a very affirmative, “No, never.”

“However I have to ride, I’m going to ride,” said Gina.

She’s in it for the long haul. 

Gina standing by her Harley Road Glide on the side of the road.

It doesn’t matter where, Gina Tottle just wants to ride. — Photo courtesy Gina Tottle

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