With a height of 1.58m, Toby Huynh is tiny – but that doesn’t stop her from regularly riding around the streets of Singapore in an enormous 1200CC Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
The 47-year-old is the curator of the Singapore General Hospital Museum, which archives the history of the hospital as well as the country’s medical development. With such an unusual hobby for a petite woman like she is, she nevertheless enjoys going on joyrides on her Roadster, even though she has to deal with curious looks from other motorists.
“Being small and all, I do attract a bit of attention when I go out riding,” Huynh said – but the reaction has been positive. She has had other motorists giving her the thumbs up on the road when they pull up beside her at traffic lights.
Huynh grew up in Australia but has been living in Singapore for the last 17 years. She became interested in motorcycles when she was 19 years old.
Harley-Davidson, an iconic American brand, has traditionally made bulky motorcycles that appeal to rugged males, so she hardly fits that customer image. She started with a 250CC bike (cubic centimetres measure the size of a motorbike’s engine), but progressed through a series of larger bikes. Her Roadster is her sixth bike and her first Harley.
While Huynh’s mother disapproves of her riding, she has gotten used to her daughter’s hobby. Her father is more supportive. Huynh says with a chuckle, “Whenever I get a new bike, my father will frown at me while my mother is around, but once she walks away, he’ll ask me, ‘How many CCs?'”
Huynh said there is a handful of other female Harley-Davidson riders in Singapore. She commutes to work daily on her motorbike but often goes on night rides with a group of motorbike enthusiasts.
These groups can get as large as 100 riders on a Friday night. However, when she’s just riding with her girlfriends, she likes to keep the groups smaller, at around eight to 10 people.
Sometimes, she also rides from Singapore to places in Johor such as Pontian and Desaru. On these group rides, the bikers will keep to one lane and travel in a jagged formation.
“Safety is a huge concern,” said Huynh. “We never break formation. If one of the riders breaks formation, there’s a high risk of an accident.”
Huynh attracted the attention of Harley-Davidson themselves, who are featuring her in their current “Freedom Stories” campaign, which showcases riders from around the region.
On why she enjoys riding, she said, “It’s a pull that you have inside your gut. It’s the idea of the freedom and control that one has. It’s unlike driving a car. It’s very empowering.”
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