Out There

At first appearances, Joann Atherton and Greg Yager seem an unlikely couple. Yager, the 53-year-old larger-than-life owner of adventure motorcycle riding company, RideADV, has a booming voice with a boisterous personality to match. Joann (45), a slight and quietly spoken lass with a warm smile and infectious personality, works as a finance professional. The two are not romantically linked, this is a partnership on a much deeper level. Greg is the adventure bike riding master, and Joann is his student.

A chance meeting when Joann was taking her early steps into the world of adventure motorcycle riding, set her on a pathway that is now satisfying her life-long desire for adventure. For Yager, it has reignited the passion that drives his dedication to bring new blood to the sport. Despite being trapped in an office midweek, Joann is an outdoor person at heart. BMX bikes when she was young, and then onto mountain bikes, provided an opportunity to explore tracks less travelled. But it’s only recently that motorbikes appeared on her radar.

“I’d never really had an interest in riding a motorcycle on the road,” Joanne explains. “When I was introduced to adventure bike riding I thought, yeah, this is something I want to do. Not so much for the thrill of riding the motorcycle, but more for the adventures a motorcycle can take me on. So, I went and got my licence, bought a motorcycle, and got out there.”

Unfortunately, Joann’s introduction to off-road riding did not go quite to plan.

“Just two months after getting my first motorbike I crashed, snapping my collar bone. While the accident dented my pride and put me out of action, there was never a doubt I would return to riding. From the first time I rode a motorcycle off-road I knew it was for me. The issue was I just didn’t have the skill set required to do it properly. I needed help if I wanted to do it safely and maximise my enjoyment.”


While recuperating, Joann started mapping out her plan to return to two wheels. Meanwhile, in the small New South Wales township of Ourimbah, nestled slightly inland from the Central Coast, Greg Yager and his RideADV team were fielding an increasing number of enquiries from female riders attracted to the formerly male-dominated pastime of adventure riding.

“The issue we had was that women were attending our regular rides and finding them a very testosterone-charged atmosphere,” Yager recalls. “We decided to take the plunge and organised RideADV’s first Women’s Adventure Ride.”

The event held in late 2018 was a revelation for Yager and the RideADV team. “I could not believe the enthusiasm and camaraderie the girls had, it reminded me of all the reasons I love motorbike riding.”

One of the fresh faces in the group of 16 ladies who fronted for the inaugural two-day RideADV Women’s Adventure Ride was Joanne, freshly recovered from her earlier accident.  The route was a Ride ADV special, taking in some of the country’s best off-road riding landscape around the NSW Mid North Coast town of  Wauchope.



“Greg was exactly what I’d been looking for in a mentor,” she says. “I quickly discovered that the advice he provides is not simply designed to get people through the ride, but to maximise riding enjoyment, safety and to keep people wanting more as their confidence and experience grows.”

That first ride provided two major turning points in Joann’s adventure riding journey. A new bike and meeting an Aussie motorcycle riding legend.

“Greg recommended a Yamaha WR250R to replace the bike I’d crashed. Not only because it was lighter and nimbler, but it would be better suited to my taller stature and improve my riding position. I also met motocross legend Stephen Gall who attended the ride as a special guest and conducted forest skills training with the girls. I learned so much from him. It completely changed my riding experience.”


Since that first meeting, Joann and Greg have formed a firm friendship resulting in Joann returning for regular Ride ADV events. She now not only supports the next wave of female riders discovering the freedom of offroad riding, but to also mixes it up with the boys on some of Greg’s more demanding events. Joann’s ever-growing to-do list now includes the Simpson Desert, Flinders Ranges and Cape York. All rides Greg is keen to encourage Joann to undertake.

“Jo’s journey is something I’m proud to be part of,” Greg reveals. “Once we got her onto the right bike and provided guidance, training, and encouragement, she has improved beyond what even she probably thought possible. It has been great to be a part of that process.”

For Joann, the opportunities for new adventures are now limitless. “Adventure riding has opened a whole new world of active and outdoor opportunities for me. Now I go hiking and I’m thinking about riding the bike. My perception of the world has changed. It’s the excitement of adventure riding that now drives me to get out there.”

SIDEBAR

  • About Greg Yager & RideADV

    Owner/operator of adventure riding event provider RideADV, Greg Yager is a highly skilled off-road rider, successful businessman and someone on a crusade to attract the next generation of off-road riders to the sport.

    His company’s first event in 2012 attracted just six riders, his second attracted more than 60. In 2014 his inaugural interstate multi-day adventure attracted 90 riders, requiring police escorts, a become fabled in adventure riding circles.

    Yager and his team run regular single and multi-day events for experienced riders and beginners alike. Some of these events have become must-do events, attracting riders from around the country and across the globe. These include the annual WR Rally, Bridge to Bridge, and the Ténéré 700 4-Day High Country ride.

    While his RideADV events are open to motorcycles of all makes, Yager and his team are Yamaha through-and-through. He has owned and fettled a fleet of Yamaha Ténéré models since day one and has achieved unimaginable feats on Yamaha’s venerable WR250R - including an unassisted double Simpson Desert crossing. His partnership with Yamaha Motor Australia through its bLU cRU branding is one of the company’s most enduring.

    Of all his achievements, Yager lists launching the RideADV Women’s Adventure ride concept, as well as introducing new people to the world of adventure riding, as major goals. For Yager, getting there is the fun part. RideADV is helping people to discover and explore the wonders of Australia’s vast landscape. They happily share their passion and experience with anyone smart enough to listen.

Frames from the Film