ICBC VP lives motorcycles

By Marissa Baecker

You may have heard the saying, ‘if you want to get something done, ask a busy person.’ Nothing could ring truer than the recent appointment of Kellee Irwin as chairperson to the Motorcyclists Confederation of Canada (MCC). A job she takes very seriously alongside her duties as Chair of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame and Senior Vice President, insurance, marketing and underwriting, at ICBC.

This woman eats, sleeps and breathes motorcycles.

Motorcycles have been in Irwin’s blood since she was five. “I’m scared to admit it but I have been riding for 42 years now,” laughs Irwin.

Like me, Irwin’s family owned a motorcycle dealership. Started by her grandfather back in 1937 in Ontario, then ran by her father, now her brother (both ISDE competitors) and in 2012 celebrating 75 years in business. Needless to say, Irwin’s childhood memories are more with engine parts and tools rather than dresses and dolls.

“I’m better working on a bike than I am at cooking,” admits Irwin.

Irwin’s skills on two wheels cover a variety of disciplines. She raced trials from the age of 14, enduro racing from ages 16 to 20, threw in a few track days, some ice racing, an endurance race here and there and then back to the competitive off road circuit for another 8 years while still maintaining her passion for on road riding as well.

The ice racing came naturally growing up in Ontario as her father would plow an oval in the snow and after school the kids would take their dirt bikes and “drive around in circles.”

“I was really slow on the ice but it is really fun and teaches you to be much more comfortable sliding the back end,” said Irwin.

For Irwin it isn’t about how much you know but how you use your knowledge to give back to the sport so close to her heart that makes her feel fortunate.

“Not only were we brought up in a sport, but we were also brought up to give back to our sport as well,” Irwin adds. “When I was 18 in Ontario, some of the customers from our shop and I started the first motorcycle training school in Cornwall that is still running today.”

For Irwin, her sport is her family both immediate and extended with all the friendships she has fostered through motorcycling.

With her motorcycle history and experience, complimented by her business sense, Irwin was the perfect choice to add a two year term as Chair of MCC to her active roster.

The Motorcyclists Confederation of Canada is a national organization made up of representatives from each province and focuses on key public policy, safety and land access issues. The goal is to keep motorcyclists safe through education, training and awareness whether you ride on or off road.

When questioned what her key goals were from her new seat, Irwin was not short of words, “The popularity of motorcycling from coast to coast really underscores the need for federal, provincial, and municipal governments to acknowledge the positive aspects of motorcycling,” said Irwin. “To recognize motorcycling as a mode of transportation for hundreds of thousands of Canadians and to make sure that motorcycles are integrated into the nation’s transport strategy.”

When it comes to off-road issues, land access and acquisition, key public safety and providing safe areas for off road riding are on the forefront.

“There was a study I read that said that off-road motorcycling is a very good way to improve your physical fitness,” adds Irwin.

This comment comes from experience. In 2008, Irwin took a vacation to the Baja for a four day adventure ride titled Hooters on Scooters which covered some 400 miles of desert riding and staying in haciendas in the middle of nowhere. Irwin still spends the majority of her time riding her motorcycles.

“I have a Buell 1200 lightning for the street, I ride a WR250 off-road, I have a 64 BFA trials bike and a ’64 Honda step through 50 and a ’72 Yamaha scooter,” says Irwin.

Two of the five could be in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame where Irwin has spent six years on the Board of Directors, two in the Vice-Chair seat and the most recently with one year left of a two-year term as Chair.

“We have over a hundred motorcyclists, coast to coast, in the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame,” Irwin says proudly. “We now have three women as well.”

Irwin sees the Motorcycle Hall of Fame a way to honour the heros of the two wheeled world whether they come from racing, rider training, bike building or clubs as well as honour and preserve Canadian motorcycling history.

“Our focus is to establish the Hall of Fame to recognize the fabulous people in our sport over time,” continues Irwin.

One of the concerns Irwin relates is that the information and history of riding will get lost over the years and maintaining that information is key. The induction ceremony took place in the Lower Mainland in 2010, has since headed East and will return to the Lower Mainland in 2014. Irwin refers to the induction ceremony as a reunion as many riders come together after years of absence from one another and the reunification of the riders is what brings back the stories and history.

To best way to get involved in MCC is to actively take part in a local riding club as each province is represented on the national level. For further information about MCC visit www.motorcycling.ca or the Motorcycle Hall of Fame visit www.motorcyclehalloffame.ca.

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