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And the thunder rolls: South Shore female motorcycle club lets the good times roll

Sue Cabral of Scituate, Diane Anselmo of Pembroke, Donna "Deeg" Gillis of Easton, Sue Gillespie of Plymouth and founder Cindy Runey of Scituate. Photo by Lisa Bul

The next time you see biker dudes rumbling down a South Shore highway, be sure to look twice. They may be biker dudettes.
New England Thunder is a new group of female motorcycle enthusiasts from across the region who have banded together to share their love of loud engines and the open road.

“We wanted to focus strictly on, ‘let’s get together, let’s make riding our No. 1 priority, have some sort of respect for each other, just go out and have fun,’” said Cindy Runey, 53, a telephone pole worker from Scituate and founder of the group. “Every organization has to have rules. We want to keep them to a minimum and make it about being here to ride and have fun.”

The group of 20 bikers held its first official meeting recently at the Hearth n’ Kettle restaurant on Route 18 in Weymouth, and is actively seeking new members. The sessions, which start with a 5:30 p.m. social and then a 6:30 p.m. formal meeting, are held the second Wednesday of every month at the restaurant.

Members come from diverse professions, including medical professionals, network administrators, secretaries and footwear designers. They range in age from 30 to 60.

“There’s not just one category,” Runey said. “We come from different walks of life. I describe it as your typical women.”

Their common passion is obviously motorcycles, but the women became bikers for different reasons. Some took it up on a whim, others say motorcycling can distract from stressful occurrences, like a divorce. It’s not uncommon to see a woman in her 50s getting on a motorcycle for the first time.

Sue Cabral’s brother introduced her to riding, first his dirt bike and eventually his Harley. The Scituate resident never thought it was for her.

“I was actually very fearful of it,” Cabral said. “Now, I actually love it. I’ve put more miles on my bike than my brother has on his Harley.”
Founder Cindy Runey of Scituate, Sue Cabral of Scituate, Donna "Deeg" Gillis of Easton, Sue Gillespie of Plymouth, and Diane Anselmo of Pembroke. Photo by Lisa Bul

One day, a friend of Cabral’s suggested they take a course in motorcycle riding. In the spirit of tackling something she never thought she would, Cabral hopped on a motorcycle and never got off.

These days, she rides a Honda VTX1300. She’s always lining up a “motorcycle vacation” - weeklong, mile-intensive excursions. She recently traveled on her bike from Florida to Provincetown. Locally, a popular route for the group starts at the Hull waterfront and heads toward Cohasset on Jerusalem Road.

Runey started riding as a student at UMass/Amherst. Her small Honda 175 did the job of getting her from her apartment to, and then around, campus. It sure beat the cramped campus shuttle bus.

She stopped riding for 25 years after that, but rediscovered it when her personal life took an unexpected turn.

“I fell into the category of ending a relationship and saying, ‘huh, what now?’” Runey said. “I ran into an old friend and they had a motorcycle in their garage.”

Runey was soon back on two wheels and, through New England Thunder, is looking to spread the value it has brought to her life. Cabral, who works as a sales manager for a shoe company, is looking to do the same. She expects others to join her, even if they never thought motorcycles were for them.

“For women, a lot of (getting involved in motorcycles) could be the mid-life crisis,” Cabral said. “The kids are now grown, they’re looking for something else to do. Men go through it, women go through it.”

Jack Encarnacao may be reached at jencarnacao@ledger.com.