Women Riders

Getting Back On: Gypsy Hine

Written by  May 30, 2015

“Don’t over-think it because the fear will cripple you more than any accident.” This seems to be the overall message from the women I’ve written about and was said to me by Gypsy Hine; a woman who would know this more than most.

Gypsy grew up around motorcycles. Her father rode, as did all her uncles. When I asked her when she first rode, her answer was “When I was still in my mother’s belly.” She bought her first bike when she was in her early 20s; a 1974 Honda CV750 that cost her all of $400. “An ugly yellow SOB, but it was mine,“ she said with a laugh. Gypsy laughs easy, but her life hasn’t been as easy as that laugh since that fateful day in 2007.

It wasn’t Gypsy’s first accident; in 2000, sitting on her stalled 1973 Triumph trying to get it started, she was clipped on the leg. She was lucky that time. Seven years later, she would defy the odds in more than one way.

It was after midnight on April 29, 2007. Gypsy had just left her favorite watering hole. She was always careful, no more than one beer an hour and never a beer close to leaving time. Always time those beers so you’re sober when riding and she did. Going down the road towards home, a truck with blinding headlights came up behind her, too close for comfort. She knew she could make a left just ahead to get away from this person. As Gypsy was into the turn, out of nowhere, a police car came up, which was clearly speeding, but with no lights flashing and no siren. Gypsy smashed into the car.

She remembers nothing about the crash, which is probably a good thing. Her husband got the call that his wife might not make it through the night. Both hips broken, broken right shoulder, compound fracture of the left arm, internal injuries to the point she lost all but three teaspoons of blood. Her veins had collapsed. Gypsy and Butch had been married just two years and nine months. She had left her job as an airplane mechanic just a week before.

Doctors had their work cut out for them, but they plunged ahead. Where there’s breath, there is hope, and they worked to put Gypsy back together. She had external fixators to put her hips back together. Her right shoulder has a titanium plate. Her left arm was pinned. She listed the injuries so fast I don’t know that I got them all.

Home again; Butch had to help Gypsy learn to walk again. She lost a tremendous amount of weight, so carrying her was no problem except for the fixators. Gypsy said he had been gored by them more than once. With two injured arms, and the rods sticking out of her sides, she couldn’t use crutches or sit in a wheel chair. Plus, Butch had his daughter to take care of as well, who is severely handicapped. Gypsy calls him a “keeper” and a “saint.” For three and a half months, he pushed her, helped her, and she persevered. But it wasn’t over. Gypsy’s left arm wasn’t healing right. The pins were damaging the bone, and the muscles began to atrophy. The arm was useless, misshapen and painful. It had to go.

When I asked Gypsy why did she get back on a bike after all of this, she replied that she was “losing her mind” not being able to ride. The healing process, including the loss of her left arm, took a year and a half. When she decided she had to try and ride again, she knew she would need two things: A bike she could handle, and an arm to handle it.

Her bike is a custom built hardtail she named “Chump Change.” It is fitted with an EFM auto clutch that allows shifting at lower RPMs, and allows the rider to take off and stop, simply by using the throttle and without touching the clutch lever. Next step: getting an arm worthy of riding.

In 1967, motorcycle racer Chris Draayer lost his arm in a crash. Not wanting to give up riding, he called on his good friend Mert Lawwill, to design a prosthesis a rider could use. The device allowed Draayer to continue racing, and Mert saw a need to refine and manufacture his device. With Draayer as his tester, the prosthesis was further refined and introduced to the public. The “hand” is a ball, which snaps into a socket attached to the handlebars, and Gypsy was back riding.

It wasn’t easy adjusting to being one handed. Gypsy said, “I put Butch through hell for awhile while I got my head around it,” but she feels her outlook on life is the same, except maybe a bit brighter. “I’m hard to kill,” Gypsy told me. “It’s good to know that.”