Dancer turned motobiker goes the distance for 100 Miles for Hope

Vice-chair of Auxiliary Unit 40 in New London, N.H., Allyson Murphy has always been a competitor — and an athlete. Trained as a ballerina, she’s been a professional dancer, a college cheerleader, an amateur skier and mountain biker, and had even won a national dance competition in two-step.

This year, she’s participating in 100 Miles for Hope, a fitness/wellness event in which participants log 100 miles by Labor Day as they fundraise for The American Legion Veterans & Children Foundation. All proceeds from registrations and donations go directly to supporting disabled veterans and military families. (Learn more and register for the third annual challenge here.) This is her second time taking part in the challenge, and she’s logging miles walking, on her Peloton and on her motobikes, as a dirt bike rider and adventure biker.

Her husband, Bill Brown, is an Army veteran who served with the 82nd Airborne and is a Legionnaire at Post 40. Her father, Gerald Murphy, was also a veteran. He served as a dentist with the Navy. The community and mission of 100 Miles for Hope was a natural fit — and so was the competition.

“I get goosebumps every morning I go onto the (100 Miles for Hope) site,” Murphy said. “It’s always really cool to see the participants and see who’s moving up the chain, who’s not,” she said, admitting she’s gone into Strava to “investigate” the people on the leaderboard.

She’s already surpassed her goal of raising $500 for the V&CF, and by early May, she’d logged more than 400 miles. The first motobike ride of this season “to get the cobwebs out,” the first weekend of May, was cold.

Murphy rides with Brown. (They met at a ski club. A fellow mountain biker, Brown shared Murphy’s passion for going downhill at high speed.) She transitioned into dirt biking — essentially mountain biking with a motor — when they married, about 15 years ago, riding a KTM 200. It can be used for motocross, racing and jumping, but Murphy prefers catching speed and air in nature to being in an arena.

“The first thing that comes to mind: feeling like you are just standing on a motorcycle — totally balanced, just going through the woods — it’s exhilarating,” she said. “You’re enjoying nature and you’re enjoying the smells and the beauty of some of these areas — we see old cemeteries. You go to places that probably some people will never see, and you can do that with the motorcycle. Some of these roads that a car can’t go down. I feel strong. It rejuvenates me to do my day job after a weekend of riding. It’s like an attitude readjustment. It really is. It just feels awesome.”

Not everyone is a fan.

“It makes my mother nuts,” Murphy said. “I will never forget the day I showed up with my dirt bike with my husband … and the look on her face. And I remember my father saying, ‘And she was a ballerina once.’”

Watching “The Long Way Round,” a docuseries about two actors motobiking around the world, led her to adventure biking — riding longer distances on and off road on a bigger bike — several years ago. She and Brown have a goal of traveling all the way to Wyoming on backroads in the next few years.

She said she catches speed while adventure biking, but the bike is two to three times heavier than the typical motocross bike. She’s taken classes and workshops to improve her skills and cross-trains during the off-season on her Peloton, which she bought pre-pandemic.

Since her days as a cheerleader, Murphy said she’s used to people underestimating the athleticism in her sports. She said motobiking requires endurance, balance, strength, cardio and core. Plus, riders don gear from head to toe, adding what Murphy estimates is an extra 10 pounds.

“One of the things that people don’t realize is that adventure riding is not sitting on your butt on the motorcycle. I’m actually standing,” she said. “The stuff we’re in is not flat. It’s rocks and roots.”

In the future, Murphy hopes to see more women on the trails.

“I wish there were more women that were doing it because it’s not so scary. It’s like having a handgun. It’s not that scary once you get trained,” she said. “It’s so much more enjoyable (than riding on the back of someone else’s). You are in control of your own destiny. For me to get on the back of a motorcycle now? It’s only if my husband’s motorcycle breaks down and he has to get on the back of my motorcycle.”