The Harley-Davidson Riding Academy Experience

Here are some of the course materials, including the Certificate of Completion

Prior to Saturday, I had never ridden a motorcycle on my own. Dirtbike, yes. Passenger, yes. But I had no idea what “roll on the throttle” and “ease out the clutch” meant in action. I had no clue what it felt like to have control of the bike for myself. I had basic knowledge thanks to countless lessons from my dad while we sat in the garage, but taking ideas and putting them to action was something I had yet to experience – until Saturday.

I will absolutely admit that I was lying awake in strange mix of fear and joy Friday night. In all honesty, it wasn’t tipping the bike or even getting hurt that had me feeling nervous, it was the thought that I might not be fit for riding. The idea of being “coached out” of the class due to a lack of ability made me feel absolutely petrified. All my life I have dreamed of the day I get to ride next to my dad on my own bike. I could not shake the terror I felt for the idea that may never happen.

Needless to say, City Limits Harley-Davidson has some amazing teachers and an excellent program set-up for beginning riders. The step-by-step introduction to riding made me feel more at ease than being thrown into the deep-end as a self-taught rider. Taking the class and reviewing concepts from the Basic Ridercourse book on Thursday and Friday, and then putting those skills to action by riding on Saturday and Sunday with discussion breaks was extremely beneficial.

Was I perfect at everything? Absolutely not.

Did I successfully pass the rider course? Yes.

The bikes used are the Harley-Davidson Street 500, a super fun & comfortable ride.

Did I have a ton of fun? Absolutely.

The Harley-Davidson Riding Academy entailed two evenings in the classroom and two days of riding with discussion time during and after. The class ends with a practice run at the Illinois motorcycle license test – both written and riding. The instructors provide helpful feedback along each step of the process and the learning is extremely individualized.

While I definitely need more practice before I hit the road, I went from never riding before to weaving between cones, shifting gears, trying out counter-steering and genuinely riding on my own in the course of just two days. My mom, who took the class with me, also successfully passed thanks to the excellent teaching and curriculum Harley-Davidson offers. It just goes to show, whether you’re 20 or 50, riding can be for anyone.

Mom & I – So proud of us for beating the nerves and learning to ride!

Given the alarming statistics involving accidents and fatalities of self-taught riders, I would recommend this class to anyone looking to officially get their motorcycle license as either a beginner or experienced rider. Even if you have been on the road for years, you may be practicing some poor or unsafe habits without even realizing. If you have never ridden before, it is in your best interest to start out in with the safest skill set possible. The purpose of the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy is to get more motorcyclists on the road and to keep them there for many years to come by introducing safe riding habits and skills. I definitely feel confident in my ability to flourish as a rider in the coming months and years thanks to the excellent foundation I was given in this course.

If you’re looking to get into riding, I cannot recommend this course enough. It is thorough and comprehensive, but still extremely individualized. What’s more, it will give you a feel for the supportive nature of the riding community. My mom and I grabbed lunch with one of the other ladies in our class, we were congratulated by random people walking around the dealership, and others who had taken the class before were absolutely thrilled to see we were learning. While it was a little nerve-wracking, taking this major step in learning how to ride only makes me excited for the journey to come.

Out to lunch with fellow classmates. If you’re in the Chicago area, check out Alley 64!

As my instructor explained on Sunday, the class is meant to be a “celebration of knowledge” by the end of the weekend. Overall, they’re teaching you the steps it takes to ride safe and smart while ensuring you “enjoy the ride”.

If you’d like to hear more about the learning experience, feel free to message me on Instagram @feminist_motorist or through email at FeministMotorist@gmail.com.

Cannot wait to continue this riding journey!
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Tips & Tricks for Riding Trips

Riding with my dad, Rolling Thunder 2018

With the very last Rolling Thunder Rally just around the corner, I can’t help but reminisce on the outstanding adventure my dad and I took last May. From Chicago to Washington DC, starting at 4 am and riding all the way to hit a weekend surrounded by fellow riders and bikes as far as the eye can see.

Traffic is terrible, unless you’re in motorcycle traffic. Then you feel like you’re in an electric sea of rumbling noise and happy people.

This year, my little sister is taking the long journey with my dad, but I will save the details of our adventures for Rally Day.

What I really want to address is how we prepared for a trip that would last 5 days when we rode the whole way. Unlike flying, your motorcycle doesn’t come with overhead storage. Taking a long trip on a bike is a stellar experience, but it shouldn’t be totally spontaneous or you may end up sorry, or terribly unprepared.

Lincoln Memorial with my Dad

Based on our adventure, there are a few tips and tricks I have for anyone looking to take a long, worthwhile, haul on their bike.

Water

US Marine Corps Memorial, Washington Monument, US Capitol Building

If you are going to ride long distance, especially in the heat, you need to get water. While I usually avoid plastic bottles like a disease, these types of trips offer an exception to the rule. Since stops for gas are relatively frequent on a motorcycle road trip, while you’re at it, run inside the station and grab a bottle of water too. Chug it down before hopping back on the bike. Don’t worry about the bathroom trips, odds are you are sweating and heating up on the bike enough to last until the next stop just fine. Staying hydrated means maintaining focus, avoiding fatigue and headaches, and just taking care of your body during a long journey. Once you’re done, recycle the bottle. No clutter or extra weight on the bike needed.

Rain Gear

Washington Monument

Our ride to Washington D.C. was like a movie montage. The sun was warm and welcoming, the flowers were blooming, the grass was lush and green. It was truly a gorgeous day. The same was not true when we were heading back home. In fact, we made a pit stop for gas in Indiana and watched as within two minutes of making it under the gas station canopy, dark and angry clouds rolled in and released a torrential downpour. Our phones were bleeping weather warnings, the wind was bending the trees. We yanked out our heavy-duty riding rain gear, dressed up and hopped on the bike. Needless to say, it felt like my legs were being pelted by rocks the rain was coming down so heavily, but we stayed nice and dry thanks to proper gear and preparing adequately.

Shipping

Rolling Thunder Lineup at the Pentagon

FedEx was truly our friend for this trip. Since Washington DC is a busy urban area, we had a plethora of shipping options. We still packed light in order to keep the package price down, but with a backpack each, the cost to send our bags to Washington DC from Chicago was about $20. Once we made it to DC, we broke down the boxes and put on our backpacks until we made it to the hotel. Same thing heading home, only we re-packed our bags and sent them off. Using this option meant we had plenty of extra space on the back of the bike during the ride for rain gear, emergency tools, and a set of spare clothes in case the package arrived late, and the like. This was an excellent option for us, but be sure to only pack what you will definitely need and use. The lighter your bag, the cheaper this shipping.

Hair Care

Chilling on Capitol Hill

This one is for the lady riders. I know that by the time we made it to Washington DC after riding for 14 hours, my hair was basically one giant knot. If you have long hair and know how to braid, definitely take that route. French braids will keep your hair tame for most of the ride and keep it from getting in your way. Be sure to wear them a bit loose so you don’t have headaches or pain. For those of us with shorter hair, packing a little collapsible travel brush is a great option. Travel-size dry shampoo also doesn’t take up space and was my favorite during this trip. Helmet hair makes my hair look, admittedly, gross. Using a spray or two of dry shampoo was perfect before heading into a restaurant. You’ll also find that headbands and bandanas are your friend on trips like these.

Fuel

Dad & Uncle chilling with their Harley’s at the Lincoln Memorial

My dad and I had the joyous pleasure of running out of gas. We had to foot the bike a mile with my Uncle and a highway safety patrol following behind us until we made it to the gas station. Again, just a mile away. What would have been really great in this situation is a fuel bottle or two. Most of these come with holsters as well, making them easy to travel with. Unfortunately, with all of the highway construction happening in Ohio last May, we were unprepared for the large gaps between stops. Preparing for even the most potentially unlikely situations is a good call when it comes to riding, especially on long trips like these. Don’t learn that the hard way.

Ultimately, if you want to have the best riding road trip experience, know what’s best for you and definitely take the time to prepare. There is nothing worse than hindering an amazing adventure with a lack of preparedness that could have been easily avoided.

Keep an eye out for more posts as we continue the countdown to Rolling Thunder 2019

She Wolf Moto Co.

Happy International Female Ride Day!

With the celebration of this excellent occasion, I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about a female-owned motorcycle company that is doing some outstanding work – She Wolf Moto Co.

Photo by Isaac Larios

Founded by Nina Marin and based in Orange County, California, She Wolf Moto Co. is a collaboration passions and interests into a cohesive and well-meaning company. By intermixing veganism, motorcycles, vintage and horror – the business has certainly gained well-earned attention and support.

Unlike many riding products in circulation today, She Wolf Moto Co. advocates for raising awareness around animal cruelty and seeks to educate the community on the intricacies of these issues in a proactive and polite way. While the motorcycle community is leather-heavy, Marin’s belief is that there is plenty of space to make the riding community as ethical and cruelty-free as possible. In her eyes, everything helps.

Photo by Isaac Larios

On top of their ambitions in advocacy, She Wolf Moto Co. stands by their mission through donating a portion of their profits on a monthly basis to various organization that advocate against animal cruelty. As the business grows, their goal is to start fundraising rides for charities and to volunteer at events, such as those for animal adoptions. In the future, they also hope to have curated the perfect vegan material for safe and sustainable motorcycle gear such as gloves, jackets and other accessories. Beyond these localized ambitions, She Wolf Moto Co. hopes to continue expanding, as they are accomplishing with She Wolf Moto Co. East Coast, in order to assist more charities and reach new bounds.

The outstanding work of this female-owned motorcycle-oriented business does not stop with animal activism. She Wolf Moto Co. also provides a spotlight for local artists by collaborating for their apparel designs. Stacey Newmayer created their Logo Ringer Tee. Their Ride Hogs Pet Dogs tee was created by Tokyo Hiro. Proceeds from this shirt also support the Rock and Roll Rescue shelter, run by Hiro’s wife. She Wolf has also featured work by Howlin’ Wolf Tattoo Co. artists.

Photo by Isaac Larios

The more I learn about She Wolf Moto Co. the more excited I am to see this brand flourish. I could not have found a better business to feature for International Female Ride Day. Marin firmly believes that there is a necessity for female-oriented moto brands and is ecstatic at the positive response her business has garnered from women in the community. It is a reminder for how badly these types of organizations are needed, and she is thrilled to be a part of such an empowering community and movement.

Marin explains this connection to the riding community in the perfect way

“I’ve seriously found my pack”

Frankly, when it comes to women in the riding community, I couldn’t agree more.

Go follow She Wolf Moto Co on Facebook and Instagram. Support their cause by checking out their website as well. Ride on today, ladies! And May the Fourth be with you…

Photo Courtesy of Giphy

Feminism. Let’s Talk About It.

Rally Against Rape Culture – Spring 2019

In my past few posts I have worked to diffuse stereotypes surrounding motorcyclists and riding culture. There are many negative ideas floating around about what being a rider really is, and obviously, the same applies to feminism. As “The Feminist Motorist”, I feel obligated to address the stigmas surrounding the other facet of my title – Feminist.

So, what really is the deal with feminism?

To a lot of people, “feminist” elicits the same response as “biker”. From blunt responses of disapproval to awkward facial expressions – I have experienced the works when it comes to my love for motorcycling and my passion for feminist activism. More often than not, people don’t like either of these identifying factors and that, has a lot to do with incorrect stigmas.

My identification with feminism stems from personal experience, my work as an advocate, interactions with individuals of all genders, research, and a drive to combat forces of injustice.

I remember in third grade I was up late, writing fervently on a stack of notecards to the light of my nightstand lamp. My mom came into my room, flustered with the fact that I was somehow just finishing homework. “It’s not homework. I’m writing a speech.”

My mom was puzzled. I proceeded to explain that I looked through my entire school calendar and we did not have a single national holiday listed in honor of a woman. I was mad. Furious. So, at age nine, I decided to write a speech about it in protest.

Follow my fellow feminists, Indira and Crystal for more feminism. PC: Shayna

Go ahead, bring on the “angry feminist” tropes, but I think nine year-old me had the right idea. Feminism means equality, and I was not seeing that applied to who gets recognized in national holidays, in my school books, in movies, or in office. Heading into 5th grade I carried this experience with me, dreaming to become the first woman to ever walk on the moon. To the disbelief of my peers, I would constantly recite how unjust it was that “24 men had been on the moon, but no women!”

While my aspirations of walking the moon halted with my progressing distaste for mathematics, my feminist ideals never faltered. It was not until my sophomore year of high school, however, that I learned there was an identifier for these feelings I had towards injustice. I finally learned about “feminism”, the radical notion that women are people and should consequently be treated as such.

Feminism means that catcalling and objectification are unacceptable.

Feminism means that men can cry if they are suffering emotional burdens.

Feminism means that girls can play football and boys can try ballet if they want to.

Feminism means that dad can do the dishes and cook while mom mows the lawn.

Feminism means equality. Not superiority. Not “women are better”.

Us feminists – being so aggressive and stoic. Follow Crystal and Indira for their take!

I have carried this identifying factor with me since being enlightened to its meaning. This also means I have faced excessive amounts of dissent for calling myself a feminist. People believe they are creative when they tell me to “go back to the kitchen” or “know your place” or “FemiNazi” or, a personal favorite “If guys and girls are equal that means I can hit you.”

That last one. That is where my activism comes in. My identification with feminism is not something I let linger in the open air without a basis or purpose. I am currently the President of Students Against Sexual Assault at the University of Illinois. In this position, among many responsibilities, I advocate for survivors of sexual violence, educate the community, and push for change in legislation and perception. When individuals joke around that equality means women can be hit, I always turn around explain that women are already being hit plenty. In fact, 1 in 3 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetimes.

With factors like these in mind, I also emphasize the way these issues impact both women and men. My work in this activist field all began with a high school research paper on sexual assault in the armed forces – a drastic problem that impacts the lives of both women and men who serve our nation.

Feminism means equality. It means injustice pervades the gender binary and must be addressed as such.

Rally Against Rape Culture – Spring 2019

I am a Feminist. I will never change my mind about identifying this way. I find this platform is an opportunity to emphasize and highlight the amazing work of women in ways I never saw as a little girl.

Feminism is not about burning bras and smearing period blood in random places to make a statement, just as motorcycling is not about getting in bar fights and organized crime.

My father recently told me the greatest compliment I have received in light of my passion for this form of activism. He said: “I saw a quote that reminded me of you the other day. It was…”

Photo courtesy of YourQuote.in

I was raised, not to be a feminist, but to raise hell. I like to think I’m getting this done, muddling through a swamp of stigmas. I am The Feminist Motorist. Loud and proud.

Feminism included.

Follow Indira’s Inner Beauty, A Write in Shining Armor and Shayna’s Diary for more female empowerment!

BlackCat Motorcycles & Coffee

Photo courtesy of BCMC

Motorcycles, coffee, community building, charity, supporting local artists and small business…honestly, BlackCat Motorcycles & Coffee embodies the spirit of the motorcycle community perfectly. It is for this reason I want to talk about them today while also promoting their amazing work and products.

As I have covered in the past, there are plenty of stereotypes and stigmas surrounding motorcyclists. While many people think riders are all about tattoo sleeves and bad-attitudes, it is businesses and organizations like BCMC that represent the actuality of the riding community.

Working with the community in Orange County, California to aid and decrease homelessness, 10% of each purchase from BCMC goes to “self care” kits for their homeless population. These kits include toothbrushes, small snacks, socks, and the like. BCMC also supports other small businesses and nonprofit organizations across the United States through coffee partnerships. Their work is embodied by their story, detailed on their website, ending with the message –

“Coffee and motorcycles are our hobbies, but people are our passion.” – BlackCat Motorcycles & Coffee


Photo courtesy of BCMC

Owners Nick Galaura and Cory Linman are equally enthusiastic about having a positive impact by supporting the people around them. BCMC emphasizes this sense of community through their company blog. Posts written by Galaura cover stories and events in the community, personal life, and the like. These posts are personal and achieve something you won’t get out of most other businesses – a connection with the owners.

The reason why the motorcycle community is so amazing is not just because businesses like BCMC exist and effectively make a positive difference, but because other members of the riding community gather to support these ambitions. The Litas Los Angeles, for instance, are constantly keeping up with BCMC on Instagram. This realm of support is not surprising given the way BCMC works to support female-centered brands and women’s empowerment in the motorcycle community as well.


Photo courtesy of BCMC

If you still aren’t convinced that you should switch from Starbucks to BCMC in the morning, then go check out the way they interact with their amazing intern, Megan. No other business would put the spotlight on their intern, but Galaura makes an effort to playfully emphasize Megan, her work, and their goofy relationship. It is clear that the company and its owners care for the well being of the people around them. From my experience following their #MondaysWithMegan stories on Instagram, it seems like she landed the best internship out there.


Photo courtesy of BCMC

As for their efforts promoting local artists, other small businesses and nonprofits, BCMC has a feature on their Instagram highlights called “friendship”. That’s right. Supporters of their cause are referred to as “friends”. I have yet to come across a business that is this rooted in kindness. These featured brands are plentiful, but include Babes Ride Out, Efficacy Clothing, and any individual supporting and posting about their brand.  

The stigmas surrounding the motorcycle community are prominent and misguided. I hope that the growth of businesses and groups like BCMC succeed in dispelling these stigmas and showing the reality of the motorcycling community. Sure, we might rock a bunch of tattoos and wear lots of black, but I have never come across a more caring collective of people than those in the riding community – BCMC highlights just that.

Go Fast, Don’t Die

Image Courtesy of Go Fast Don’t Die

You can’t go wrong with a brand based on “mischief, mayhem, motorcycles”. Go Fast Don’t Die is all about digging into the playful spirit of motorcyclists. While they may not seem like it based on the daredevil spunk they promote, in a way that links to my last post – they care about safety.

Going fast is fun, but you won’t be going very fast anymore if you totally remove safety and sense from the picture. Go Fast Don’t Die stands for the necessity of mayhem-raising responsibly, and I want to explore the importance of this message along with other work members of the motorcycle community are doing to promote this ideal.

If you take a minute to scroll through the Go Fast Don’t Die Instagram feed, you will quickly find picture after picture that embody their message:

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow what a ride!’ ”  – Hunter S. Thompson.

Photo Courtesy of Eventbrite – 3rd Annual Devilstone Run

But through the stunts, scrapes and speed, you will also find helmets. While the brand pushes for the idea that life is meant to be lived, they advertise the essential nature of wearing proper gear – even doing a Biltwell helmet giveaway during the holiday season this past year.

Go Fast Don’t Die is not the only motorcycle brand working hard to support helmet-wearing. The Litas post “helmet goals”. From posting helmets with unique designs and artwork, selling stickers designed specifically for helmets, and even encouraging their members to sign pledges to wear a helmet every time they get on the bike, The Litas are making an effort to address biker safety in all areas, including encouraging members to #RageResponsibly by never riding after drinking.

Photo courtesy of Go Fast Don’t Die

The motorcycle community as a whole seems to be placing more of an emphasis than ever on the importance of wearing proper gear. April, in fact, is ‘Check Your Helmet’ month. Big-name companies like Harley-Davidson are taking this as an opportunity to ensure that riders are not just wearing helmets, they are wearing ones that will actually protect them if an accident were to occur. Check Your Helmet month seeks to encourage riders to replace helmets that are over 5 years old. Making sure a helmet fits properly and is from a reliable manufacturer is also essential. To encourage this, Harley dealers across the U.S. are providing measurements, consultations and even helmet care tips for ensuring the highest degree of safety.

While helmets like those supported by Harley-Davidson come at a cost, with some of the best Arai helmets ranging from $500 – $1,000+ in price, the cost of a fatal head injury at the hands of an insubstantial, or worse, unused helmet make this kind of splurge worthwhile.

Regardless of what style you choose, what colors you prefer, or even what stickers you add, wearing a helmet is a must and it is a great way to stick with the premise “Go fast, don’t die”, because honestly, if statistics show anything, if you aren’t wearing a helmet – you really just might.

Photo courtesy of Go Fast Dont Die – Linkedin

Safety Stigmas

In and out of consciousness, dazed on the ground with a drizzle of rain pattering against his face, an unfamiliar voice told him to keep his eyes open and stay awake. His motorcycle, bent in all directions, looked like a Banksy piece. His helmet seemed like an overexcited lumberjack got to it. Laying on the side of the road until he was hoisted into an ambulance and rushed to the emergency room – my uncle was hit by a driver going the wrong way down a one-way street. The neighbor ran out and called 911. He was sure my uncle was dead, seeing that he went flying. The driver sped away like the cruel fool they are.

This past summer the same uncle rode 14 hours to Washington D.C. from Chicago with my dad and I. He didn’t die that day back in the summer of 2000, and he didn’t give up riding either.

My uncle behind my dad and I at Rolling Thunder 2018

When I express my interest in motorcycling to people the first thing they bring up is the dangers and how unsafe it is. This premise constantly frustrates me as it is wholly representative of how easy it is to spread “misknowledge”. There is a 1 in 649 lifetime odd for pedestrian fatalities, whereas motorcycling comes with a 1 in 770 lifetime odd. You are truly more likely to die by walking down the street than you are riding on it.

What’s more, these motorcycle safety statistics are skewed by riders who do not practice responsible or safe habits. Approximately 43% of all fatal motorcycle crashes involve alcohol. In 2016, 33% of all fatal motorcycle crashes involved speeding. 27% of all motorcyclists involved in accidents did not have valid motorcycle licenses. 92% of motorcycle accidents occur to self-taught riders. Furthermore, the National Highway and Safety Administration estimated that in 2016 helmets saved approximately 1,859 lives.

Bike and helmet, a match made in heaven. Photo taken in D.C. where helmets are legally required!

When people bring up the issue of safety I also can’t help but feel a little sad. These individuals are letting the possibility for some amazing access to adventure slip away at the hands of stigma. 150 people die a year from falling coconuts. That seems like something that only happens to monkeys in cartoons, but really, it can happen to anyone taking a selfie by a palm tree – makes that Daytona Beach trip seem a little scarier, right? Wrong. We should not let our fears control our every move and every decision. This limits our access to amazing adventures and possibilities. Taking responsible risks is what makes life, well, livable.

The face of a responsible risk taker…

As a beginning rider, I am excited to be starting this journey as a responsible risk taker.

For anyone hesitant to ride, I would encourage them to take this same path. Recently, I got my motorcycle permit by taking the written test at the DMV one tedious Saturday morning. In May, I will be taking the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy Course and, upon completion, will receive my motorcycle license. Armored riding gear and a helmet is something I wear every time I get on the bike. As for drinking and riding, it astounds me to no end that people would ever consider getting behind the wheel of a car, much less ride a motorcycle after drinking. Along with speeding, this is irresponsible and unsafe behavior that adds to negative stigmas surrounding motorcycling and the dangers of it.

When it comes down to it, if people do not feel inclined to ride I am obviously in no position to make them feel otherwise. For individuals who feel interested, intrigued or even mildly fascinated by the idea of riding, I hope my experiences as a beginner taking the proper steps towards safe and responsible riding will be helpful in dispelling hesitancy. Motorcycling definitely comes with risks and potential dangers, but honestly, so does everything. From falling TVs to vending machines, it seems anything we do comes with a potential risk. What good is it to hide in a room and shy away from life’s potential experiences though? After all, the roof might eventually collapse on your head.

For more on safety, keep your eyes peeled for this Friday’s upcoming piece Go Fast, Don’t Die.

Gif courtesy of Giphy.com

Sources:

https://blog.timesunion.com/healthcare/how-are-you-likely-to-die-here-are-the-odds-of-dying/2515/

https://one.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/motorcycle/safebike/anatomy.html

https://www.hg.org/legal-articles/little-known-facts-about-motorcycle-accidents-31124

https://www.ghsa.org/issues/motorcycle-safety

https://www.ranker.com/list/surprising-death-statistics/jacob-shelton

How Being a Rider is Not Like “Sons of Anarchy”

Image courtesy of Tunefind

In light of addressing stereotypes with my last post, I thought I would continue the trend today. A lot of people tend to have some truly misled perceptions on what it means to be a motorcyclist and what the members of the community are really up to. I think a lot of this stems from what the media highlights as “biker culture” as opposed to what this community is really involved in. While I am admittedly a fan of Sons of Anarchy, I definitely see the ways it perpetuates certain stigmas and contributes to some of these misleading stereotypes. I want to take this as an opportunity to address what being a biker is really about as compared to what shows like Sons of Anarchy and other forms of media seem to display.

Rolling Thunder Memorial Day Ride/Rally – Summer 2018

One of the biggest stereotypes I can probably point out is the concept that every motorcycle club is actually involved with organized crime. From my experience, many clubs are actually contributing positively to the communities around them. A few favorite examples are the Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), Justice Rescue, Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club, Bikers for Books, and American Bikers Aimed Towards Education. Among the work these specific clubs accomplish, motorcyclists are constantly riding for a cause – from raising awareness about mental illness, to participating in Relay for Life, these clubs are building up the people around them – not taking them down SAMCRO style.

Photo courtesy of Babes Ride Out 4

Another stereotype that exists thanks to media is that motorcycling is for men. Scarcely do you see women leading the pack, riding alone, or not on the back of some guy’s bike in movies and television. This is another stereotype that needs to be dismissed, especially given the growing number of women independently joining the riding community. What’s more, shows like Sons of Anarchy represent negative views towards women or, at the very least, unhealthy relationships. This sort of representation is also a fallacy in my experiences. Men in the riding community, like Adam Sandoval, are very supportive of  female representation and participation. From having his girlfriend ride to Sturgis alongside him and vlogging a day riding with The Litas Sandoval is just one great example of how women are being welcome with open arms as opposed to stigmatization.

I find another stereotype that media brings about surrounding motorcyclists is that you need to fit a certain “mold”. If you aren’t tough and mean, smoking and drinking, denouncing the law, inked up and wearing black, sporting piercings and a long beard – you don’t fit in. This is anything but the truth, especially today. Anyone walking down the block could be heading over to their motorcycle. I think this stigma is one that may potentially deter others from riding, when truthfully, there’s no mold to fit. As long as you are excited about riding and the promise of adventure, you are good to go.

Photo courtesy of The Litas

While the list of stereotypes goes on, and while they come with some occasional truths, it is important to know that these stigmas are often far from accurate for most riders. If you feel hesitant to join the riding community because it seems like a “scary” place – don’t be fooled. Bikers are really just everyday people, only slightly cooler because they ride, of course.

Gif courtesy of Giphy

Traits You Need To Be A True Rider

Covered in tattoos, smoking a cigarette, scar under the eye, leather on leather on more leather with a skull bandana and a bad attitude – you know them, you’ve seen them, this is a motorcyclist. If you want to be one of them, here’s what you need to fit the mold…

1. The Look.

Image Courtesy of Etsy, Domain Pounds Art Shop Print

If you are going to be a motorcyclist you need to look the part. You won’t be accepted in this community if you go around wearing clothes that don’t scream “I’m going to punch you in the neck”. You need to wear black – all black. The more leather the better. Anything with skulls, a middle finger, or profanities is a bonus. If you have any scars, make sure they are visible. If you don’t have any scars, well, you better get some. Most importantly, you need tattoos. If your arms aren’t covered in ink people will start thinking you’re a yuppie who drives a BMW and drinks rosé. We can’t have that in the motorcycle community. God forbid everyday people start riding.

2. The Habits.

Image courtesy of Tumblr

If you don’t smoke, drink, and get roughed up on the regular, then you aren’t fit to be a motorcyclist. If you really want to fit in with this crowd you need to smoke – on the bike, off the bike, in the rain, in the shower, in church, at parent-teacher conferences, and wake up at night to smoke some more just for safe measure. If you don’t like drinking – too bad. Lather some whiskey on like lotion so you always smell like a musty pub. If you’re not a smoker and a drinker nobody will ever believe you’re a rider. Don’t forget to pick a fight at least once a week. As mentioned before, if you don’t have any scars you better get some soon.

3. The Attitude

Image courtesy of weheartit.com

Don’t ever let anyone see you being nice. Ever. Riders are notoriously mean, scary and nasty. You are expected to be bad to the bone. If you aren’t literally stealing candy from babies then can you even be considered a motorcyclist? The answer is no. Growl at people when they say hello. Spit at people who ask you questions. Most importantly, never show respect to “authority”. If you want to fit the mold, you need people to run and hide when you ride into town.

4. The Risks.

Image courtesy of Redbubble, Deniart

If you are wearing a helmet, you are not fit to be a true rider. Only the biggest risk-takers can truly fit the mold. Wearing a helmet while you ride means you don’t have the guts to ride without one. Popping wheelies, zooming through traffic, riding after a night at the bar, all of these are habits of a true rider. If you aren’t capable of taking bold risks then nobody is going to find you intimidating or hardcore enough to be a real rider.

5. The Truth.

In case you couldn’t tell by the first sentence, this piece was a little April Fool’s satire! If you are a motorcyclist, know a motorcyclist or have even met anyone who rides in passing – you know this list is anything but true. In fact, these are the unfortunate stereotypes that riders often get associated with. In my experience, the riding community is full of some of the kindest, most considerate, supportive, family-oriented people around. If you really want to fit the mold of a motorcyclist, all you really need is a motorcycle, a helmet, and a sense of adventure. Happy April Fool’s and Ride On!

Love this stereotype “biker” clip from the Sponge-Bob Movie

Lady-Owned Moto Brands You Need to Check Out

I want to start out by saying this list is in no way exhaustive. There are so many women doing truly amazing things within the scope of the motorcycle community and that makes me beam with excitement. This list represents the brands that spark my interest and also represent the intimate and kind-hearted nature of small-businesses that I absolutely adore and appreciate. When you order from these brands, you are helping to put meals on tables and fresh tires on the bike. If you are looking to gift the lady rider in your life, or even just treat yourself, these brands offer some truly amazing options.

Desert Condor

Image courtesy of desertcondor.com – Love her work.

If you want to sport some of the most amazing handmade jewelry ever, definitely check out Desert Condor. Besides jewelry, she also makes boot straps, gremlin bells, hats, leather wallets and other unique custom items. By supporting Desert Condor, not only are you getting some beautifully made work, you are also supporting a lady rider and a mom. Check out her Instagram and you’ll know right away how important her family, her work and her bike are. I cannot rave enough about unique and beautiful her creations are.

Breaking Hearts & Burning Rubber

Image courtesy of Breaking Hearts & Burning Rubber – love the “Vermont” boot.

If you are a lady struggling to find boots or gear that fit you well, then BH & BR is going to be perfect for you. Started by a woman frustrated with her lack of options after riding for over a decade, BH & BR was born. As someone who is extremely small, finding gear that fits well can be a struggle. BH & BR is all about making women’s motorcycle gear and leather goods that are trendy but also fitting and functional. As opposed to clomping around in boots that just don’t seem right, or looking like a linebacker in your over-sized riding jacket – check out BH & BR for some sweet looking helmets, boots, jackets, gloves and the like. Nothing better than being safe, wearing gear that actually fits, and looking cool as hell at the same time.

Boozetooth

Image courtesy of Etsy – Obsessed with this decor.

If you’re looking to spice up your hardcore decor, check out Boozetooth on Instagram, also known as GlassByRome on Etsy. Her work with stained glass is definitely not what you’d find in a church. Using deeper tones like blacks and reds along with designs ranging from vampire fangs to skulls, her stained glass definitely stands out. If you are looking for some unique decor that will fit your motorcycle style, absolutely check out her handmade, unique and beautiful work.

ATWYLD

Image Courtesy of WomanRider.com – Off-road gear that actually fits.

Similar to BH & BR, ATWYLD is a brand centered on making functional women’s riding gear fashionable. Unlike BH & BR, ATWYLD is less focused on your leather must-haves, and offers other gear options that are simply made for female frames such as their armored shirts, off road gear, riding jeans, and even armored leggings. If you struggle to find heavy-duty gear in lady sizes, ATWYLD is absolutely a must.

She Wolf Moto Co

Image Courtesy of She Wolf Moto Co – Can I please own all of this?

While this company is still relatively new and small, I am excited to see what it grows into. Their playful apparel that offers an array of options focused on lady riders is unique in both design and purpose. Unlike many leather-centered motorcycle brands, this once focuses on vegan apparel and donates a portion of all proceeds to animal charities on a monthly basis. If you’re looking to support a brand that empowers lady riders and cares for creatures – definitely check out She Wolf Moto Co.