Battle of the Brands – Installment II

Image courtesy of Pinterest, “Yamaha Motorcycle Ad”

To this day I’m pretty sure if I had been born a boy my dad would have settled on naming me “Valentino”. No, we aren’t Italian and it isn’t a family name, but sitting in its own glass case on our mantle right next to the photo of me holding my baby sister is a gloriously signed MotoGP cap with Valentino Rossi’s signature scribbled on it. This nine-time Grand Prix Championship winner has left my dad and I responding with “Ya, for sure” to one another for far too long and has also left a special place in my heart for Yamaha.

While you’ll definitely catch me going 95 heading back to Chicago from my campus in my dinky little Ford Fiesta, feeling blessed for the “speeding trap” warning on Google Maps, I wish that I could experience such speeds on a motorcycle like my dad did on his Yamaha. I remember watching my dad pop a wheelie outside of my cousin’s house. I remember all the excitement as he got his Yamaha to ride faster and faster on the drag strip. I remember the first time I went riding with him. My rear end was sore for a week but, man, going fast is fun.

This special connection I have to Yamaha may not lead me to buy a “crotch rocket” as the long-distance riding fan that I am, but I knew this had to be my next feature in the Battle of the Brands.

Photo courtesy of Asphalt & Rubber, Valentino Rossi

Trailing behind many other motorcycle manufacturers, Yamaha began in 1953 just over 65 years ago. Under the directive of Yamaha Corporation President, Genichi Kawakami, the company was instructed to create a prototype motorcycle engine with the goal to launch in only one year’s time. Despite the many technical difficulties, the “Red Dragonfly” was created – sporting a two-tone red and cream color scheme, unlike the plain black bikes of their competitors. From here, the motorcycle developments only blossomed – leading Yamaha right into competitive racing by 1955 where the company celebrated an overwhelming victory at the Mt. Fuji Ascent Race.

Yamaha represents success outside of the realm of racing as well. Starting in the late 1960’s, the company sparked an initiative to promote motorcycle safety. With the rapid expansion of motorcycle ownership, Yamaha started a motorcycle safety-riding course, sparked licensure schools and requirements to promote safe riding, and held events to expose more people to riding but, more specifically, safe riding – attracting the attention of over 95 thousand people at their first Yamaha Grand Sports Festival.

Photo Courtesy of Motorcyclist, Melissa Paris racing Yamaha

The company has also led the way technologically, working on energy-saving systems back in the 1970’s with the Yamaha SX1. This bike links us back to Triumph, as the SX1was inspired by the Triumph Bonneville 650. The four stroke model of the SX1 was also a response to the Clean Air Act as this change was successful in working to reduce exhaust emissions.

As of 2017, Yamaha held 500 Grand Prix wins total. In just over 65 years this company has made great leaps in fulfilling the need for speed. What is awesome about Yamaha is that their advancements do not stop with capital gains. Many of their projects center around improving our global situation. Yamaha has been working on Biotechnology in order to harness Co2 as a resource. They have been working on ways to develop clean water supply systems in emerging markets and growing communities, and have created unmanned vehicles and helicopters to respond to natural disasters, all among a plethora of other impressive ambitions.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

While I may not find myself traveling across America on a sport bike, for the sake of my poor rear end, I cannot deny that Yamaha has a special place in my heart. You will certainly never catch me rooting for Marc Marquez on his Honda during the MotoGP Season, and even though my dad sports a lot of Harley orange these days his favorite color will always be “Yamaha blue”.

Valentino Rossi Wave GIF by MotoGP - Find & Share on GIPHY
Gif courtesy of Giphy

Battle of the Brands

Image courtesy of Dealsan

Although Monday’s have been devoted to Moto Miss Monday’s here on the blog, I have been trying to find a way to throw some spice into the rest of the week. With the pride that many riders carry in their special bike of choice, I decided it would be both enlightening and enjoyable to dig deeper into the history of some of these iconic and beloved motorcycle brands – offering new and interesting insight along the way. To start out, I decided I would pick my sleek, petite, racing down the street style favorite motorcycle – Triumph.

Photo courtesy of the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride

Although Harley-Davidson has a special place in my heart, the massive motorcycles they produce don’t necessarily appeal to a 5 foot 100 pound little lady like me. Triumph creates motorcycles that have stood the test of time and remained classic – just like a fine wine, they have only gotten better with time. Best of all, they make bikes that are just the right size for a little lady like me.

Triumph was founded by Siegfried Bettmann in 1883. Originally hesitating to enter the motorcycle business due to English law which stated that powered vehicles could not pass a 4-mph speed limit. Bettmann and his team to stick with making bicycles, though this consistency did not harbor any longevity once the law was changed.

Image courtesy of YouTube

1902 came around, and at the dawn of a new era came a new need for speed, power and inventiveness. Free from the restrictive elements of the Locomotive Act, Triumph designed its first motorcycle, referred to as No. 1. Despite this astoundingly creative name – Triumph was quick to strive for further progress. By 1903 Triumph opened a subsidiary in Germany in order to build and sell motorcycles there. By 1905 the company produced its first motorcycle totally in-house, powered by a 3-hp engine with a top speed of 45 mph.

Image courtesy of Pinterest

Once the 1920’s hit, Triumph was beginning to make a name for itself among popular figures such as Steve McQueen, Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley and other celebrities – flaunting the classic look and glamour of these fine machines. Beyond looking sharp, these bikes were also setting records in speed through the introduction of the parallel twin platform engine.

As we see with our fellow icon, Harley-Davidson, Triumph also hit hard times through the introduction of competition, only becoming a greater hit by the economic recession of 2008 – a financial crisis that impacted the whole motorcycle industry.

It was through the ability to adapt to adversity and work to the advantage of a unique style and history that former CEO, Greg Heichelbech was able to start pulling Triumph out from the dust – landing a turning-point partnership with Lucky Brand and generating a booming social media platform.

Photo courtesy of the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride

What stands out about the business model and practices of Triumph as a company is that, despite being rooted in history, tradition and a classic style that has survived the test of time – the company is ever responsive to change. In fact, beyond clever self-advertising through social media, the company is well aware of their growing popularity among female riders, with about 20% of their customer-base being women. Since the 2008 financial downturn, Triumph has taken leaps and bounds on its way back to the top – already surpassing Ducati and BMW in terms of annual sales and increasing its annual revenue by 200% over the past few years.

Photo courtesy of the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride

Further popularizing and maintaining the classic style of these motorcycles is the growing popularity of the “Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride” – sponsored by Triumph. Despite the misleading title, there are plenty of Distinguished Gentleladies participating in this ride each year, with nearly 4,000 participating in 2015, these numbers have only continued to grow.

As someone who is infatuated by all-things vintage, classic and timeless – Triumph is truly at the forefront of my mind when it comes to getting a motorcycle to finally call my own. While these motorcycles are not as popularized as Harley-Davidson, Yamaha or even Indian, their size and style put a twinkle in my eye. While I may have started out with my personal favorite…tune in next week to see which brand might just try to take the lead.

For more content, check me out on Instagram @feminist_motorist or on Facebook @feministmotorist Thank you for being patient with me as I try to balance life as a future teacher, full-time student and ambitious blogger. Those of you who have kept up hold a special place in my heart! You are all amazing. Thank you again and, as always, ride on!

Moto Miss Monday

Graphic by Author

It’s been a while, but at the announcement of the Jessi Combs Foundation this weekend, I knew it was time to write a Motor Miss Monday feature about the Queen of Speed. 

Jessi Combs

Photo courtesy of Motortrend

For those who don’t know, Jessi Combs was a racer in many forms. From off-roading to monster trucks and being known as “the fastest woman on four-wheels” – Combs held up the title, and couldn’t help but challenge it. Combs holds the women’s land speed record of 512.7 miles per hour thanks to her 56 foot-long jet-powered car the ‘North American Eagle’. She was a trailblazer and was certainly proud of it – beaming at the growing prominence of women in the industry.

Photo courtesy of

Outside of her role as a racer, Combs was known for her work as a metal fabricator and welder, having graduated in the top of her class with a degree in Custom Automotive Fabrication. Her talents as a metal fabricator, artist and builder landed her many roles on television in shows like Powerblock, 2 Guys Garage, and even as a temporary host and builder on the all too impressive, Mythbusters. 

Through her work in male-dominated fields, Combs has truly made waves, particularly in the racing community. In just one instance of her trailblazing spirit – The Race of Gentleman invited Jessi as the first woman to compete, placing her in a 1913 Twin Engine Model-T to race on the beach – making history in the process. 

Combs was a role model for many young girls and aspiring racers. Her collaborations with women in the motorcycle community and support for bikes further compound her inspiring nature. From riding to Sturgis, riding with the Wild Gypsy Tour, participating in Babes Ride Out and collaborating with fellow female riders such as Kayla Koeune and Gevin Fax, Combs was a fan of the open road with a need for speed. 

Photo courtesy of Visordown

This inspiring woman always sought to push the envelope and push her own limits. She never rejected a fresh challenge and wanted to put other women in this mindset as well. 

Combs didn’t just shatter barriers for women in the racing community, but in her field of expertise as well. Combs was working on starting her own metal fabrication shop, “A place where bad ass hot rods, motorcycles, custom trucks, race vehicles, and anything metal will originate with a feminine touch; where chicks can finally have a place to get dirty, be creative, use their skills, explore talents, go fast, and have fun in a comfortable working environment” (Jessi Combs).

Photo courtesy of

This mission for gender equity in all realms is inspiring and the Jessi Combs Foundation truly ensures that this outstanding woman wants to maintain her progress. Just a few short weeks ago, on August 27th, Jessi Combs passed while attempting to break her own land speed record. Her legacy will be carried on through the Jessi Combs Foundation, which seeks to educate, empower and inspire the next generation of trailblazers who just can’t sit quietly in the confines of social norms. 

While I never met Jessi, I know she touched the lives of many women in the riding and racing community, as well as women in male-dominated fields. Her push for ensuring equity in each realm she raced in and entered embodies the spirit of a true feminist motorist. It is my hope that us ladies can ride on, and do her proud. 

Graphic courtesy of

Rest easy, Jessi. Thank you for being an inspiration.

Bike Night

Photo By Author

If you’re a Midwesterner like me, you know the feeling of when that first cool breeze hits. The feeling of impending doom. The doom of winter. The end of riding season.      

So, if you’re anything like me or most other Midwesterners I know, you’re probably out trying to hold on to every last possible second of summer. For my family and I, unfortunately, this past summer was a whirlwind. Between being generally overworked both in our occupations and with craziness at home – we really feel like this summer was a flash of lightning – hot and gone in an instant. 

Nonetheless, before I make the haul back to corn-land at U of I, my family and I are putting a little something special into our summer in a way that we know and love, as unconventional as it may be to other families. We are heading to Bike Night at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

Photo by author

While this is an average occurrence on a Thursday night in summer, compared to the past, my family and I haven’t gone nearly as often. It really is a special experience every week, though, and I feel so thankful that we all managed to make time to go this Thursday. 

Even though my mom isn’t huge on riding, she sure loves the bands that play at bike night and enjoying the music with my dad. My sister is there mostly to enjoy the food, because let’s face it, not only does The Motor Bar & Restaurant have stellar eats, but just thinking about the Wisconsin cheese curds and house-made ranch dressing at the Iron Horse down the road is making my mouth water. For my dad and I, I think the whole atmosphere of the experience is the best part. From riding to Milwaukee and arriving to hear the rumble of hundreds of fellow motorcyclists – it really is a uniting and simultaneously serene experience. After bike night, I usually feel exhausted, but incredibly restored and revived.

Mom & Dad off to Bike Night – Photo by author

Bike Night at the museum is one of my favorite parts of summer. What I believe many people perceive about the riding community is that motorcyclists are “hardcore” individuals who are no good to associate with. That’s exactly what Bike Night invalidates, and summer after summer it does so flawlessly. The Harley-Davidson museum grounds become filled with college students from Marquette, ladies out for girls night, babies in strollers and toddlers on dad’s shoulders, you see people of all walks of life and of all ages at Bike Night, because…

motorcycles are for everyone

Photo by author

I think that’s why I felt the need to write about Bike Night. As The Feminist Motorist, my ambition is to showcase the ways the riding community represents a conglomerate that is accepting, empowering and absolutely fun. This is a realm in which women are able to feel both enabled, empowered and welcomed. Bike night is a subtle representation of how wonderful the riding community truly is. So, if you aren’t busy, and you’re in the area – ride on over to Bike Night. I’ll see you there.

Moto Miss Monday

Graphic created by author

Sarah Lezito

The French tend to be recognized for fine cuisine, exquisite wine and the latest in modern art and fashion. This Moto Miss Monday, I’m highlighting the French for another reason, their motorcycle stunt superstar – Sarah ‘Lezito’ Vignot.

Image courtesy of Twitter

If you’ve been to any motorcycle show, or have even seen an action movie, odds are you’ve seen some pretty impressive motorcycle stunts. While the superstars on the big screen tend to be the ones we recognize, there are people who have a handle on these two-wheeled machines like real superheroes might.

Sarah Lezito is one of these impressive individuals. Not only is stunt-riding her full-time job, she has also been in movies such as “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, taking the place of Black Widow on a custom electric LiveWire Harley-Davidson.

Video courtesy of Harley-Davidson’s YouTube Channel

At the age of about 13, Sarah started her stunts on a quad bike. Once her riding acrobatics strengthened in her later teens, she moved up to a Yamaha 125 DTX. Since, she has performed on a wide array of sport bikes, simply attributing to the impeccable ability she has to share a rhythm with and understanding of each motorcycle she rides.

Her talents have certainly garnered well-earned attention across social media platforms. From a booming Instagram, to a highly popular YouTube channel. If you’re looking to see her practice new stunts, fall and get back up with ease, avoid getting discouraged, and succeed with some amazing stunts – absolutely give her a follow.

Image courtesy of Twitter

Despite being at a skill-level that is seemingly unattainable to most riders, Sarah’s ambition as a female stunt rider is to simply inspire other women to take up riding. She hopes that her growing popularity through both cinema and social media will help spark an interest and maybe even encourage women to showcase their own stunts and skills on platforms that can generate communities of support.

Video courtesy of Sarah Lezito YouTube Channel

While most of us probably aren’t out looking to do motorcycle acrobatics, I admire Sarah Lezito for doing something unconventional and daring. Her skills make it evident that riding a motorcycle, intricately understanding the mechanics of a bike, and even doing crazy stunts is something anyone can do if they are passionate – regardless of gender. Breaking down barriers and enabling other women to do the same is something Sarah Lezito has surely accomplished, embodying the true spirit of what it means to be a feminist motorist.

If you have any suggestions for future Moto Miss Monday posts, please feel free to message me as well! Until then, ride on, lades.

Gif courtesy of Giphy

Moto Miss Monday

Graphic by author

Grey, rainy, overcast – that’s the Monday we woke up to here in Chicago. Thankfully, it’s Moto Miss Monday which means there’s something to brighten up a dreary start to the week! Today, as opposed to covering a female rider from history, I am going to talk about an outstanding artist, small-business creator, Lieutenant and adventurer extraordinaire from the riding community.

Kayla Koeune

As I mentioned in my last post about helmet safety, Kayla Koeune of Inferno Art Studio designs some fantastic helmets, motorcycle tanks and even canvas prints that leave me wishing I wasn’t a poor college student. Her work is absolutely splurge-worthy.

Art by Kayla Koeune, photo courtesy of

What I love about keeping up with Kayla’s adventures is, frankly, that they are so constant. I find that most people hear ‘motorcycle’ and think stunts, racing and biker bars. In actuality, what many people in the riding community seem to love is the access to simultaneous freedom and adventure – that’s what Kayla’s personal riding account captivates. Keeping up with her evident wanderlust makes me incredibly excited for the riding journeys that lay in my future.

Kayla Koeune – Sturgis Blog Post

Something I also love about the way Kayla captures the true spirit of being a rider is the way she showcases the people she meets along the way. Certainly, many of her photos are filled with breathtaking scenery, her spouse and plenty of motorcycles – but what people don’t realize about riding is that you generally have a chance like no other to meet some incredible individuals. From riding in India, Europe, Mexico and all around the United States – Kayla has interacted with all kinds of people from all around the globe.

While I am admittedly inspired by Kayla’s plentiful riding adventures, which you can keep up with on her own blog, I am also amazed by her ability to capture the spirit of riding in her art.

Art by Kayla Koeune, Photo courtesy of Pinterest

Kayla’s work is incredibly detail-oriented. From portraits and gorgeous landscapes to incredible looking helmets – if you feel like adding a canvas to your wall or want some sweet looking gear it is certainly worth contacting her if commissions are open. If any artist successfully captures the spirit of riding adventure in cohesion with the peace of mind it provides, it’s Kayla Koeune.

While I have yet to ascertain one of Kayla’s pieces, I will gladly be following along with both her adventures and her artwork. If you are interested in checking out this outstanding modern example of what it means to be a female rider, definitely give her a follow @kaylainfernoart and @roadsareforjourneys!

If you have any suggestions for future Moto Miss Monday posts, please feel free to message me as well! Until then, ride on, lades.

Image courtesy of Giphy

Will you people please just wear a helmet?

I was on my lunch break at work today, sitting outside and enjoying what I could of a beautiful summer afternoon when I heard that familiar and exciting rumble – a motorcycle. Hearing this sound has left me with the automatic impulse of popping my head up and taking a peek. Unfortunately, this impulse has recently left me feeling sour, as the hot weather and scorching sun seem to have become a lame excuse for people to leave their helmets at home.

Today, on my break, I glanced up to find the rumble coming from a couple riding a beautiful souped-up Harley into the parking lot. I watched them stroll into my work for a bite to eat, chit-chatting and relaxed. I couldn’t help but wonder if they knew how abruptly their peaceful nonchalance could end through their decision to omit proper gear.

I have mentioned it before on the blog, but helmet safety really hits home for my family and I. Without a helmet, my Uncle, Mark Zdeb would have never been my Confirmation sponsor in 7th grade. He would have missed the birth of my little sister. He would have never made it to Rolling Thunder, Sturgis or even taken a trip to Disney with my family. He wouldn’t be able to dress as Santa each Christmas for children in Chicago who have been impacted by gun violence. In case it isn’t clear – without a helmet, my Uncle Mark would be dead and the rest of us would be worse off for it.

My Uncle Mark, my little sister and I.

If you’re one of those motorcyclists who consistently doesn’t wear a helmet, this post is for you. I don’t really mind if you feel called out. Sure, you may have the freedom to choose, but the choice you are making to not wearing a helmet is a selfish one that indicates a total negligence for the people in your life who would be impacted if something happened to you.

I mean, can you imagine your dog sitting by the door for the rest of its life waiting for you to come play catch…and you never come back because your pride was too swollen for you to wear a helmet?

Think about that for a second.

My Uncle Mark (right) and my Dad (left) at Rolling Thunder

My Uncle Mark was always infatuated by motorcycles, and always knew he wanted to ride. His first bike was a 1993 Honda CBR 600 F2. After trying out friend’s bikes for years, he finally felt confident enough to get one for himself. He strolled into the Honda dealership on Northwest Highway in Arlington Heights, which is still there today, and bought himself a Honda bike with a Honda helmet to match.

Little did my Uncle know that just a few years later he would be in and out of consciousness in the back of an ambulance after being hit in a low-speed collision. Little did he know that by making the responsible decision to wear proper gear his life would be spared from the hands of a foolish driver going the wrong direction down a one-way street.

Waking up, my Uncle’s first thought were filled with a desire to hop back on and ride.

Waking up.

That’s the key that I do not believe clicks for motorcyclists who decide against wearing helmets. My Uncle Mark woke up in the hospital. He woke up to breathe another breath, to buy another motorcycle, to take more adventures with his nieces, to eat more scrumptious oysters at the Public Market in Washington D.C. and to always give us unsolicited advice.

Uncle Mark trying oysters in Washington D.C.

My Uncle Mark became a Nationally Certified Riding Coach after his crash, not only did this allow him to get riding time in while he was scrounging money for a new bike, he also took it as an opportunity to share the relevance of his story with fellow riders. In fact, in the perspective of my Uncle Mark, a helmet isn’t even nearly enough gear, but it’s certainly better than having your brains being scraped off the freeway.

Today, there is no excuse to not wear a helmet. Technology has become so sophisticated that helmets are lightweight, offer cooling mechanisms that feel like air-condition for your head, and simultaneously will protect your precious noggin from harm more sufficiently than ever.

Art by Kayla Koeune, Image courtesy of ChopCult

Helmets come in a plethora of styles with a million different artists out there who are eager to customize one for you as well, a personal favorite of mine being @kaylainfernoart. Besides, wearing a helmet means that all of those bugs that you’ve been snacking on while riding the highway and the countless pebbles that have given your face a good smack will no longer be an issue.

While there are a plethora of extraneous factors involved in riding safety, claiming to have experience or even expertise is an unreliable excuse to ignore full-gear. Professional racers, stunt riders, everyone in my family who rides despite over thirty years of experience – all wear helmets. There is no excuse. If the Sons of Anarchy are represented in helmets, you should seriously be wearing one too.

SOA Gif courtesy of Giphy

Moto Miss Monday

Graphic by author


Alecia Beth Moore, born in the little city of Doylestown, Pennsylvania would grow to grit her teeth at social norms and pave the way for other ladies shining an “I don’t care what you think” attitude. Alecia, who we all know as P!nk is notorious for making waves. Rocking a pixie cut since stardom, tattoos and dark makeup through the neon and glitter phases of the early-2000s, and being sure to stay true to exactly who she is has left this lady with a lot of support and criticism alike.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

While there are a myriad of reasons I find P!nk to be quite admirable, I really love her family dynamic and the interests she and her husband are able to share. Her husband, Carey Hart, a former professional motorcycle racer and freestyle motocross competitor has definitely not fallen into the stereotypical role of a man telling his wife not to do something because of some strange gender norm.

In fact, Hart made P!nk a custom Indian motorcycle as a “push present” when their son Jameson was born. With a Rosie the Riveter painted beautifully on the back, you really can’t deny this rock star is a genuine feminist motorist.

Photo courtesy of Carey Hart Instagram page

As for my continued admiration for their family dynamic, P!nk and her husband set an excellent example for both of their kids as well as fellow riders. Just because you have experience and know what you’re doing, you should never become overconfident. Riding can be dangerous, but that danger increases when you don’t wear proper gear.

This hardcore lady and her husband both wear proper gear when out riding. P!nk notoriously sports a wide array of amazing looking helmets, boots and other gear when she hits the road on two wheels. The two know how to represent what smart and responsible motorcyclists do, and I totally admire them for setting this example, in style no less.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest

As for the nature of their family, the couple have gained much criticism from the “parent police” of Instagram for exposing their kids to the joys of riding. Despite being with a parent who has professional riding experience, and wearing proper gear, people still find room to let the stereotypes that exist about riding culture pervade a representation of a fun, healthy family experience. While other kids sit on the couch and stare at screens all day, parent’s like P!nk and her husband are off showing their kids what life is really about – cultivating opportunities to take adventures and make memories.

Mama Hart – Photo courtesy of P!nk’s Instagram

P!nk is a true representation of what being a member of the motorcycle community is. Despite her fame and popularity, she manages to stay humble by attending riding events and participating in charity rides, such as the Ride to the Flags in commemoration of those who lost their lives in 9/11. Beyond riding dirt bikes and motorcycles, this lady and her husband racked up over 100 miles while pedaling for charity on their bicycles, raising over $75,000 in the process as well.

Whether you like her or not, you can’t deny that P!nk is definitely deserving of a spot for Moto Miss Monday. She represents a modern version of what a woman who rides is like. She is carefree but careful in her demeanor and I admire her adventurous spirit as well as her style in fashion, riding, performing, parenting and as a spouse. Let’s just hope the internet trolls manage to lay off of her for a while.

Gif courtesy of Giphy

If you feel inspired to know more about P!nk, check out her Instagram page! If you or a fellow lady rider are interested in being featured, message me via email or through Instagram and Facebook @feminist_motorist. If you have any suggestions for future Moto Miss Monday posts, please feel free to message as well! Until then, ride on, lades.


Photo by author, summer 2015

Tranquility is embodied by this place, with its glorious hills of green, bison enjoying their afternoon snacks of prairie grass, tree after tree generating a crisp clean air with a silent serenity that can only be captured in this woodland haven – until the bikes roll in.

Sturgis, South Dakota

Photo by author, summer 2015

All year long, Sturgis remains the quiet ideal of small-town America. With friendly faces that greet you as they hold open the door of any shop, and people who refer to you as “sweetie” or “honey”, you really can’t ignore the tranquility that exists in a town like Sturgis. However, this leisurely little town holds its breath and braces itself come August for the annual uproar that is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

With this year’s Rally being less than a week away, I figured it would be a great time to highlight the history of the event as well as the relevance it has in the riding community.

Photo by author, summer 2015

The first Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, held back in August of 1938, was actually called the “Black Hills Motor Classic”. This event was organized by the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club, and Clarence “Pappy” Hoel, owner of an Indian Motorcycle shop in Sturgis. The first rally consisted of racing, ramp jumps, head-on collisions and board wall crashes. A circus tent was set up in Pappy’s backyard to house guests who came to view this exciting escapade.

Dad’s Trip to Sturgis, Summer 2016

Today, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally extends ten days and encompasses more events and excitement than Pappy likely could have imagined. With over half a million attendees on an annual basis, along with a 5k run, a Harley-Daivdson Rally Point, big-name sponsors, vendors galore, multiple rides supporting various charities throughout the course of the rally, and performances by popular artist like Ozzy Osbourne, Keith Urban, Styx, Skid Row, and Snoop Dogg – what was once an event attended by 175 people has truly erupted into a special tradition. Nonetheless, the rally still holds to its roots with motorcycle racing and stunts on the schedule as well.

Dad’s Trip to Sturgis, Summer 2016

While you’re in the area, you would be foolish not to explore the beautiful scenery and landmarks that surround Sturgis. From the Black Hills of South Dakota to the Crazy Horse Monument and Mount Rushmore, there is plenty to do just a short ride away. The Sturgis Rally is saturated in history on its own, but the area that surrounds it speaks volumes when it comes to Native American culture and history alongside the effects of Western expansion.

While I have yet to attend the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally for myself, I can attest to the beauty that exists in South Dakota. Visiting Sturgis for the rally merely presents an opportunity for an adventure through one of the most dazzling and historically saturated parts of the United States. So, whether you can make it from August 2nd to 11th for the Rally, or decide to ride over another time of year, this is definitely an adventure worth taking on two-wheels.

Photo by author, summer 2015

If you would like to know more about visiting South Dakota, or about the history of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, click away! If you have gone to Sturgis and have a story to share, please feel free to message me on Instagram or through Gmail. If you’re heading off to Sturgis this coming week, keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down. ✌️

Moto Miss Monday

Graphic by author

Adeline & Augusta VanBuren

Pushing the boundaries of what “average little girls” are supposed to be interested in – that was the way for my sister and I. Born five years apart, just like the VanBuren sisters, my sister and I would play catch in the yard, play with the worms while we were fishing in the woods, and obsess over hockey in winter and motorcycles once warmer weather finally arrived.

My sister & I

For years, society has taken pleasure in restricting women from doing what was socially acceptable for boys and men. These fabricated societal regulations are, and have always been, nonsensical. Adeline and Augusta VanBuren must have agreed back in the early 1900s when they sought to prove to the U.S. Military that women were fit to serve as dispatch riders.

As descendants of former President Martin VanBuren, these two sisters were supposed to be classic “society girls”. But before women were even granted the right to vote, these ladies were fighting the limitations society had placed on their gender through their unconventional participation in wresting, swimming, skating, and of course motorcycling.

Image courtesy of AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

The VanBuren sisters were decidedly aware that convincing the U.S. Military to allow female dispatch riders would be no easy feat. They planned for a transcontinental journey meticulously with the knowledge of what was riding on their adventure – an increased access to equity and independence for American women.

On the Fourth of July, 1916 – still four years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the two sisters set out on their journey. Their bikes of choice were the Indian Power Plus and would carry them from Brooklyn through Chicago, Omaha, Salt Lake, the Rockies, becoming the first women to ride Pikes Peak, the Colorado Springs, San Francisco, Los Angeles and finally to their last stop in Tijuana.

Image courtesy of AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

These ladies rode coast to coast before highways were paved as gloriously and conveniently as they are now, they rode through rough terrain and handled unprecedented adversity. These “society girls” were arrested multiple times in the smaller towns outside of Chicago for the terrible crime of wearing men’s clothing. Thankfully, they reached a compromise with the law after explaining that corsets and petticoats were not as conducive for a transcontinental journey as men’s leathers.

Despite this noble journey, the military and the media took these feats as a petty joke rather than a valiant adventure. Adeline’s application to become a military dispatch rider was rejected, meanwhile the media praised the Indian motorcycles rather than these two sisters for enduring such an adventure. Their ambition to prove a point may have failed in their time, but would carry an effect in the next war, as women became dispatch riders swiftly during WWII.

Image courtesy of AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

There is no documentation or evidence that these two ladies continued riding after their transcontinental journey, but they certainly never stopped pushing the boundaries of what was “acceptable” for women of their time. Adeline became an English teacher, just like a certain Feminist Motorist we all know, and eventually completed her law degree at NYU. Her sister, Augusta, became a pilot and member of the 99s – the flying group created by fellow gender-equity pioneer Amelia Earhart.

These ladies pushed the limit and worked to prove that, as coined by Augusta:

“Woman can if she will”

If you feel inspired to know more about the VanBuren sisters, check out the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame page. If you or a fellow lady rider are interested in being featured, message me via email or through Instagram and Facebook @feminist_motorist. If you have any suggestions for future Moto Miss Monday posts, please feel free to message as well! Until then, ride on, lades.

Gif courtesy of Giphy