If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll have noticed that for the last three weeks, we’ve been taking in-depth looks at some of the biggest names in the American bike scene, from the global business that is the Hells Angels, to the grass-roots 12 O’Clock Boyz of Baltimore.
This week, we’re taking a different approach to biking the USA. It’s time to move on from the beards, brawling, and bromance, as we take a look at the role that women play in American bike culture.
Week four – women on wheels.
Reading most histories of motorcycling, you might be mistaken for thinking that 50% of the population (that’s you, ladies!) have never been on a bike unless they’re holding on to the person sitting in front of them.
While there have been extraordinary, brave women riders for almost as long as there have been motorcycles, and organisations like the Women’s International Motorcycle Association to represent them, there’s no denying that it has been an overwhelmingly masculine pastime until relatively recently.
Most motorcycle clubs are complete sausagefests, and most outlaw motorcycle clubs have attitudes to women that the average Viking raiding party would consider outdated.
Thankfully, things are changing, and fast. The alt biking scene has opened up biking to a wider demographic, including loads of women. Websites like Women Riders Now are an excellent source of information for bikers of all experience levels, with its editor Genevieve Schmitt a tireless ambassador for the cause of women on motorbikes. Other sites like The Moto Lady are also helping to change the reputation of motorcycles for women.
A member of the Miss-Fires on biking in NYC
Recent years have also seen more female only motorcycle clubs forming. Clubs like The Litas and The Miss-Fires are at the forefront of this new wave of clubs. These are clubs made up primarily of emancipated, middle class women with more disposable income than previous generations. The Miss-fires have seen membership increase from 0 to 100 in a little over a year.
Obviously, riding is a key part of the hobby. California is home of Babes Ride Out, an all-female motorcycle and camping adventure club currently in its third year.
Another key part of modern biker culture is the internet. Both the Litas and the Miss-Fires are excellent at instagram, which helps to draw people in to their world. 2015 saw Harley-Davidson sponsor the Highway Runaway tour, an all-female transcontinental journey across the US to commemorate the centenary of Avis and Effie Hodgekiss’ pioneering journey.
The brainchild of artist Lanakila MacNaughton, Highway Runaway aims to inspire more women to get involved with motorcycles while incidentally highlighting some worryingly lax attitudes to safety gear.
That’s the last from our current series on the bike gangs of America, but we’ll continue to bring you news from the biking world in the coming weeks and months. Think you know of a gang (or club) that should be included? Let us know what you think in the comments below, or on our Facebook or Twitter accounts.