New book captures the spirit and diversity of women riders

by on September 14, 2009
in Personalities

This guest post is by author and photographer Christina Shook, who has just released a photographic essay book called “Chicks on Bikes.” The book captures the stories and pictures of women riders from all walks of life, but the essay excerpted here captures the essence of what we all have in common – a sense of sisterhood.

Sisterhood. A community. Of women. Not a sewing circle, not a women’s auxiliary club, not a mom’s club. There is a community of women bikers. Today women have formed organizations for every interest under the sun, no longer limited to domestic, nurturing or supportive activities. These women have taken up a lifestyle that is still a largely male domain and claimed their space and culture within it.

Few groups have the high-impact visibility of a pack of women riding up on their bikes. Few events have the singular sense of power that wells deep within as dozens of women roar their engines at the beginning of a group girl ride. It is a screamingly , throbbingly, wonderful feeling. It’s awe inspiring and fascinating to behold.

There is a sense of non-competition in a group of women, an unspoken sisterhood without the need to prove you’re daring. Women ride a little safer, a little smarter, a little kinder. To be on the road simultaneously alone and part of the pack is to have a firm sense of self and belonging. Every decision on the road must consider both self and group. Riding down the road with a mother, a sister or girlfriends combines the sense of the feminine with a sense of power. It spells out strength, pride, power and independence.

There are millions of women on motorcycles, and numbers count. There is strength in numbers. There is a kinship all motorcyclists share born of hardship and joy. Women motorcyclists have existed since the days when women wore dresses and rode side saddle. There are women motorcycle clubs that drink beer, swagger and ogle men. Some ride for causes such as breast cancer or children’s health issues. Some are Christian groups that go riding after church on Sundays. there are countless groups that represent every lifestyle imaginable.

They will all tell you it’s different from riding with the guys. there is a sense of pride and sisterhood, and this is why they ride with the girls.

To learn more about Christina and her book, visit www.ChicksOnBikes.us. Get your copy by clicking the “Order” tab on her website. You can also read her blog, http://cshook.wordpress.com/ – she just got back from the Women and Motorcycling Conference in Keystone, Colorado – and follow her on Twitter (www.twitter.com/cshookup) for tweets related to photography and motorcycles.

National Female Ride Day: Interview with Vicki Gray

by on April 24, 2007
in Personalities

BIKER CHICK NEWS EXCLUSIVE!
Interview with Vicki Gray, organizer of National Female Ride Day!

Racing professional Vicki Gray of Toronto, Ontario, Canada is organizing National Female Ride Day (NFRD) on Friday, May 4, 2007 to encourage and salute all women who ride motorcycles! An experienced organizer throughout nearly 25 years of riding and racing motorcycles, Vicki has ridden and enjoys all types of motorcycles. She has taught motorcycling to beginning riders, and taught advanced skills to members of the law enforcement community. Here is Vicki’s complete bio.

Back at the beginning of April, I asked Vicki if she would provide some information for Biker Chick News readers about National Female Ride Day. She was kind enough to respond to my emailed questions, and I’ve provided the interview here so you can see what NFRD is all about.

My heartfelt thanks to Vicki for her willingness to contribute to Biker Chick News!
What spurred the idea for National Female Ride Day?
Always wanted to initiate the day, just timing and busyness prevented it from being realised—not failing the past 6 years of my road racing demands in Europe (busy). Now that I’m not officially racing and with the relocation and launch of MOTORESS, the timing was right. There are many activities for women, fundraisers, and clubs yet not once has there been a day to simply celebrate female riders—shine a light on women who ride. In addition, the whole idea behind MOTORESS and my former brand RACEGIRL MOTORSPORT in Europe was to spotlight and encourage female riders. This is an awareness campaign full of encouragement by the many examples of female riders out there.

How do you go about promoting something that you want to be a national event? How has your strategy worked?
Fortunately, the MOTORESS website and my RaceGirl Motorsport website in Europe enjoy many visitors, so this is one way to spread the word and inform. Additionally, without sounding bold, perhaps my prior reputation—I do have a bit of a background ;-) Europe is a very serious motorcycling and motorsport community. I was intensively active and involved there. Strategy step one was to ensure every dealership in Canada had a poster and a tip sheet in order to support the day. The manufacturer’s were very pleased to get involved, I think particularly as the brand and image of NFRD is rather modern, edgy and reflects confidence. It’s wonderful to see all brands working together. Then there are people like you Janet, supportive, enthusiastic and interested. The entire goal is International Female Ride Day — each year at a time, an additional country. 

The number of women riders is growing. Why do you think that’s happening?
Well, this is interesting; I think its just plain old human development; modern advancements of our culture. Women have been riding, racing and breaking distance records since early late 1800’s. I think today’s woman is more versatile—you might also say why are more women owning cars, houses, vacation properties? The borders within our definitions of being female have expanded and evolved just as everything else in our culture. Plus I think we are no longer standing around waiting for our lives to be defined by a man, as was pretty much the case in the past (50’s). Again, this is simply the advancement of our times/culture. 

Do you think there are still any real barriers to women becoming riders? If so, what are they?
The only barrier I can see is that we are still raised under traditional female expectations — meaning the conditioning of being female, what we are suppose to be doing and not. This all starts at birth. We need to be more exposed to things like motorcycling and shown that it is something a girl can do. Not something dangerous, more of a curiosity, something to explore rather than to be intimidated or frightened of. Often we are our own barriers, not our fault. How many females, non-riders I approach and invite them to try motorcycling. I usually hear—it’s frightening, I might get hurt, going around a corner makes me anxious, its so big, scary, etc. Certainly, things have changed, yet we’d only be fooling ourselves to deny it.

Additionally how do we juggle everything in life? Job, partner, career, family/children, pastimes, motorcycling. In my women studies, much is revealed simply in our nature, which can put an activity such as motorcycling at low priority. The motorcycle remains something masculine, not female.
What do you hope NFRD accomplishes, in terms of number of riders, or messaging, or whatever measure you are interested in?
I hope NFRD demonstrates to our culture(s) just how many women are riding—there are many, and more importantly, there have been many. All ages, all styles (scooter, sport bike, cruiser) and that this day will bring all the diversities together. Shine a spotlight on females, create awareness and encourage others to take it up. It’s not a new idea for women. Bring together, just for one day, the various clubs, groups, types realising we are pretty much doing this for the same reasons—whether you decide to wear fringed leathers and get a tattoo or fly high in the air on your motocross bike, speed down the road in pink on your Sportbike, or tour on your Gold Wing. Not sure what to expect regarding numbers—I know its already exceeding more than I imagined just by the emails and newsletter sign-ups MOTORESS is getting each day! I’m worried about having enough budget to mail the souvenir memento!
 

Why is motorcycling so appealing to you personally, and do you think that’s a common reason why other women ride?
Its appealing to me because it’s demanding both mentally and in the ability/skills and it is something that fits with my lifestyle/personality. It’s also an edgy activity, well, the way I tackle it—I’ve always been a thrill seeker and as you are aware by now, have enjoyed much racing. Not all women have this thrill need and in fact there are few willing to venture to the real edge (I underline the real edge), but this is what it is for me. If there is one common reason, women ride being that motorcycling is so individual and we all have our unique reasons, it might be that it expresses and represents a non-limit. Something big, we demonstrate to others, and ourselves we can do. In addition, its such an outlet from everything else considered typical in our female day.
 

What kind of bike/s do you own and ride?
Right now I have a new Ducati 1098S. I’m partnered with Ducati North America and I’ve been racing Ducati’s and riding for some years now. I also have a 150cc KYMCO scooter—I think everyone should have one (it’ll go 120km an hour)—it’s a very logical first step for a young female learning to ride. Many seem to laugh when I say I have a scooter—to me, anything on wheels is a blast. Just one year ago before relocating to Toronto, I had a Ducati 900SSC for the street, a Ten Kate Honda CBR600RR for my racing /track, and a Husqvarna 250 two stroke for off roading. Two of these bikes were kept in my kitchen (guess that tells you what kind of a cook I am!).

Visit the homepage of Vicki’s new business and personal venture, Motoress, for more inspiration and a true celebration of women who ride!

Have comments about NFRD, or have your own take on one of the questions I asked Vicki? Let’s hear ’em!