|The Backroad Ball|
Motorcycles have been around since 1885 and are used worldwide by every type of person, but when we think of bikers we usually think ‘Men’. With the growing female population of bikers, recognition can be hard to achieve for these women, and many people still doubt a female's ability as a biker. However, women bikers like Elena Myers (the first woman to win a Daytona race) help to prove these critics wrong. Through my interviews I hoped to dispel these misconceptions of women bikers, and show the world just how badass they are. For my interviews, I interviewed two women, one a tattoo artist (Marie), and the second (Bambi) is a co-founder of an all women biker event called The Backroad Ball. I interviewed Bambi the 26th of February, she is 29 years old and first started biking as a passenger when she was 14 years old, now she rides her own 2009 Sportster 883L. I interviewed Crystal Marie (32 years old) just recently (March 1st), she has been riding since the age of 5, starting on her Honda mini bike, then eventually graduated to motocross, riding a 1997 cr125r, however she has since taken a break to focus on her tattooing.
|Bambi's 2009 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883L|
How did you family (parents, spouse, children, etc.) react when you first became a biker?
[B] My parents were cautious but surprisingly supportive. When I told my mother I was going for my own license, she said “I wondered when you were going to get off the back and go get your own.” She gets me.
[M] (...) my dad had a bike and we were always around motorcycles and ATVs, when I started riding myself they were just happy, (...) I haven't driven a road bike yet, its all always been motocross and mini bikes.
Have you ever taken part in any big biking events? Please describe the experience?
[B] I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to attend Babes Ride Out 3. It was an amazing, empowering experience where 1,000+ women from all over the USA, Canada and beyond came together in Joshua Tree, CA, to share their passion for motorcycles. It was my first time in the desert and surrounded by so many female motorcyclists. The energy was incredible and I made so many new friends that I still keep in touch with today. This experience led me to co-found The Backroad Ball – a women’s motorcycle weekend in eastern Canada. We’re going into our third year and our numbers keep growing and growing. There is definitely an appetite for events and weekends like this in Canada. It is beyond rewarding to see the ladies that ride to this event leave with more and more friends and riding pals each year. Knowing that we’ve helped make that happen is a special feeling.
[M] I haven't taken part in any big events, as a rider, but I have gone to rallys, there's been the Cookshire bike show that is a local gathering in the summer, there are vendors and local people that go. It’s a pretty decent size gathering, I’ve also been to the Port Dover (in Ontario) Friday the 13th rally, that was more impressive, people come from all over to see the vendors and fabricators and just to have fun as a group, its really cool to be part of the feeling of only bikes in the town and everyone there for the same reasons.
|Crystal-Marie & Her Beau|
How do you feel about the biker stereotype, and what truth do you want the public to know about bikers?
[B] The biker stereotype is still very much alive but slowly eroding. With more makes and models of bikes on the road, in addition to more and more female motorcyclists, people may be very surprised to find out that their coworker rides a Harley, or their cousin rides a Yamaha, or their brother’s girlfriend rides an Indian. Bikers are just ordinary people, but who have chosen the open road and horsepower for their passion and hobby. I love riding up with my motorcycle, parking it, taking off my full-face helmet and leathers and letting my hair out of its ponytail or braid. I’ve found more surprised faces than not when they realize who was riding the red Harley with loud pipes up the street.
[M] I think that the big bad biker image is really in the eye of the beholder I guess, like some people see them as trouble makes when in reality, well in most cases its the opposite, I think that side of it is because anything that looks rebellious is perceived instantly as being criminal or illegal, and from that people think its cool to look like a badass biker, most of the bikers I’ve been around are like a big family and treat others as such.
The biking community is largely dominated by men, has this ever resulted in any sexist experiences with men bikers, or even other women?
[B] I’ve been lucky enough to not experience any harassment while in the biking community. I’m surrounded by many different kinds of people – male and female – who ride and they are accepting and encouraging.
[M] Like i said before I’m more of a motocross girl and from my experience, the being a girl part always made it a bit harder because the guys never thought I was able to keep up or do anything that they did, even though i’d end up showing them different.
|Beauté & Encre|
How does you tattoo art relate to your biking?
[M] Tattooing came after, but when I was growing up my biker uncle had some cool tattoos that I was always looking at and it made me want to do tattoos and have them, so it influenced me that way.
|Back Road Fun!|
Bambi, how does your biker club empower women?
[B] The Litas is a worldwide network of women who ride. When we ride together, we feel empowered to talk about our bikes and riding and we don’t worry if we say something wrong, or drop our bike – we’re all learning and we’re all in this together. It’s about a community, not a competition. Our confidence riding in a group of women is amplified by 1,000,000!
|Bambi's Crew Hitting The Road|
What is the purpose/ main idea behind The Backroad Ball?
[B] It’s pretty simple, really – inspiring a sense of community amongst female motorcyclists in eastern Canada and beyond. We want to connect like minded women and grow our cohort of women riders. With such a short season, we needed something like this to bring everyone to one spot together to ride, dance, and be ourselves.
Would you consider The Backroad Ball open to all women interested in biking?
[B] Absolutely! The Backroad Ball is not only open to female-identifying motorcyclists, but also ‘moto-curious’ women. The weekend is a great way for women considering getting their license to come out, meet other strong women and see that it’s not as intimidating as it may feel. Women of all ages, walks of life and sizes attend the Ball so it’s inspiring to see.
|Meaghan Broken Femur - Summer 2017|
After suffering a bad accident this summer I also wanted to touch a little on motorcycle safety, and what motorists can do to make the road safer for motorcyclists. The topic of motorcycle safety is very personal to me, my accident left me with some serious injuries, however my scars will heal over time, but not everyone gets that chance. In 2015 alone, 200 Canadian motorcyclists died from a motor vehicle collision (Transport Canada, 2015). With just a little more patience and understanding from motorists, and responsible driving on both sides, this number could decrease, and I hope it does. When asked about motorcycle safety, Bambi and Marie recounted their past experiences and shared some of their ideas on the matter:
What are your views on motorcycle safety and have you had any accident or near accident experiences?
[B] (...) I’ve had a few close calls but nothing like when I was almost hit by someone speeding (doing approximately 100 kph in a 50 kph zone) through a stop sign. It was during the day and in an industrial park. They narrowly missed me and it was so close that another driver who witnessed the near-miss stopped to check on me. This has made me much more cautious when I come upon stop signs or red lights because I’ve seen too many people drive right through them.
[M] I think that motorcycle safety is very important, and that it shouldn't be taken lightly. I’ve never been involved in any sort of accident but I’ve witnessed some whilst driving my car, or I guess I should say near accidents, where a car doesn't look before changing lanes and pretty much swipes a bike, or when the driver isn’t paying attention and rear ends a bike at at stop light, it’s very scary to see it almost happen so I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in one.
The law offices of Steven M. Weiss states that “The most common cause of motorcycle accidents is the failure of motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic.”(Attorneys, 2018) Do you think this is true? If so how do you think motorists could be better educated in sharing the road with motorcyclists?
[B] It’s no secret that motorcycles are smaller than most vehicles. With inattention and distracted driving, motorcycle, bicycles and pedestrians are easy to miss. I think it’d be interesting to see if making the motorcycle safety course mandatory for all drivers (even if they aren’t interested in riding a motorcycle) would help to reduce inattention and distracted driving. Being aware and feeling the vulnerability of being on a motorcycle make help drivers think twice before picking up their mobile phones.
[M]:I believe the improvement would just be to keep trying to educate as much as they can, with the world being more and more technology oriented, there's going to be more and more distractions and that will most likely lead to more distracted driving on both parts.
|Crystal-Marie's Honda CRL 125R|
Both of these women ride very different types of bikes, Bambi rides a sports bike and Marie rode a dirt bike, but both of them experienced the same community oriented culture. These women are breaking through gender stereotypes and biker clichés, all while promoting biking safety. Although we cannot force more women to start biking, it is becoming more popular for the women population, hopefully in the next decade we will see as many women riders as men.
A special thank you to both Bambi and Crystal Marie for taking the time to talk to me about their experiences! It was fun!
About Meaghan Rivett
Meaghan Rivett studied at Champlain College Lennoxville located in Quebec, Canada. Two Wheeled Girl Power was written as part of a class activity for a course titled Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Studies in the Department of Humanities.
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