I'm not—nor have I ever been—considered a thrill-seeker, so the fact that I own and ride a motorcycle is pretty far from most people's perception of me. I much prefer reading fiction or writing about beer, and while I have a fairly robust personality (to put it nicely; I'm generally a loud and opinionated woman with no patience for obligatory small talk), when it comes to hobbies, mine are almost wholly stationary. I have no desire to go skydiving, I had to be tricked onto my first roller coaster by my mom to get me past my irrational fear of them, I'm paralyzingly afraid of heights, I didn't dive headfirst into a pool for far too long, and I can't skateboard or water ski.
I'm also not skinny, so looking at photographs of myself isn't exactly my favorite pastime. That's not to say I have body confidence issues; on the contrary, I'm quite happy with my appearance and my size 14 waistline. It took me a long time to embrace how I look and who I am, and without the experiences I had as a bigger girl growing up, I wouldn't be the person I am today.
You might not think that the female motorcycling world and body positivity are directly correlated. I didn't either, at first. But they inextricably are, and there's a reason why it matters.
Some background: I started my riding career with the adorable baby of the moto world—a 125cc Genuine Buddy scooter, a favorite of citified cutie pies in sundresses and people who seem to place a high value on handmade leather goods and beard oil. My scooting excursions were mainly for work and easy transportation around my urban home, but I loved it. I LOVED riding. The convenience, efficiency, and just plain fun of it got me hooked from the start.
I wanted to share my love of riding with anyone who would join me, but look as I might, I never was able to find a welcoming community of like-minded riders where I live. That's not to say they don't exist. I just didn't, couldn't meet anyone. I was alone, and my inability to share my excitement dampened my enthusiasm.
Still, my zeal for riding continued to rise in tandem with my desire for more speed, so although I find that the majority of the Internet nowadays is a raging dumpster fire, I turned to it to see if there were any women in my area who wanted to connect over this shared bond. That's when I found Babes Ride Out on Instagram.
It was everything that I longed for: fearless, beautiful women bound by a sisterhood of speed, unshackled by society's expectations and completely dedicated to personal freedom.
I craved that camaraderie. I found more and more like-minded groups like The Litas, all-female rides like The Dream Roll, and so on. I decided that I wanted to be a part of it. So, naturally, I had to get a motorcycle.
Fast forward: after picking up a 2001 Suzuki Marauder, I dove headfirst into the local, national, and global community of female riders. I started following countless Instagram accounts that proudly featured "real women who ride" and touted inclusion for all seeking a life on two wheels in antithesis of the long-held male domination of the culture.
However, as I scrolled through more and more social media accounts, I realized that for every one picture of a pack of girls smiling for the camera, unconcerned with their appearance, simply basking in the afterglow of a ride or posing proudly next to their bike, there are hundreds more of scantily-clad models draped over bikes that they are clearly unfamiliar with, bottom lips bitten, seductively staring back at me with little to no relation to what my perception of riding is.
That's not to say that my ideas of what riding is or should be are the end-all, be-all opinion about motorcycle culture at large. Far from it. If doing a sexy motorcycle-themed photo shoot makes you feel hot and desirable, go for it! If you make the choice to ride without protective gear, that's your choice and your right as an individual. And if you're a company that relies on advertising to operate, believe me, I understand that sex sells. It's cheap, but effective. I don't care enough to get into a rant about the underlying issues with the advertising industry at large here.
I simply can't relate to that aesthetic. It's already so pervasive in society and so far removed from my reality, or any reality that I want to be a part of, that it was a big turn-off for me. Does the community I so longed for only exist in this hyper-sexualized, often misogynistic space? Do I have to subscribe to that attitude of cultivated superiority to truly belong? Have the societal expectations of what men think women should look like and act like truly infected every aspect of our existence?
For as confident as I am in myself, even I second-guessed joining the motorcycle world due to my own notions of what it was and how it's presented publicly. Where's the fun in a group that makes you feel awkward or like you don't belong if you don't fit into the carefully molded image? I didn't enjoy that feeling in high school, and I certainly have no time to waste on it now.
Soon I realized that the riding culture so carefully airbrushed and curated for the online experience does not match up to the real world. I've been privileged to meet many women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and skill levels who truly represent "real women who ride". It should be no surprise to anyone that (gasp!) social media doesn't mirror reality. But its dangerously consistent message of who belongs and who doesn't can make it hard for people to break past their own prejudices of the community to take a chance on riding. Maybe more people would be on the road if they understood that there is (or should be) room for everyone, not just waifish models or tattooed badasses who will run you off the road if you don't have a certain type of bike.
That's why I started Big Girls Ride Too. There are voices out there that praise all women in the riding world, and I'd like to be one of them. I want people to see my photos and read my words and realize that you don't have to be under 30 and effortlessly chic to hop on a bike. You don't have to have tattoos or wear vintage tees to belong. You don't have to get the coolest bike or gear. You don't have to ride all day, every day to be a part of the motorcycle world. You don't need to be a passenger when you can be a navigator.
To ride, all you have to do is ride. Have your own experience and be authentic to yourself. No one else's opinions about you, your bike, your skill level, or your appearance should come into consideration. Don't let anything poison your passion. Simply enjoy the ride.