When a horde of Harleys blasts past traffic crawling along the freeway, it's easy to assume they're a bunch of burly bearded guys with their old ladies hanging on the backs of the bikes. But that's a dated assumption. Nowadays, it may well be a group of badass biker chicks who've shrugged off the mantle of passenger and embraced the role of rider.
While Southern California has historically been a hot spot for two-wheeling, this shift in the sexes isn't isolated to the local riding community. In 2014, the Motorcycle Industry Council announced that the number of motorcycles owned by women in the United States has increased more than 50 percent in the past decade, and that number keeps rising.
One reason women are moving from the backseat to the forefront of motorcycle society may be that feminist-forward movements that strive to equalize men and women are gaining traction, and women are more comfortable than ever challenging the long-held male-dominated stereotypes. Lots of women have also ridden on the backs of their fathers', brothers' or partners' bikes and gotten a taste for speed and adventure. Of course, there's always the fuel efficiency, ease of parking and just plain fun of it. Whatever the reason, when a new rider catches the bike bug, it's hard to go back.
It's a spirit of fierce independence, confidence and search for freedom that Katie Carney hopes to capture with Ride to the Warehouse, an upcoming art show celebrating local women moto riders.
"I've been riding for four years, and the idea came to me one morning to get some women together to do a show," says Carney, at a pre-show meet-and-greet at South Park's Whistle Stop Bar. "The idea for Ride to the Warehouse came from The One Motorcycle Show in Portland. They have a really cool, hip bike weekend and that's kind of what my vision is. If this grows...[Ride to the Warehouse] could go to San Francisco, Los Angeles..." she trails off, dreaming of the potential.
As the show's organizer, Carney has relied on plenty of men and women to help make Ride to the Warehouse a reality. This collaborative energy reflects the spirit of brotherhood—and now sisterhood—in the riding world.
"Everybody involved has donated their time to make this happen, and there are a lot of moving parts and cool people involved. I've met so many new people—like some of the photographers. One of the girls is a rider and photographer, and she's shot over 20 women for the show."
The first Ride to the Warehouse art show will open at La Bodega Gallery (2196 Logan Ave.) for one night only on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 6 p.m. to midnight. Attendees can expect a plethora of photography and other art-lauding local lady riders, as well as live music. Admission is free, but all the proceeds from the show will go to support Moto F.A.M., a group that offers financial assistance to riders and their families following motorcycle-related accidents.
While Moto F.A.M. isn't an official sponsor of the show, Carney has a personal connection with the group.
"They've helped a couple of my friends who have gone down, so I thought a charity event would be a cool thing to do."
Guests will also have the chance to win some raffle prizes from local businesses, including yoga classes and supplies from Akasha Yoga, a 24-hour Harley rental from San Diego Harley Davidson, art by local tattoo legend Fip Buchanan, a shirt from Avalon Tattoo II, swag from James Coffee Co., leather goods from Burnout Leather Co. and clothing from Atwyld, a new Los Angeles-based women's motorcycle clothing company.
By titling the show Ride to the Warehouse (translated from the venue La Bodega, which means "The Warehouse"), Carney hopes to leave it vague enough to put a different spin on the event each year while still remaining a motorcycle show at heart.
"I want to leave it open to whichever way the wind blows," Carney says.
Since this year is all about spotlighting local women who ride, expect lots of local lady riding groups to be prominently featured in the show. Members of the big three—Flat Black Collective, the Litas San Diego and SD Moto Girls—have supported and participated in the project since its inception.
While Flat Black Collective is not associated with any other cities or groups, the Litas are a worldwide group of women motorcyclists united solely by the love of riding with different chapters on nearly every continent. The SD Moto Girls are also unaffiliated with other riding groups, but recently helped launch a second branch in Las Vegas known as the Sin City Moto Girls.
It's important to note that none of these are typical one-percenter motorcycle clubs. There are no cuts, prospects or requirements to ride other than don't be a dick and don't have a dick—but even the last rule is somewhat flexible, as there's generally at least one co-ed ride or meet-up every few weeks. Plus, with regularly scheduled rides each month (SD Moto Girls' Last Sabbath rides, Flat Black's Second Saturday rides and the Litas' Get Right rides every first Saturday of the month), riders don't have to pledge allegiance to any one group. It's really more about what rides happen to fit your schedule than anything else and there's plenty of overlap and camaraderie between them all.
Jordan Harvey, the founder of the Litas San Diego chapter, agrees there is approachability within the scene. "When I first started the San Diego chapter of the Litas, I knew there were other all-female riding groups in town," she says. "I wasn't sure how exclusive those groups were, but I felt comfortable introducing this chapter of the Litas to San Diego because of how inclusive the Litas network is. As the group grew and I met the Flat Black girls and SD Moto Girls, I realized we're all of the same mindset, which makes riding a motorcycle in San Diego as a female all the more fun."