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Women riders breaking the stereotype barrier

Kori Ellis is an editor and writer based in San Antonio, TX, where she lives with her husband and four children. At SheKnows, she writes about parenting, fashion, beauty and other lifestyle topics. Additionally, Kori has been published i...

12 Female motorcyclists

You might picture a biker chick as a dirty, foul-mouthed, tattoo-covered woman riding on the back of her man's bike. But female motorcycle riders all over the world are breaking the stereotype. They are girly girls who love a good lipstick and a great pair of heels. They are mothers, grandmothers, writers, teachers, nurses and business owners. They are smart, independent, accomplished women, who also love to ride their own bikes. We had the opportunity to talk to 12 of these wonderful women about their motorcycles and their lives.

Yvonne Dailey

Yvonne Dailey

One thing that is changing with bikers seems to be the age they start riding. Yvonne Dailey is one of those female riders who didn't start riding until she was into her forties. Yvonne is a member of Motor Maids, the first women's motorcycling organization in North America. Founded in 1940, the group has more than 1,200 members.

 

She Knows: When did you start riding?

Yvonne Dailey: I started riding in 2001, at the age of 42. I'd always wanted to learn, and finally had the means and the opportunity to do it. I decided that when I am an old woman sitting in my rocking chair, I'd rather be boring people with stories about my motorcycle trips than with complaints about things I always wanted to do but never did.

She Knows: What do you find most enjoyable about riding?

Yvonne Dailey: Motorcycling requires total focus. There's no room for error, so when I'm riding I'm not thinking about work or money or chores or anything but riding, totally in the moment. A motorcycle trip is immersive in ways that riding in a car can never be - the sights, sounds and smells around me tell a story and I am part of that story. Since I ride an older bike, I've also learned to do a lot of my own service. There's power in knowing you can remove, rebuild and reinstall a pair of carburetors all by yourself! It reminds me not to let anyone tell me what I can or can't do – I can do all kinds of things if I just try! People look at me differently as a biker. For someone who has always been (and still is) quiet, polite and fairly meek, it's an interesting feeling to have someone literally pull her children out of your way on the sidewalk. It made me wonder what terrifying deeds I might be capable of!

She Knows: In what ways do you break the stereotype?

Yvonne Dailey: I am 51 years old and look like an ordinary middle-aged woman. I don't smoke, rarely drink, save curse words for when they're really needed and never, ever get on the bike without full protective gear. When my husband and I ride together, the only reason for either of us to ride pillion is if one of us has broken down (and we've both practiced it, just in case!). My idea of a great vacation is a 500-mile day on the bike followed by a peaceful night on the ground in a tent. I've been a member of the Motor Maids since 2001, and have been privileged to ride with and be inspired by a generation of female motorcyclists who blazed a trail for the rest of us.

 

Susan Starnes-Segeleon

Susan Starnes

Susan Starnes-Segeleon has been riding for 20 years, but she's not your stereotypical biker chick. Susan took the time to answer a few questions about her motorcycling experience.

She Knows: When did you start riding?

Susan Starnes-Segeleon: I started riding in 1999. First I took the Motorcycle Safety Class to learn how to ride safely and in case I had to drive my husbands motorcycle home for any reason. It took me about a year of riding behind my husband to decide that I wanted my own bike.

She Knows: What do you find most enjoyable about riding?

Susan Starnes-Segeleon: Riding in the open with the wind surrounding you, smelling the spring and summer flowers with no obstruction of your view of scenery is comforting. You feel part of the world around you.

She Knows: In what ways do you break the stereotype?

Susan Starnes-Segeleon: By profession I am an Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director in a large law firm. The only body piercing I have is on my ears for earrings. No tattoos. When I first started riding, I wore suede. Now I dress to match my bike (color coordinated), not leathers as the typical biker chick. I even ride to work with a change of clothes in hand. When people find out that I ride, they are stunned. They would have never thought it. My husband and I ride for the enjoyment of riding, not bar to bar. We typically do around 100 miles in a day on a weekend. We have ridden to PA, NJ, MD, West VA, NC and SC. With limited vacation time, we have not made it cross country yet. There are more states yet to explore. I am also a USA Cycling Official for the bicycle races like the "Tour de Toona".

 

Nancy Rue

Nancy Rue is a Christian author and a Harley rider. Though she just began riding motorcycles a year ago, Nancy definitely doesn't fit the typical stereotype of a female biker. Here's what Nancy had to say about her riding experience.

SheKnows: When did you start riding?

Nancy Rue: I started riding with my husband in June 2008, so — a year ago. I loved it so much I have started my own lessons (Rider's Edge) and have a bike all picked out. Currently we're both on a Harley StreetGlide, and I can't get enough of it!

She Knows: What do you find most enjoyable about riding?

Nancy Rue: I could fill up an entire volume with why I find riding a Harley such an enjoyable, empowering experience – but, then that's what I do... I'm a writer. From a sensory perspective, it's the sound – there really is nothing richer and more powerful than the purr of a Harley engine – and the smells. You can't drink in the scent of honeysuckle from a car even with the windows open. You become the aroma when you're on a bike. We have so few opportunities these days to become elemental, and the motorcycle experience gives us that chance. In terms of empowerment, I think it's the deep understanding of what you are and aren't in control of. You have to concentrate completely, focus totally on what you're doing and what everybody else is doing – and then you have to let go and trust that the bike isn't going to fall over when you take your feet off the ground or sweep around a curve. And that moment when you realize, 'I know what I'm doing – now I can let go and enjoy' – that transfers into other parts of your life – relationships, creative work, balancing your time. (And there is always time for a bike ride.)

Spiritually, when I'm riding with my husband and don't have to focus quite so hard, there is nothing else to do except BE – and that's when I feel God's presence. I get ideas that I know are divinely inspired, and I get a sense of trust. As much as I pray and study Scripture, I still commune with God when I'm riding in a way that's hard to reach any other time.

She Knows: In what ways do you break the stereotype?

Nancy Rue: I am definitely not the stereotypical biker chick – although I really see that whole image changing. (The women I know who ride are often career professionals who leave their iPhones and laptops and heels'n'hose behind to get in touch with the self society has eroded.) I write fiction and non-fiction for girls 8-12 (tweens), younger teens, and women in the Christian market, including the Faithgirlz line and a new RL (Real Life) series for Zondervan Publishing. I don't have any tattoos – my piercings are limited to a conservative earring in each lobe – and I don't own a leather bustier. However, when I put on my leather jacket, my chaps, my head scarf, my boots, my gloves, and the helmet with the rose on it, I do feel like I could kick some serious tail. I think today's female bikers are changing the feminine face of riding, giving it a certain class without taking away from the gritty, sensual freedom that is motorcycling. My writing now reflects that; I just finished a teen novel in which a 15-year-old girl heals her relationship with her father by riding with him, and I'm working now on a series of novels for women with a female motorcycling protagonist who opens a healing center for prostitutes in downtown St. Augustine. It doesn't get any more non-stereotypical than that!

 

Up Next: Meet riders Marian, Christi and Carlene


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