–Maggie McNally, Chair of the American Motorcyclist Association. McNally is the first female chair of the AMA in its 94-year history.
Take a minute and picture a motorcyclist.
Maybe you conjured a long-haired outlaw like Jax Teller from Sons of Anarchy. Perhaps you visualized Ewan McGregor and his motorcycle adventures abroad. Or possibly you thought of the last motorcyclist who shot past you on the Interstate.
But chances are that you thought of a man—not a woman.
There are 8.4 million motorcycles registered in the United States—a tiny number compared to the 264 million registered cars and trucks. Motorcyclists are definitely a subculture and a heavily male-dominated one at that. Only 14%–about 1.18 million—of the motorcycles on American roads are registered to women. The American Motorcyclist Association encourages more women to try motorcycling if they are interested. As the AMA’s Managing Editor Jim Witters notes, “there's always room for more riders.”
But numbers aside, women motorcyclists simply haven’t broken through in the American popular imagination. That doesn’t mean there are no motorcycle heroines. In fact, there are many female motorcyclists who deserve broader public attention for their taboo-smashing derring-do and their insight into the souls of two-wheeled conveyances and the people who ride them. Three of them are particularly worthy of celebration: Lois Pryce, Melissa Holbrook Pierson, and Bessie Stringfield, three riders who took very different journeys on what Pierson calls “the perfect vehicle.”
One woman rode outward across whole continents and forged personal connections in remote and forbidden countries. Her vulnerability and good humor were her strengths.
Another rode inward through her own psyche to understand the allure of motorcycles and the people who ride them. Her fearless and honest introspection were her guides.
Their spiritual ancestor rode onward to confront the institutionalized racism and sexism of Jim Crow America. Her powerful faith and personal toughness were her allies.
Let's meet them.