Self

8 Women Motorcyclists On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

Photo: 'SHE Rides' | Abigail Ekue Photography
Author and her motorcycle

SHE Rides has been a personal passion project of mine since 2017. I've traveled coast to coast and cities in between meeting and photographing wonderful women who ride motorcycles. Mothers, grandmothers, novice riders, 30-year veterans of the road — all of them have been inspiring. I've witnessed the support and encouragement between the wind sisters and I've also received the same generosity merely from being around them during photo sessions.

Riding motorcycles isn't all that defines these women, but it is something that enriches their lives. I wanted to know how riding motorcycles fit into their lives. How riding motorcycles affected their lives. So, I asked.

8 women riders I've photographed share what riding a motorcycle has done for their minds, bodies, and spirits:

1. Simi

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And MindsAll photos by Abigail Ekue

"I have a much bigger and more diverse group of friends, most from my riding group Stilettos on Steel. I met my husband because he has a bike; I picked him up because I wanted a ride and didn’t have my own at the time. There’s the stereotype that riding motorcycles is a man’s activity, is mostly gangs, and that women, especially smaller women, can’t ride. Everyone judging us or thinking we deserve to be hurt because we ride is my biggest pet peeve. Riding motorcycles has improved my strength and fitness a ton; I’m much stronger now. Riding also helps with so many aspects of my mental health by giving a sense of peace I rarely find in other activities." —Simi

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

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2. Spice 4.5

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"Wind therapy has been just that. It’s a time to get away and relax from what I deal with every day, every hour, and every minute. Especially if I'm just riding with no destination no time frame. It gives me a breath of air and a smile. Riding has [given] me the opportunity to form associations, friendships, and sisterhood. Where my life was centered around kids, work, and family, riding allowed me to get out and become involved. I have heard a lot about what people think motorcycle clubs are about and people think women riders are easy. I can speak for myself and my club sisters. We are women of many backgrounds, values, thoughts, and beliefs. We came together in this sisterhood loving each other for who we are and building each other up." —Spice 4.5

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"I wish that I could say my body changed from riding, however, I cannot. I ride threes because of my height and that decreased the leg muscles needed to hold up a bike. However, the core muscles needed to handle my bike in turns and curves just maintain what I already have. It’s important to ride safely for you and others. There are consequences we all take when we mount our bikes. Not everyone on the road pays attention. Take care of yourself and your fellow riders and keep learning." Spice 4.5

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

3. Jill

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"To say riding motorcycles has affected my mental health would be the understatement of the century. Before I started riding my life was dark and bleak in its outlook. I was an alcoholic. I'm a sexual assault survivor and I grew up with an incredibly abusive and mentally ill sibling who took a lot of emotional support away from me when I was young. I became withdrawn and isolated. When I started riding, oh how my life changed. I got into recovery and got help for my alcohol dependency issues. My life is more fulfilled now than ever before. I found true friends who cared about me, not ones who just wanted to get wasted.   

I find that my friendships are stronger with the women I ride with. And I'm stronger than I've ever been in my life. My strength since I started riding has increased. If one [expletive] cager (car driver) tries to run us off the road or if I drop my bike, I have to be able to lift a bike that’s anywhere from 300 to 500 pounds. That makes me feel powerful. The notion that women can only ride small bikes is completely false. A bike is generally built with a man's frame and size in mind and women riders are constantly having to adapt to those constraints through rider or bike modifications. We can ride anything better than a man can." —Jill 

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"There are those tried-and-true friends who don't ride but support my love for riding and the positive overall effect it has on my life. Ironically (or not) I have been single almost as long as I have been riding. If there’s a correlation between riding and my romantic life, it’s that I would rather ride a motorcycle than a [man]. I have this notion that the person I date should need to ride because otherwise, we would spend no time together. Women are carving out their own motorcycle culture, and it is so different than the male motorcycle culture. When I finally found my "tribe" of other women riders, I found sisters from other misters. Blood of the coven is thicker than the water of the womb, and that is so true when it comes to my moto babes, my crew." —Jill

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

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4. Shea Butta

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"I started riding at 47. I was admired and respected for my bravery by my friends. I guess that was my “midlife crisis”.  I’ve been married for almost 30 years. My husband does not ride and I’m thankful that he doesn’t mind me having my hobby. My children are grown and the best part is my son rides also. The motorcycle world is very generous. Being a lady rider when you find other women with the same interest it is an unbroken and incredible sisterhood. I ride with the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club. I can honestly say no matter what, there is a level of respect and that hits differently especially if you need help on the road. People will stop to help in any way they can and that is so dope and that is also how friendships are made. At the same time, you feel a sense of pride at “Being a Bad A-- Girl” when you get on the 2’s!" —Shea Butta

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"I’ve lost some weight since I started riding. Being physically fit has become very important, some situations will arise and test your ability, and as a woman, you have to stay ready. I own two big bikes: a Kawasaki Vaquero and a Honda Goldwing. If you’ve ever dropped your bike and have to pick it up by yourself, you will understand. I prefer to pick my bike up myself. On the way home one year after a Buffalo Soldiers National convention that was held in Florida, one of our female riders went down and lost her life on the road. I went through so many emotions because of how I felt about her; I was sad, hurt, angry, and heartbroken. Now when I ride, I have a purple ribbon on my bike, and I ride for her." —Shea Butta

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"My biggest pet peeve is people texting and driving and causing accidents with motorcycles. That is the danger that you face every time you get on your bike. Pray before you ride, and God and his Angels will protect you - that is my belief. When you are riding your bike, it’s a beautiful day, and it’s just you and nature, it’s almost like God kisses you on the cheek with each passing breeze. Some of us call that Wind Therapy." —Shea Butta

5. Sandy

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"I was 21 and fearless when I started riding, now I’m 53 and fearless. There have been definite changes to my body since I started riding. I have psoriatic arthritis and sometimes it makes it harder to get going in the a.m. to get on the bike for a ride I need breaks more often because my hands cramp up sometimes, but I still ride it like I stole it. I ride with the offensive/defensive approach because no one ever sees me coming — my Lil Sporty is smaller and matte black, and I usually wear black and I zip in and out of traffic with the best of them. People see you in riding gear and automatically think you’re a passenger  false. I can ride as well as a guy; we as women are capable of anything. I do suffer from ADHD, depression, and anxiety but I think everyone does at certain points in our life. I like the fact no one can reach me when I am out on my bike. That’s why we call it wind therapy; you’re always present when you’re riding." —Sandy

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"After starting a chapter of The Litas, honestly, most of my friends I hang around with now ride. Until the internet, I didn’t have many friends that ride besides my sister and her best friend. Back then we couldn’t afford two so me and my sister shared a bike for years. I have lost contact with my old friends who don’t ride. I am currently single and I don’t think I would even date someone that didn’t ride at this point in my life. Riding is too important to me." Sandy

6. Entyce

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"Since I started riding in 2016 all my partners have ridden as well. My husband never had a bike, but he bought one and joined a club after meeting me. Men who don't ride don't understand the love I have for riding. People thought I didn't have a car because I chose to ride every day. I love riding in the rain; it washes away all my worries. I have suffered a lot of death in my life. I have suffered from depression since the murder of my only son. Now he rides with me wherever I go and when I get on my bike and turn my music on, I'm really at peace." —Entyce

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"You test your endurance and strength riding bikes, especially in hot weather — I have seen riders pass out. My legs are strong and needed if you ever lay your bike down and there's no one to help you lift it. Riding motorcycles has brought some of my closest friends into my life. I have formed lifelong sisterships with these ladies. People think that women riders are butch and manly, but we are sexy and girly and still ride with the best of the men — even in heels." Entyce

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7. Dana

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"Not all motorcycles are up to hooligan [crap]. Most riders are not intimidating, stuck-up people like they're portrayed to be in movies. I've made some cool acquaintances in rider's clubs and on the road. I'm still very much an introvert and tend to ride solo or with close friends regularly. My closest riding buddy and I have connected more during our road trips and it's great to have someone to be there on the road just in case. For my non-riding friends, I encourage them to try motorcycles if they've shown interest. The riders I've met are complete nerds about motorcycles and can talk (too long) about mods, tires, body positions, etc. They're very approachable and are usually happy to chat about their bikes. Riding motorcycles has made me more consistent with caring for my body. My first helmet was way too heavy, and it caused a lot of neck pain. I've upgraded but I still get neck pain if I'm not conscious of my postures and muscle tension. My thigh grip has gotten a lot better too as well as core muscles which are huge bonuses." —Dana

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"I've yet to learn 2-up to give my non-riding friends an experience but it's something I'll work on. When I'm in my boyfriend’s backpack, we've got a lot of nonverbal cues to keep us on the same page even though we both have intercoms in our helmets. Plus I get to hug him for hours on longer rides which is a huge oxytocin boost! Feeling safe on his bike has helped us be more secure in our relationship overall. There's more trust, there's more communication, and there's more excitement." —Dana

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"When we’re each riding our own, if a driver is riding my motorcycle’s ass, passing too closely and drifting into my lane, my boyfriend usually lets them know. He sticks up for me. Is it dangerous? Yes. Could it cause an altercation? Possibly. But my attraction to him skyrockets when he sticks up for me." —Dana

8. KC

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

"Riding is my quiet time; no conversations, no listening to my friends’ problems; just me and music and my camera. Ride, stop, take pictures, ride. A pet peeve of mine is when [I] walk out of a gas station or restaurant, and someone is sitting on my bike taking a pic or selfie without asking. Through riding I thought I would find my Mister Right as it’s a male-dominated activity but that has not been the case. I’ve met a few right now, but that’s it. The stereotype that all bikers are in a gang is not true. Bikers do a lot of good deeds. I have made quite a few friends I would have never met if I wasn't on a bike." —KC

Women Motorcycle Riders On How Riding Has Changed Their Bodies, Relationships And Minds

Interviews were edited and condensed for clarity. 

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Abigail Ekue is a photographer, author, and curator focusing on gender, social representation and body neutrality, sex & sexuality with her claims to fame being Bare Men and The Darker Side of Lust. Her written and photographic work has been published in PAPER, The Huffington Post, Time Out New York, and AskMen, among others.