ON THE RUN

Vans Girls x Babes Ride Out East Coast

 

This past Memorial Day, I ditched the normal BBQ parties to ride to the Catskills with my friend Kelli and about 200 other women who ride. The ride was full of hiccups, including some bike problems that cost us major delays each day! But each night of the event, we entered the campground in Narrowsburg, NY to nothing but cheers and smiles for miles.

That weekend we broke down, we swam in waterfalls, we got lost, and we raced back to the campground against the sun. But most importantly, and in true Babes Ride Out fashion, we got to talk life and hang out with some awesome ladies. Among those ladies were Brittany Wood and Genevieve Davis from Vans Girls.

Due to some bike problems, I missed out on a ride with the lovely ladies from Vans. But, I did answer some questions for the Vans Girls blog about how I got into motorcycles, what it's like to work in an industry that has had historically few females, and what it takes to get ahead.

Excerpt:

Brittany, Vans Girls: You always hear about riding becoming this huge life-changing experience. Do you feel your life has changed in any way since getting your license? How?
For sure. I think that a lot of people think about what they want to do constantly, but wanting to do something and doing it are very different! I think that getting a motorcycle in the first place was a huge step in getting the confidence to do something that was maybe a little unusual and that I was nervous to do. But doing it and taking trips and riding different types of bikes has made me confident in ways that I know have since bled into other parts of my life. For me, that’s huge.

Read more here!

RevZilla x Babes Ride Out East Coast!

I'm really proud to say that RevZilla will be donating gift cards to this year's Babes Ride Out East Coast Raffle!

If you know me, you know I work for an awesome tech company in the moto industry- RevZilla. We sell everything from helmets to jackets to exhaust. The photo above is from 3 years ago when I was just 1 of 4 female riders in the company. Now I'm one of many and a million nation-wide!

Learn more about us on babesrideout.com > roll call and make sure you check out RevZilla.com for any last minute gear or parts you need for your trip! Don't know anything about gear or not sure what else you need for your trip? Call or email and ask for one of our Gear Geeks or watch our Women's Gear Guides. They all ride and can get you set up :)

Can't wait to see you ladies at BROEC in just a few weeks!

Xx Alessandra

THEY SAY TWO WHEELS MOVE THE SOUL...

On a warm Sunday, I heard the low rumbling of a motorcycle from my third-floor window.

It wasn't the first time that I had heard the sound or that it had made my heart skip a beat. But, it was the first time that we were going on a date.

Four years and seven bikes later, we don't ride on the same bike often, but when we do it reminds me of that first ride.

When you start falling for someone, and you're falling for them hard, there's something incredibly intimate about a first motorcycle ride's long embrace. There's something about holding on, about being intertwined.

And when you eventually ride next to each other and catch that first glimpse of your shadows overlapping between the sun's rays- well, I think that's about as close to witnessing our souls moving as we will ever get.

Happy four year anniversary, babe.

RWTH x Madewell, Babes Meeting Babes

Dear wonderful babes, it was so nice to meet some of you for the first time this past Sunday at Madewell Philly!

Gone are the times when it was weird to walk up to someone and say 'hey, I follow you on Instagram.' I actually used to fight that, but over the years I've realized that there's no point! Whether you work regular hours or odd hours or no hours, meeting other women who have a common interest isn't always easy. That's why I love riding motorcycles and why I wanted to do this event at Madewell.

A huge shoutout and thank you to Madewell and to Lily, in particular, (who used to be the event coordinator for Madewell's Philly location) for coming up with the idea and setting this up. I'm so thrilled to now have you working with me at RevZilla. :)

Another big thank you to the ladies of The Fox Run for sharing the event and meeting up! It was awesome to meet so many of you and to see you meet each other for the first time too.

And to Virginia, Babes Ride Out's East Coast manager, for sharing the event as well.

The whole point of this event was to meet other ladies who ride or are interested in riding, and maybe shop and drink and eat a little too. Because, why not?

And drink & eat we did! Thank you Art In The Age, for the Sage and Rhubarb cocktails (a post on summer favorites from them to come), and Lil Pop Shop for the sweets!

I can't wait to see you all at the Fox Run & Babes Ride Out East Coast! xoxo

Harmony, Lucy, Marie, Kelly, & Mae of The Fox Run. See you ladies soon!

Madewell x RUNWTHEHUNTED present..

As a rider and a DoItYourself woman I value quality, fit and function. I seek clothing that is both flattering and utilitarian, serving my needs as a do-somethin woman. Like many women, I crave goods that will stand up to the adventures of my day to day life.

I wear Madewell jeans because they do just that.

Join us next Sunday at Madewell's Walnut Street store for a:

Meet n' Greet & Shop Event!

Meet other girls who have a passion for two wheels and shop n' sip with sweets while you exchange info for this Spring's upcoming all-female rides: The Fox Run & Babes Ride Out East Coast!

See you there!

Important and True: Madewell's heavier-weight jeans don't rip at the thighs or stretch out at the butt. But, they are not considered riding gear.

Even the heaviest weight denim is not proper riding gear unless it is lined or reinforced. Preferably with an abrasion resistant material like kevlar and/or CE rated armor. Find out more on RevZilla.com.

ONE IN A MILLION

photo by DCar

photo by DCar

When I first started riding, I didn't have any girlfriends to ride with. But, I did have one special homegirl who trusted me enough to get on the back of my bike and experience it with me. Now, 1.2 million riders are female. That's 14%, up from 9% in previous years. And 17% of new riders in Gen X and Gen Y are also women- 34% them on "big bad" cruisers. I'm so happy to suddenly be a part of this movement that's all about empowerment and having fun. To all the new riders or ladies thinking of riding out there- you can do it! So the next time you see a lady rider, slow down and say hello. You just might meet a new friend to experience these amazing times with 💘 

Want to read more about female ridership? Head over to RevZilla's blog, Common Tread to read more:

http://www.revzilla.com/common-tread/number-of-women-riders-hits-all-time-high

Xx,

Alessandra

Babes Ride Out : Do It For The Babes!!

A little over a month ago I went to Babes Ride Out - an all female motorcycle campout and riding event held in Joshua Tree California. This year, it was the largest one in history with 1200 women in attendance.

 I put down 600+ miles on the biggest bike I've ever ridden with my friend Kelli and Lauryn, a girl from Milwaukee who we met there. It was a dream.

I wrote about my experience on RevZilla.com, the moto retail company that I work for. I'm really excited to share it and I hope you enjoy it :)

Excerpt:

On Saturday morning, we woke up in Joshua Tree, Calif., along with about 1,200 other women. We looked at all four of the suggested rides for the day and decided to go to the farthest one, Salvation Mountain. We taped directions to our tanks and headed south.
Our first stop set the tone for the day.
At a gas station in Coachella, a woman walked up to us with her daughter in tow.
“Are those your bikes?” she asked.
We could tell she was surprised when we confirmed they were, because she turned and nodded excitedly to the little girl. Then she said told us it was her daughter’s eighth birthday.
“Would you take a photo with her for her birthday?” she said. Before she even finished asking, we said yes. Her daughter walked over to us shyly, but smiling from ear to ear.
As we rode away, I remembered something that happened a few weeks earlier at The Race of Gentlemen in Wildwood, N.J. A friend of mine yelled to a lone woman racer, “Do it for the babes!”

Thanks for reading!

-Ale

New Found Feminism : A Lesson In Confidence and Empowerment

I haven’t thought about Gloria Steinem in years. Probably, since college.

But about a month ago, I was reading Porter magazine and there she was.

In college, I never really considered myself a feminist. Not because I didn’t agree with the ideals and goals they support, but because I found that the women I spoke to were really bitter. They were angry and some of the women I met through those classes just openly hated men. I guess that negativity was something that I didn't want to be a part of at the time.

But here I was on a plane, years later, California bound and on my way to the world’s largest all-female motorcycle event: Babes Ride Out. I was about to have an experience that encompassed women meeting, supporting, and encouraging other women. It wasn’t about man-bashing but about women-boosting, if that makes any sense.

As I read the article in Porter magazine, I remembered what made me not want to call myself a feminist years ago and I laughed. I realized that the younger me was kind of an idiot. Of course some of the women I spoke to then were upset or bitter, they were paving the way for generations to come. They had been fighting for a long time, and maybe, they were just trying to stoke the fire in all of us.

I read on, and towards the end of the piece, Steinem speaks to whether she will eventually 'pass the torch.' “I explain that I’m keeping my torch, thank you very much- and I’m using it to light the torches of others." she says. "Because only if each of us has a torch will there be enough light.”

That sentiment stuck with me, and when I got back from my trip, I thought about it more and more. Women supporting other women is important, but sticking together is key.

Since I work in the motorcycle industry, I started to think about what I could do to positively impact the women around me as well as the women I don’t know in the riding community during my day to day. As time passed, I started to meet with the other women at work and reach out to support other women who ride. Slowly, I started to feel my work align a little more with my life.

But, I did feel a little self-conscious about it.

My mother is an integral part of the harm reduction agency she works for and my roommate is a saint at the homeless shelter that she works at. Was I really doing anything impactful by supporting other women on motorcycles? I wasn’t sure, but it did feel good.

Almost a month after my trip, I attended the Pennsylvania Conference for Women along with 8,000 others. The conference focused on how optimism, positivity and support are important because they ignite hope in other people. That alone, spoke volumes. And though it made sense, it was nice to hear out loud.

After the event, there was a book signing and I heard that Gloria Steinem would be there. Obviously I wanted to meet her, but she was already gone. I bought her new book, On the Road, anyway.

Later that night, I settled into bed with my pajamas on and DCar snoring by my side. I opened the book and found this:

“Before she leaves, my new friend tells me to look out of the big picture window at the parking lot.
‘See that purple Harley out there- the big gorgeous one? That’s mine. I used to ride behind my husband, and never took the road on my own. Then after the kids were grown, I put my foot down. It was hard, but we finally got to be partners. Now he says he likes it better this way. He doesn’t have to worry about his bike breaking down or getting a heart attack and totaling us both. I even put Ms. on my license plate- and you should see my grandkids’ faces when Grandma rides up on her purple Harley!’
On my own again, I look out at the barren sand and tortured rocks of the Badlands, stretching for miles. I’ve walked there, and I know that, close up, the barren sand reveals layers of pale rose and beige cream, and the rocks turn out to have intricate womblike openings. Even in the distant cliffs, caves of rescue appear.
What seems to be one thing from a distance is very different close up.
I tell you this story because it’s the kind of lesson that can be learned only on the road. And also because I’ve come to believe that, inside, each of us has a purple motorcycle.
We only have to discover it- and ride.”

I closed the book and smiled. I found my purple motorcycle some time ago. But suddenly, I felt much more confident about empowering other women to find theirs.

We are all passionate about different things.

Another woman's success is not your failure

when we are working towards the same thing.

Wildwood, New Jersey : The Race Of Gentlemen

A few weekends ago we rode down to Wildwood for The Race of Gentleman, aka TROG. TROG is a weekend-long event paying tribute to American automotive history by letting vintage motorcycles and cars race along the beach.

Aside from the obvious beauty of the ocean and clear blue sky, there's also something to be said for the people who have a passion for riding old machines. And, I think there's something special to be said for those who share that passion with others.

After the races, we caught a little golden hour.

And on Sunday, DCar and I made it home just in time to enjoy a little Fall supper outside.

On Riding Bitch... For Lack Of A Better Term

Over the years, the female riding community has grown. It’s grown so much and so much of it, I think, has to do with the support that other females have given each other. It's simple, women empowering other women. But let’s back up a moment. Who taught this new wave of women how to ride? Was it another woman - a friend, a girlfriend, a mother, a sister? Was it a daughter? Through the vastly growing online community of female motorcycle riders, so many have shared their stories surrounding who taught them how to ride. And surprisingly enough, many (though definitely not all) involved a man.

While the idea of learning how to ride from another woman makes my heart smile, I myself learned from a man. Unlike so many women who have who have been riding for years, I didn't learn from my father. I learned from my boyfriend. When we met, I already had my permit. I was going to buy a bike whether he was supportive or not. But to he and his friends’ credit, the support that they gave me throughout the learning and bike buying process was not only present it was tremendous.

But before I met my boyfriend, I had not been met with the same kind of support that a woman in 2012 might hope to expect. Though my family was supportive, the other men in my life before DCar were not. In fact, my previous boyfriend rode. When I told him I wanted a motorcycle too, he told me that he didn’t want me riding unless he was there to pick out the bike. Throughout the conversation, I realized that he was slowly going to take control of the process and he wasn't going to let me make any decisions on my own. Considering that he was halfway across the world, his words didn’t hold much weight and our relationship didn’t last. But, his conviction in deciding what I could not do was a pivotal moment in my relationship with motorcycles. I wasn't going to settle for being his old lady and I wasn’t just going to ride bitch.

So, I got my permit. I had no idea what I was going to do after that, though. I had a few guy friends who rode, but I never really felt they understood why I wanted a bike or that I really wanted one because I was such a novice. In contrast, most of them had been riding or oggling bikes for years. In their eyes, I was just an overly eager passenger.

DCar seemed to arrive at that perfect moment where I was at a crossroads with what to buy bike-wise. He and our friend Justin scoured Craigslist with me until they understood what I wanted, and didn't want, as my ride. Then, they helped me look for it. But, never once did they tell me what I couldn't ride.  Instead, they shared their experiences and let me make up my own mind. They empowered me.

In the meantime, while I looked for a bike, I rode with Dan. He picked me up from work, we went on dates- we went on double dates. I felt like a koala bear peering over his shoulder, happily watching the road. Never once did I feel like I was riding bitch.

Fast-forward a few years and we now live together in an apartment with a garage that's attached to our bedroom. I have three bikes and he currently has two. I've moved beyond my little ‘74 CB200 to a Sportster and recently even tried my hand at riding off-road (see the post below*). But, I would be lying if I said that I didn’t still occasionally ride bitch. Because sometimes riding with the person who taught you (who truly empowered you) - be it a parent, lover or friend - is so much more than just riding bitch.

Kudos to all of the men out there who support and empower women- be it riding, or otherwise.

Things I Learned In The Dirt

When I started riding motorcycles, I didn’t know much about riding offroad. I still don't! Read: city girl, born and raised. But, a few weekends ago I took my little '94 Yamaha XT225 Serow offroad for the first time and it was probably one of the most challenging, exhausting, and exhilarating things I have ever done.

For my first forray into the dirt world, I trucked my bike out to Freeland PA and met up with a co-worker who grew up around the coal mine there. It's not exactly an area designated for motorcyclists, but people ride there anyway. We rode through what I assume are normal dirt trails but we also hit mud, some silty sand-like terrain and a few sketchy trails that were full of rocks. Here are a few things I told myself while trying not to eat it.

Don't use your front brake. I’ve never purposely ridden downhill into a crater-like pit before because it looked fun. In fact, watching people skate deep bowls makes my stomach a little knotty. But, this looked kind of sandy. So I figured what the hell, the worst that can happen is I fall into some sand. And, that’s exactly what I did. Before my second try, my co-worker stopped me and gave me some sage advice. Don’t use your front brake. Doing so while riding downhill can literally flip you over the handlebars. It makes complete sense now, but it was nice to have someone there to actually say it.

Don’t look down. We started off in that weird black sandy bowl but eventually made our way to some semi-narrow, woodsy trails. At first, I kept looking down in disbelief that I was finally riding offroad in the woods. I was also looking down to brace myself for every rock I passed because I didn't really know what I was doing. After eating it in the first tight turn, I kept my head up and set my sights on what was in front of me instead of panicking about what was below. What I realized was that by looking down, I was missing the best part of the ride. Looking ahead, I watched and felt the trees pass by and couldn't help but smile. This is the view I had been waiting for.

Trust the bike. This reminds me of when I got my second bike, an 883 Sportster. I didn’t love the cantankerous added weight of a Harley and riding fast made me nervous because I didn’t feel as in control as I was on my first bike, an old little ‘74 Honda CB200. But over time I realized that the Sportster was actually easier to handle at speed. I just needed to trust it! With the XT, it was the same lesson all over again. Those rocks I kept seeing? I realized I couldn't always go around them. I needed to trust the bike to take me over them. After all, there’s a reason the bike's front end feels that way.

Next time, bring more water. Three- plus hours and one bottle of water? Rookie move.

Get a GoPro. This was my first ride offroad, and being the sentimentalist that I am, I wanted to document it. But I didn't have a way to carry my phone with me, so I had to make Dan stop whenever I wanted to take a photo. In the gnarlier trails, it just wasn't worth it. Truth be told, I was too busy picking my bike up.

Never underestimate your street smarts, even in the woods. We found ourselves by a coal mine that was so vast and deep, there was no going through it. I was nervous even getting close to the edge of it. The only thing to do was to go around it or go back the way that we came. But at that point, we had been riding for a few hours and we kind of just wanted to go home. I was also starving and home was a lot farther for me. Of course, that’s where my co-worker Dan’s bike got stuck. His 400-plus pound BMW F800GS didn’t make it a foot through the mud before the rear tire started spinning and the front tire started sinking. After trying to get it out for a few minutes, we took a step back and just watched as it stood there unmoving. As I looked down into the coal mine, I could feel my mind wanting to go into panic mode. There was no easy way out.

But, I knew that panicking would only make things worse so I pushed all of that out of my mind. Instead, I tried to help push the bike again. It didn’t budge. At 5'2" and 100 pounds, I felt like a bird hitting a window. After a few more tries, I took another step back and remembered another moment where I had seen someone on wheels get stuck in mud. Three words: My Cousin Vinny. I had recently seen the movie for the first time with my boyfriend's family. In the movie, Joe Pesci's car gets stuck in the mud on a hunting trip and he needs to make it back to the city for a court hearing. To stop his tires from spinning, he grabs the floormats from the car and throws them under the wheels. So, I found a plank-like piece of wood on the side of the road and stuck it under Dan’s front tire as he pushed and throttled it out of the mud. It worked. I immediately thanked whoever made that movie in my mind and was beside myself that I came up with an idea that actually worked. Meanwhile, as I stood there practically jumping for joy, his rear tire completely roosted me with mud.

photo by Dan M.

I drove home watching the sun set on my little mud covered thumper through the truck mirror. She was all banged up and dirty - exactly how she should be.

If there is something you want to go for that you're just not sure about, try it.

It might not work out. But if it does, it could be just as fun as you thought it would be... 

Shovel Trouble

Shit happens. But, when there's someone to ride through some of the shit with you, it's not so bad.

A few weeks ago, my Uncle was in town from London. That Saturday he came over with my little brothers and my Mom to play Monopoly and have family dinner. Naturally, he wanted to see our garage. Being a former track guy, primarily concerned with performance oriented bikes, he was curious as to why DCar chooses to ride the type of bikes that he does. DCar just looked at his Shovelhead and talked about how he liked putting it together and learning how to take it apart. It's simple, in a way. His recent triumph? Getting the timing just right. But as always, there's always something else to change, fix or maintain. My Uncle doesn't ride anymore, but it was nice to see two people who ride for completely different reasons talk about why they love doing it.

That Sunday I headed to my Mom's for one last dinner with my Uncle and DCar rode over to his parents to see his Grandpa Bill. On the way home from his parents, his oil filter came off. I ran home, took off my heels, threw on some vans and hopped in the truck to bring him some oil.

Filling it up with more oil didn't do the trick because the oil filter wouldn't stay on. So, we decided to tow the old girl home. I won't lie, being as tiny as I am I got pretty nervous pulling the ramp out of the truck to help him load the bike in. But, I could tell he was more nervous than I was. So, I just grabbed the rear and told him I had it. Somehow, we got it in there! And then, like two degenerates covered in oil, we got Chipotle.

Easy Does It

The weekend before last was the Hatboro Car Show, otherwise known this year as Moonlight Memories. It's mostly classic cars, but there's the occasional bike in between too. We took some backroads up there and arrived just in time to push our bikes over to our friends new shop, RPM Cycles.

Growing up, I never went to car shows. In fact, my mom didn't even own a car until I was in eighth grade. We also just didn't really stay in the states during the summer very much. But when DCar and I started dating, summer car shows were one of the first things he took me to. Between the old cars, good food, water ice and cold beers, it was the most American things I had done in the summer since a pig roast once in West Virginia.

I like classic car shows so much now, not just because it's become our 'thing' or because it's a fun thing to do in the summer. I also just really love seeing the owners of these cars. They're usually standing, or sitting, dutifully next to their cars. They might be chatting with people who walk by or they might just be sitting and watching as passersby get up, close and personal with their prize possessions. Either way, there's usually some sort of smile or look of pride there. And that is something that I've come to love to see. And I guess, as I get older, I'd like to think that I'll feel that way some day too. Easy does it, for now.

Work to Ride

Photo by DCar

Two weeks ago was the annual Gathering of the Nortons at Washington's Crossing. The gathering is pretty unique in that it's not a show, it's literally just a gathering. But the turnout is usually great and all types of riders come to see who or what, rather, has shown up.

My favorite bike this year wasn't a Norton. It was a BMW R90S with an orange body. I didn't get to speak with the owner, so I'll let the pictures tell the bike's story.

We knew the ride there would be cold and that if we left from the city, we would probably wind up waking up late and taking I-95. But I-95 is rampant with potholes and jerk drivers, so we opted to leave the evening before and camp at our friend Justin's house since it was close to the meet. The ride out to Justin's house was perfect. It was one of the first warm Saturdays we had seen here in Philly and it was nice to just cruise along the back-roads up to South Hampton. While I wouldn't really consider sleeping in a friend's backyard true camping, we had fun and got to enjoy a fire with some Jiffy Pop and a few beers.

As suspected, the ride the next morning was cold. Dan, Justin and I rode with Justin's family friend, Joe, and Justin's mom on the back. At the gas station that morning, she hopped off of his bike to tell me how cute I looked on my bike. Oh, moms.

On the way to Washington's Crossing Dan's bike kept putting out at stops. In fact, his bike putted out at almost every stop. It was disconcerting to say the least because he had been riding his bike for two months prior with no issues after replacing the cam and putting on a 'new' exhaust. But, I guess that's how 40 something year-old Shovelheads are.

As we arrived at the meet, I noticed that Dan was also holding on to his tank when he wasn't shifting. His Shovelhead is hand-shift, so that was alarming to watch. Sometimes, riding with people you care about makes for more trouble than not.

When we arrive he tells us that his tank is coming off. More specifically, the bolt that keeps the bottom tab on his tank bolted to the frame is now loose. So we think- motorcycle meet, someone's got to have some tools. In fact, we hear this echoed over and over again from everyone that we meet. Sorry man, I don't have any but someone probably does. After about an hour and a half of asking around, Dan found someone with a standard allen key set and we were good to go. Or so we thought.

A few minutes after leaving, we see an older gentleman on the side of the road pushing his Triumph. We all look back at one another and motion to stop. Apparently, he has run out of gas. It's hard to hear anything else over the rumble of our three bikes and every other bike that is passing, but we tell him that we will get him some gas and be back soon. As we take off, we see him cross over to a safer side of the road.

The closest gas station that we know of involves riding through Main Street in New Hope. If you've never been, don't go on a day where there is a bike event nearby. It's dead-stop traffic and there are people and bikes and cars everywhere. We finally get to the gas station and the attendant looks the other way as we fill up a bottle that used to contain water. We ride back through the traffic, which is a little better going the other way, and we find our guy. He insists on giving Justin money for gas. It's sweet, but unnecessary. We know what it's like, so we stopped. It's pretty simple.

But in retrospect, I guess he was pretty surprised to see us stop out of all the riders passing by that day. Dan, on his '74 rigid Shovelhead with a jockey shift; Justin, on his '62 Pan-Shovel with an upside-down cross on the sissy bar and a girl he very recently met on the back; me, with my little yellow-tanked Sportster and my tassels just flowing in the wind.

Either way, we got back on our bikes so that we could make our way through New Hope to find some good roads to ride. We didn't get very far. Between the traffic and all the chaos, a few young cops were out and about. I guess they thought it was a beautiful day to pull some 'bikers' over.

Three Harleys are loud whether or not they individually exceed the set-forth decibel limits in a given city. And when on of them is old, and its carb plug has popped off, it's even louder because you've pulled out the choke to make it idle higher instead of stalling out at every light. Can you restart it? as the cop who pulled us over asked. Well sir, if you want me to (kick) start it again, we're going to be here for a while.

We wound up getting off with a warning, as I'm sure everyone else did that day. On the way back to Philly, two of the three bolts came loose on Dan's shift-plate and people gawked at us at every light as his bike idled higher. By the time we hit Jenkintown, we both needed a break. I was cold and stressed and he needed to 'fix' a few things.

I won't lie, I asked him about just leaving his bike at his parent's house and taking my bike back. Of course, he said no. I'm always impressed by his resolve. When we finally pulled up to our garage, we just took off our helmets and parked our butts on the ground. I remember thinking- my hands are callused, my head is itchy, my boobs hurt. I smell like motor oil. If I was going to quit these kind of bikes, today would be the day. But while I showered and changed, I started to think about our weekend and smile. I completely forgot that we broke down on the way to Justin's and that I was the only one who could get my little hands behind Dan's ignition to fix it. Could it be that that was actually fun? It does feel that way...

Back Into The Swing Of Things

Justin kickstarting his '62 Harley Davidson Pan-Shovel

My boyfriend Dan and his long-time friend, Justin, have been riding with me since I bought my first motorcycle. In fact Justin test-rode my first bike, a '74 Honda CB200, and Dan rode it home the day I picked it up which was a little over three years ago. So, it's only natural that these are the first two I want to go on a long ride with after a long winter.

When you know people well, and you know how they ride, riding with them becomes different than riding with anyone else. It may sound weird, but it's almost like riding alone.

I'm definitely a nerd among the cool kids, but that's okay. I love riding with people who love their bikes and love what they do. Even if what they do is kick back and break down.

On the way home from Valley Forge, Justin's bike broke down. And by broke down, I mean the oil line on his bike started melting and smoking against his exhaust while he was riding. He managed to cut and reroute the oil line once we got to Manayunk, much to the dismay of the families walking around on Easter Sunday.

Justin's bike conundrums and macgyvering ways have never really surprised me. That is, until we were almost home. If you're not familiar with Kelly Drive, it's a windy but flat road that runs along the Schuylkill River. There's no shoulder or sidewalk, just grass that's lined with trees next to a bicycle path that's usually full of runners and cyclists, small children and tourists. The roads themselves are usually crowded with cars that can't stay in their lanes at speeds that they shouldn't be going.

As we're riding I notice Justin slow down in front of me. Again, there's no shoulder. He slows down some more until he's right next to me. My first thought is not that he's out of gas, it's that there is nowhere to pull over and that there are a ton of cars behind us. As I begin to pass him, slightly panicking, he motions to keep going so I do. I watch though as he steadily moves to the right, rides up over the small patch of grass, through two trees and onto the bike path. I look forward at Dan who is looking back at me and I motion for him to keep going. I look back again and it's as if Justin has disappeared.

We ride the few blocks home to get Dan's truck and a gas can, all the while smiling and giggling about Justin, his bike and all the people on the bicycle path that day. It was a good day.

Follow the boys on Instagram: @justinxjames @graveyardbars

Spring Is In the Air

Two years ago I started working at RevZilla and I had no idea what a dual sport bike was. I had heard the term Enduro, but even that was just a Craigslist term that I wasn't 100% certain the meaning of. I was a novice and I really just loved old bikes, even if I didn't know a ton about them. Since then, I've been exposed to so many different bikes and I've had the pleasure of speaking to a really diverse mix of riders.

Of them, the off-road crowd just wins. They don't stop grinning when they describe the type of riding they do. It's infectious and I've felt my face get flush with envy every so many times while hearing them talk. So about a year ago, I started my quest for the perfect off-road machine (for me).

I looked at a few bikes in person and scoured Craigslist daily like everyone else. All of the bikes I saw were either too tall or too small or too old. At 5'2", they were mostly too tall! So, I began looking at forums for bikes with lower seat heights that were also street legal, reliable and not too expensive. Soon after, I found a '94 Yamaha XT225 Serow with a few scrapes and dings at a fair price. My favorite thing about it so far is the DG exhaust. Problem is, it stopped running the day after I brought it home!

So, I spent last Saturday in the garage with DCar and our friend Adam from Cast & Salvage. It took us a few hours to get everything back in order (carbs needed cleaning / re-jetting and the airbox was full of oil that presumably overflowed from the crankcase), and the garage was cold as hell, but we finally got it running that evening. I didn't think to take any photos of the process because I wanted to learn, but I did get a silly photo that caught everyone's surprise when we finally heard it turn over :)

By the time we got it running we were all frozen and tired. But on Sunday I got to ride the XT for the first time with my friend, Jim, and his wife Kelli. Naturally, we ran into some other people who were enjoying the sunshine.

Brooklyn 2012

It's Philly's coldest winter in years and I feel like I haven't felt the sun against my face in months. In an effort not to go stir-crazy, I've been moseying through some old photos and reminiscing on some old stories.

Here's a little flashback to 2012-- the year I started riding, the year I met the love of my life and the year I discovered a different type of Harley.

Brooklyn Invitational 2012 - Part 1

Disclaimer- kids do stupid things. Hence the phrase: “young and dumb.”

On a sunny, brisk morning in September of 2012, we wake up early to make our way northbound. As we creep quietly out of my shoebox of an apartment, I add a final layer, buttoning it up as we make our way down the steps. We lock the deadbolt to the door outside and face the sun.

The bike is to the right of our stoop. Dan makes his way over to the tank and smoothes down the painters tape to make sure our directions don’t fly away during our journey on the highway. Then, he turns to me and says “federal donuts?”

After donuts, we walk outside and I put on my helmet nervously. Maybe it’s all the sugar and extremely strong cold-drip coffee. Or maybe, it’s the fact that this will be my first trip across state lines on the back of a rigid motorcycle. I’m not 100% sure. I didn’t even know what a rigid motorcycle was until we met.

So, I back up a little and asses the situation. His bike looks beautiful in the morning sunlight. As I think this, I search my memory for the moment when this type of bike became beautiful to me. The bike’s got a black frame, a grey tank with black rally stripes and a white solo seat and p-pad. It has t-bars and white grips with a short, pointed, unchromed sissy bar. The passenger pegs are mounted to the frame, just below my sliver of a seat. My legs flank Dan’s waist whenever we ride.

I look at the pegs and smile because they finally exist. Riding without pegs was fun when we met, but I guess you have to grow up some time.

Dan hops on and backs the bike up and off of the sidewalk for me to get on. I arrange myself, making sure my purse is securely wedged between my back and the sissy bar. Then I wrap my arms around him and make sure I’m ‘holding on.’ He turns his head to the side and asks ‘you ready?’

I’m ready.

The ride between Philly and our pit-stop in Jersey is nice. The wind is cooling and the sky is a beautiful pale blue. No one is driving like an ass and I’m happy to hold on with my knees in the breeze.

As soon as we stop, I realize how hot it is. It’s actually really hot for a Fall day. I’m happy to get back on the bike and cruise again.

We get into New York and it’s a shit show. The freeway is completely packed and there’s dead-stop traffic. It’s hotter than ever and all of a sudden it starts to smell like something is burning. I tap Dan and ask him if he smells it too. He looks down at his pant leg and murmurs something about his jeans and the exhaust. I try to understand how he is so calm as his jeans melt into the pipe. The pace picks up a little bit.

We finally get on the BQE and it’s miserable. By miserable I mean fucking terrifying because I feel like I’m going to fly away. We hit bump after bump after dodging bigger bumps. I’m doing my best to lift myself off the seat and drive my weight into my feet on the pegs. This is kind of hard to do when the position of the pegs have me in a squatting position. My thighs are burning, so I try to hold on a little tighter. I finally give up on shifting my weight for one second, and as I do so we hit a bump that sends both of my feet flying up off of the pegs. My lower half is airborn for just a moment.

I land with my arms still firmly around him and somehow everything is fine. The bikes just keeps moving. He reaches back to squeeze my thigh, letting me know that he understands what I’m feeling because he’s feeling it too.

We finally get off of the BQE and make our way towards the show. We find ourselves behind three eccentric white beards on dressers and they look at us and smile. I smile back, recognizing that twinkle in their eyes that says they were once young too. My muscles relax and the anxiety that I felt disappears and is replaced with giddy excitement for these new people and motorcycles that I never understood before.

Fall

The first 'group' ride I went on was to Belmont Plateau. It wasn't a far ride at all, but I had just gotten my license and barely had my bearings on my bike. On the way there, I stalled out at every other light. Actually, more like each and every light. But, riding around Fairmount Park and ending up on this hill felt like a victory at the time.

That was a few years ago. But the Plateau isn't far from where DCar and I live now, so we try to end rides here often and take in the view of the city. This time, we went for a cruise on DCar's Sportster and took a little detour on the way home.

Dia de los Muertos

In the spirit of Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, we took a ride to the cemetery this past November. If you aren't familiar with Dia de los Muertos, it's a Mexican Holiday that honors the adults in your life that have passed. In Mexico, their graves are cleaned and decorated with bright orange marigolds. Unfortunately, my father passed away on a farm in Mexico when I was three and I grew up in the States. Still, I thought of him while we rode through Laurel Hill that day.

It was a cold, beautiful day.

The etchings above were done by Mexican printmaker and draughtsman, Jose Guadalupe Posada.

Boo.

Mon-daze

On a surprisingly warm day this November, my friend Tracy and I ended a little ride on the west side of the Art Museum. We got there just in time for the sunset.

The Art Museum is one of the my favorite landmarks in Philly. Riding towards it along West Rider Drive is really kind of breathtaking and makes for an amazing view of the museum, the river and boat house row.

Even though the museum itself closes daily, the steps, nearby gazebos and park are always open. Growing up, I spent many a night hanging out on the steps and gazing at the city lights.