In Biker Chicz of North America, the authors have compiled the backgrounds and current portraits of 22 contemporary women who ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Some of these ladies are well-known figures in the world of motorcycles, while others are more obscure. All have unique stories—tales of success, struggle, victory, redemption—all centered around a life on two wheels.
The book opens with a lengthy introduction presenting the history of women in motorcycling from the early 1900s through the development of the first all-female bike clubs in the late ’30s, into World War II and ending with the decline of female motorcyclists in the 1950s. And while some is a rehash of established facts, it manages to offer some interesting tidbits to keep the reader interested (the arrest of the Van Buren sisters in 1916 for publicly wearing trousers during their transcontinental motorcycle journey being a prime example). The intro concludes with a tiresome biography of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company’s saga from its founding to its present-day position. It’s presented as a glowing report that sounds like, if not written by Harley, then possibly subsidized by them. It’s clear the authors are Harley men to the core.
The following 22 chapters of Biker Chicz reveal a behind-the-scene glimpse into the private lives of some distinctive females. Their introduction to bikes, fighting the stigma associated with being a female on a Harley, various road adventures and how motorcycling has become an integral part of their lives is disclosed. Some stories involve rebellion and addictions, while others are squeaky clean. Several are wrapped in the mess that is a part of parental divorce. Riding experience varies from just a few years to over 70 years in the saddle. Some ride solo and others are members of various riding organizations. But no matter what their background, personal tragedies and triumphs, or biking skill level, all the stories are fascinating with one recurring descriptive term seeming to characterize them all: multidimensional.
But as interesting as those stories are, some of the most intriguing to me are the ones that focus on a few of my friends that are included in this text. I personally know more than a third of the ladies featured on the pages of this book. Some associations are due to business contacts in the industry, while a few others have actually worked for me as writers and photographers, contributing to the pages of Thunder Press. And although I count several of these girls as close friends, I was surprised by the amount of information concerning their lives that I was totally unaware of. It was like reading their diaries or having an extended chat after dinner and drinks.
If it feels like this book has a multitude of writers, it does. It has 22. Twenty-four if you count the two guys’ names on the cover. This is a collection of interviews that allows each woman to tell her story in her own words using her particular vernacular, point of view, expressions and slang that spans a wide timeframe. And although it missed several notable female bikers and only focuses on those aboard Harleys, it’s a good read for anyone interested in the female perspective in a male-dominated territory. All these Chicz rock—and ride.
Edward Winterhalder & Wil De Clercq
Blockhead City Press
$24.95, 291 pages