Women, too, are on two wheels

They’re biker chicks, all right.

But they’re not clinging seductively to the back of some dude’s bike. And you won’t see any of the women in this group wearing a T-shirt that brands them as somebody’s “property,” either. These ladies – members of two South Sound chapters of the national Women on Wheels motorcycle organization – are in the driver’s seat when they head out on the highway.

Some started riding as kids, as passengers with their dads or as teens on the back of their own dirt bikes. Others didn’t start motorcycling until they were in their 40s or 50s.

But they all have one thing in common: They treasure the wind in their faces and the sense of freedom they feel on the open road.

“When you’re on a bike, your brain is so preoccupied with what you have to do that it’s like an anti-depressant,” says Cheryl Creson of Auburn, who leads the West Side Girls, which has members from King and Pierce counties. Her group gathered for a ride last month with women riders from the Kitsap County-based Olympic Thunder, another Women on Wheels chapter.

Riders ranged in age from their 30s to their 60s.

“I didn’t start riding until I was 57 years old,” says Conne Cannon, 65, who takes her portable oxygen tank along on rides.

She and her husband, John, often ride together on their own motorcycles – they’ve been to Mexico and on a mission trip to Belize on bikes. And he keeps her ride in top shape.

“But it’s also good to do girl things,” she says.

Cannon rides a three-wheeled 1500cc Gold Wing.

“You don’t have to worry about corners, or stops,” she says, demonstrating how her three wheels help keep her bike stable. “It rides nice and smooth.”

Cannon’s husband introduced her to motorcycling. But after a couple of trips on the back of his bike, she was ready for her own.

“I said this is what I really want to do,” she says.

West Side Girl Trish Alexander got her first taste of motorcycling at about age 5, when the Hells Angels buzzed by her family’s station wagon.

“My mom said not to look,” she says. “I’m sure my brother and sister didn’t. But I did.”

She wasn’t really hooked on two-wheeling transportation until she accidentally stumbled on the Mecca of motorcycling, Sturgis S.D.

Since the 1930s, motorcyclists from all over the country have been converging on the city each summer for races, rallies and raucous fun. Today, the event attracts hundreds of thousands of people.

But Alexander knew nothing of Sturgis’ reputation the year she took her kids to see Mount Rushmore and South Dakota’s Black Hills.

The noisy bikes around Sturgis drove her husband – now her ex – crazy. But they were music to the ears of Alexander. She vowed that once her kids were grown up, she was going to get her own motorcycle.

As a single mom, she remembers having to dip into her Harley fund to buy the kids shoes.

But she eventually got her own bike. Riding it makes her feel closer to her son, who died in a car accident at age 18. She wears a white butterfly pin on her leather vest in his honor.

“After he died, I needed to be alone with my grief,” she says. “It’s therapy. It’s relaxing.”

Biking takes concentration and focus, say the women riders. And they all say the best way to get started motorcycling is to take a safety course.

Motorcyclists need to stay constantly aware of what the cars around them are doing. Often, drivers of cars can’t see them approaching.

“You need to drive defensively,” says Jan Roark, who drives a 1500cc Gold Wing two-wheel motorcycle that’s powerful enough to haul a small pop-up camper. “You need to concentrate on the road when you’re out in the open on a bike.”

But like other women in the motorcycle clubs, she finds the need to focus relaxing, rather than stressful.

“It forces you to put aside the day’s problems,” Roark says.

Jeanette Sayers, chapter director of Olympic Thunder, grew up in a family of cyclists that includes both her parents, aunts, uncles and brothers-in-law, among others. But she says being part of a club makes riding fun.

She was happy to find Olympic Thunder after moving to Washington state two years ago from Utah.

“Some of these gals are now my best friends,” she says. “They’re kind of like family.”

Savanna Stevens started riding 11 years ago.

“I wanted to take possession of my own life,” says the grandmother of five. That’s one reason her Harley is called “Freedom.”

She wants to get a new bike, and pass on “Freedom” to the oldest of her five grandchildren, who just graduated from high school. And she will direct the oldest to keep passing it down in the family until every grandchild has had a chance to taste “Freedom.”

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635





Women on Wheels is a national organization founded to help unite women motorcycle enthusiasts.