Our Hollywood reporter Reagan Alexander visits MotoLady’s 3rd Annual Women’s Motorcycle Show in LA.
Truth be told, your typical Californian motorcycle show is a miasma of exhaust fumes and cheap beer, a collection of ill-advised tattoos, puffed-out chests and a dress code that is simply leather, denim, more leather, belt knife and wallet chain.
There’s camaraderie, spectacular motorcycles and that fraternal brotherhood of gearheads, but there is always that niggling feeling that the smallest spark could ignite the dumbfounding testosterone that hangs in the air as densely as the petrol fumes.
For the third year straight, MotoLady’s Alicia Mariah Elfving has changed not just the culture of these gatherings but the conversation as well with her Annual Women’s Motorcycle Show, an event held at Lucky Wheels Garage in Downtown Los Angeles and billed as: ‘A motorcycle show, with bikes built for or by women… open to all, even dogs and babies’.
Anvils, dancing and the LAPD
It’s best left to Alicia to cut through any attempt at verbosity in describing her event, as the poetry in which she speaks is as simple as it is direct.
“Cool women,” she says in a whisky-in-the morning voice that days later is still recovering from an evening of barking out orders and howling at the sliver of a crescent moon. “Cool bikes and girls who are just really into it.”
There were stunning bikes, there was art, there was music, there was laughter and even some impromptu dance. There was even an active workstation that had a woman working with a forge, an anvil and a hammer, as if a soot-faced Valkyrie had decided to drop by for the evening to lend the ring of metal against metal to the chorus of the night.
There was a circling helicopter, compliments of the LAPD, and then the decision by Los Angeles’ finest to, reluctantly, pull the plug on the evening.
And, yes, there were dogs and babies. Most importantly there was an ethos unlike other motorcycle-centric gatherings. It was more than the usual camaraderie, more than the guarded nod of, ‘nice bike, bro’.
Where it all began
Three years ago, Alicia had looked out on the landscape of the Los Angeles motorcycle scene and thought to herself, ‘there are riding clubs for women, there are women’s campouts, women’s motorcycle websites, all of that, but there’s no [women’s motorcycle] show’.
Motorcycle pioneers such as Theresa Wallach, Bessie Stringfield and the Van Buren sisters must have looked down (or up) and smiled because Alicia’s next thought was, ‘well, I guess I have to fill this niche’.
Her philosophy going into organising something that hadn’t been done quite like this before was simple: all are welcome, the one caveat being that you have to leave your ego hanging with your helmet on your handlebars, be they ape-hangers or clip-ons.
“It doesn’t matter how we ride, you ride how you want,” Alicia says, with a hoarse laugh. “There are idiots everywhere, but you can meet someone on the side of the road and not only is it an incredibly small community but it is an incredibly helpful community and it doesn’t matter what you ride, the boundaries cross over.”
So on a chilled Los Angeles Friday evening, as each level of Lucky Wheels Garage swelled with one warm body after another, with 27 bikes on display, hundreds lining the street and sidewalk, there was a genuine feeling of, ‘we’re in this together. We’re all going to lay it down at some point and, god-willing, we’re going to get back up. But if you can’t get back up, I’m there to help you.’
Founder and force of nature: Alicia Mariah Elfving
“I wanted to highlight some of the chicks I know that have custom bikes,” she says of her still-nascent, ever-evolving but wildly popular show. “I remember that when I was a kid I was transfixed with motorcycles and would press my face up against the glass when I saw one go by.”
Her parents rode, but they kept it a secret from their daughter, and from an early age Alicia was not allowed near motorcycles. But when she turned 18 she took a rider training class with Team Oregon. After acing the course, with a letter of recommendation to become an instructor, Alicia decided to dive headfirst into her newfound passion or, in her words, go ‘balls deep’ into motorcycling.
“I didn’t know anyone except for my instructor, Joel, from Team Oregon,” she admits. “He was the only person that I knew and he even came and test-drove the first bike I got.”
“It was a happy accident well-timed”
Fault her not for her first love, a 1998 Ducati Monster 750, because who among us can say that our first loves lasted? Look at Romeo and Juliet, Abbot and Costello. We’re excited, we’re eager, we want so much to be a part of something that we will overlook most anything.
Alicia, MotoLady, does know something about a good bike beyond first loves, beyond that first flush and flutter of the heart when a bike that speaks to you goes by. “I have always loved Triumphs,” she says. “I have never been huge into Harleys. I appreciate their history, but Triumphs have always been the ones that I’ve been attracted to.”
In the end it is style and substance over chrome and burp and brapp. Even over the throaty chuckle that a Ducati can throw at you from down the street.
“I like retro, and classic, and purist,” Alicia admits. “Everything about that, but I also like brakes. Triumph does what it does very well and they get updated, but they still look classic.”
Photos: Mariya Stangl unless stated.