DOWNEY – One might picture a biker chick as a tough-talking, tattoo-covered woman riding on the back of her man’s motorcycle. But female motorcycle riders all over the world are breaking the stereotype. One of them is Bea Robles, the petite and soft-spoken senior executive assistant to the L.A. County Board of Education.
“Many of us are girly girls who love a good lipstick and a great pair of heels,” said Robles, who owns two Harley-Davidson bikes. “Women riders are mothers, grandmothers, professionals and business owners. They are smart, independent, accomplished women, who also love to ride their own bikes.”
Robles vividly remembers the first time she rode on the back of her father’s motorcycle when she was 10 years old. “It was exhilarating,” she said. “I loved riding in the open, feeling the wind in my face and enjoying the sights, sounds and scent of the outdoors.”
More than just a joy ride, being on a bike has now become foremost an empowering experience for Robles.
She has broken the proverbial glass ceiling for female riders by serving as road captain for a group of mostly male Harley riders. As the leader, she plans the route and group formation on long-distance trips. She is also responsible for ensuring the group’s compliance with safety rules. “Good riders will always respect the law,” said Robles, who also serves as membership officer for the Harley Owners Group Southern California Chapter Board #0183. She has, so far, recruited more than 300 members.
She recently led a group of HOG members as they made their way from Los Angeles to Reno, Nevada. They took Highway 50 to Ely Nevada, crossed over to Utah and took Highways 89 and 9 to Zion National Park, then to St. George and Mesquite.
“You have to concentrate completely, focus totally on what you’re doing and what everybody else is doing,” she said.
Her two-wheeled travels have taken her as far away as Coos Bay in Oregon and Colorado Springs. Her next destinations are the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and South Dakota.
The Iron Butt Association has certified her riding record: 1,000 miles in 24 hours and 1,500 miles in 36 hours. She plans to break the record in September by logging 1,500 miles in 24 hours. Last month, she won a free rear tire when she clocked up the most miles -- 2,800 -- in June.
The determination, discipline, focus and organizational skills that she taps as a seasoned rider have transferred into other parts of her life -- relationships, creative and professional work and balancing her time, she added.
Robles and her fellow riders also support philanthropic endeavors in communities via group rides and participation in charity events, Pride events and motorcycle education activities.
She is active in the Patriot Guard Riders, whose members attend funerals to honor fallen heroes -- soldiers, police officers or firefighters -- and support their grieving families. She has welcomed and escorted returning troops who completed their missions in Afghanistan and were reunited with their families.
But her most fulfilling riding experience, so far, was when she joined a group of riders who responded to a dying man’s request. An avid rider who had terminal cancer wanted to hear the roar of bikes one last time.
“I couldn’t forget the look of pure joy on his face when he saw us approach his house,” she recalled. “We revved our engines for him, then we chatted with him for about half an hour. His family was very thankful.”
Robles hopes to empower other women who are interested in riding motorcycles. She volunteers to help orient women at “garage parties,” where motorcycle workshops are offered and women can network and learn the basics of bike handling and operation in a low-key, after-hours environment.
“Some women think they might like to do it but they hesitate, not knowing how to get started,” said Robles. “They’re worried about things like the bike seems too big and too heavy for me, or maybe I don’t know other women who ride. So I tell them my story, and I hope to inspire them to also live out their own dreams.”
This story originally appeared in Channels. It is reprinted with permission.
Published: June 19, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 10