by Ilina Ewen
photographs by Jill Knight
When Peter Fonda took to the open road in Easy Rider, he embodied the cinematic ideal of the macho male biker. These days, motorcycling isn’t just for the boys, and women are more than along for the ride. In the Triangle, with its miles of rural roads and beautiful surroundings, women of all kinds are debunking stereotypes on the back of a bike. They take it seriously, with many rolling up their sleeves to fix, restore, and even build their own motorcycles.
These women are as unique as the bikes they ride, and they’ve built a community of sorts, sharing the thrill that comes with a ride across blurred yellow lines and beneath a canopy of swaying pines.
In the combination of chaos and calm as they rev their engines on back country roads, these women find and savor a slice of serenity – a departure from the stress and demands of daily life.
Robin Dail, 56, is an associate professor at Duke University in the School of Nursing. She is also a mother and a soon-to-be grandmother. Dail started biking after her husband died at 53. When she started dating again, Dail found herself on the back of a motorcycle with a new beau and decided to fulfill a childhood dream and get her own motorcycle license. That was four years ago. Dail jokes that the relationship didn’t last, but her obsession with motorcycles did. She has since married a man who shares her passion for riding. Today Dail has four bikes, including the 2016 Triumph Tiger XCX that she rides most often, a 2012 Triumph Bonneville, and a 2007 Triumph Daytona 675 that she likes for buzzing around the track. When she isn’t riding, Dail restores a 1966 Triumph Tiger T100 SR. Robin also runs Moto Girl Café, a virtual group she created to expand the community of women motorcyclists.
Kristie Holsclaw, 43, is a top salesperson at Ray Price Harley-Davidson who says she first found empowerment and confidence on the back of a motorcycle when she was 21. Her fascination was sparked as a little girl listening to her grandfather tell tales about his days professional hill-climbing in the 1930s on the back of a Harley-Davidson. Today, the Raleighite says the freedom of the open road – a place with no television, email, or phone – beckons her. She rides for the solitude, preferring to take her Triumph Bonneville on rural roads.
Global sourcing and social responsibility specialist Rika Dunder of Fuquay-Varina started riding motorcycles at 21 in Taiwan as the most affordable way to get around. But she was no stranger to bikes – as a little girl in Sweden, Dunder had spent time at classic bike meets with her father, who raced and restored classic motorcycles. Dunder stopped riding after a decade on that first motorcycle when her work for UNICEF in sourcing and corporate social responsibility took her around the globe. But after landing in North Carolina in 2012, Dunder started riding again. Now in her 40s, she’s hooked on her 2012 Royal Enfield Bullet and a 2014 Triumph Bonneville T100 that she takes out on long, curvy roads. She and her husband, an avid motorcyclist himself, are also active in their biker church, a “brotherhood of bikers” that shares a passion for the road and for Jesus.
Beth Williams, a Saxapahaw hoop dance teacher and residential designer in the design-build firm she owns with her husband, rode on the back of a boyfriend’s bike at 19 and realized she wanted to ride her own. Longing for independence, she was drawn to the stir of an engine. But when she became a mother and moved abroad, she put the hobby aside – for 28 years. Then, just weeks shy of her 49th birthday, Beth bought a Triumph Bonneville. Today she rides a 2013 Triumph Thruxton on country roads. She says she embraces the mental challenge that comes with riding motorcycles and appreciates its meditative qualities.
Software development product manager Selma Pittman’s life was renewed with a motorcycle. After losing her parents, she says she sunk into sadness and complacency. Then one day, she stumbled into a motorcycle show and thought: “That’s what I’ll do … I’ll buy a motorcycle and be a giant badass.” She’d grown up riding dirt bikes and four-wheelers and had raced cars, so it wasn’t such a departure for her to buy her first motorcycle at 33. About five years later, the busy foster mother rides a 2014 Triumph Bonneville, a 1979 Yamaha XS650 Bobber, and a 1993 Suzuki GS500. She heads out to Saxapahaw or Falls Lake when she yearns for twisty roads, the thrill of speed, and the meditative state she says only comes with the joy of the ride.