PHOTOS | COSTA SISTERS
The first Friday in August saw me stuck in a traffic jam and headed towards Wales with my best friend and über-petrolette Robin, wondering if a women’s only motorcycle festival that had organically evolved in the sun-baked Californian desert could be picked up and successfully placed in the verdant hills of South Wales. The simple answer is yes!
Babes Ride Out is a hugely successful US-based women’s motorcycle festival which has branched out not only from the west-coast to the east-coast in 2016 but has also hopped the pond and with the help of VC London (profile following soon) come to the UK.
Babes Ride Out UK (BRO UK) saw upward of 150 women roll up to a remote farm nestled on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park in south Wales. Ladies of all shapes, sizes, ages and riding experience arrived on Harleys, Hondas, Triumphs, Suzukis and custom choppers. Bikes of all kinds came roaring and put, put, putting up the long drive, through the barn and into the field where we camped for the weekend. Although it is well known that four wheels are good and two wheels are better those of us with ailing or unfinished bikes or completely new to biking were made to feel welcome as we joined friends in their cars, minivans and campers to be part of the weekend.
The festivities were spread over two days but didn’t really begin until the flock of 125cc riders arrived around 8.30pm on Friday evening, 10 hours after leaving the Bike Shed in East London. They were welcomed like heroes with cold beer courtesy of the free bar and much hooting. They had ridden the back roads for 170+ miles, winding their way across the width of the UK. For some it was the longest ride they had ever done and they arrived exhausted and exhilarated. I was lucky enough to be volunteering on the gate and had the pleasure of waving them all in as they arrived, horns honking in victory and whooping despite what must have been very numb bums.
The evening progressed to live music from bluegrass inspired duo Zealous Doxy and dancing into the small hours.
Saturday morning saw groups of riders head out on routes that were planned by VC London; three routes were plotted for various skill levels and lengths factoring in waterfalls and wonderful wild swimming opportunities. Others stayed behind for off-road training courses that had even the most inexperienced riders whizzing around the course with confidence. One lady had never even ridden a motorbike before donning armour and mounting up on an enduro – the instructor reported that she did brilliantly and is now planning to buy a bike and start riding.
Saturday night got off to an exciting start with the always amusing slow race Olympics followed by a raffle with ladies winning beautiful custom helmets, Bluetooth intercoms, t-shirts and a wealth of other thrilling bits and bobs. Next up was a riotous punk(ish) band called Slowcoaches which sparked some serious moshing, followed by dance-offs and more drinking. The free bar kept giving and come Sunday morning I witnessed some of the worst hangovers I have ever seen.
Packing up on Sunday morning was a subdued affair as many were either broken from Saturday’s late-night dance-athon, grotesque amounts of rum and beer or both. But slowly tents were packed down and bikes were loaded up, farewells were bid with promises to see each other again next year before metal beasts were kicked into life and released back onto the roads baring their burdens.
As a first attempt in the UK BRO certainly ticked a lot of boxes although it was quite rough around the edges and no doubt while VC London will be celebrating a successful event they will also be considering areas of improvement. I am already looking forward to next year and seeing how the BRO UK will evolve (hopefully with the introduction of a coffee truck!) and would definitely recommend it to other riders or ride-curious women. As a new rider, being in such a supportive environment and hearing other women’s stories about what brought them to motorbikes or what riding means to them was a wonderful and expansive experience.
Many thanks to Babes Ride Out and VC London for creating the opportunity to meet such a variety of people with a shared love or interest, and for facilitating an event that felt like a raw celebration of the women who ride motorbikes.
Danica will do whatever it takes, and is therefore the John McClane of rural England. She has found solace from chronic pain in her CB125, ‘Glenda’. Her column on IVV follows her journey navigating personal struggles, defeating internal and external obstacles to freedom and living in the best sense of the word.