BY KRIS FANT
Did you grow up riding motorcycles, or did you start later in life? Have you ever wondered what it was like to be around motorcycles for as long as you could remember? How might that change someone’s personality? Read about Megan Nickerson, a 21 year old college student who got her first motorcycle at the age of three, and hear her speak frankly about the impact motorcycles have had on her life, observations about the portrayal of women motorcyclists, and how motorcycles have shaped the woman she is today.
What is your first memory of motorcycles?
It’s hard to pinpoint my first memory of motorcycles… I’ve spent my whole life around them. I got my first motorcycle, a PW50, when I was three years old. I don’t remember much of those days, but I hear I got into a lot of trouble. That little bike had training wheels on it until I was old enough to balance on my own. I remember putting around on that little bike at friends’ farms, and my dad setting up logs in the front yard to teach me how to go over bumps and not get scared. He’d make a little training course for me that was, frankly, terrifying at the time. I remember my first big crash, sometime shortly after I upgraded to my PW80, and got serious road rash on my arm. It was a tough lesson in braking that day.
What role have motorcycles played in your family?
Motorcycles have definitely been a huge bonding point in our family. There was never a question of whether one of us disliked them. From the beginning, we all knew it was a family thing that we all loved. It gave us an escape. Many dirt bike areas are out of cell-phone service, so it was easy to hitch up the trailer and literally get away from everything for a weekend. It was a bonding experience that opened up the possibility for so much more than motorcycles. We made friends, formed a community, and shared so laughs and memories. It’s a different world in the motorcycle community. You find so many incredible and inspiring people who share your passions.
In particular, I think of camping trips. My sister, dad and I would go as a family, but the trip always turned into something more. As soon as the campfires were lit and the beer was brought out, it was extremely easy to make friends with neighboring campers. Suddenly a small family trip turned into a site-wide experience with plenty of group rides the next day.
That isn’t to say motorcycles have been easy, however. At times, it could cause a lot of tension in the family. We all wanted to ride, and it was difficult with varying skill levels, personality types, and even general teenage drama. My sister was slower than me, or I hated that she was copying me. Sometimes I hated that my dad took forever to get ready to go ride and wasted daylight, and I hated that he would always make me wait for my sister to catch up to us. But at the end of the day, I was grateful to ride with the people I cared about.
What is your observation of women riders in our culture?
In a word? Sexist. The prevalent image seems to be the “badass biker babes” on Harley’s or the girls dressed in bikinis standing near a motorcycle. You rarely see normal women portrayed with motorcycles in our culture. It was literally so shocking to me to get introduced to real world female riders and realize that they’re just like me—and often times they’re just as fed up with this pink, feminine marketing bullshit as I am.
People also seem to treat women riders as an anomaly. I tell people I’m into motorcycles and riding and I get one of two responses: they’re either pleasantly surprised or they’re in disbelief. Motorcycling is predominantly a boys club, and it’s marketed to be a boys club. Some people don’t even take me seriously when I tell them I ride. Regardless, women are capable riders, and seeing ourselves portrayed that way in the media would be fantastic.
Who do you ride with?
I don’t want to say I prefer not riding with men, but the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s true. The only men I like to ride with are men I’m comfortable with. Why? Because, as I said before, motorcycles seems to be a boys club. They go fast and go hard and there’s pressure to keep up with them and perform at their level. I enjoy riding at my pace and within my limits. I worry about holding other people back. On group rides, I’ll try to stick close to the women—not because we’re all at the same pace, but because there seems to be a solidarity, some unspoken understanding. We are willing to help whether you are first or last in the group, we know what it’s like to be stuck under a big bike, and how nice it is to have help picking it up. We also know to wait until asked for help, how important it is to be independent. It feels like a much more supportive atmosphere around women.
I’ve been lucky enough to know some incredible women who love riding just as much as I do. Currently, I ride a CRF150R and a Ninja 300. I spend most of my time riding with my family and family friends, which includes a variety of men and women riders.
Have motorcycles affected your identity and personality?
Motorcycles have absolutely affected my identity and shaped who I am. Motorcycles have provided me with an outlet for stress, as well as an active lifestyle and overall happiness. If anything, motorcycles have helped me learn and develop my identity. As cliché as this may sound, growing up I never felt like I fit in. I didn’t quite fit in the tomboy category and I didn’t fit in the girly category. I felt like I had to sacrifice my femininity to be a part of this boys club, but now that I’m older, I realize I don’t need to do that at all. The motorcycle community is filled with people from all walks of life and it’s rare to find someone who judges or shuns you. There’s always a niche of people with similar interests that support and love you for who you are.
Because of my connection with motorcycles, I’m a dedicated and headstrong person. I am strong, independent and confident in what I do. It has defined my sense of self. It has taught me to push my limits and to know my limits. It has taught me that the toughest of trials can be overcome and that you can learn and improve. Learning can be painful, but it often makes for a good story in the end.