The AMA picked the perfect location for the Women & Motorcycling Conference. Keystone and the surrounding areas are absolutely beautiful, and any direction out of the parking lot takes you to some picturesque alpine scene. Snowcapped peaks in August contrast the sparkling blue lakes and rocky, techni-color cliffs. It’s no wonder there is a constant string of motorcycles heading out up US Route 6 to the top of Loveland Pass, and it’s not just the demo rides.
The twisty mountain is notable for its 11,990-ft elevation, which makes it the highest mountain pass in the world that regularly gets plowed and stays open all winter long. This allows big trucks and those carrying hazardous material to use this mountainous route to avoid the I-70 Eisenhower tunnel 6,800 vertical feet below. This road is pure motorcycle bliss as it twists and winds up to the continental divide. Yes, there are trucks, but the speed differential and numerous passing areas allows for a blissful ride for all. Not to mention the multitude of places to pull out and take in the breath-taking view.
The 2-mile long Eisenhower Tunnel is closed to big trucks forcing them to traverse the treacherous Loveland Pass instead.
As if that ‘backyard’ jaunt weren’t enough, longer routes took riders through the mountains over Breckenridge, through Independence Pass to Aspen, or into the town of Hot Sulphur Springs for some muscle-soothing relaxation. All this just outside your rustic ski-resort condo door. No wonder some conference participants were overheard saying it was the best motorcycle event ever.
Back at the conference center, more women were arriving every minute to sign in and excitedly greet their friends. All around the room were nametags bearing motorcycle nicknames like “Tigerlady” or “GS Diva” or “Throttle Grrl.” The registration area was oozing with giddy laughter and chatter as members of various national women’s motorcycle clubs greeted each other. Take a quick glance around and you’ll see vests and patches representing more women’s motorcycle clubs than you ever knew existed, even the oldest women’s motorcycle club in the US, the Motor Maids.
More apparent than at most rallies is the wonderful aspect of motorcycling – camaraderie. These women clearly feel a strong community amongst themselves, regardless of the bike they ride or the club vest they are wearing. There is something to be said for female bonding, and in this place it transcends casual conversations about shopping. These women are discussing how-to mechanics, solo riding safety, long distance riding foibles, where to find gear that really fits women and expert advice to help the newbie riders.
WIMA (the Women’s International Motorcycling Association), held its annual rally in the US this year in conjunction with the AMA Conference. WIMA has held over 50 annual rallies in places like the UK, Finland, Australia, Hungary and the 2010 rally will be held in Japan. The kick-off event was a social gathering for all WIMA members. Riders from all over the US, Canada, Europe and even a large contingent from Japan showed up for a typical American feast of pizza and beer.
Some conference attendees headed out for rides in the Sound Of Music scenery on factory-supplied demo bikes. Others stayed onsite to attend more seminars such as “Secrets of Veteran Riders,” “Dual-Sport & Adventure Riding,” “Take Your Riding to the Next Level,” or “Motorcycle Mentoring.” And even lady bikers can’t resist the call of all-day shopping and spent their day perusing the marketplace vendors snapping up great deals of women’s specific motorcycle apparel, blingy helmets & t-shirts, custom ear plugs, jewelry and all kinds of motorcycle accessories. There were even several women riders signing their motorcycle adventure books.
Later we all cruised into the River Run Center for the International Street Party hosted by the Motorcycling Confederation of Canada (MCC). Red-shirted representatives greeted party-goers with maple leaf pins and maps of the best motorcycle roads in the northern provinces. The evening’s program started with bike show awards followed by a fashion show of women’s technical motorcycle gear from companies like Harley-Davidson, Scorpion, Tourmaster, BMW and Ducati. Brigitte Zuffrey was attending from FIM (International Motorcycling Federation) headquarters in Switzerland and gave a talk on the international effort to increase women’s access to motorcycling and better meet the needs of women riders in all aspects of the sport from leisure riding to racing to motorsport administration.
The Street Party featured keynote speaker Deb Grey, who is known as Canada’s “First Lady of Reform” because she became the Reform Party’s first ever Member of Parliament. She is also a motorcyclist. Liz Janzen, MCC’s Director, touted Deb Grey as a role model for Canadians, women and motorcyclists saying that “her life exemplifies the conference theme of ‘Riding to New Heights.'” Grey used a combination of humor and tell-it-like-it-is temperament to deliver a compelling speech about leadership and taking control. She challenged conference attendees to continuously evaluate where they are and where they are headed – and not just on a motorcycle.
Following the program, the AMA assembled all in attendance for an exciting conference group photo with the welcome banner. The night ended once again with wild biker women tearing up the dance floor to appropriately named Canadian rock band Johnny Rev and the Pushrods. With excitement still building after two great days of motorcycling fun, the crowd reluctantly started peeling off to catch the last shuttle busses back to the resort. Guests left the Street Party with a bittersweet mood as the realization set in that while there is one more day to participate in all of the activities and make new friendships, that means there is only one more day before motorcycles will throttle up and head off for home in all different directions once again.