For Suzan Lamey, who lives in Brooklyn Park, riding a motorcycle is a form of therapy.
Being out in the elements, seeing the sights, “It’s like watching a fire. It’s very soothing and relaxing,” she said.
That’s what got her hooked on riding a few years ago. She was also looking at getting a scooter to use in her pet-sitting business. Lamey had never given much thought to motorcycles.
“Until you experience it, you don’t understand it,” she said.
In 2009, she joined a local motorcycle group for women that had just gotten started, called the Shift Kickers, which she stumbled upon through Meetup.com.
Now she’s a co-organizer of the social group that plans various outings near and far, including rides that might go for an hour or for days, often weekly during the warmer months.
In the wintertime, their “offseason,” the Shift Kickers get together monthly to talk about motorcycles and to catch up, she said. The group’s next cold-weather gathering is coming up April 6 at Grumpy’s Bar and Grill in Roseville.
“It’s a chance for people to get know each other outside of riding,” she said.
Traveling as a pack
In the past year, the group has grown to more than 200 members, reflecting a trend of more women getting involved in motorcycling in recent years, she said.
The group is made up of all ages and all walks of life and comes from across the metro area.
Some are seasoned riders; others are just getting started, she said.
During the rides, the Shift Kickers travel as a pack. Safety is the top priority, and everyone watches out for one another, she said.
Through the years, the group has gone to see Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store in Jordan, toured a number of cheese curd factories in Wisconsin and visited the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.
Occasionally, the bikers have even traveled across the country, going as far as Eureka Springs, Ark.
Often on these trips Lamey takes the lead position. “I enjoy seeing all of those headlights behind me,” she said.
But it’s also fun to be in the middle of the pack, or the “tail runner” — the biker at the back, she said.
They make for quite a spectacle on the road. Often, the women get a lot of thumbs-ups while they’re out and about.
A feeling of independence
Blaine resident Jane Cross rode behind her husband until she decided to get her own motorcycle.
Getting away from cellphones, e-mail and other distractions, “There’s a feeling of independence,” she said. “I can space out and think of nothing and clear my mind.”
Even after a half-hour ride, “I come back feeling like I was on vacation,” she said.
“It’s just like they say: I’ve never seen a motorcycle parked outside of the psychiatrist’s office.”
Occasionally, she even rides to the grocery store, just to get the ride in. She also likes to ride to work on “casual Fridays.”
Cross, who is nearing 60, added, “I can’t wait to retire so I can go out and ride all the time.”
Being part of the Shift Kickers provides an opportunity to socialize with other women who are passionate about riding, she said.
Sharon Hall, who lives in Plymouth, has been riding for almost a decade. She often goes on excursions with other members beyond the organized meet-ups.
“I can call people up and say, ‘Let’s go riding,’ and they are there in a heartbeat,” she said.
Sometimes, she has a destination in mind, but other times, “I just like to jump on and go right or left, north or south, east or west, whatever my mind says to do when I get to a road.”
Amy Nordahl, the other co-organizer of the group who lives in Somerset, Wis., is a 23-year riding veteran. She said that among riders, there’s an instant connection.
“You can be at a gas station and start talking — ‘Where’d you come from, where you going’ — that type of thing.”
As for the Shift Kickers, “It’s a great group of women. They’re a lot of fun, and it’s nice to ride with just women,” she said.
Taking the scenic route
For Lamey, riding with the group has taken her to all kinds of places she never would have found on her own.
In the car, it’s about getting from point A to point B as quickly as possible. But on a motorcycle, she always takes the scenic route, preferably roads that have a lot of twists and turns, she said.
For example, the woodsy, remote-seeming County Road 1, going north from Elk River to Zimmerman, is “a very nice road,” especially in the fall.
“It’s paved nicely right now. There aren’t a lot of potholes and repair marks,” she said.
She wants to ride across the East and West coasts someday, too.
“It’s all about the ride for me — being able to see and smell everything as you’re going.”
Anna Pratt is a Twin Cities freelance writer.