Posted on March 25 2021
Story and map by Ali Harford
Alisa Clickenger loves doing epic sh*t. Her words.
She’s the founder of Women’s Motorcycle Tours, a company that “uplifts and supports women by using motorcycles as our vehicle of empowerment, celebrating unity, freedom, and the sisterhood of the road,” according to their Facebook page. This August, they’re riding the Suffragists Centennial Ride, celebrating the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment—the women’s right to vote—and the 10th anniversary of their organization.
The ride will start in Portland, Oregon, on July 31st, and end in Arlington, Virginia, on August 20th, with a Women’s Motorcycle Conference and Grand Finale Celebration. Riders have the option to do the full cross-country journey or jump in for certain sections. The route features stops in Yellowstone National Park; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Sturgis, South Dakota, to join the 81st Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
The previous Women's Motorcycle Tours Ride drew hundreds of riders. Photo courtesy of Women's Motorcycle Tours.
The Suffragists Centennial Ride’s goal is to “inspire yet more women (and the men who ride with and support them) to explore our national history and to motorcycle coast to coast across our great nation,” according to the website. There will also be a four-day, three-night live conference in Washington, D.C., at the end of the ride. It will include "education, inspiration, professional development, seminars, connection sessions, ... a historic ride through Washington, D.C., and an outdoor ride festival," according to the press release.
“We empower other women,” Clickenger says of the impact of her organization. “I’m working towards women knowing that they can live lives they love. That it’s okay to paint outside the lines. It’s okay to live outside the lines of what’s expected of you, of what’s demanded of you.”
There is something undeniably badass about riding motorcycles. Clickenger agrees. Riding is part of what gives her confidence, she says. Being on her motorcycle allows her to be her best self: she feels open and present in ways that she can’t be otherwise. Motorcycles in pop culture always seem to symbolize freedom, whether from personal troubles—Peter Fonda riding a 1959 Harley Davidson Captain America Chopper in Easy Rider—or the bad guys—Arnold Schwarzenegger riding a 1991 Harley Davidson Fat Boy in Terminator 2.
But motorcycles are also historically thought of as distinctly masculine. Women made up only 19% of motorcycle owners in 2018, according to a survey done by the Motorcycle Industry Council. But that’s double what women ownership was a decade prior, when women made up less than 10% of owners. The survey also found that increasingly, women owners are younger—in 2018, 26% of millennial motorcycle owners were women, 22% of Gen X.
Clickenger’s personal mission is to empower and support women riders. She’s experienced first-hand the glory and wonder that a multi-thousand-mile motorcycle ride can have on a person—in 2009, she embarked on a seven-month, solo motorcycle expedition to South America. She wrote in Women Riders Now that the trip helped her become the person she always wanted to be: a person who continues forward, despite their fears. Her company provides that opportunity for other riders.
“There’s something really spectacular that happens in the shared experience of an epic journey,” she says. “There is magic in that … that shared experience creates life-long friendships and relationships.”
Clickenger expects about 100 people to join the cross-country Suffragists Centennial ride with her, 300 to attend the end-of-ride conference in Washington, D.C., and so many more to show their support along the way.
“It’s amazing how it opens up the world for you, travelling on two wheels,” she says.