Local Ladies of Harley (from right) Pam Fair, Sherry Dore and Christy Lofton (with her fiancé Kevin Church) ride the road near Alligator Bayou. Photo by Collin Richie.

Women on wheels: A new breed of biker chicks blends riding with business and recreation

Cool breeze in your hair. Warm sunshine on your face. Taking life at your own speed.

While this may evoke visions of warm Mediterranean beaches or serene coastal vineyards, for a few local women, their dreams are fuel injected.

Meet the modern-day Ladies of Harley. These aren’t your mom’s picture of a biker chick. These mothers, daughters, grandmothers and wives are also professionals leading the way in their industries, all while gassing their downtime to 70 miles per hour. And whether from the back of their partners’ bikes or controlling the throttle of their own HOG, these women find both relaxation and adventure on the open road.

Angie Wagner not only finds rest behind the handlebars of her motorcycle, she has turned motorcycle riding into her business. After watching her husband coach riders, from beginners to experienced enthusiasts looking to develop their skills further, she began to think that she’d love teaching as well—especially teaching other women.

“After watching and learning to improve my own skills as a motorcyclist, I developed the confidence I needed to start teaching others,” Wagner says. Three years ago, she used her newfound confidence to earn a contract with Harley-Davidson after receiving her certification with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation through the Louisiana Department of Public Safety.

Her classes, taught at Harley-Davidson of Hammond, are aimed at giving both men and women interested in riding the skills they need, even if they’ve never been on a motorcycle. “People often don’t think about what it takes, even when they sign up for the class,” Wagner says. “From your finger muscles to your hip muscles, the five-hour first day of class can really challenge new riders.”

And while Wagner’s side hustle makes motorcycling her business—her “real” job is as a specialist in integrated genetics for LabCorp—it is the people that she meets riding that make it her hobby.

“Riding and safety competitions have taken over our vacation time,” Wagner says. “And it’s the people we meet, friends we may only see once a year but we never miss a beat with, that make this ‘work’ so relaxing and enjoyable.” Some of these new friends have even become part of Angie’s local HOG (Harley Owners Group) family.

Angie Wagner shows off a tight turn during the 2018 Family of the Fallen Motorcycle Skills Competition in Mobile. Photo courtesy Angie Wagner.

Christy Lofton is one of those friends. This patient navigator is a 26-year veteran with the Pennington Cancer Center at Baton Rouge General. Dealing with the stress of helping her patients battling cancer in our community left her needing a hobby where she could easily destress. Lofton found the relaxation she was looking for on the back of her fiancé’s motorcycle.

“We were looking for a way to blow off some stress,” says Lofton. “Kevin wanted to drive. I wanted to look around, take a picture, take a nap. Motorcycling gave us just the release we were looking for.”

Like Wagner, Lofton’s focus on learning to ride and ride safely has fueled her love of the sport. In addition to putting her fiancé through safety courses offered by the Louisiana State Police, she took classes as well, to learn to be a better riding partner. “I felt like driving my own bike would be stressful,” Lofton says. “I wanted to relax. So I’ve learned to be a better, safer rider so we can both enjoy our time on the road.”

Lofton loves what she calls the low-maintenance friendships she and Kevin have made riding motorcycles so much that she took on organizing a Ladies of Harley chapter through Harley-Davidson of Baton Rouge. “The men had the HOG club, and we needed a group that gave us a more feminine perspective on riding,” she says. The Ladies of Harley group organizes everything from art classes to motorcycle-themed murder mystery dinners.

But these ladies are far more than the social committee of the HOG chapter. They also suggest rides the club should make and community causes the riders should support. “My dad was a Vietnam veteran and was treated badly when he came home from war,” Lofton says. “I never want any veteran to feel that way. Because there is such a close tie between the veteran community and the motorcycle community, I love being a part of rides and events that benefit our veterans.”

These rides have also given Christy and Kevin an opportunity to travel places that they may not have otherwise. This year, they did the Blues Trail of Honor, a four-day trek that starts in New Orleans and takes riders through the experiences of veterans throughout history and benefits veterans in our area. The annual Mississippi Governor’s Ride donates funds to and raises awareness for this same cause.

Members of the Red Stick HOG Chapter take in the Arkansas mountain views during a trip to the 15th annual Hot Springs Rally in September. Photo courtesy Red Stick HOG Chapter.

Fellow Ladies of HOG member Pam Fair loves the travel aspect of riding her own trike, a three-wheeled motorcycle, best. In fact, Fair has done some of the most popular rides in the United States. Her list includes Thunder Beach in Panama City Beach, Daytona Beach Bike Week, and rallies in Key West, Galveston, Hot Springs and Sturgis, South Dakota, as well as the infamous Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee. “I would have likely never been to these beautiful places and met these cool people if I weren’t riding a motorcycle,” Fair says.

Fair enjoys riding her a trike so much that she started recruiting her coworkers to ride. As a tax audit specialist with the Louisiana Department of Revenue, she works with lots of women remotely that she doesn’t always know a lot about. But when they saw on Facebook that she was riding her trike to interesting places and meeting new people, the questions started.

“We are all single women who could use some adventure in our off time,” Fair says. “I’ve shared my adventures with them, and I’ve just about got a couple of them ready to buy their own bikes and come along.”

For Fair, sharing her passion for the adventure of motorcycling is becoming a family affair. She is now getting her grandchildren excited about the sport. And she’s not alone. Sherry Dore was inspired to learn to ride by her son and husband.

Sherry Dore, Pam Fair and Christy Lofton. Photo by Collin Richie.

Having ridden dirt bikes as a young girl, Dore was inspired when her son bought a motorcycle. In December of 2018, she earned her bachelor’s degree, passed her medical board exams and headed straight to the Harley-Davidson dealership to buy her own bike. Within three weeks, she’d traded that motorcycle in for one with more comfort and horsepower.

Months later, her husband Aymar got his first motorcycle. “We love this sport together, but I like having my own adventures too,” Dore says. “It works out that our schedules let me do both.”

Dore’s adventurous spirit recently took her to Hot Springs with her riding friends for that city’s annual rally. It was the perfect opportunity for her to stretch and test her new skills. “When I realized we were going into the Ozarks to ride, I was nervous,” she says. “But my friends encouraged me, and I learned I did have the skills to take on the terrain. I was really proud of myself.”

Not only does Dore ride her motorcycles in her downtime, she now also rides her bike to her job in Metairie, where she is the laboratory manager at Crescent City Surgical Centre Diagnostics.

These modern-day biker chicks have some advice for other women interested in motorcycling. First, keep an eye out for motorcyclists when you’re on the road. While these women train on and think about rider safety constantly, they are at the mercy of the other drivers on the road. Second, take a class. Whether through the State Police’s motorcycle training program or a local motorcycle dealership, learning to ride properly and safely is the key to enjoying it.

Finally, they want would-be riders to know that being a woman motorcyclist isn’t a stereotype—they aren’t the kind of women you’d cross the street to avoid. They are professionals that you would trust, community activists you would be happy to serve alongside and adventurists you should consider joining, taking life at their own speed.