Slug: Bikes, Blues, & BBQ

FAYTEVILLE—Female biker community of Blues, Bikes, & BBQ continues to grow despite the failure of its two-year, women-aimed offshoot, Bikes, Babes, & Blings, according to multiple local sources.

“I see more women now, riding the bike, by themselves, than at the back of the bike,” says Eleanor Townsley, a community fundraiser and volunteer of Bikes, Blues, and BBQ and other local charities. “And for a woman, and probably because it’s for charity, which makes it extra special, the event feels safe and looks a lot of fun.”

According to event organizer and executive director Joe Giles, Bikes, Blues & BBQ is known to be the region’s largest biker rally, expanding both Fayetteville and Springdale. This year’s festival is set for Sept. 26 – 29 in Fayetteville.

Since its inception in 2000, Bikes, Blues, and BBQ, in which Dickson Street serves as its rally center, has often seemed to be male-dominated and festively masculine. However, not only more women bikers are starting to hit the road with their own motorcycles more noticeably in recent years, but they have also become potential consumers to many of the event’s vendors and organizers.

“It seems male-dominate but women’s presence are starting to increase,” says Kathy Meader, a biker from St. Louis, Mo.

For Bekka Rahbusch, a biker and a special education teacher from Ada, Okla., the reason for the growing presence of female bikers is that “women are becoming more dominate and men are becoming more submissive.”

Rahbusch, who started riding motorcycle at the age of 15—the first time being on her stepfather’s motorcycle—says that riding a bike, and consequently owning one, symbolizes her freedom, and her identity as a free woman.

“Nothing beats the wind therapy, as we call it,” says Rahbusch, “because you are in total control—it [the motorcycle] becomes an extension of yourself; it’s freedom, it is a symbol of who I am.”

“You are essentially using your five senses when riding a bike [as opposed to riding a car],” says Sherry Sherwood, a deaf instructor from Owasso, Okla. “The camaraderie you have as a biker has an old-fashion feeling to it too—you’re going to stop and help them [the other bikers] or send them off on a new trip, no matter who they are.”

And as for the exceptional qualities of Bikes, Blues, & BBQ, both Meader and Sherwood agree that it is comparatively women-friendly than other national bike rallies like Daytona Bike Week and Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

“We were just at Daytona a month ago,” says Meader, “and we—my husband and I—prefer this one [Bikes, Blues, & BBQ] . . . it’s more women-friendly than Daytona.”

“I’d say it has more of a family-friendly atmosphere to it,” says Sherwood. “It can get rough sometimes, but I guess it all depends on who are hanging out with.”

However, when it comes to seating priorities within a single motorcycle among the sexes, the issue seems more ambivalent than clear-cut.

“Oh no. No, I cannot see that happening anytime soon,” says Meader, in response to the idea of a woman taking the helm of a bike while the man sits in the back. “I think who’s driving [in the front] is more powerful, and so far, it has been the men.”

Rahbusch, however, disagrees. “Things are changing,” she says. “I have seen it happening now. That’s how it should be!”

For Townsley, who is not a biker but “a partial observer,” seems to agree with Meader’s point of view. “I’ll say that there’s too much history of men riding in the front for that to happen.”

However, as for a male version of Miss Bikes, Blues, & BBQ, an all-female bikers beauty contest set on Saturday midnight at Dickson Main Stage, Townsley sees that its time is more appropriate now than ever. “I wouldn’t mind it; it would be kind of fun, really.”

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