'The joy of being on a bike and being a chick': Vancouver's female motorcyclists band together

The rumbles and growls of more than a hundred motorcycles — from aggressive sports bikes to high handlebar cruisers — filled the parking lot as woman after woman rode past, hitting the roads as part of an annual all-female group ride.

Women rip around for International Female Ride Day

Becky Goebel organized an all-women motorcycle ride for International Female Ride Day on Saturday, the fifth year the event has been held in Vancouver. (Clare Hennig/CBC)

The rumbles and growls of more than 100 motorcycles — from aggressive sports bikes to high handlebar cruisers — filled the parking lot as woman after woman rode past.

Saturday's all-woman ride, the fifth year the International Female Ride Day event has been held in Vancouver, is a snapshot of how growing numbers of women across British Columbia are banding together behind the throttle.  

"The first year that I hosted this ride about four women showed up," said Becky Goebel, motorcyclist and organizer of the ride. "Today, we have over 100 women here."

More than 100 motorcyclists showed up to take part in the group ride over the weekend. (Clare Hennig/CBC)

Roughly one in eight motorcyclists in B.C. is a woman, but they are the fastest growing demographic of riders in the province.

It's not just that more women are riding, Goebel said, but the movement for women riders to stick together and form groups is gaining momentum.

"The women motorcycle community is the strongest community that I've ever been a part of," she said.

Group rides around the Lower Mainland are one way to "share the joy of being on a bike and being a chick," said Goebel.  

The group started in the parking lot of a local dealership and headed towards Deep Cove on the North Shore. A second ride is planned for Sunday to raise funds for a rider who recently crashed. (Clare Hennig/CBC)

Show of support

Other times, the motorcycle community comes together for more serious reasons — like when a rider is injured.

Yuki Ochiai, a longtime rider who works at one of Vancouver's motorcycle dealerships, crashed a week and a half ago. 

She suffered multiple pelvic fractures and a broken wrist. Her bike is still in pieces at the towing lot.

"As soon as I went down, I was in so much pain," Ochiai said. "I was really scared that I wouldn't be able to get back up again and I just kept looking to see if my bike was okay."

A second group ride is setting off on Sunday, this time in Ochiai's name, as a fundraiser to help with her recovery costs.

Ochiai said she has received "non-stop" support since the accident, with a stream of riders coming to visit her in the hospital and people she hasn't met reaching out over social media. 

"So many people wanted to talk to me and make sure I was okay," she said. "Seeing the reaction of the community since my accident has just been tremendous." 

Yuki Ochiai was in a motorcycle crash a couple of weeks ago and suffered multiple fractures. Her bike is still in pieces. (Yuki Ochiai/Facebook)

'Good sisterhood'

Helen Whitehead, who runs the Moto Girls of Vancouver group on Facebook, said fundraisers and shows of support like the one for Ochiai are common when accidents happen.

"It's very inspiring, it's a good sisterhood that is going on here," she said.

And it's not just women riders who band together; a dozen men on bikes showed up to wave off the women's group ride, and Sunday's fundraising ride is open to all motorcyclists.  

"When a biker goes down, everyone really rallies around and shows their support and is there to do whatever they can for that rider," Whitehead said.