Inside the Maritimes' only all-women biker fest

The Backroad Ball in Penobsquis brought together women bikers from across the Maritimes and from as far away as Pittsburgh and Edmonton.

Backroad Ball attracts nearly 200 female motorcyclists to Penobsquis

Big bonfires and biker babes: many of riders at the Backroad Ball are members of all-women motorcycle clubs. The mandate of one such club, Merla's Coven, is to encourage women 'to grow in their pursuit of motorcycling and to develop and strengthen friendships with other women.' (Julia Wright / CBC)

In big cities in the United States, all-women motorcycle events like the Dream Roll and Babes Ride Out attract thousands of riders, but such events are almost unheard of on Canada's East Coast.

Over the weekend, the Backroad Ball, the only all-women motorcycle festival in the Maritimes, returned for a second year to Route 114 in Penobsquis.

The motorcycle camp-out brought nearly 200 bikers together to meet like-minded women to swap tips and gear, and hit the road together without the pressure of breaking into a traditionally macho pastime.

Many of the attendees hailed from across the Maritimes, although some rode from as far away as Pittsburgh and Edmonton to attend.

The CBC's Julia Wright spent the weekend at the Backroad Ball and captured these photos.

Jill Wong, 26, rode from Saint John for the Backroad Ball on the 1989 Yamaha 350 she spent all spring fixing up with her dad. She says she came to the festival for three reasons: 'a) motorcycles and b) awesome people and b) music. There’s been a little rain, but that never hurt anyone.'
Inside the Hurt Yurt - a tattoo shop set up by Nicky Lang, right, from The Violet and Fern Tattoo. One biker, left, got a heart-shaped tattoo with the sassy inscription "You Ain't Sh*t."' (Julia Wright / CBC)
Tattoo artist Jesse Lynn Jenkins of Sacred Heart Studio created more than a dozen original designs just for the Backroad Ball, ranging from hearts made out of motorcycle chains, to a magical uterus adorned with an all-seeing eye. (Julia Wright / CBC)
Music by the Rocket Queens, a New York-based Guns N' Roses cover band, the twin folk duo Womb to Tomb, and the karaoke machine keep the ladies dancing into the wee hours of the morning. Attendees are also treated to red-hot performances by fire dancers from Port City Circus. (Julia Wright / CBC)
Riders compare route maps on a wet Saturday morning. More than 100 bikers are about to head out on group rides to either Alma and St. Martins, but first they receive a safety demonstration on riding in the rain. (Julia Wright / CBC)
The camp stoves work fine, despite the wet weather. Three bikers fuel up on sausages and hot coffee before the ride Saturday morning. (Julia Wright / CBC )
Emma Thompson-Green, 25, rode over 1,600 kilometres from Pittsburgh to attend the Backroad Ball, her first north of the border. 'I only go to women’s-only bike stuff,' she says. 'It changes the vibe when there are a lot of dudes there burning out their tires and being like, 'oh, look at me I’m a big tough guy.' I don’t need that.' (Julia Wright / CBC)
'The motorcycle community is very male-dominated: you ride with your husband, you ride with your boyfriend,' says co-founder Heather d'Entremont. 'It’s nice to make connections with women. It’s not about segregation, it’s about making the community stronger.' (Julia Wright / CBC)
Belles of the Ball: fancy dress code at the Backroad Ball included tulle and Harley-Davidson hoodies for two women from the Canadian Motorcycle Cruisers. (Julia Wright / CBC)
Architect Monica Adair, 39, doesn't have a road-worthy motorcycle — yet. She brought her dirt bike from Saint John on the bed of her truck. 'It’s cool to see what drives women to ride ," she says. "To try something that people think is relatively dangerous.' (Julia Wright / CBC)
Early-morning yoga classes aren't typically offered at biker festivals, but the Backroad Ball is all about defying expectations. As the group transitioned into Downward Dog after a late night of partying, instructor Danielle quips 'if your head is spinning right now, I can't help you — you brought this on yourself.' (Julia Wright / CBC)
Non-bikers also get in on the action: Cait Milberry, pictured, kept busy for much of Saturday afternoon carting gear and ferrying passengers in this motorized cart. After seeing how much fun her friends had on the road, Milberry says, she's all the more determined to get her licence. (Julia Wright / CBC)
Riders receive a safety demonstration in French and English from Tina Sidall, not pictured, of Safety Services NB. 'One thing I see with the ladies is that they really build each other up," says event co-founder Heather d'Entremont. 'It’s OK if you make a mistake or drop your bike. You’re not going to get heckled or laughed at.' (Julia Wright / CBC)
Riders line up Saturday before heading out en masse to Alma. 'I rode on the back of my ex boyfriend’s bike for the first time,' says Emma Thompson-Green. 'But after I learned to drive, I rode on the back of his ride a couple of times and I realized I could never go back to that. It’s scary and weird and you don’t feel like you’re in control of anything. I’d rather ride my own.' (Julia Wright / CBC)
Elizabeth Dueck, left, and Renee Fripp are members of the club Canadian Motorcycle Cruisers who rode from Ottawa to the Backroad Ball. 'My nickname is Ice Cream,' Fripp says, "because you’re not a real biker if you don’t stop for ice cream." For Dueck, learning to ride was was all about independence. 'I was 41 when I decided to ride and my mother had passed away young. That’s what started it for me — I decided that life is too short, do what you want.' (Julia Wright / CBC)
The Mactaquac Motor Maids were one of the many women-only motorcycle clubs represented in Penobsquis. Founded in 1940, Motor Maids has over 1,200 members in Canada and the U.S. The Atlantic district has members in all four Atlantic provinces. (Julia Wright / CBC)
The Backroad Ball nearly doubled in size from its inaugural event in 2016, according to co-founders Kristin Munro and Heather d'Entremont. 'We’re growing a community here,' says d'Entremont. 'It takes an awesome group of people to put this on." (Julia Wright / CBC)