At first glance, motorcycle culture can be quite intimidating. Whether you’re looking at male or female riders, there is an essence, an aura around the act that is undeniably cool. A bike gliding down the freeway boasts power, strength, and—let’s face it—some serious sex appeal few things can even aspire to, let alone achieve.
This can make reaching out to or joining a club all the more terrifying. Enter: Jessica Haggett and The Litas. Initially specific to Salt Lake City, Utah, the Litas entered the scene in November of 2014. Haggett, the group’s creator, began the endeavor with a simple goal in mind: create a female-centered rider’s group in Salt Lake City, where there were female riders aplenty, but no organized meetups or rides. Although Haggett notes she never lacked a group to ride with, her fellow riders were predominantly male, and she knew something needed to change.
Inspired by the likes of the Miss-Fires (based in New York), and The Scarlet Headers (based in Denver, Colorado), Haggett aimed to create a local women’s group centered around one simple goal: community.
Originally a side project while Haggett worked full-time with a tech startup, The Litas began taking up more and more of Haggett’s time. Describing herself as, “not a spotlight person,” Haggett found herself facing far more exposure than initially planned, as her small vision began to expand. Within less than a year of starting The Litas, branches began to open in other cities wanting to be a part of the community atmosphere Haggett had created.
Women and Riding
Motorcycles have had a long and somewhat checkered history: long (falsely) considered a fringe mode of transportation reserved for thugs, increasing numbers of men and women are finding themselves drawn to bikes, partly for the sheer joy the ride provides, and for some, due to the ecological advantages. Indeed, the industry has seen a significant spike in female riders since 1998, with numbers almost doubling to 14%. No longer considered an exclusively male lifestyle, motorcycle culture is enjoying a moment among women, with no signs of letting up any time soon.
Although female riders are not new, some of the stigma surrounding female motorcyclists is wearing thin. Haggett has endured some opposition in her efforts to create a worldwide community of female riders. When asked if she has encountered sexism during her time as a female rider, she noted that those opposed take issue with the notion of women encroaching on motorcycle culture. She says, “…You come across some people who are just so insanely ignorant that you have to ignore it; there’s no battling them,” but adds, “Generally, guys who ride are really stoked on girls who ride—are super supportive—it’s really just a select few that you run across that make you go, ‘Whoa. This is weird.’”
Despite encountering some obstacles in the form of angry internet users, Haggett is largely positive when discussing her experiences creating and building The Litas.
Haggett and The Litas
Prior to spearheading The Litas, Haggett’s resume is quite impressive: graduating from the University of Utah with a business degree, Haggett began working with tech startups, guiding and advising them in their efforts to succeed. Spurred by her love for her field, Haggett began working under one of the startups she previously advised. Soon, however, it became apparent that not all of her skill set was being put to use. As a result, The Litas was infused with her knowledge and skills regarding business startups, and benefited from her drive and understanding of business and all that creating your own business entails.
Although The Litas was a passion project of Haggett’s, it became apparent that something had to give; she says, “There was a point where I was working on The Litas every single night and every Saturday and Sunday, so I didn’t have a life.”
“My friends kind of expected me to not come hang out with them, because I had said no so much. Figuring out how to monetize it without charging the girls any money to be part of it was hard, because I wasn’t going to be able to keep doing it unless I could find a way to leave my job.”
Happily, toward the end of 2016, Haggett was able to leave her job in order to work with The Litas full time.
Women and Community
Haggett hopes, above all, that women experience the power and acceptance inherent in community.
She notes, “What I’ve noticed is, I hear these stories over and over and over… The Litas give women who ride motorcycles a reason to say, ‘Hey let’s be friends’ instantly, with no hesitation. Whereas if there wasn’t a reason to do that, it’s just kind of not human nature.”
“I’ve traveled to different cities, and I’ve heard stories about these women, and it’s like we’re best friends instantly. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced something like that. That’s pretty surprising and pretty amazing…”
“You can always find bodies to ride with, if you really want to, so that’s definitely not the goal. The goal is to find people to ride with that you also have the most amazing time with, and that just comes with community. And I mean, that’s the best thing that I’ve gotten from it, which is why I wanted to share.”
Unfortunately, as many women can attest, there seems to be an unspoken rule that women are perpetually in competition with one another, creating something of a rift in female relationships.
Haggett hopes The Litas casts off this notion of competition, and believes the inclusive nature of the group will lend a hand in this arena, saying, “When I started The Litas, I really wanted it to be all types of women, so I made sure it was inclusive to everybody, and women just felt really welcome, no matter what kind of bike they’d been riding, or how long they’d been riding, because it’s intimidating enough to go and buy a motorcycle when you don’t know anything about it. I think because of that, we have women from all walks of life, whether it’s a super professional attorney, someone who works at Starbucks, someone who’s 19, or someone who’s 65 and has a ton of grandkids—I really think I’ve seen it all.”
“I heard someone the other day describe it as, ‘Everyone is really, really unique as an individual, and when you’re all together, hanging out, that’s something that’s celebrated, instead of people trying to conform and be similar. It’s like they’re excited for what they bring to the table that’s different.’ And I thought that was really true.”
What does a typical member of The Litas experience? That depends largely on your branch, your experience, and your individual needs. Some women ride together every single week, as the weather permits, while others plan rides as well as general get-togethers. Ultimately, though, the goal is the same: finding a place to belong, with women from different backgrounds, of different ages and experiences, with one common love: the thrill of the ride.
Haggett offered some advice for those interested in riding:
“Go take a rider’s course. Harley dealerships, and your local DMV will have courses, and you’ll learn how to ride—you’ll actually ride all weekend—and then you’ll get your license when you leave, so that’s the best thing to do because you actually learn how to ride a motorcycle, and you can get an idea if you really want to buy one or not.”
“After that, I would say go to a local motorcycle shop and look at some bikes. Talk to the salespeople, get an idea of what you might like, what size bike you might want to start with, and—of course—reach out to your local Litas branch, and ask those girls. That’s huge. They’ll be more than willing to answer questions.”
A Final Word
Lest you believe that Haggett’s experience with bikes centers around others, she was quick to clarify, “The real reason I love riding is just for the ride. You get out there, and it is fun as hell. It’s so fun. It’s exhilarating, and you’re using all of your senses when you’re flying 95 down the freeway in and out of cars—there’s just nothing quite like it.”
Despite incredible growth in just over two years of operation, Haggett is humble and kind and appears genuinely excited at the prospect of encouraging the women in her life—and from all walks of life—through her work with The Litas. Although she hopes to include more charity work in the future (check with your local branch for local charity rides), her primary goal in the next few years is to buckle down and make her passion project run smoothly, aiming to “continue to grow, and just make it something that works really well for everybody.”
If you’re interested in joining The Litas, or opening your own branch, visit The Litas website for more information, including blogs, forums, and a list of branches in cities around the world. Oh—and one more thing…
“Raise hell, babes.”