We’re constantly warned of the dangers of social media and the online world. ‘Don’t talk to strangers,’ or ‘Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandma to see.’ Yadda, yadda. Well, I guess I’m just a rule-breaking, run-of-the-mill millennial, because – and this may shock a lot of you – I talk to strangers via social media on a daily basis, and will happily admit that a majority of my friendships were made via social media, namely Instagram.
I understand the fear that sentence evokes, especially to the older generation, but social media has been a boon to me, in motorcycling and in life. It’s provided me with friendships, mechanical assistance on the road, needed motorcycle parts, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and even a job – this job!
I do a lot of dirt bike riding with a group of amazing women I met through Instagram. I mentioned in a post that I wanted to do more off-road riding and they invited me out. I had seen and met some of them at events, and had mutual friends with others, and felt safe meeting them for a ride. Those ladies have become some of my nearest and dearest friends.
Last summer, while stranded on the side of the road in Wyoming, I made a quick post to my Instagram to see if anyone in Sturgis had a motorcycle lift we could borrow to make the necessary repairs to my dad’s bike. I quickly got numerous replies from complete strangers offering to help. Rick Najera, a member of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, welcomed us into his home in Sturgis with open arms, a motorcycle lift and all the tools we could use. He even picked the bike up from our campsite with a trailer attached to his heavy-duty golf cart. While Dad worked on his bike, Najera invited my Mom and I to put our choppers into the AMCA Show at the Iron Horse Saloon, where I took home the trophy for “Hard Ass” (because I rode a hardtail chopper) while Mom grabbed the “Longest Ride” trophy. A fun day for Mom and me and a productive day for Dad, all thanks to our new friend ‘Burrito Rick’, who is a wonderful example of the motorcycle community’s goodwill.
My good pal Instagram helped me attend Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary in Milwaukee, too. Some ‘insta-friends’ who worked for the Motor Company at the time invited me to stay with them and even invited me along for the parade. I rode alongside CEO Matt Levatich and members of the Davidson family, and even had a quick conversation with the beautiful Karen Davidson, who actually called me ‘inspiring.’ (I had a bit of a fan-girl moment but did my best to play it cool.) Levatich was riding the new electric LiveWire, which was incredible to see in person, though it didn’t make much for sound. Once again, social media was completely to thank for this experience.
That trip to Milwaukee is what led me to this column, actually. While there I was graciously invited to dinner by Mark Ruffalo, owner of California Harley-Davidson. There I met a young woman named Chelsea from Seattle and we decided to follow each other on Instagram to stay in touch. Chelsea happened to be Editor Boehm’s niece, who told him I’d make a good addition to the Thunder Press team. Somehow, he agreed!
I typically learn of new motorcycle campouts – which I love – on social media. One of my favorites is Babes Ride Out, an all-female campout in Joshua Tree, California. (This October it moves to the central coast.) This one started by accident when Anya Violet and Ashmore Ellis, two friends just looking for more women to ride with, posted about hosting a little camping trip in Borrego Springs, California and asked if any women wanted to join. That first trip attracted more than 50 badass women on bikes and has grown to over 1,600 in just a few years’ time. Anya and Ashmore are big supporters of women-owned businesses and do all they can to introduce enthusiastic new female riders into the community, with safety as the number one priority. These ladies have continued to grow the brand, with the @BabesRideOut Instagram reaching over 109,000 followers, and have continued to gain big-name brands as supporters and contributors to their events.
Social media helps and affects a wide range of motorcycle folks. MotoFAM, for instance, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps riders following life-changing injuries from a motorcycle accident by raising money for them through raffles and merchandise sales. Founder Michaela George has a beautiful heart and can be found at events across the country, raising money and awareness. You can follow the organization at @moto_fam.
Jimmy Cyphers has used social media to broadcast his considerable motorcycle-stunting talents, his @JimmyBurnouts page reaching over 35,000 followers and attracting endorsements from the likes of H-D, Indian and Bell Helmets. While his skills have gotten him this far, he’ll be the first to admit that social media has been an extremely helpful marketing tool.
Some of my favorites to follow are individuals living life on the road. With a little over 4,000 followers, @CharlieTravelingChopper posts pictures of his over 200,000 miles and counting on his insanely raked-out chopper. He has ridden through 17 countries and 48 states and is never afraid to take the road less traveled. Following him gives me a little sense of adventure (and a bit of envy) from the comforts of my desk chair.
@RosieGabrielle is on a trek I don’t think I’d ever have the courage to take. Not only is this young Canadian woman on a solo long-distance trip, she is riding through Pakistan. She documents each day, posting pictures and videos to Instagram, and beautifully edited videos to her YouTube channel. This is not her first adventure of this kind; she’s completed similar trips through Oman and many countries in Asia, and is not shy about documenting the good, the bad and the ugly. Her sense of adventure and open-minded nature makes her a breath of fresh air.
So listen up, all you Baby Boomers! Don’t automatically discount social media, especially when it intersects with motorcycling. My experiences have shown me that you really can talk to strangers!