MEGAPHONE: LEATHER AND LACE

By Joy Burgess

There’s always a lot of satisfaction when you pull off something really big, and that’s exactly what we’ve done with our May 2020 issue and its Women In Motorcycling 2020 theme.

The issue resonated deeper and longer than even we thought it would. And while it nearly killed us to do it (in the middle of a global pandemic, no less), it was totally worth it.

From the moment I shared the WIM section spread to all the women involved, my email started blowing up. “SO effing badass,” Staci Wilt wrote. “Oh my gosh,” I heard from Natalie Kleiner, “this is amazing! I have chills! No joke!” And this from Kristen Lassen: “It’s going to be pretty groundbreaking, I believe. These are some powerful women!” 

Kristen was right – it was groundbreaking! Magazines have done sections on women in the past, but no moto mag has done a complete issue on the badass women that now make up over 20% of the motorcycling landscape…until now. And I was fortunate to be a part of it.

It’s crazy looking back and realizing that the idea for this issue was born back in August of 2019. I’d just written a feature story on Michelle Disalvo (who’s amazing!), and it lit a fire. I couldn’t stop thinking about the many other women I wanted to write about, because too many of their stories remain untold. 

At the same time, Editor Boehm was just back from Sturgis, where he’d heard the legendary Gloria Tramontin Struck speak. He mentioned we needed to do cover story on her, and it was while discussing all these women we had one of those ‘lightning bolt’ moments – that we just had to do a ‘Women in Motorcycling’ issue. 

Of course, we soon learned that pulling off an issue featuring 22 different people was no easy feat. The planning, interviews, editorial meetings, photo searches, and writing and editing nearly consumed us, but we had help, especially from Art Director Chad Cochran, who deserves tons of credit for rocking 22-plus layouts in an issue of nearly 90 pages. 

It’s been incredible to see the momentum build. All the women were excited. And when we asked for photos from our Thunder Press female readers, we were overwhelmed with responses. One woman who submitted her photo told me, “I love that women riders are being represented! I’m 51 and have been riding for five years now, and it’s my absolute passion!” 

Advertisers got excited, too. Once we released the cover on social media (which blew up instantly) we had a huge manufacturer – one that hadn’t supported us much before – dive in at the last minute. Before we knew it the entire industry was abuzz, with organizations such as the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), Indian Motorcycles, American Flat Track, Harley-Davidson, Vance & Hines and many more helping us spread the word. 

Not everyone loved the cover right away, including one TP sales exec who thought that featuring a 94-year-old badass woman on our cover was just a little too AARP. We weren’t worried; we knew Gloria would be a hit, and when the entire industry showed up to cheer her cover-girl status, we knew we’d nailed it!

And that sorta reminds me of some great words Hayley Bell (founder of the Women Riders World Relay) said to me: “I was pissed at seeing naked women in media on bikes all the time and the message it sends to female riders [me too, Hayley!] … Women are real – we’re not all models. We have real lives, and we’re doing really amazing things in this industry.” Truth! 

The ladies are supporting each other, too. Jennifer Williams (founder of Wind and Throttle) shared every other woman’s story, including the story of Natalie Kleiner, who’s a direct competitor in the women’s riding apparel space. We need more of that in this industry. Just this morning I saw that flat track photographer Jodi Johnson had commented on every single story we’ve posted. Women supporting women! Gotta love it.

Nothing has lit my soul on fire like working on the May issue. A few years ago motorcycles changed my life. And now this issue has changed it. Not just because I had the chance to work on something groundbreaking in the motorcycle industry, but because of the time I got to spend with these amazing women and the friendships I’ve built. 

When I thanked Wild Gypsy Tour founder Kelly Yazdi for all her help along the way, she simply said, “My sweet Joy, that is what friendship is for.” And that right there is why this issue means so much to me! 

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