Women Who Ride: East Side Moto Babes

Increasing numbers of women are taking up motorcycling. And, Los Angeles being the epicenter of the U.S. motorcycle industry, many of them are here.

Some belong to an all-female motorcycle club called the East Side Moto Babes, founded by local rider, racer and MOCA exhibition director Stacie B. London.

London took up riding late in life, at 36, when she bought her first bike -- a classic 1969 BMW R60.

Within two years, she'd bought a racing bike, taken racing classes and started competing. Between shifts as an exhibition designer at downtown Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art, she started her own riding club. 

Soon, the East Side Moto Babes' weekly rides were drawing several dozen riders — including men.

"Suddenly, there was this community," London said.

Female motorcycle owners made up 12% of the U.S. motorcycle market in 2012, up from 8% in 2009, the Motorcycle Industry Council said. The number of female riders rose from 4.3 million in 2003 to 6.7 million in 2012.

Those numbers are crucial to motorcycle manufacturers, as they represent the largest growth segment in an industry that has stalled since the recession.

Companies, in response, are producing smaller, lighter bikes, more suitable for female riders, and featuring more women in their ads — riding the bikes, not decorating them.

Since she started riding, London has fallen hard a few times — in the dirt, in the desert, at the track and on the street.

Two years ago she was rear-ended on the freeway at night — a hit-and-run that crushed her bike, sent her to the hospital and left her with stitches, skin grafts and a concussion. Last March, a T-bone collision in Silver Lake mangled her bike again and left her with a broken clavicle, two chipped teeth, multiple contusions and nine stitches on her ankle.

With her beloved BMW still in the shop, London was traffic-directing instead of riding at a late July Moto Babes ride-out.

Standing in a Hollywood parking lot while 40 bikers revved their engines, London called out, "Remember the rules! The point is to stay together, have fun and arrive safely."

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