It’s been said that converts to a cause are the most fervent. A striking example of this is Kirsten Midura, founder of Engines 4 Change (E4C) an organization that galvanizes volunteers to a myriad of grass roots causes using motorcycles as the connector.
As the very compelling and authentic engine of E4C, Kirsten came to motorcycling just 5 years ago. Eager to employ her new-found zest for biking, she blended it with her existing tools and personal passion for activism, environmentalism and a desire to effect societal change. Though impacted by Covid, in less than two years E4C has become a driver for good in communities around the U.S. and in Canada. Motorcycling for a reason has proven to not only meet needs and instigate change but, more importantly, the movement has empowered other riders to get active in making progress with their own passion projects.
I had the chance to meet Kirsten and hear her speak at the first Women’s Motorcycle Conference in Arlington, VA, presented by Alisa Clickenger’s Women’s Motorcycle Tours August 19-22. The conference was also the end point and culmination of the Suffragist Centennial Motorcycle Ride, a cross-country journey celebrating the 100-year anniversary of passage of the 19th amendment, granting American women the right to vote. (Well, white women, anyway. Many Native, Asian and African American women would wait decades longer until the voting rights act of 1965 provided the de facto ability for them to cast ballots.)
Centennial riders started in Portland, OR; others met up along the way. Full participation required a time commitment not everyone could muster; some of us—me for example—met the riders on their arrival in Arlington for the conference and a professional development day sponsored by the Motorcycle Industry Council. Both Polaris (with Indian and Slingshot) and Harley-Davidson supported the event, including demo opportunities which were expertly managed by Myrrh Davis.
Initial hopes of gathering hundreds of women riders may not have panned out this first time, but attendees made up for that in spirit and camaraderie. In fact, there’s much to be said for an expansion of the circle that more intimate gatherings permit. I was grateful for the time to finally meet and talk with industry women I’ve missed before or only encountered in cursory ways.
Iron Butt rider Wendy Crockett is one. Lisa Malachowsky, new spearhead of the Women’s Coalition of Motorcyclists, is another. Riders like Jen Jones and Jan Schmitt, whose consumer perspectives and zeal for the sport reflect vital viewpoints, are others. And, of course, Kirsten Midura and Women Riders Now staffers who partnered to cover the event.
When I packed for this trip, sleep-deprived and foggy-headed from too many consecutive days working the Sturgis Rally, I questioned the sense of it. Now, packing to go home, I bless the thought that inspired the journey and the compelling women I met. We’re going to do impactful work together.