Call any one of the 15-plus members of Spokane, Washington's NBA (No Boys Allowed) all-girl motorcycle riding club a "born-again biker babe," and she just might hug you for it. "I'd be honored," 45-year-old Debbie Baker says with a smile that's got more shine to it than her Harley-Davidson's custom paint job.
That's because it's working, chime in the rest of the women with whom Debbie, a wife and self-employed mom of four, rides motorcycles. "It"—the opportunity for unique ministry—is one of the biggest reasons these leather-clad women ride the burly bikes with the rumbling exhaust pipes.
According to the California-based Motorcycle Industry Council, women bikers are one of the fastest growing motorcycle groups in America right now. The number of lady bikers in Janet's state of Washington alone has nearly tripled in the past six years. Yet since women motorcyclists are still a minority (1 in 12 of the nation's 19 million people who rode a motorcycle last year are female), they get lots of attention when they're out riding alone. And if they're in a ladies-only Christian group such as the NBA, the number of astounded looks they elicit rises even more. "People watch us to see what kind of a reflection of God we are," says 43-year-old deputy sheriff Susan Stefanini Day, another club member.
The group got its name when one of its members' sons jokingly referred to their rides as "meetings of the No-Boys-Allowed Club." The term stuck.
"Than means no boyfriends, no husbands," laughs Sharon McDeid. The 58-year-old Mary Kay consultant who rides a Kawasaki Vulcan says motorcycling with other Christian women takes on a whole new form of fun and fellowship, as opposed to traveling with guys. "We can pick restaurants by the desserts they offer. We make lots of bathroom stops. We don't have to get anywhere first. We've even jumped in a creek with all our clothes on … "
"My husband would have died if he'd seen us," Debbie Baker interrupts good-naturedly, then adds that while fun and fellowship abound in the group, the highlight of their road trips are the opportunities they have to share their faith with strangers they encounter along the way.
For example, Sharon remembers when as part of her motorcycle ministry, she served coffee and cookies to weary travelers at a rest stop. She was decked out in her black leather, which sparked lots of questions from curious travelers. One man in particular, a long-haul-trucker, seemed drawn to talk longer—especially since he had a forced eight-hour layover at the rest stop. He started by asking questions about motorcycling, then began sharing his deep loneliness from being on the road so much.
Sharon was able to tell the trucker about Jesus Christ. As Sharon waved good-bye to her newfound friend, she marveled at how God had used her hobby to allow her to share the gospel. "I think God says, 'Go for it, ladies. Use any means you can—including motorcycling—to reach my children.' "
Cleo McCoy laughingly agrees, adding she thinks God invented motorcycling. That's partly the reason why this spunky widow and retired craft-store owner bought herself a Harley as a reward for making it to her 75th birthday. The great-grandmother says people always ask her questions when they see her pull up on her bike with her fun-loving "God Rules" bumper sticker on her helmet. As a result, she carries with her business cards that explain how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Cleo will also give out her phone number when appropriate so others who want to learn more about Jesus can call her.
But biking provides another perk for Cleo; she meets lots of other wonderful young-at-heart people, both Christian and non-Christian. "It makes me feel like a kid," Cleo says. "I tell myself, If others can handle a motorcycle, I can, too."
Mastering a motorcycle means just as much to homeschooling mom Barb Klingenberg, who reveals that one of her biggest biking challenges was overcoming her fear of the 800-pound machine. But it's been worth it, she explains. The 46-year-old shy, stay-at-home mom has been able to use the fact she's a "biker babe" to connect with the homeless—many of whom have ridden bikes in the past. She meets them at the shelter where she and her two children volunteer in a childcareministry. She loves the way the homeless moms' and kids' eyes light up when they discover she rides a Harley.
No-Boys-Allowed Club members say motorcycling opens up a "way for people to ask questions and start a conversation." Janet Klaus is one of the many NBA members who makes the most of that opportunity by wearing vests or jackets with emblems sewn on them—much like real-world motorcycle gang guys. Only this "gang's" patches have on them things such as crosses, fish, and mentions of Jesus. NBA members who wear the colorful patches even call them their "colors," the same term biker gangs use for their logos. The colors indicate many of the NBA women are part of a much larger Christian motorcycle network for both men and women, the Christian Motorcyclist Association (CMA), which has more than 80,000 members and 600 chapters nationwide.
Sharon McDeid wears her colors proudly and remembers a three-state ride the group went on that culminated in the small town of Libby, Montana. "As we rode down the main street, you should have seen the faces on the lumberjacks and cowboys when they realized we were all Christian women!"
Susan Stefanini Day says her motto is "preach the gospel every day and, if necessary, use words." She relates the story of meeting a man at a gas station in a tiny Montana town last year. He noticed the cross-shaped patch she wears on her leather vest, but said nothing about it as they chit-chatted about her motorcycle. Days later, some 500 miles away on the Pacific Coast at an organized motorcycle ride called the Oyster Run, which has some 50,000 motorcycle riders, Susan miraculously met the man again.
"That cross," he said, excitedly pointing to her vest. "I remember you by that cross!" He was blown away by what he thought was another chance encounter. Susan then took the opportunity to tell him that it wasn't chance but God who had allowed them to meet again.
"I told him, 'Who knows when we'll see each other again—on this side or the next.'" She said her message, while cloaked in subtlety, was clear: Think about where you're going after you die. "He knew what I meant," says the cop who prays earnestly before and after every motorcycle ride that "the Lord will continue to nourish the seeds I get to plant, and that they'll grow in his name."
Elementary-school administrative secretary Geri Koller rides her red Harley to work and usually is surrounded by flocks of curious students whenever she pulls into the school parking lot. But she says motorcycling has paid off for her in another surprising way—in her marriage of 30 years. "Erv and I had opposite hobbies. When we had spare time, we did separate things—apart. Now we do this," she says, motioning to her and her husband's two Harley-Davidsons, "as often as we can."
Geri, perhaps more than most, treasures the edifying effects of sharing an interest with those you love. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, bought a motorcycle, got a rose-heart-butterfly tattoo ("to symbolize new life") and turned 50, all in that order. And all in the past year.
While these stereotype-busting born-again biker babes find plenty of side benefits and ministry opportunities to the unchurched, they've learned they carry an equally important message to nonbiking Christians as well.
Bible Study Fellowship leader Barb Klingenberg tells of how one year she cultivated a friendship with a BSF attendee and helped her grow spiritually. The woman never knew about Barb's motorcycling.
One day while the two were talking, someone came up and asked Barb about her Harley. Barb's new friend's mouth dropped open as she stared at her in disbelief. "You mean you ride? On the road?" she asked horrified. "In groups? With other people? You don't wear that leather stuff, do you?" The rest of the year, despite Barb's overtures of friendship, the woman avoided her.
"But the following year when BSF started up again, I deliberately sat next to her," says Barb. As the two made small talk, the subject of motorcycle riding once again came up. This time the woman noticed the sparkle in Barb's eyes as she talked about how much she loved her motorcycle ministry with the NBA Club. "You're so excited, you sound like a little kid," the woman observed.
"After the meeting was over," says Barb, "she found me and said, 'I want you to give me a ride on your bike.'" She chuckles at the unexpected lesson she was able to teach her fellow Christian: "I'm the same person. I'm no different in black leather or in a dress. I'm sure there are a lot of hardened women (and men) bikers, but we all need to remember God loves them just as much as he loves prim-and-proper ladies."
The No Boys Allowed Club members undoubtedly all would rev their pipes in agreement. Over the roar, it's likely we'd hear them holler in unison: "Whether we're in church or out, in black leather or not, it simply makes no difference what vehicle we drive, as long as we get people on the road that leads to Jesus Christ."
Ronna Snyder, a freelance writer and photographer who rides a purple Harley, lives in Idaho.
Copyright © 2002 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine.
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