The incredible personal journey of Ashmore Ellis, one of the true innovators of the motorcycle industry
Words: Becky Goebel @actuallyitsaxel
Photos: Heidi Zumbrun, Ben Zales, Geoff Kowalkchuk, Kendal Riley Photography
Q: How did you get into riding?
A: It’s a classic story of seeing someone else do it and thinking to myself, “I can do that too”. I signed up to take a MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) class as a birthday gift to myself and figured if I liked it after that class, maybe this was for me. I had zero confidence on a motorcycle before taking the class and maybe 10% confidence afterwards. The rest I had to build up over miles and miles of practice. Am I a 100% badass rider now after all those years? Hell no. I take riding seriously and know my limits. If people ride a bit faster than I do, my motto is “I’ll see you there”. I never got into motorcycles to prove anything – it’s because I truly enjoy the ride.
Q: What bikes do you have in your collection?
A: My daily ride is a custom Harley-Davidson® Sportster® XL1200S. It’s a full-on camping machine that is lightweight, has a clean look and can really carve into mountain roads. I also have a new dual-sport bike – a Husqvarna FE 250. I’ve been having a blast ripping around in nature with my husband and friends.
Q: How did the Babes Ride Out event start?
A: In 2013 I ran into Anya Violet at Born Free. Anya is a force of nature and has been riding dirt bikes since she could walk. Casual conversation turned to a ‘girls’ weekend’ of motorcycle camping in the desert of Borrego Springs in California. We thought it would be a good idea to put out a call to all the lady riders we were starting to connect with on social media – how awesome would it be if 10 ladies showed up? As it turned out, 50 women showed up, from as far afield as New York, Arizona, northern California and Oregon.
In the second year, Babes Ride Out was official. I had stumbled upon a campsite in Joshua Tree, California, so Anya and I headed out to take a look. The site was in the perfect location and offered incredible rides on some of the most beautiful roads we’d ever seen. When the site owner asked us how many ladies were coming, we said “oh, no more than 150”. A few months later, we were looking at a registration list of 500 ladies. By the fourth year, we had more than 1,500 women.
Q: And it just kept on growing, right?
A: Yes, and faster than we thought! In 2015 we hosted our first free off-roading event (Babes in the Dirt), and we soon decided to make that an annual event. In 2016, Babes Ride Out East Coast was born – that spring, some 250 female riders descended upon the Catskills in New York State. We also reached out to the ladies of VC London (vclondon.co.uk), and Babes Ride Out UK was put in motion.
But why stop there? My husband Mike and I also launched a side project called Stake Out Events, and in 2016, we created the first event of the series, Sierra Stake Out, a co/ed event in the heart of Gold Country. We are expecting close to 1,000 at this year’s Sierra Stake Out 3. We also introduced another new event for 2019 – the Blue Ridge Stake Out in Floyd, Virginia – as well as adding a Babes in the Dirt East event to the roster and moving our main Babes Ride Out event to the central coast of California.
Q: From an insider perspective, how have you seen Babes Ride Out impact the motorcycle community?
A: As the percentage of female riders has risen, women are finding their space within the motorcycling community. Babes Ride Out serves as a way for digital friends to become lifelong friends, and gives attendees a chance to make a real connection with each other. Our goal from day one was to inspire and empower women to explore the world on two wheels.
Additionally, we always put focus on supporting the mindset that rider training is cool. We work with a number of local riding schools, as well as the Harley-Davidson Riding Academy. By promoting these classes and partnerships, we hope to give riders longevity and support them in becoming more skilled.
Q: What would you like to see happen in the women’s motorcycle community specifically?
A: For it not to be called the women’s motorcycle community and for it to be referred to as the motorcycle community in general. You might be reading this and thinking, “Damn girl! You produce motorcycle events focused on women riders!”. This is true. But if you think it’s to solely encourage women riders, then you’ve missed the entire point. It’s to build a community as a whole. Most don’t realise that we work with a ton of men on our events. I think it’s incredibly important to remember that it’s not ‘us’ against ‘them’. You are part of this community no matter what you ride or wear, or your gender.
You can find out more about Babes Ride Out and the upcoming events here.