A women-only rally celebrating the camaraderie of two wheels.
It all started, like these things often do, with two friends who just wanted to share a newfound love of riding motorcycles. They planned a “girls’ weekend” of riding and camping in California’s Mojave Desert, and thought it might be fun to invite some of the fellow women riders they’d been connecting with on social media (but had yet to meet in person). Playfully, they dubbed it Babes in Borrego. The year was 2013, and to their surprise 50 women showed up, some having come from as far away as New York and Oregon. They were all there for one simple reason: they loved to ride motorcycles.
The next year Anya and Ashmore, the two founding friends, stepped up their game for what they were now calling Babes Ride Out, renting a private campground near Joshua Tree, California. They expected 150 women; instead they got 500. The next year, 1,500. That same year, 2015, they hosted their first off-road-oriented event, called (of course) Babes in the Dirt. In 2016, Babes Ride Out — or BRO for short — expanded to the East Coast and then to the UK.
Anya and Ashmore had tapped into a powerful force: women who were passionate about riding and who craved the camaraderie that only a gathering of motorcyclists seems to provide, without egos or expectations — and, incidentally, without men.
BRO is a female-only event, and 2019 was my second one. My first time, in 2017, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As someone who was never one of the “cool girls” as a teenager, I was actually pretty worried it would feel like a bigger, scarier version of the junior high school lunchroom. It turned out to be the complete opposite. The whole event was infused with an energy of inclusiveness and fellowship, unlike any rally I’d ever attended. I knew I’d be back.
For 2019, BRO made a location change for the first time, from the desert to the rolling golden hills south of Paso Robles in California’s Central Coast wine country. Most everything else stayed the same; BRO has always been a riding-centric event, and on Saturday the camp empties out as everyone hits the road one on of the pre-planned routes (sponsor Biltwell provided printed maps) or one of their own devising.
Most of the pre-planned routes are short, a few hours or so, to give riders a chance to return to camp and take part in welding or leatherwork workshops hosted by Real Deal Revolution (co-founded by the late Jessi Combs), Harley-Davidson demo rides, M1GP minibike knee-dragging seminars, bike games and more. In the evenings, there is karaoke, live music (this year was Twisted Gypsy, a Fleetwood Mac tribute band), vendors and craftswomen, a tattoo station, free beer and whiskey (“till it runs out!”), telescopes for stargazing and food trucks for late-night grub.
Entrance to the private venue is secured 24 hours a day, and they take the “no guys allowed” rule seriously. Most of us camped in the big open field, but plenty of women brought RVs and there are even some available for rent. For those who wanted to camp but don’t own all the gear or couldn’t transport it on their bike, items like tents, sleeping pads and sleeping bags are also available to rent.
There was a lot of smiling, a lot of laughter, dancing like no guys are watching, fantastic riding in California’s Central Coast and, of course, the warm camaraderie of a couple thousand women coming together to celebrate the passion we all share. Consider me a Babes believer; this is a special experience and I encourage female riders of all persuasions to attend at least one if you can. You won’t be disappointed.
BRO East typically takes place in early June; BRO West takes place in mid-October; Babes in the Dirt takes place in late April. See websites for locations and updates.
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