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Don't call it a girl gang

Lady Fingers gives Atlanta's women a chance to ride in camaraderie

Ride or die is a fun rhyme that's easy to say but harder to live — especially when taken literally and applied to the pothole-packed streets of Atlanta. However, the two dozen or so women who consider themselves part of the no-boys-allowed motorcycle club Lady Fingers know in order to safely navigate, you just need to look ahead and readjust accordingly. "I've gotten pretty good at standing up on my bike," O.G. member Kat Scott says. "When you stand up on your bike, your legs are like shocks so you don't fly off." If a big hump emerges and you're still seated, you gamble shooting off onto the asphalt.

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These are all skills learned over time when riding motorcycles, however, the dynamic of Lady Fingers facilitates an expedited education. The group, which had its first official ride in July 2014 with about five or six participants in tow, has since been adding members while strengthening the collective motorcycle knowledge and its core value: empowering each other as women who ride.

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The group, which averages about 10 riders each weekly Tuesday ride, moves in a staggered formation to safely cruise roads and increase visibility to drivers who might otherwise be absorbed in their smartphone, mainstay Mariana Costello explains.

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Scott and Costello met at an early Brother Moto party, the East Atlanta Village community motorcycle co-op and store, "and thought each other was rad," Costello says. "Kat grabbed me and was like, 'We should ride. We should do this.'" The two both had male partners interested in and active on motorcycles, but the prospect of a girls-only environment that welcomed callouses, flaming-red lipstick, and open-air adventures offered a new type of satisfaction riding with dudes couldn't. It wasn't about aesthetic or conforming to some warped fantasy akin to those objectifying Harley babe calendars plaguing mall kiosks every holiday season. They just wanted to ride around shining in female camaraderie. Both Scott and Costello recruited other ladies they knew to flesh out the crew and coax Lady Fingers into existence.

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Building an army of women bikers could have easily turned into a hardline curation process with strict screening and snobbery. But even a cursory glance around the faction that gathers at 97 Estoria, Lady Fingers' official meeting spot, squashes any suspicions. "It doesn't matter what you ride," Scott starts saying before Costello finishes the thought for her. "It doesn't matter what you ride, who you are — as long as you're a girl who wants to ride."

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It's impossible to describe a typical Lady Finger member. Day jobs vary from teaching ceramics to heading up e-commerce efforts. Even physical appearance spans a wild spectrum, including one woman in velvet overalls, and another with a spouting fountain of multi-dimensional hair. Only a handful wear leather. The only uniform qualities are good vibes — and a bike, of course.

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"We put it out there on social media and stuff that it was a thing we were starting," a senior member, Emma Head, says. "And if any girls by chance — we didn't think there would be a response, really — wanted to ride with us, we were open. We weren't exclusive or anything. And it just started more and more every week. More girls would show so it grew very fast."

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Scott and many of the other women admitted approaching a group of other late-20s to early 30s ladies straddling vintage motorcycles could be intimidating. She refused to allow that air of suggested exclusivity perpetuate so each week she, Costello, and whoever else could make the Tuesday ride would warmly welcome any new face grinding up to the Cabbagetown parking lot.

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The group's stickers appeared like cheerful confetti sprinkled around the city, featuring a hand with fingers crossed and a fresh red manicure. Head explains the image originally represented friendship, later evolving into a winking hashtag to chronicle Lady Fingers' adventures — which span from group rides to Ponce City Market's Madewell opening and camping on Panama City Beach to craft nights.

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Part of the power in Lady Fingers' estrogren-infused antics is the opportunity to flex independence from the traditionally masculine motorcyclists. Many of the women got into biking from a male significant other and although they continue to be helpful in many aspects of the ride — or numerous breakdowns that come with older motorcycles — they can troubleshoot most any issue among the continuous LF group message. "Our goal is once we know how to do it, we'd teach each other," Frances Shaw, another member, says. Megan Daloz, a longtime member, mentions the occasional carb-cleaning party fractions of the group throw, among other aspirations of streamlining further educational efforts.

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Many ride vintage bikes since they run a lower price tag. However, their tendency to break down can make solo rides risky (which is why most of the Lady Fingers also have a newer, more reliable bike). Each member has her own trove of breakdown anecdotes, but that's part of why the group rides are so essential. "It's a collective learning experience where you never feel stupid that you don't know," Costello says. "Everyone asks for help. Sometimes I know the most and other times I need everyone else's help. I think we all are definitely learning."

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Despite an overwhelmingly positive and progressive mindset, the ladies still have to deal with the inevitable onslaught of harassment as women riding motorcycles. "One time somebody was like, 'Oh, I like your bike! You should paint it pink,'" Daloz says. "I was like, 'You should paint your fucking truck pink!'"

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Besides the unfortunate catcalls, some Lady Fingers describe other struggles unique to the woman motorcyclist. Heels, for example, pose a serious potential danger. "It could compromise stopping," Costello says. "There probably isn't a lot of traction and you could fall." There's also the question of hair and which particular style is best-suited for the elements of the open road.

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There are small sacrifices and trials, sure, but overall the Lady Fingers say it's worth it. To ride motorcycles — especially together as women — is a holy experience. "It's really silly and funny but I think just with women, you can talk about normal women things," Scott says. "So getting to do that along with having real relationships with people where you can laugh with them, cry with them — all those things — then also do something that's kind of scary is a really great bonding thing. What's bad about that? It's a great experience every time."



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