Interview: Alicia “Motolady” Elfving
Imagine, if you can, motorcycling with all the superficial artifice stripped away. What would you be left with? What would remain at the core of the experience? Allow me to tell you. It’s those moments you have when you’re gliding down that perfectly curvy road in the country, five feet off the ground with the sun shining and the warm wind blowing and time standing still while you get to take a fleeting glimpse into the windows of the big house of the gods. This is something, I’m convinced, that almost anyone with a soul, be it male or female, would really enjoy. The thing with motorcycles is that to get to this sublime point you have to negotiate a whole bunch of smoke, horsepower, oil and a mountain of other ridiculously blokey stuff. Stuff that can turn the fairer sex right off the whole shebang – which is a real shame when you think about it. That’s probably why most females I know would prefer riding horses than revving horse powers. Except one, that is…
Can you introduce yourself to the readers?
Oh jeeze, sure thing. Full name is Alicia Mariah Elfving but you probably know me for/as MotoLady or “The MotoLady“.
Where are you right now? What’s happening there? What are you doing after this?
I’m on my lunch break at the moment- at MotoCorsa, a Ducati Dealership… THE Ducati Dealership in Portland, Oregon. What’s going on here? Well, lots of Ducati stuff of course! It’s a beautiful sunny day and people are riding in for drinks from the cafe and to look at Italian stallions. I’m at my desk, tucked away in the back. After work I’ll be filming a moto maintenance how-to video with Hannah Johnson (the worlds only female Ducati Master Tech) and then going home to do more moto bloggin’.
Can you give us a brief history of yourself?
A history of oneself is hard to make brief… but here goes. I’m relatively new to the motorcycle industry – I got my endorsement 6 years ago, first bike 2 years ago, started MotoLady in January of 2011 and starting working at MotoCorsa in February of 2011. I’ve been going non-stop the entire time… constantly around motorcycles, talking about motorcycles, looking at them, thinking about them. They are my world.
Before motorcycles [happily] took up my work and personal life, I worked as a Designer and Assistant at Exprima Media (an interactive design company) and Produced advertising and fashion photo shoots for Vorpal Images. Set design, wardrobe, makeup artistry and art direction are among my talents. I’m a very visual person.
What bikes have you owned in the past? What do you own now? What would be in your ultimate garage?
Leading with the aforementioned info of my youth in the industry, I have not had as much time to collect motorcycles and infact still have my first bike… a 1980 Yamaha Maxim XJ 650. I bought it at the beginning of summer a couple years back, knowing very little about motorcycles besides that I wanted an 80’s cruiser. Because of that, in the time I’ve ridden the piss out of it, it’s degraded into a pile of crap. People ask me all the time if it runs, and I reply, “yes.. but the real question should be if it’s rideable.”
My other bike is a 1998 Ducati Monster 750. If you’re familiar with my blog, you will have probably seen my Monster Project… an ongoing review of my custom build. I got the Monster in totally wrecked condition last year from MotoCorsa and decided to go all out in fixing it up rather than replacing the old stock parts that are pretty expensive (and often times kind of ugly since they’re outdated).
When it comes to my ultimate garage, goals for the near future include a bike trifecta: Monster, Cruiser, Dual Sport. I’ve been toying back and forth between a plasticated newer dual sport and a classic dirt tracker kind of bike. I just want something smaller that has high clearance to use on trails and such during summer. When it comes to the cruiser, I’m looking into a 1973-1977 Honda CB… perhaps a smaller 350 for in town riding.
Considering most motorbike blog readers are guys, how’s the scene through the eyes of a female?
MOST OF MY READERS ARE GUYS?! I’m completely shocked! Jokes… No really, I’m aware that the bulk of my readers are men. It’s just the nature of the motorcycling industry. However I will say approximately 39% of MotoLady’s Facebook fans are women, which is a fantastically high percentage given the fact that approximately 10% of all motorcyclists are ladies.
As for being stereotyped, definitely. In different ways depending on the generation from which the person in question came from. Older men seem to think I was designed to ride on the bitch seat, and even though they know I ride will often refer to me as a passenger more than a motorcyclist. Younger men often assume I’m into bikes to pick up dudes, or that I ride slow or without skill. And then there are all the folks who love motoladies- those who would like to ride with a girl rather than taking a girl for a ride. And there are many of them! These days it seems that there is 5 people who love seeing a woman on her own bike for every one who assumes women are just moto-groupies.
“Younger men often assume I’m into bikes
to pick up dudes, or that I ride slow or without skill”
According to a friend of mine, a Senior Instructor for the Basic Rider Training organization Team Oregon, around 60% of people in his motorcycle endorsement classes are women. So with the number of women riders ever growing, I believe we’ll see a whole lot more motorcycle marketing toward women in the near future. Whether it be new and exciting gear that goes above and beyond simple function and good fitment, or OEM parts that make bikes more lady friendly, there will be more and more opportunity for women to integrate into moto-society. As of now, I’ve noticed motorcycle manufacturers pander their entry-level bikes toward those with both an X and a Y chromosome, which definitely sends the message that women do not have a need or want for bigger/faster/better/stronger bikes. I hope to see more manufacturers cater to the ladies in the industry, and knowing that women of households tend to make up to 98% of the purchasing decisions, it would definitely prove profitable for them.
What’s your most epic moment on a bike?
I’d have to say the first time I ever locked up my back wheel. I felt like a fuckin’ rockstar when I didn’t wipeout. As a new rider, just 3 months on the road, I thought for sure I’d be eating pavement when I felt the rear wheel lose traction and my bike continued it’s path straight through the intersection. When it began to turn sideways, setting me up for a high speed low side, or (worst case) a flinging highside… I stopped braking, looked both ways and cranked the throttle, launching myself forward and out of a sticky situation.
Second would have to be when I braked too late coming around an increasing turn at high speeds on the freeway, and slid right over the white line into a three foot section of shoulder that hovered above a five story drop into the SE industrial area of Portland. I suddenly knew what everyone means when they say they saw their life flash before their eyes. Time slowed down as my momentum continued to push me toward the median. As my muffler began to scrape I felt my back tire rub on the bottom of the concrete stanchion, I saw a three foot section of a 4×4 across my path not more than 40 feet in front of me. Instinct kicked in and I dropped a gear, let off the throttle long enough to regain traction on the patches of gravel, leaned hard and punched it… narrowly maneuvering past the road debris. Most people ask me if I pulled over at this point in the story, to which I respond “HELL NO. I shook it off and rode on.” And I did, regardless of how much I was shaking at the time. Most everyone has stories just like those though, so I really don’t consider them epic.
Can you tell us a little about your blog?
The original reason I started MotoLady was to just have a place to put all the cool motorcycling stuff I found throughout my day without mixing it into a ton of other found photos and videos. At the time I was still working with the photography company and wanted to do more motorcycle photo shoots so I was finding a lot of media content.
“MotoLady came to stand for real women motorcyclists who needed a voice in the community that is motorcycling”
Within a month, it was clear there was a niche to be filled. I got quite a few messages thanking me for having a website full of beautiful photos of motorcycles and the women that ride them, from all sorts of folks. Having always wanted to travel on motorcycle, covering events and writing articles… I decided to start with my daily experiences. MotoLady came to stand for real women motorcyclists who needed a voice in the community that is motorcycling. We’re here, we’re passionate, we’re capable. Pay attention to us!
My intent has evolved both obviously and subtly as the site has continued to grow. Inspiring women to ride and dispelling the negative stigma that surrounds motorcycles is my main goal. Giving men something to look at while speaking to the legitimacy of women riders is a pleasant byproduct.
What’s your idea of a perfect ride?
One that starts on pavement and ends with camping for a weekend. Long straights mixed with sweeping turns so you can really play with the centrifugal sweet spot after blasting it wide open.
We found you through Jeff at Saint Motorbikes. How’d you know him?
Jeff Yarrington and I met through the interwebs! A real motolady love story. His custom Ural, the green cafe racer, got a lot of attention on my website. I posted an image of it from behind with the comment, “Ohhhh, I’ve got the Ural infection…” and a link back to his blog. The next day I got a bunch of requests from readers for more images and info on the bike, so I posted a couple more. Next week I got an email from Jeff saying thanks for posting his bike and that he found me tracking back the clicks his blog got from my posts. And so we began talking. I was going through a rough spot in my life- my marriage was failing plus I was unemployed and searching for work. We quickly became friends, and haven’t stopped talking since.
When I got my Monster, he offered to bang out the tank dents and paint it black so I could have a decent looking bike. When I sent it to him it suddenly got more complicated when he asked, “If you could paint this tank any way you wanted… what would you do?” …and so the Monster Project was born. Not only has Jeff been a great friend, but he’s also given me loads of mechanical advice that’s saved me time and money, and he even did the mods for the Monster Project’s front end swap.
Any future plans?
I’m always planning. I’ve got a few things in the works, both long and short term. The nearest announcement is my new website. I’m moving off of the tumblr platform since it’s unreliable and can’t handle the amount of visits I get. The new site will look very similar, but content created by me such as photography and blog entries will be more obvious. And the search function will actually work, wow! I’m also planning some adventures out of state, hoping to make it to Bonneville this summer.
When it comes to the long term stuff… I’m trying to find partners/investors for a motorcycle website/phone app that I’ve dreamed up… I can’t talk about it past that but just know that if it comes to fruition, we’ll all be stoked.
If your current ride was a song, which one would it be?
As in, my current bike’s anthem? Motorcycle Blues by Jesse Colin Young. “Yeah your spark plugs are new mama, lord and your wirin’ too. …but your ports are corroded and your alternator won’t be true.” I’m thinking those are the lyrics… my god it’s hard to understand them southern boys sometimes. Ha ha!