If anyone has been following along with my short clumsy articles, you may have noticed the quintessential tirade about how much we appreciate riding season in Chicago because of the Apocalytic Fucking Winter. Yet again, this article starts this way. Winter was miserable. For god’s sake it fucking snowed in April!
This story starts on Tuesday, May 14, 2019, once all the soul-numbing weather was behind us and it was FINALLY riding season.
The weather was perfect and it was the first bike night of the season with the all-women’s riders group, The Bleeders. If you live in Chicago or surrounding areas, you may have heard of them, or know someone who is involved with the group. Their numbers vary, but this is by model of design. It’s non-exclusive, and they have open arms for any women looking for friends to ride with, or who want to learn more about getting on a bike. They are a pack of strong, loud, and loyal women who have an utter lack of bullshit and a penchant for fun and supporting people of all diversities.
Being of the dude chromosome, I am not a member of the group, but became friends with a couple of their core members, Michelle Halweg and Natalie Murray, a few years ago when they allowed me to move into their garage and have a spot to finally work on my bike after a year without a stable. This was my first experience with the group, and I feel very fortunate to have become friends with more of their members since.
At this point, you may be wondering why a man is writing this or attending the event. While usually a women-only bike night, this seasonal kick-off was an open coed invitation to all riders in Chicago who support women on two wheels. It didn’t matter what you ride or how you identify. Come have fun and don’t be a dick. Clean and simple rules because that’s how The Bleeders hold it down.
Everyone met at Tarnish The Store in Ukrainian Village at 6:30PM, with kickstands up by 7:15 for a ride down to Fleetwood Roller Rink on the southwest side of the city. Conveniently, I share a new garage with my partner, Ashlee, right around the corner from Tarnish. We got there a little early before meetup so we could watch all the bikes ride in and see the whole block get taken over, two wheels at a time. It was fun seeing a wide assortment of bikes, and lots of new faces. Everyone was in good spirits, excited to ride, but maybe a little apprehensive about testing their skills on roller skates. I was definitely apprehensive about testing out my skills on roller skates.
After lots of hugs and high fives, it was time to head down to the roller rink. Michelle gave a quick briefing on directions and some guidance for those of us new to riding with the group, then fired up her Dyna which was the signal for us to get moving. Given the large number of riders, the group ended being split up into a few smaller packs as we played it safe and avoided running red lights.
Ashlee and I were riding two-up on my Sportster to the roller rink and found ourselves riding with new faces in the middle pack of bikes. Everyone was easy to ride with and made the trip very pleasant. The sunset light was beautiful, too, right at sunset, so Ashlee took charge of my camera from the back of the bike and got great pictures of some of our new friends. Besides the one pothole that tossed me and Ash out of our seats and into the air for one brief terrifying moment, the ride was mostly smooth and everyone got there without any major issues.
Once at Fleetwood Roller Rink, everyone spent some time chatting and making sure their buddies made it there before heading into the venue. The Bleeders rented out the entire rink for a couple hours, so the whole place was ours for the night. It was a great vibe and only good times from there on out. Some people hung out in the bar with new homies, and others laced up their skates and got their groove on. It was clean, simple fun.
Thank you to The Bleeders and anyone who supports the group! If any female riders around Chicago are looking for people to ride with, or want to find out more about being a part of the motorcycle experience, get in touch and keep a lookout on their social media pages - Facebook / Instagram - for upcoming events.
Photos by Alec Ozawa and Ashlee Stewack
Bleeders: Facebook / Instagram
Alec Ozawa : Website / Instagram / Fire Signs Chicago
Ashlee Stewack: Website / Instagram / Fire Signs Chicago