It’s a few minutes before 9 a.m. on a sunny May morning in Kansas City’s West Bottoms. The masses that flock to the area on first weekends in search of good prices on old dressers and knickknacks are still somewhere else and all is quiet — until it’s not.
The collective sound of 60 motorcycles revving their engines reverberates from the old buildings on 11th Street between Mulberry and Santa Fe. A few whoops and hollers come from the riders, barely audible above the roar but emphasized with fists pumping into the morning sky. They round the corner onto Santa Fe, and International Female Ride Day is underway, the sound echoing as the dew dries on weeds poking up from the asphalt.
Some are clearly veterans, older women decked out in pink leather on Harley-Davidsons. Others are a more modern kind of rider, trendy on their cafe racers and sporting attire that wouldn’t be out of place in a grungy fashion shoot. Anything goes. Two men follow behind the pack in an old pickup truck, ready to jump out and help riders in trouble. These are the only two men on the ride.
Casey Anders, whose desire to reach out to other female riders gave birth to the motorcycle-riding/social club, the Piston Annies, is at the helm of it all. She got into bikes when she met her husband, John Anders, in 2014.
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“Actually the first night we met, he was like, ‘You want to go to Sturgis?’ ” referring to the famous motorcycle rally in South Dakota. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s go!’ ” A year later, Casey moved to Kansas City and got a motorcycle license to surprise John.
Sindy Lupercio, one of the women who helped to start the Piston Annies in 2015, moved to the Kansas City area not long after. After getting into a minor accident riding on the back of her boyfriend’s bike, she decided to take a safety course and get her own bike. Riding on the back of a motorcycle wasn’t cutting it anymore.
“If something’s gonna happen, I’m gonna be in control, regardless of if we get in an accident,” Lupercio says. “I don’t want to have anybody to blame if that happens.”
This independence and self-reliance don’t completely insulate women riders from some unfortunate reactions.
“It’s really obnoxious,” Lupercio says. “But some of the places I’ve been to, they always ask me to sit on their bike.”
“They,” of course, are random male patrons of whichever bar and grill she has just ridden her bike to.
Her boyfriend, who also rides his own bike, doesn’t warrant those same reactions. The Piston Annies describe condescension disguised as compliments.
“People buy me drinks because I ride my own bike,” Lupercio says. “My boyfriend definitely doesn’t get free drinks for riding his own bike.”
“I think the biggest reaction that I’ve ever gotten is just being proud,” Anders says. “Like it’s something to be proud of, like their daughter just cured cancer or something. ‘Oh my God, you rode all the way there by yourself? Holy shit, that’s amazing. You’re so awesome. I can’t believe you did it.’ And I’m like, it’s really not that hard, like, at all. Anyone could do it.”
It’s that attitude that gave birth to the Piston Annies. Anders and Lupercio met up with a few other female riders in their social circle and decided to form a club.
“We’re just like, ‘Hey, let’s do this. Let’s call ourselves the Piston Annies,” Anders says. “ ‘Let’s make a group, not just ride with the guys. Let’s do our own thing.’ ”
“Because obviously,” Lupercio says, “we always want to do different shit than the guys want to do. And it’s fun to just have a girls time, but riding motorcycles.”
The first phase for the club, Anders says, was just to have fun, take some pictures, get other women interested. That lasted for about a year before they began to think about how to actively include other members beyond wooing them with Instagram posts. They started meeting up with others in December, choosing different locations to have drinks and dinner and get to know one another without the roar of a bike intervening.
“The main reason I think why I started it and why we’re on Instagram and why we’re publicizing it is just first of all to let people know there are motorcycles out there,” Anders says. “Like, watch what you’re fucking doing. Get off your phone. Also, hey, women ride motorcycles. It doesn’t have to be a novel thing. … We’re just everyday girls that like to ride motorcycles, and we want to meet other girls that do the same.”
“If anyone has had any doubts about coming around, or if maybe (they’re) thinking they’re not cool enough, fuck it,” Lupercio says. “Just come. Just come hang out. We’re not judgmental, we don’t care. We don’t care what kind of bike you ride or what you do for a job. It doesn’t matter.”
Interested in riding alongside the Piston Annies?
Catch up with them on their Instagram, @pistonannies, or on their website, pistonannies.com.