SYCAMORE – Ellie Rains is such a motorcycle enthusiast she actually got a Harley-Davidson before taking a safety course – which she recommends everyone take.
“(The course is) hard to get into,” she said. “It took me four tries. It’s like boot camp, but it’s exciting to get it. It’s an awesome group of people. They’re all volunteers.”
Born and raised in DeKalb, Rains initially got interested in motorcycles through her husband, Tim, but cut back for a few years to raise her daughters, who are now married and ride themselves.
Three years after becoming “a serious rider,” the Sycamore woman formed the Midwest Women Riders on Facebook in 2011. The women-only group started with 20 riders at its first meeting, but has since expanded to Women Riders U.S.A., covering six U.S. regions and one in Canada, with 908 members.
“Every day, I’m adding girls,” Rains said.
Rains said the club is a resource for women interested in connecting with other women who share a passion for motorcycles. The group offers tips on bikes, bike safety, how to pack for a trip, good places to eat and much more. She also encourages members to list information about other clubs they may belong to.
You can find the page on Facebook under Midwest Women Riders MWR.
Rains talked about motorcycles and her group with MidWeek reporter Doug Oleson last week before embarking on a weekend journey to the Steele Horse Sisterhood Summit in Denver. En route, she was hoping to get recognition from the Iron Butt Association.
Oleson: Before we get started, what exactly does the Iron Butt Association do?
Rains: If you ride 1,000 miles in 24 hours, they give you a pin. The association is very strict about it. You have to keep records of everything, including where you started from, receipts for gas, where you ended.
A lot of people know about this so I have to do it. (Laughs.) There’s a lot of pressure.
When I get to Denver, I’m going to meet all the girls I talk to on Facebook. ...The girls (in my group) have made friends and lifelong friendships they wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s really cool to me.
Oleson: So why did you form the Midwest Women Riders in the first place?
Rains: I wanted to find other women who share the same passion for riding. There are a lot of women who ride in this area. It’s not really a club, it’s a group. We inspire women to enjoy the sport. It’s important for them to connect with us so they have that support system behind them. We can offer them encouragement.
Since it’s for girls only, they can ask questions they wouldn’t normally ask in a co-ed group.
Oleson: What makes your group special?
Rains: In our group, there are no meetings, no dues, no drama. No one looks down on someone if they don’t want to participate (in a ride or a gathering). People are busy. When we do have a gathering, they’re big. Last month we had 55 girls in St. Charles. Everyone talks on Facebook, but (the gatherings) are a chance to meet people face to face.
Oleson: How long are your rides?
Rains: All day. Last year, we rode out to Savanna. The girls are still talking about it. Getting to ride with 20 other girls, it’s bonding.
Oleson: Do you see more women getting into riding?
Rains: Yes, absolutely. I think they are seeing us out there. Maybe they have had it in the back of their minds. But I always tell them to take that safety course. You do all your testing at those classes, so all you have to do is go to the DMV and get your picture taken and that is it, you have your license. When you get that piece of paper in your hand, you have a sense of accomplishment.
Oleson: Is there a good bike for beginners?
Rains: I always tell my girls to go and sit on all makes and models and get what fits you the best. It’s a personal choice. I started big with a Harley, but that’s me. Some start with a smaller bike and after six months will switch to something bigger.
Oleson: Aren’t some riders judged by what they ride?
Rains: We don’t discriminate what you ride. It’s more about the connection to the person than to the bike. We’re out there for one reason: the sisterhood on the bike.
Oleson: Why do you like to ride?
Rains: It’s a feeling of freedom, a sense of empowerment. Riding on a bike, you see everything and smell everything. It’s way different than in a car. For each girl, it’s something different.
Oleson: Isn’t it dangerous?
Rains: Biking can be safe. The huge problem now is people (in vehicles) on their cell phones. It may be illegal, but, trust me, I see a ton of people doing it. People are reckless on the road. You have to be more alert (on a bike) than in a car. I’m always looking in my rear view mirror.
The country roads are my friends. The less traffic, the better.
Oleson: What are the requirements to join your group?
Rains: You have to have your own bike and your endorsement. ...They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oleson: Does your husband ever ride with you?
Rains: We’re members of the DeKalb Hogs Chapter. We ride together, but not with the group. He doesn’t like all the women.
Oleson: I have to ask, when you’re not riding a motorcycle, what kind of car do you drive?
Rains: It’s a Honda. It has MWR stickers all over it.