WASHINGTON -- Life can move pretty fast for Paula Brown. Days can zoom by for the Upper Marlboro woman who balances a full-time job, being a single mother and her passion -- motorcycling.
Brown is a co-founder and vice president of Speed Divas, the first female-only motorcycle club in the D.C. area. It's full of women who squeeze motorcycling into schedules already brimming with responsibilities.
Since the club's formation in 2000, the then-single, childless members have gone on to achieve job goals, improve motorcycling skills and, in many cases, become mothers or wives. As time passes, Brown says one thing remains the same within the club: the zeal for motorcycling.
"Over the course of these 14 years, we've had Speed Divas babies born, people have gotten married, we've pretty much celebrated bridal showers, baby showers," says Brown. "There is a spectrum of age groups, but we do all come together because of motorcycles."
The club, with less than 20 members, offers a support system through riding, friendships and family life. Still, Brown says it's difficult to ride as much as she'd like.
"It's a balance [and] you kind of have to work it in when you can and maintain your household," she says.
For the busy mom of a 10-year-old, riding can be the stress relief that she seeks.
"[When riding], you almost have to clear your mind and focus on your surroundings, so the only thing you're thinking about is riding," she says.
Riding in a man's world
Speed Divas has group rides about once a month and the events are "empowering and encouraging," says president of the club, Dior, who didn't want her last name used. She goes by "Top Shelf" -- her Speed Divas nickname.
The six-year member says the club helps promote women's motorcycling and provides an outlet where women can ride together because they love it.
"The hobby is a male-dominated hobby. You don't see too many women ride motorcycles and ride them well," Top Shelf says.
It's a great forum to learn, too, says Top Shelf, a Greenbelt, Maryland, resident.
When she first started the sport in 2007, she says she lacked confidence and would "go into the garage and turn [the motorcycle] on and get intimidated and go back inside."
Speed Divas helped her grow as a rider.
"It provides a great environment -- it can be intimidating -- so this can be a safe haven. It's a place where you can ask questions and not feel intimidated because you're a girl," Top Shelf says.
Any insecurities from the women quickly fade away and Top Shelf says their gender doesn't hold them back.
"We like to think we ride just as well as men are and sometimes better, honestly," she says.
Many women in the club got the urge to ride because they had been on the back of a man's bike, Brown says. When she rode on the back of her then-boyfriend's motorcycle, she found herself wanting control and got the itch to give it a try.
"Once I did it, I was hooked."
Part of the club
The skill level of the riders is one of the things that sets Speed Divas apart.
The women hone their abilities with trips to Summit Point Raceway in Summit Point, West Virginia. The track is a place where the women can ride at higher speeds and do other things restricted on the road. It's when they "see what the motorcycle can really do," Top Shelf says.
All members have to own a motorcycle with at least a 600cc engine, have to be able to travel 250 miles a day and have their motorcycle registered and insured.
Also, potential new members' personalities have to mesh with the group, Top Shelf says.
"We all have very strong personalities," she says.
And getting along together is important. The group spends hours together traveling to places such as Myrtle Beach, Raleigh and New Jersey.
Riding alone is not fun, Brown says. But riding with a group is knowing that someone has your back.
Top Shelf says the women have an "unspoken bond on wheels."
"When you ride with a club, you have the ability to know how each member rides and you know you'll never get left behind," Brown says.
Even though long trips can mean strains with time and personalities, Top Shelf says the bond between friends and motorcycles makes for amazing experiences.
"At the end of the day, we fight like sisters and then go out and have a good time together."
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