The rules of the road


Kanya Velichansky poses on her Harey Sportster at the Litas SF x Litas Sacramento bike wash for Harley-Davidson Sacramento on June 8, 2019.

One, make a staggered formation. Two, watch for the pacemaker’s hand signal. And three: ride your own ride. These are the rules of the road.

“I think it’s not so much about doing it because only men do it,” said Katya Velichansky, founding member of the Bay Area chapter of The Litas motorcycle club. “But we want to encourage women, or anyone nonbinary, to try it out if they have ever thought about riding.”

For Velichansky, riding with a group means that every rider is allowed any detour or other path that they wish. Take whatever turn, go whatever speed. Simply, “ride your own ride.”

Velichasky has been riding her own ride since she purchased her first motorcycle, a Suzuki GZ 250, five years ago. But Velichansky never anticipated throwing a leg over her own motorcycle.

In a 2018 study by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), 19% of motorcycle riders are women — a huge leap from decades of male dominated motorcycle culture that often saw female riders as a rare spectacle.

Katya and fellow female motorcycle riders Judea Contreras, Tish Yotadee and Kayla Childress began the first Bay Area chapter of an all-female motorcycle club that has disrupted the world of a male-dominated culture.

Jessica Haggett started The Litas in November 2014 and lit the flame of female motorcycle enthusiasts around the world. With a global effort of more than 1,800 members, Velichansky was determined to spread the movement to the Bay Area.

Velichansky, the Bay Area Litas chapter and chapters from around the world participated in The Litas’ annual “Babe’s Ride Out” event on Oct. 7 in Santa Margarita, California, touring the scenic Central Coast during the three-day camping meetup.

“I was one of the main original people backing it up. There were three girls that did the initial filing — and I was there from the first day on,” Velichansky said. “Right now, the group is run by me and my friend Tish.”

The Litas main idea is to break the historic stereotype that perpetuates an exclusive culture of all-male motorcycle groups that don’t include people like themselves.

Katya and Tish both nurture the community of nonbinary and female riders in the chapter by organizing rides approximately once a month and working to encourage future riders to swing their leg over a motorcycle.

“It’s pretty much open to anyone who wants to come and hang out,” Velichansky said. “Very open door policy; we try to keep it just women, but people who are nonbinary are welcomed. But no cis-men.”

“It feels like a sisterhood,” Velichansky said, “which may sound a little bit cheesy. That’s really what it is. You can count on people to stick by your side, and that goes for on and off the bike.”

“She’s a badass,” said former Litas member Childress. “She’s really out there trying to carve out a space to do her own thing, and still hustling to make ends meet.”

Velichansky now works as a graphic designer in San Francisco, and commutes daily on her Harley-Davidson Sportster while remaining an active leader for the Bay Area Litas.

“It takes a strong sense of self to be able to pull so many women together to ride, which makes her the epitome of a road dog,” said fellow Litas rider Kimberly Herrera. “And as the Litas mantra goes, ‘she always raises hell.’”