By CAROLINE CARMICHAEL/ Staff Writer
Their tires spin, spurting gravel dust clouds. Their engines rev deep-throated gurgles at the commanding twists at a handlebar throttle. Their vibrations pound the air and ground.
These women are bold. They are advocates, supporters, nurturers. They are wives, mothers, grandmothers and sisters.
They are the riders of Leather and Lace Motorcycle Club (MC).
Leather and Lace MC is an international motorcycle club for women in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain.
They ride to serve and they ride with respect.
“In the biker world, it’s all about respect,” High Cotton Chapter President Kelly Taylor of Montgomery said.
Taylor and local Chapter Historian Rickie Waldrop of Maplesville said it’s this respect that strengthens the sisterhood and broadens the tire-met horizons of Leather and Lace MC.
“We are one of the largest and one of the oldest women’s motorcycle club,” Taylor said.
High Cotton Chapter
High Cotton Chapter is the only chapter in Alabama.
According to Taylor, the High Cotton Chapter began in 2006 through Tuscaloosa, and was referred to as the Birmingham chapter for a while.
Now, Taylor said, “We cover all of Alabama. We have one in the whole state of Alabama. And we’re spread throughout the state, the majority being Montgomery.”
Waldrop said Alabama is special.
“Everybody supports everybody in the state of Alabama, as far as clubs go,” Waldrop said.
Taylor said this is unusual.
“There’s very good camaraderie and everybody’s got everybody’s back, and everybody takes care of everybody here,” Waldrop said.
Riding alongside sisters is the greatest sensation, Waldrop and Taylor said.
“There’s nothing like looking in your rearview mirrors and seeing about 30 sisters behind you, or looking from the middle of the pack,” Waldrop said.
“It’s just a feeling you’ve got to have,” Taylor said. “Women that ride understand that feeling. It’s fun, it’s not a man’s world.”
High Cotton Chapter hosts two main benefits each year.
“Our big run with the High Cotton chapter that’s very well-known in the Leather and Lace nation is our Whispering Thunder Run,” Taylor said.
She said the run takes place each May and benefits Child Protect, Children’s Advocacy Center of Montgomery, which covers the tri-county area.
Each October, High Cotton Chapter hosts a benefit for Women of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation. This year the chapter is scheduled to host a BOO-B Ride in Bike Show at Harley-Davidson of Montgomery.
According to Taylor and Waldrop, a woman named Jennifer Chaffin founded Leather and Lace MC in 1983 in Edgewater, Florida.
“That’s where our national president basically started us and got us growing, and now we’re everywhere,” Taylor said.
Chaffin, along with other women riders of the time, desired to mingle their passions for riding and caring for children.
Since then, countless women have joined the group and extended their service to include caring for the needs of both children and women.
Leather and Lace MC distinguishes itself from Riding Clubs, or RC, in self-discipline and the gravity of commitment and dedication to the group, its requirements and its members.
“It all has to do with respect and dedication,” Taylor explained. “It’s not the patch that makes you; it’s the person makes the patch. And that’s our motto. That’s what keeps it going. We always have to consider the other sisters.”
In contrast to most RC groups, in an MC group, members are required to pay dues and attend and participate in mandatory sisterhood and service events regardless of personal busyness.
“We get our hands slapped, you know, if we don’t follow protocol,” Taylor said, “And that’s how it keeps going so long.”
In RC groups, the primary requirement is an enjoyment for riding motorcycles. They may or may not have regular meetings and they may or may not pay dues.
“Our national president and some of the ladies with her did a wonderful job and were able to get the respect enough that we were able to change over from an RC to become an MC,” Taylor said. “And we’ve been going strong since then, so we cannot complain.”
Riding the Road: To be a Lace
The combination of sisterhood and respect may be the greatest draw for women in Leather and Lace MC.
Taylor said she joined Leather and Lace MC after years of riding with men because she was tired of riding in the back since she was a woman. She learned of Leather and Lace MC and joined the High Cotton Chapter.
Waldrop joined for similar reasons.
“I originally started off as an American Legion Rider and wanted something more,” Waldrop said. “I’m still am a member of the Legion, but I’m not with the Riders part.”
Joining the Lace league is no easy feat, the women said.
“It’s not a ‘I’m just going to join and if I don’t like it, turn in your badge,’” Taylor said. “No, this is a world, it’s a nation. It’s like, if you ever look at MC versus RC, RC you buy your patch. MC you earn your patches, and it takes us three to five years to earn all of our patches.”
“Hence the reason I still only have my bottom one,” Waldrop said. “I’ve only been here just maybe two years.”
Taylor said patches are earned through respect, time and “a lot of different work.”
Taylor and Waldrop said the most challenging part about being an MC member is making time for the club’s numerous activities.
“When we have our big benefits, it’s a lot of work,” Taylor said.
“Oh yeah, because you’re scrambling, looking for sponsors and donors and everything—just setting the whole thing up,” Waldrop said.
As far as physical challenges go, Waldrop said territorial dogs are a definite hazard.
Waldrop was recently attacked by three dogs that left her with a wound that requires skin grafting to heal.
Rain and cold — even freezing — temperatures are other challenges faced in the biker world.
But to Waldrop and Taylor, every challenge is worth it.
They said there’s just something about riding.
“It really is therapy. It really is,” Taylor said. “When you’re really upset — we don’t recommend you get out when you’re going to have road rage — but if you just need to have that break, get out on your bike and take a ride. It just changes things. It just does.”
Women interested in joining Leather and Lace MC or learning more about the motorcycle club can visit leatherandlacemc.c