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Meet the Woman Fighting for Women’s Biker Culture

Badass biker Imogen Lehtonen has been described by Rolling Stone as one of the last true and authentic riders in for the long haul. Decked out in leather, she stands out in a class of her own, separate from the try-hards and the “weekend warriors.”

Lehtonen, a New Zealander with the endearing accent to prove it, was recently featured on AMC’s RIDE with Norman Reedus. You may know him as a crossbow-slinging, zombie-slaying biker named Daryl, but Reedus has been sharing the spotlight with his fellow biker for something a little different lately.

The Walking Dead actor invited Lehtonen on his show as a guest to inspire women. He contacted her about the appearance over the summer of 2015, as she was riding across the country on her motorcycle. Reedus said of his guest, “Imogen is just such a badass on and off the bike…She’s such a free spirit, but still balls to the wall – all the way.”

In addition to being a through and through biker chick, Lehtonen works tirelessly in the back of The Great Frog’s workshop – a family business that’s been running for generations, creating handmade and bespoke rock and roll jewelry. In their episode together, she and Reedus visit the spot. As second-generation silversmith, Lehtonen can be found practicing the tricks of the trade she learned from her father. Her family has been making stylish men’s jewelry since 1972, and even can be credited for contributing to the original market and popularization of skull jewelry, which has the sort of heavy metal style with which it’s typically associated..  

Reedus and Lehtonen hit the shop in Melrose before starting a four-day trip traveling along the Pacific Coast. “It’s been really cool for me – with this show that I’m doing – to have Imogen come on and inspire all these girls to get into riding or join a group of girls that ride,” remarked Reedus.

Rolling Stone asked Lehtonen about her success and subsequent role as a sort of ambassador for women on bikes. When discussing how she feels about the recent “trendiness” of motorcycle culture, she responded, “I’m a reluctant ambassador with mixed feeling about that. In the beginning, we had a great crew of f*ing cool and strong women. But it’s become overrun with ‘babes on bikes’ who show up to take selfies and run around in bikinis – and that’s really dangerous.”

She continued, “I’ve known so many people over the past several years that have lost their life or been badly hurt on a motorcycle – people really close to me.”

Lehtonen also said that making new friends and riding in California has, “really opened up my world. I’ve established great friendships with some powerful and cool chicks. I’ve met girls who do leather work, or create footwear, or work with special needs kids – but they all ride motorcycles.”

She continued, “That’s what I respect – not these girls who wear little Seventies biker chick clothing because they want to hook up with some guy who rides a bike.”

It’s a fine line between protecting one’s culture and putting down other women. And as an experienced biker and notable business woman, Lehtonen does have a point. She definitely wants to give a good name to a lifestyle that’s dear to her heart and in danger of becoming tokenized and trivialized.

Regardless of her stance, her opinions on a subject that she loves and understands extensively should be respected. NYMM also admits that she will probably always be cooler than us, on or off a bike.

Featured Image by Maria Rantanen on Flickr
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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