In March, New York Times
reporter Jessica Weisberg wrote an article about the Miss-Fires, a newly formed group of motorcyclists. The more than thirty members of the group are passionate about motorbikes and meet at the Motorgrrl Garage in Brooklyn. One of the members, Alison Cutlan, has a red Moto Guzzi V50 Monza from 1981, which certainly doesn’t go unnoticed. Alison is proud of having restored the old bike to its original splendour. The bikers want to make motorcycles less intimidating, writes Jessica: they welcome all enthusiasts, without or without bikes, with or without riding experience. The spirit that unites them is friendship; they have a humorous approach, a style quite different to that of the glossy biker-girls used to front brand advertising, who know little about motorbikes. Whereas the Miss-Fires, who meet three or four times a week at the Motogrrl Garage in Brooklyn, know a lot about bikes. They aren’t worried about getting their hands dirty with grease and oil, because they want to learn all the technical details of their beloved two-wheelers. They’re helped by Valerie Figarella, owner of the Garage, which recently celebrated its 10th
anniversary at a party organised by the Miss-Fires.
In her article, Jessica recounts the close ties between the girls, who meet up for on-the-road tours and also take part in races. One competitor is Kara Kolodziej, 41, who has just won a race at the American Motorcyclist Association’s Vintage Dirt Track National Championship. Of the hundreds of riders taking part, she was one of the handful of women. The women tell their stories over a drink at the Black Bear Bar in Williamsburg, at Skinny Dennis or at Lady Jay’s, also in Williamsburg, where Corinna Mantlo works as a bartender and where motorcycle-themed films are screened. For example, all the Miss-Fires know how Stephanie Niebler first became interested in motorcycles. Her boyfriend was a biker, and she tired of being the passenger, so she got a bike and began riding. Then there’s Kristin Johnson-Land, 47, one of the group’s “mechanics”, affectionately known as “Greasy Hands”. “It’s nice to learn the secrets of the engine from a girlfriend, not from a guy,” says Rachael Becker, a Miss-Fire who makes leather goods. She has been riding for years, but knew little about motorcycle maintenance until she joined the group and began going to their “build nights”, where they learn how to look after their motorcycles. At the weekends, the group rides.
A few Saturdays ago, about 14 Miss-Fires rode to Greenpoint and then to Red Hook, to eat crab rolls. A few boyfriends joined them. Many men’s clubs forbid women, but the Miss-Fires are sociable and don’t mind when someone of the opposite sex tags along. Before the ride, Julia Haltigan, 30, walked into the garage with her father; her bike needed an inspection. Ms. Figarella invited her to ride with them. Ms. Haltigan, a musician, accepted straightaway and joined the club.
The Miss-Fires consider themselves lucky to have found one another; they refer to each other as M. F. F.s: motorcycle friends forever.