Recently I had the pleasure of chatting with Lauren Meeks. I'm never sure how these interviews will go, and that's part of the fun. With Lauren I felt like we'd been friends forever. Maybe it's her calm, easy-going nature, or maybe it's just the connection we share through our love of motorcycles. Either way, I think you'll enjoy getting to know Lauren...
"I remember being a little girl and just hearing the sound of a bike going by and my head would turn automatically. It's something that I felt has always been in me."
~ Lauren Meeks
Women riders are loving these new pendants!
Read the full interview here:
Toby: Hey everybody, this is Toby at Ride Like a Girl Designs. Welcome to another episode of the Biker Momma Vlog series. Today I have Lauren Meeks with me and I'm real excited. Lauren and I have had a couple issues trying to get connected up on both of our sides and she's super busy and I'm super busy and so I really appreciate, Lauren, you joining me today just to tell us a little bit about your story. I have your pre-interview and so I know just a little bit about your history, but why don't you tell us a little backstory about how long you've been riding, what got you started riding and I know from what you wrote that you actually have two motorcycles which is pretty cool. I'm going to turn it over to you. Let’s get to know you a little bit.
Lauren: Okay, well my dad rode motorcycles when I was a kid, but he kind of stopped when I was younger. It's always something that I've had an interest in. My best friend in high school, her dad rode a Harley and she never really was into it, so he would pick me up and take me to work and take me on rides with him. It was always, I remember being a little girl and just hearing the sound of a bike going by and my head would turn automatic. It something that I felt has always been in me. For a long time I always wanted to ride.
Lauren: Back in 2004, my ex-husband was in the Marine Corps and we were stationed in North Carolina, so they were doing the motorcycle, get your license class there at the community college. I was like, all right, I'm going to do this, I'm finally going to get it done. I went and I took the class and I passed. My ex was not into bikes at all. He did not like it, he did not want me to ride, he really never encouraged me. So it sat for a little while. I didn't do a whole lot with it.
Lauren: Then I had my babies, which I took time off from riding when my kids were born and stuff and now I'm back into it. My son is 10, he likes to ride with me. My little one is six. She likes the motorcycles but she's a little afraid of the sound. I'm working on it with her, she's little, she'll get there.
Toby: That's very cool. I'm always fascinated on each individual's journey to how they got there. You said your dad didn't, he had ridden, but not when you were young. I think somehow did it work its way in even though you weren't around his motorcycles. Maybe it’s genetic or something.
Lauren: I think it has to be somewhat genetic. He had a bike when I was little itty bitty and when my brother was young and I'm not sure exactly why he got rid of it, I don't know it if was my mom, I don't think my mom made him, but I think it just, kids and all of that stuff. As I got older, we would go camping with friends of his and they had bikes. So my dad would send me out on the back of their bike all the time. Then, once I was an adult and I was married, my dad he then started buying motorcycles again.
Lauren: [It was] cool to see because I was like, now at least it's something we get to do together. He's very old now and his balance is off and he had prostate cancer, so he sold his bikes and moved away. I'm like dad you should just get a trike, but he's not going to.
Toby: You mentioned that your ex-husband was not a fan of riding, how is that now? Does he, now that you have kids I'm thinking maybe it's even more so that he disapproves.
Lauren: He may. We don't really talk about it. I let him know, this is me. This is something that I've wanted and this is something that's been a part of my life for a long time. My son, loves to ride with me. I don't let anybody ride on the back of my bike, no children. I did not let him ride until he could reach the foot pegs and could hold on securely. [He] has a helmet. He wears full gear, pants over the ankle, jacket everything. My utmost importance is that my kids stay safe if they are on the bike with me. I feel like my ex doesn't really have a say in it at this point because it's something that Noah really wants to do on his own. If he wasn't into it, I would never encourage him, but he asks all the time. Mom can you pick me up from school on the bike.
Toby: What about other people in your life? Other family? Because people have opinions, and I'm sure that you have heard all the horror stories. People want to say "Oh my god, so-and-so wrecked” and “did you see in the news this person and that person", we all as riders, not just women riders, but we all hear those stories. Do you get that from other friends and family in your life?
Lauren: Sometimes yes. It's usually the older folks, the older generation. My grandmothers are always telling me "Be careful. Don't take the kids on the bike." And they don't particularly like that I ride. But I think I have a really supportive family. My dad loves that I ride. My mom likes that I ride. My friends, they're really supportive. They think it's really cool. None of my close friends ride, I have an offset group of ladies that I ride with, but my core friends they're not motorcyclists. They think it's really cool, but you know. I was on my bike the other day and I met up with my friend and her sons, we went to have ice cream. My kids were with their dad, and her son was like "Can I go for a ride?" Yep, sure. We have to discuss it another time, me and your mom will discuss it, but absolutely I'll take you for a little ride.
Toby: I think that's very cool. Sounds like you surround yourself with people that are supportive, even though they may not be riders themselves, they're supportive of you.
Lauren: Yeah, I remove the people from my life that may not be the best people to have around. I don't need people that are going to tell me what to do or tell me what they think about it. If you don't like it, that's okay. I don't need you to tell me about it. If you're going to do that, then we don't have to talk about it or we don't have to, there are other things we can connect on.
Toby: Yeah, I think that's great. I have this conversation often with people about, there's, sadly there's so many ways in our day-to-day lives where you could get hurt or injured, you just never know. I drive a little Beetle convertible and it would be horrible if I was in an accident because there's not a whole lot of protection there either were I to flip my car or something like that, but it doesn't stop me from getting in my car and going, running errands or something like that.
Toby: I think that people lots of times don't, because they aren't a part of it and haven't experienced it and it's maybe not something they choose to do, they don't understand really what it means to us to have that, whatever it is for you. For me it's when I first started riding, it was a huge confidence booster. It was like wow, look what I can do. It just led me to so many other things. It led me to meet so many amazing people and go to some amazing places that I never would have experienced. You know and I know that it's not something where we're going to stop doing.
Lauren: Nope. Never. Unfortunately, never, I can't ever see myself not riding. I'm sure there will come a point that physically if I'm too old or I can't do it that I will, but I have some older gentlemen that I'm friends with and they're in their 70s and approaching 80 and they're still out there. They got their three wheelers with the skull and the hand mirrors and neon lights and all sorts of stuff. That's what I want to be. I still want to be them in future years.
Lauren: I went, a couple months ago I went to a dealership and I met Gloria [Tramontin Struck].
Toby: I was just going to ask you about that. The dealership is near you right?
Lauren: It was probably about an hour and a half away, but I really wanted to make the trip. She is this little itty bitty thing. She's the size of my grandmother and she looks like my grandmother and they have the same handwriting. She signed my book. This woman is amazing and I don't even know, I think, she realizes how many lives she's impacted, but I don't know if she really gets the full grasp of it. Reading her book was, it's so, the things that she's ridden through. She rode with a broken rib one time, she didn't even know. It's just incredible the life that she's led and how many people look up to her. She's just doing what she wanted to do.
Toby: Exactly. I just, I'm going to meet her. I actually have two opportunities to meet her. I'm going to be a vendor a two different rallies coming up, one in May and then another one in June. She's going to be at both of them. I'm so excited. I bought the book knowing that she was going to be there. I've already read it and like you, it was just amazing. All these places and she just never thought twice about just jumping on her bike and just riding thousands of miles.
Lauren: Yeah it's crazy. I think of her when she left for Daytona and it's icy and cold. I'm like, I don't think I'd want to do that. I don't like riding in the cold.
Toby: And also, if you think about it, we have certain modern amenities that she didn't have. She has them now, but back in the day, no heated gear or anything like that. That makes it even more amazing to me. That's super cool. It's so funny when you were talking about older gentlemen riding into their 70s, immediately I thought I wonder if you know Gloria or if you ever met Gloria, I was going to ask you about that. That's super cool.
Toby: I'm with you on that, she's my idol. I think, I hope that's me well into my 60s, 70s, and 80s. I'm not opposed to switching to the three wheels when the time is right. I think I'll know when that time comes, not there yet.
Toby: Your son clearly has a taste for riding and have you had the conversation about when he will be able to get his own license and ride his own? Do you think he'll be on two wheels before he drives a car?
Lauren: Yes, I do. I honestly. You mentioned before that I have two motorcycles, which I do. I have a Harley Davidson and then I have a vintage Yamaha. It's an '83 XJ 550. It has some quirks and it doesn't like to run a lot of times. It sits in the driveway. He, everyday he's like, that's my motorcycle mom, it's mine. It's really tall so I had to break it to him like, you're probably going to need to start on something a little bit smaller because I don't know if you're going to have the leg length to get on this, but he already wants a little dirt bike.
Lauren: He talks, he's very bright, so he talks about what he wants to do in the future. He wants to be a Lego engineer, but if he can't be a Lego engineer, he wants to be a motorcycle mechanic. I told him, I absolutely think that would be amazing for you. He has this brain and he likes to take things apart and tinker with them. I was like, we can get some books at the library and you can, I fully support this if it's something you want to do. I do encourage it because he has expressed an interest in it. I think for sure he'll be on a dirt bike or some sort of something before he goes in a car.
Toby: Are you, does it concern you at all? Because, and I only ask that because both of my kids have said that they want to ride, my kids are in their 20s so, I don't really have a say in the matter. They can if they want to, and obviously they have seen me and all the things I've done so I know that's inspired them, but there's a part of me that worries about it. I think they worry about me sometimes too, but I just don't even know how I would handle it knowing that they were out there riding. Knowing everything that I know.
Lauren: Yeah, it is a little nerve-wracking. I think I'm more nervous about just the fact that they're growing up and getting big and they're going to leave me. That makes me sad, but I do worry. I think I would probably ride with him a lot when he first starts, just to make sure that he is aware of what can happen. Even now when he's on [with] me, on the back, he knows he has to hold on tight. I tell him lean with me in the curves and when you're not enjoying the scenery, pay attention to what's going on. I don't take him very far. He's still a little guy, so we mostly just cruise. We live very close to the beach so we cruise by the beach and around a lake. I haven't taken him on a far journey because I'm not ready for that yet.
Lauren: I think that we're going to work our way up and hopefully by the time he's ready to get on a bike, he'll be much more comfortable than somebody who really doesn't have any experience with it.
Toby: I think that does help for anybody really is being a passenger and feeling that feeling of leaning into the curves and like you said, paying attention. I rode behind my husband for three years before I finally said, nah. Even before that it had been an idea of mine to ride my own motorcycle and I was never sure that I would be coordinated enough to do it all those years riding behind my husband, but getting used to that feeling of, just feeling of the bike and the shifting and listening to shifting through the gears and all that. It definitely sinks in and I would think even more so for your son because he's young and he has that brain that's still soaking everything in like a sponge. That's super cool. I think that would be fun to watch that evolution, for him to finally be able to do that when he's older.
Lauren: Yeah, I hope it’s something that he stays interested in. I think that he will only because mom rides all the time.
Toby: Which, I mean that must be so cool for him with his friends, “my mom rides”.
Lauren: It is, it's very cool. He switched schools this year and he went at the end of the school year last year for a couple day trial and the one day I brought him to school on the bike. So here he was, this new kid that nobody knew, getting dropped off on a motorcycle. The principal was out there and after I dropped him off, he came out and goes, I have to say that's the coolest way I've ever seen anybody get brought to school. I'm trying. I'm trying to boost [him] a little bit. It's hard being a new kid. He does, now that it's warm, “can you pick me up on the bike?”. I'm like yeah, we have to find somebody to take your sister home first, but yes.
Toby: And by his mom no less. It would be more likely to be a dad, but the fact that it's his mom I think makes it even more cool.
Lauren: It is cool. I've had other, some of the other moms at school that I've gotten to be friendly with and they're like, that's really cool that you ride a motorcycle. You're the coolest mom. I'm like, no I'm not I'm really just a dork, but I really like being on two wheels.
Toby: Yeah, that's awesome. I also know in your pre-interview that you talked about your being a co-founder of the Litas in Central New Jersey. Why don't you tell us a little bit about that. I think a lot of people watching this will be somewhat familiar with the Litas, but just tell us a little bit about it from your perspective.
Lauren: For me, the Litas is kind of just like, I'm trying to think. I was not in a sorority in college, so I guess it's kind of like that, but without all the drama and the nonsense. It's just a really good feeling group to be around. There's no craziness, there's no competition. It's just women really supporting other women and just doing what we love. That's really what it boils down to. We do, we try and get together once a month, we've been a little slow, this winter was rough. We had, my kids were sick a lot so I had to cancel some meetings and we've had some members leave to join other chapters, which is, it's difficult at first because you see these ladies that you've grown to really care about and then they go, a different chapter opened up closer to them, which is actually closer to me as well, so I was like, oh now what do I do? I'm a little conflicted about this.
Lauren: I'm here to support women riding as much as I can. I think that the best way to do that is to just be encouraging and to live what you preach. The Litas do that. It's not a club, there's no dues. Other than some basic safety rules, there's no requirements. There's no, “you have to do this”. You make it what you want it to be. You really get out of it what you put in. If you come to all the meetings and you come to all the events, it's going to be a really awesome experience. If you just want to dabble in it when you have time, that's fine too. We're super open to anyone who can do what they can.
Lauren: I can't do everything. My ex-husband never takes my kids on a weekend. So there's a lot of times that I miss out on events on Saturdays and Sundays because I don't have anybody here to really help me. My parents don't live close by, it's me most of the time. So I miss out on a lot. So I only can do what I can, but I think the Litas, it's just a support group. It's women being able to hang out and not have to worry about competition and trying to impress the guys. They want to ride fast and we don't want to, it is what it is. It's fun.
Toby: I have found, I've been a member of a group actually, I'm moving back east to Pennsylvania in about a month, but I was in Maryland and when my husband was, he was in the Army and so when he was deployed to Afghanistan, I was a brand new rider at that time and I didn't want to just not ride for a year while he was gone. So I joined up with a local group of women. It was amazing. It was such a different experience riding with women than it was with my husband who had been riding since he was probably your son's age. I just realized that it was, the women just took a different approach to it. The women that I rode with understood that I was a new rider and that I was still learning about a lot of the road speeds and all the different things that you learn. Riding in the rain, riding in the dark, riding over a bridge. All these things.
Toby: I don't think that my riding would have progressed and grown as much as it did had I not had that year of riding with just women. I can totally relate to what you're saying and I think that's great. I think it's amazing to have women that are not [competing]. We all know women can be competitive and catty and all that. There's a lot of us that we just don't have room for that type of drama in our lives.
Lauren: Right. No time for that nonsense.
Toby: Exactly, I try to live a drama-free life, and I prefer the people around me to have that same mindset. I think that's super cool. So we will start to wrap this up. I just wanted to know, tell us what else you do outside of riding? What do you do for work? And I think you mentioned wanting to maybe be an instructor to teach other people to ride.
Lauren: Yes, I actually had gone to an orientation last month and was approved to be in the class to be the MSF riding instructor. It's something I really want to do. I worked at Harley Davidson for almost two years and we had a riding academy there and I was kind of the liaison that made sure all the students had their gear, their boots, their everything. I would show them the bike that they were riding, take them around, answer any questions. I was like their little orientation, their touch person. Then when they were done with the class I also was doing sales so I could help them if they were ready to purchase their first bike.
Lauren: Being in that role and seeing, and remembering also what it was like when I first got my license, I really wanted to see what I could do to become an instructor. Unfortunately, the class is nine days long from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. depending on the day and I just don't have the coverage for my kids. So that's going to have to go on the back burner probably until they're a little bit bigger or something miraculous happens and I have a million dollars.
Toby: Win the lottery.
Lauren: Yeah, that would be great. But that is something I really want to do. We'll see about that in the future. I have my own business. I run a house cleaning company. I'm also getting set to, hopefully fingers crossed, start working at an Indian dealership here in the next very immediate future. I'm just waiting on final word for my start date for there. I'm really excited about that.
(UPDATE: As of late April, Lauren is now working at Indian Motorcycle of Monmouth in Neptune, NJ. She's learning a little bit of everything there including sales, and eventually finance. Oh and she LOVES it. No big surprise there!)
Toby: That's exciting.
Lauren: Yeah, I'm excited. I love to be around bikes. I love to be around people who ride and to do that as a source of income is a double whammy for me. That's a win-win.
Toby: Most definitely. I feel the same way. I have my jewelry business so I'm around women who ride, but I've always thought maybe just as a little side gig I would do something, work for Harley or work for Indian. My husband likes to joke because I ride a Harley, but he rides Indians so he's like, [we have] a mixed marriage. Well that's super cool. Anything else you would like to add? If we have someone who's watching this who's maybe on the fence about riding, maybe a little fearful, maybe wanting to just see if it's for them. What would you say given your experience?
Lauren: I would say go for it. You're not going to know if it's something that you want to do until you try. If you don't like it or you find that it's not for you, then that's okay. There are plenty of other things out there, but I think if somebody really wants to try it out, then I'll for it. There are so many women out there that would be happy to answer any questions you may have or to go for a ride with you. I would always tell my students at Harley, if you don't have anybody to ride with, call me. I give them my personal phone. Here's my email. Just reach out to me, let me know. I am all about helping people be more comfortable and encouraging the sport of motorcycling because if we don't do that, eventually it's going to go away and that would be very bad. So go for it.
Toby: Go for it. I love that. Very cool. Well thank you so much. I've really enjoyed getting to know you a little bit and I think your story will resonate with very many people. You're just a real person dealing with real life stuff and still finding time to pursue your passion of motorcycle riding. I think that's super cool. Thank you very much.
Lauren: Thank you.
Toby: I will talk to you again soon.
Toby: Okay, bye-bye.