When Champagne Ellison was working as a weapons instructor in Afghanistan in 2011 and 2012, the 51-year-old motorbike enthusiast first came up with the idea of starting a women's bike club. Soon after she returned home to Walnut Creek, Ellison and her closest friends took to the streets for a night ride to Reno. That's when the name for her new club hit her: "The Knyte Ryderz."
“Anytime a woman steps into a male-predominant field, there are a lot of expectations of her,” says Ellison, who has been riding her chopper since 2006. “Some women are intimidated by it, but we happened to be the ones who weren’t.”
Founded in 2012, The Knyte Ryderz are unusual among biker groups. It’s not just that all the members are women; they’re also multiracial, super inclusive, and do a lot of charitable work, such as an annual holiday toy drive for Oakland Children’s Hospital and events in collaboration with local chapters of the youth empowerment nonprofit Girls Inc. Oh, and another thing: They like to customize their bikes in a way that makes them look both badass and pretty.
The weekend before Christmas, The Ryderz headed out for their toy drive. They put smiles on a lot of kids' faces. And many other bikers joined them for the ride.
“Sometimes motorcyclists get a negative reputation,” Ellison says. “But when they’re together for one common goal to take care of their community, they come in full.”