A force to be reckoned with, the Lady Gang was initially just the dream of one woman.
“I'd wanted to have a bike gang of friends since I moved to Auckland from Wellington and missed my gang from Kilbirnie, The Dead Birnies,” says Charlotte Ruddell.
“It was fictional for a long time - I would dream of causing mayhem with a tough group of boss ass bikers, riding to house parties, Sunday leisure picnics rides, you name it.”
Soon enough The Sex Pastels hit the streets of Auckland. The Sex Pastels - a name that was coined one afternoon while the ladies cruised around Auckland drinking cider after a biking event - was a small bike gang of badass ladies who rode together in the big little city of Auckland.
Somewhere along the line the Sex Pastels became the Lady Gang and word spread. Mention you’re in the Lady Gang at a party and the woman you’re talking to has either heard about this illusive gang of ladies who ride and is hanging off your every word… or already knows what’s down and wants to join.
What Lady Gang has grown into is a community of likeminded women, mostly in their 20s and early 30s, who enjoy riding. I’m not talking women kitted out in lycra and hitting the road for 100km rides on the weekend (although if you’re into that, that’s cool too), it very much has turned into what Charlotte had imagined, a group of boss ass bikers.
“Eventually it grew over time and with meeting the right people the sense of identify was shaped,” says Charlotte.
Riding fast downhills with girls. Or not. Maybe you’re more into cruising down hills with your hands firmly on the breaks. That’s cool too, in fact, that’s the beauty of Lady Gang - anything goes.
Perhaps the perfect sentence to sum up the gang come’s from Ayisha (one of the original members that also happened to coin the original badass name, the Sex Pastels).
“Lady Gang in particular is a sassy gang of confident females demanding the betterment of a community within our community & beyond.”
“We are improving our city's layout and mentality & actually making a difference creating safer spaces for the city & encouraging a community by way of bicycle!”
In the summer months the gang can be found riding to parties, to the beach, throwing picnics in the park and hitting outdoor gigs or art galleries. They have also been known to jump on a ferry and head across the sea - living on an island, why wouldn’t they make the most of it.
There’s the impromptu after work rides and the weekend rides and then there’s the the Tuesday night rides, when a few members of the Lady Gang head along to the Bike Gang weekly ride and show the guys how it’s done. Bike Gang isn’t exactly a rival gang and in reality it includes some of the boyfriends of Lady Gang ladies - but there’s no harm in some friendly banter and in the words of Charlotte “What’s a gang without some enemies?”
As the rain and the cold kicks in so do potluck dinners, film nights and for a few of the ladies, it’s the perfect time to hit the forest and fine-tune their mountain biking skills.
At one of the recent winter potluck dinners following a ride up one of Auckland’s many volcanoes, there’s talk of initiations and a few ladies in the gang have heard tales of an initiation that involves having to make a cup of tea and then getting a punch in the face. It turns out the legend has traveled up country and the Wellington girl gang is a tad more hardcore in that department.
There was once also talk of matching jumpsuits and patches, although this has yet to become a reality… watch this space.
Now that the group has grown in numbers, getting everyone together is almost impossible, but events like this year’s first annual Lady Gang Heartbreakers club on Valentines Day helps to round them up.
Cycling - like most of the world - is dominated by men, and women who ride have always had to fiercely claim their space.
“Why only Woman?” says Charlotte. “There are lots of opportunities to ride with men, but I like the dynamic of being surrounded by a bunch of confident, independent woman.”
New Zealand’s leading lady of the suffrage movement, Kate Sheppard, was involved with the first women’s cycle club in all of New Zealand and Australia in the late 1800s, the bicycle played a key role in transforming nineteenth-century gender roles.
Lady gang’s in New Zealand are not a new phenomenon, although I’m sure Kate and her girls were probably not quick to call themselves a gang - when boys throwing sticks and stones are chasing you down the street it only made sense to ride in a pack. Kate’s pack were the original self-sufficient, independent women riding for freedom and change.
We’ve come along way since Kate’s time though and these days everything’s organised through Facebook on a ‘choose your own adventure’ style of group page.
Of course, the Facebook page is also a good place to post all of the biking related stuff that your other Facebook friends are probably tired of seeing.
Through word of mouth more and more women in Auckland are keen to ride and of course they are, who would notice a bunch of badass women riding in a pack in the inner city and not want to join them?