The University of Wisconsin Press

Women's Studies / American Culture / Motorcycles / Anthropology


Bike Lust
Harleys, Women, and American Society
Barbara Joans

Part roaring adventure, part intimate ethnography, a portrait of women in the biker world

Bike Lust roars straight into the world of women bikers and offers us a ride. In this adventure story that is also an insider's study of an American subculture, Barbara Joans enters as a passenger on the back of a bike, but soon learns to ride her own. As an anthropologist she untangles the rules, rituals, and rites of passage of the biker culture. As a new member of that culture, she struggles to overcome fear, physical weakness, and a tendency to shoot her mouth off—a tendency that very nearly gets her killed.

Bike Lust travels a landscape of contradictions. Outlaws still chase freedom on the highway, but so do thousands of riders of all classes, races, and colors. Joans introduces us to the women who ride the rear—the biker chick, the calendar slut straddling the hot engine, the back-seat Betty at the latest rally, or the underage groupie at the local run. But she also gives us the first close look at women who ride in their own right, on their own bikes, as well as a new understanding of changing world of male bikers. These are ordinary women's lives made extraordinary, adding a dimension of courage to the sport not experienced by males, risking life and limb for a glimpse of the very edge of existence. This community of riders exists as a primal tribute to humanity's lust for freedom.

"Move over, Robert Pirsig and Hunter Thompson! Women are bikers, too, and Barbara Joans is one of them. Bike Lust shatters myths and introduces us to a new generation of 'gender traitor' bikers, many of whom are wives, mothers, lesbians, feminists, and anti-feminists. This is an inspired meditation. Barbara Joans, an anthropologist, has found her tribe and she loves them."Phyllis Chesler, cofounder of the National Women's Health Network and author of Women and Madness

photo of the author, Barbara Joans , leaning against her Harley-Davidson Low RiderBarbara Joans is director of the Merritt Museum of Anthropology and chair of the Department of Anthropology at Merritt College in Oakland, California. She rides a Harley-Davidson Low Rider.

For an excerpt from Bike Lust, visit this page of our website. Click here for excerpt.

Of Related Interest:
The cover of the second edition of Barber's popular motorcycling guide is orange in tone, with a photo of a man riding a Harley down a Wisconsin road.Sunday Rides on Two Wheels
Motorcycling in Southern Wisconsin
Second Edition

Barbara Barber
“An excellent, enjoyable and very worthwhile vacation planner and travel guide for the dedicated motorcyclist.” —Midwest Book Review

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cover image of "Bike Lust" by Barbara Joans, featuring a photo of the author by her Harley-Davidson Low Rider in front of a bridge.

September 2001

280 pp. 6 x 9
15 b/w photos

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Paper $21.95 t
ISBN 978-
Book icon Cloth $55.00 s
ISBN 978-
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"Joans takes the reader inside the minds and hearts of an emergent, important, and underreported American subculture."
—Allucquere Rosanne Stone, author of The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age

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Updated February 4, 2013

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