As a child in Colorado, Sarah Tybring started riding dirt bikes with her father and brother. It wasn’t long before she realized she liked speed more than jumps, so she traded in the dirt bike for a street bike.
On Saturday, June 5, Sarah was one of 200 riders on the third Ride with Pride, the world’s largest LGBTQ-themed motorcycle event, as it ventured through Milwaukee County on a 40-mile run.
The Ride with Pride began in 2018 as an outreach partnership between Cormac Kehoe, motorcycle advocate, and Milwaukee Pride. Kehoe sought a way to bring the spirit of PrideFest outside the festival gates and into the streets of Milwaukee. Having arranged various themed and costumed rides over the years, ranging from an Evel Knievel Ride to a James Bond Ride to a Nuns with Guns Ride, Kehoe felt that pride was an extremely important message to extend.
“It started as one of those wild ideas,” he said, “and then I brought together friends from entirely different circles to make it happen. As a straight man, I wasn’t sure that the synergy would work. And then, suddenly, we were launching the motorcycle event of the season!”
In its second year, the Ride attracted a record-setting 300 riders and expanded its route and duration. After a mandated one-year break, the ride roared back with 200 riders from across the region.
“I would have been happy with five riders,” said Kehoe. “So I was thrilled with the turnout, and moreover, the enthusiasm every rider brought. It’s more than just a ride. It’s an expression of who we are.”
“As a female rider, I have been fortunate to receive nothing but respect and support from fellow motorcyclists,” said Tybring, who has been an LGBTQ community activist since moving to Milwaukee 20 years ago. She met Kehoe while working at PrideFest several years ago. After taking part in the 2018 ride, she’s been part of the planning committee ever since.
“Keeping LGBTQ spirit alive and visible is really important in a year without a pride festival,” she said. “The Ride is a great placeholder to remind each other how important it is to be seen. It showcases a wide spectrum of humans of every possible definition, with a shared loved for the ride and each other.”
What about that old, intimidating image of the big, mean, maybe not-so-accepting motorcycle rider? Kehoe insists that biker never existed in the first place.
“If you look back throughout Harley-Davidson history, it’s always been about inclusion,” he said. “Every rider is respected and supported, period. There is no right or wrong way to get into motorcycles. All you need to get on a bike is passion and determination.”
Tybring agreed. “The Ride breaks down the stereotypes. It removes the invisible barriers between the queer community and the riding community. It reinforces the reality that the riding community, as a whole, is accepting and welcoming. My fellow organizers are tireless and relentless in creating this experience for Milwaukee, and that energy is so essential for keeping our LGBTQ community engaged.”
After spending the last 15 months on the pandemic rollercoaster, Kehoe said the ride was a phenomenal experience. “I felt like I was shot out of a cannon. Everything went from zero to 100 so fast.”
“As we’d roar past bystanders, they’d often be so surprised to see us, their jaws hit the ground. I don’t know what surprised them most: the size of our group, the energy of our group, or the explosion of colorful visuals that we unleashed upon them. Nothing has ever been this much fun.”
“It was so amazing this year, to see the turnout, to hear the excited comments, to feel the energy of people ready for a great time,” said Tybring. “It was easy to become introverted and isolated with the COVID pandemic, especially for LGBTQ people who may need support outside their family units. This big, beautiful ride really helped bring back a sense of social community and togetherness.”
“The Ride with Pride blends bad-assery with belonging. I can’t think of a better kickoff to summer!”