Lanakila MacNaughton, Founder of the Women’s Moto Exhibit
From female-only rides around the globe to curated galleries of women and their motorcycles, the Founder of the Women’s Moto Exhibit, Lanakila MacNaughton, is taking us on the journey of a lifetime. Showcasing a female perspective on a traditionally male world, the Women’s Moto Exhibit is a haven for women who aren’t afraid to push the boundaries and rev it up along the way.
An Interview: Get To Know Lanakila
WORDS BY: ZARNA SURTI | PHOTOS BY: ADRI LAW
Hailing from Portland, Lanakila MacNaughton created a movement that challenged the norm. After seeing a void in 2012 for a female motorcycle community, she developed the Women’s Moto Exhibit—a place for women to ride together, a place for Lanakila to create clothes for them, and a place to travel, and meet riders all around the world. Here is her story.
When you think about motorcycle culture it’s predominantly male. How did you start to change that?
At heart, I’m a feminist. I believe that I am just as strong as any man—if not stronger. I feel like when I started riding motorcycles what I was seeing on Pinterest or in magazines or in movies didn’t accurately depict the women riders I was meeting. So I would meet these women and they would tell me their stories—they were my heroes. They were just full of light and I wasn’t seeing that elsewhere. So originally it was me taking women’s photos that I was meeting and it just snowballed and became something else entirely. I had a photo show in Portland and a ton of people came and I had a really great response. Up until then, I had never ridden in a pack of women—like 60 bikes of women—and it’s just a feeling like no other. It makes me feel extremely strong, it’s a community, it’s thriving, and we have each other’s backs—it’s just powerful.
So how did you take that idea and turn it into this official Women’s Moto Exhibit?
There’s all these women, all different, all from different backgrounds and no one knew about them, so I just had a fire under my ass to find them, tell their stories, photograph them, and make connections and friendships. I was just so inspired and I think the Women’s Moto Exhibit was just an over-arching name that helped me categorize what I was doing.
When you were younger did you get into sports and photography naturally?
It’s funny, my mom used to be a florist and painter. She was always encouraging me to paint or draw, so we would have times in the house where we would just do art. I didn’t really find an emotional connection to photography and art until I got older—probably when I was in high school, because high school was really tough for me. I took a dark room class and just fell in love with it. I loved going in the dark room and being alone, listening to music, and just checking out.
So when did you get into motorcycles? Was that something you grew up with or did that come about later?
I didn’t grow up riding motorcycles. I did a lot of mountain biking and cycle-cross racing. I raced in cycle cross which was really gnarly and I think that set me up well for riding motorcycles. Originally I started riding motorcycles because I got sober five-and-a-half years ago and I was just confused as to who I was. I didn’t really know what I liked, I didn’t know who I was. I saw some guy friends who all rode motorcycles and it just looked really fun. I would follow them in my car when we would go to the river in the summer and I just felt this envy in my stomach—I just so badly wanted to be out on a bike to enjoy the ride. About a year later I bought a 1982 red Honda 250. I didn’t know anybody who rode—everybody in my family told me not to do it. I just fell in love with it and it was like my new drug.
What was it like the first time you got on a motorcycle? What did that feel like?
It was very scary and also extremely exciting. I was apprehensive, I didn’t know how I was gonna do in traffic and shifting. I was scared I was going to stall in traffic and that everyone was going to stare at me and laugh, but that wasn’t the reality and it was really just thrilling. It was exciting and fun to be in the flow of traffic. As soon as I got out there it felt totally natural.
We love that you create menswear-inspired womenswear as well. How did the shop come about?
I was just doing Women’s Moto Exhibit, and it was a no-brainer to do a clothing line. I didn’t really want to make it just motorcycle wear, cause wanted it to be universal—where people who don’t ride can wear it. It was based off of me not finding what I liked, really.
You recently went on ride through the Alps with four riders called “The Wild Ones” and spent the trip connecting with local female riders. Can you tell us a little more about it?
Yeah, so the whole idea of The Wild Ones was that we wanted to explore different cultures and women around the world. We also wanted to meet up with different women along the route and then have them take us around to their favorite restaurants, their favorite local spots, their favorite roads—just getting a local experience while traveling.
What really resonated with me about “The Wild Ones” was the fact that you most likely had to disconnect from technology and step away from the your world a bit. The ethos of it is really interacting with people in person. Was that something you were looking to do initially?
Yeah, I mean, I am consumed by technology. I don’t even think I realized that I was gonna be so disconnected from it on the road, but we were in rural villages in Italy, Austria, and Switzerland where there was no reception. So we would put something on the website saying, “Hey we’re gonna meet here at this time,” and we would just go, we didn’t know if anyone was going to come—I mean, a couple people emailed us—and then we’d get there and there’d be a bunch of people. It was also really cool to just see how excited people were that we’d come to experience where they live. We had Germans with us, people from Estonia, Italians—there were five different languages being spoken at once, and different dialects. It was really, really cool.
As far as what’s coming up, we heard you have something coming up in Palm Springs—can you tell us about it?
Yeah! The Paradise Roadshow is a classic hot rod, motorcycle show based on the 40s-60s, and we’re having it at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs in January. The idea is that people will come out for two nights and check out the cars and bikes. It’s just bringing the nostalgia back from times passed. It’s kind of like a street fair that your mom and dad would go to when they were ten. I mean, we’re gonna have be pie-eating contests.
Is there any kind of future goal you see that would make you really, really excited?
I don’t really think there’s ever really an end goal. I’m constantly just building and building. I’m excited to explore motorcycle culture—I’m just excited to explore women who are involved in predominantly male-inspired cultures, whether that be women who are stumped for movies or women who ride monster trucks professionally. I just think it’s interesting.
Quotes From The Wild Ones
“Travel as much as you can, as far as you can,” is The Wild Ones motto. It’s a tour that Lanakila created celebrating the courage and spirit of women motorcyclists, while also inspiring others to explore without boundaries. This past July, The Women’s Moto Exhibit rode their motorcycles through the Alps; starting in Austria, moving through Switzerland and ending in Italy. Their goal is to inspire and share stories while representing a new generation of women riders. Meet the four core riders of The Wild Ones below.
Adri Law - Los Angeles, CA
“Nearly three years ago was the first time I had ever been on a motorcycle. From then on I continued to ride on the back of friends bikes, taking photos and loving the feeling, but it always left me wanting more.
I remember so clearly the moment I saw two girls riding Sportsters through my neighborhood and realized that was it. I learned how to ride and before I knew it had my very own gorgeous Candy Apple Red 1970 Honda CB350 (her name was Ruby!). She was the perfect first bike, and though temperamental, she was pretty alright at keeping up. A few months went by and I quickly outgrew my beloved 350. I needed something that could take me further, go just a bit faster, and quite frankly, something that was a little more reliable. So here I am today with my trusty ’99 1200 Sportster, which I’m on just about everyday. Although I’ve only been riding a short amount of time, I have formed amazing friendships, put in some good hours/miles, ridden through breath taking places, and I can’t believe it’s just the beginning.”
Becky Goebel - Vancouver B.C.
“I’m from the middle of the flatlands in Canada and I’ve been addicted to driving and riding things since I was a little brat. Growing up with a big biker family made it natural for me to get into bikes and extreme sports. When I was 17, I moved to Whistler, BC and got heavy into the snowboarding community. I was a shredder for how old I was and really wanted to go big in the sport, but found myself winding up in the hospital one too many times. 3 concussions, 2 broken arms, a broken ankle and to top it off, a severely crushed internal organ & my career was over. I spent a couple months in Southeast Asia then decided to move to Vancouver and get my Business Degree. It wasn’t until half way through school where I started seeing my motorcycle being more than just a form or getting to and from school. I got addicted to riding my motorcycle and finally figured out that it was the snowboarding void that was being filled. Feeling that adrenaline and getting into your head, being alone in the middle of no where and looking around thinking “damn, this thing just got me here.” Motorcycling has taken me some rad places and introduced me to some cool people, which is how I got into co-hosting the Dream Roll with Lanakila, starting my job at a women driven company called Born A Bad Seed, and traveling around the world supporting cool companies and riding badass bikes.”
Liz Horton - Denver, CO
“I didn’t grow up with or around motorcycles, so my first experiences came much later in life. I have, needless to say, always found myself uncontrollably drawn to them, the motorcycle lifestyle and the people who ride. I grew up in a family where travel and adventure were valued as much as anything, so it was really just a matter of time before I realized how to travel and have adventures in my own way. It wasn’t until I moved back home to Colorado after living in Brooklyn, NY for five years, that I realized it was time. I signed up for a motorcycle safety and license enforcement class, and never looked back. My first bike, and still my finicky love, is my ’83 Yamaha XS650 hardtail chopper. To me, she’s perfect. For me, riding is so many things; it’s meditation and a way for me to escape and connect with myself, it’s this incredible sense of family and connection with the best community on the planet, it’s fun forever with my best friends, it’s getting lost and loving it, it’s seeing the world without boundaries and it’s beautiful. This will forever be my life and my passion and I am forever grateful everyday that I can be on two wheels.”