Towards the end of 2019, motorcyclist Jessie Jobst quit her job and set off in her idol Anne-France Dautheville’s footsteps, on a trip around the world. By the time Covid-19 hit in March 2020, she had made it as far as Chile, at which point she was forced to return to New York to quarantine. Jessie adapted her plans and rode across the States with her husband Rory Mulhere instead, though her sights remained set on a world tour. We caught up with Jessie recently and asked her about touring the world, remaining centred and the importance of being able to lift your own bike.
How did you get into motorcycles?
It was a natural progression. My father has always been into racing fast cars and motorcycles, so I grew up around them. It was second nature. Dad was always hunched over an engine, watching the grand prix or taking us to some local rally. All three of us (my brothers and I) ride motorcycles. It’s the easiest way to get around London and much cheaper than a car. I bought my first 125 in London: a beautiful 1975 Honda CB. Then, when I moved to NYC, I bought her big sister: a 1976 Honda 550 Four.
Do you feel part of a wider motorcyclist community?
Anyone who rides a motorcycle is your comrade on the road – but I feel most of an affinity towards the world traveler and adventure motorcycle community. We don’t really belong anywhere, as we are intrinsically bound to migration and exploration. Even if we’re stationary for a while, we will always be off again, travelling around the world on our bikes.
Have you experienced sexism as a female motorcyclist?
Yes, all the time. When I talk about travelling with my husband, people always ask if we were riding together on 1 motorcycle. Implying that I was on the back of his bike.
Unfortunately, the further you go into the wilderness, the more backwards people’s mindsets become. That’s obviously a generalisation but it has been my experience. Especially in America and other Western countries.
What was the idea behind Meridian Child Motorcycle Club?
Meridian Child Motorcycle Club is essentially an effort to empower femininity within a masculine environment. It’s a motorcycle club but it can take many forms: a piece of clothing, a ride into the wind, a meditation, a community. The common thread is a commitment to bringing what I perceive as feminine qualities — depth, creativity and feeling — into a historically masculine world.
What has been the most exciting moment so far?
Anytime the idea resonates with others. The message is unique in that it aims to combat sexism and empower women without any negativity. It’s also about the evolution of motorcycle culture in a more spiritual sense. Recognising that, as with surfing or skating, biking has a deeply meditative quality, fusing the mind, body and spirit. I’m currently working on a collaboration with Maria Dora of Georgia iC25 that I’m very excited about. We’re exploring function, form and aesthetics within the sport.
How did your background in fashion inform your identity as a motorcyclist?
As an aesthetic person, I am drawn to beautiful design, be that art, architecture, interiors or motorbikes. It sounds absurd but the lack of well-designed women’s moto gear was actually a real obstacle to me getting into the sport. There simply wasn’t anything for me to wear, especially protective gear. Even finding a helmet that fit was a struggle. I remember wearing one of my brother’s old ones and my head would rattle around inside. Which didn’t exactly bode well, safety-wise.
I still struggle to find things I want to wear on the bike, honestly. My favourite moto suit is a vintage Dainese leather racing suit, made in Italy the year I was born. The leather is perfectly worn and the small men’s size fits me oddly well. But when it comes to motorcycle clothing, there is a perpetual tension between form and function. I don’t think anyone’s found the answer yet, especially for women. The women’s market is still so small and the clothing so expensive to produce that companies are reluctant to invest in research around women’s sizing and fit.
Who are your heroines?
Anne-France Dautheville, the first woman to ride around the world in 1973 and Elspeth Beard, the first British woman to ride around the world in 1982. Both of whom, I have been lucky enough to meet. Last but not least, my dear friend Ashley Myhre of Mosko Moto, is one of the most talented female motorcyclists I know. I look up to her immensely.
What lessons have you learned from travelling alone as a woman?
Learning to trust your gut. Intuition and common sense are your most valuable tools. The best advice I’ve received was from an ex-cop in NYC, who said: If a situation feels wrong, it is. Get out as fast as possible. Other pieces of advice I stand by are: don’t drive at night, get to border crossings early, get to your destination by 3pm the next day and know how to pick up your bike by yourself . But those go for everyone, honestly. Not just women. I do think that as a woman, not going out drinking or partying and not seeking romance helped me stay safe. I was on a solo journey. Riding my motorcycle was my purpose.
Above all, I’m a firm believer that you get back what you put out into the world. Move through cultures and foreign lands with respect. If local custom dictates that women should wear a headscarf or cover their shoulders, do as the other women do. Do not provoke or be disrespectful and the world will open itself up to you…
How is it different travelling with a man? Do people respond to you differently?
Yes, of course. You’re safer by proxy, so you don’t have to scrutinise every decision to the same degree. Should I take this road? Will I get into trouble? Is the risk worth taking?
The downside is that you inherently close yourself off to certain things because you’re in a bubble. Socialising with locals becomes limited; you’re less likely to be invited into people’s homes. You also can’t be as nimble about plans, so the experience is completely different. Riding solo carries a higher risk but you invariably end up having a more authentic experience.
How do you prepare mentally before a big trip?
I think making a date and sticking to it is really important. That way, you’re working towards a fixed goal. There is so much preparation to be done before a trip, especially when leaving for an extended period of time, that it’s easy to get caught up in the bike and the gear, etc. The hardest thing to do is leave!
Where do you feel most at home?
On my motorcycle. It doesn’t have to be anywhere specific, geographically. Just living life simply, with minimal belongings and a tent strapped on the back — that’s where I feel most at peace. Living in synchronicity with nature and in circadian rhythm, waking up with the sun, going to sleep with the moon. Pushing into unknown lands and being greeted each day by new experiences is what makes me feel alive.
What is your relationship to femininity?
I am deeply rooted in my femininity — qualities I lean toward embodying are heart-opening compassion, unwavering strength, bravery and vulnerability. This was not always my belief system, my grandmother was discarded by her father for being a girl, so the rejecting of femininity has been a trauma that has trickled down through the generations. Similar to the ways in which the patriarchy has scarred our society.
Most people view travelling alone as a woman dangerous because we are perceived as weak. On the contrary, what I’ve learned on my travels is that my vulnerability as a woman travelling solo was my greatest asset. No one views you as a threat, and you are welcomed into people’s homes, people want to take care of you. Travelling solo as a woman needs to be normalised, just as women on motorcycles should be normalised – women doing anything a man does should be normalised!
Have you always been a wandering spirit?
Yes, at the age of 15, I travelled to South Korea. At 16, I went to Singapore. At 17, Tokyo. I just never stopped travelling. When I was 18 I travelled to India alone, which was a pretty daunting undertaking. In hindsight, I think I was too young for such a culture shock, but this did not stop me from continuing to explore the world. The drive to challenge myself and face my fears is something I stand by as an integral part of growth.
Learning to ride a motorcycle was so scary in the beginning but now I’ve travelled most of the American continent by bike. The best thing about travelling long distances on a motorcycle is that it opens the world up in such a unique way. You experience everything, all the in-betweens, the stuff people usually fly over, or skim past. You feel the air, the temperature changing. You can feel the energy of the place, experience its totality, and embrace it all.
Do you get lonely on long solo rides?
Yes, at times – you experience every emotion inside your helmet at some point or another. Riding each day is a lot: the packing and unpacking, the weather, meeting new people, experiencing new landscapes and facing whatever the road has in store for you, is so all-consuming and exhilarating that you don’t have much time for feeling alone.
Do you get scared?
Yes, there are times when I’ll almost fall, or do fall, and feel tense and frightened. Or the road gets treacherous, I run out of water, or gas, or get a flat tire. I get stuck and am rendered vulnerable to whoever is nearby. All these fears race through your mind and in those moments I would remind myself that this is my choice – this adventure is my decision and that I am going to be OK. I would recite a mantra to myself to calm my nerves or to think to ride like water. A dear friend sent me this at the beginning of my journey and I would read it over and over again.
You are the wind, riding the hills and valleys. You are the sun, shining with energy and love and fire. You are like the water in a river which can only ever go the right way until it meets the sea. And you are like a rock, strong and brave connected to the very centre of the earth.
There are so many things that can go wrong, but gradually you do start to acclimatise to your new life living on the road, and that it is all a part of the journey and to embrace it all.
What is your relationship with social media?
I use it as a tool when I am travelling. It’s useful to connect to other travellers, to feel social when solo, and to let your family and friends know where you are in the world. That you are safe. When I’m not travelling, I try not to use it daily basis as I feel it does more harm than good to my mental health.
Finally, we ask all of our Journal interviewees to complete the following phrase:
You Must Create… a sense of wonder in life.