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Women taking the handlebars

Teri Vance, Appeal Staff Writer

Jennifer Barrington started riding on the back of her uncle’s Harley Davidson when she was 15.

Now, at 30, she’s riding her own.

“I got tired of eating second-hand bugs,” she said. “You spend the whole day looking at the back of someone’s head.”

Barrington, a construction worker, rode from Tracy, Calif., to Reno for the annual Street Vibrations. She is one of an increasing number of women who are taking the handlebars into their own hands.

“You decide how fast you go and where you go,” Barrington said. “You’re not at the mercy of anyone.”

This year, about 30 percent of the nearly 6,000 entrants are women riding alone.

“They’re a cool group,” said Carol Infranca, spokeswoman for Roadshows, producers of the event.

Although the much of Street Vibrations happens in Reno, riders gather at Carson City’s Harley Davidson dealership and throughout the area to mingle and check out other bikes.

“I’ve got the bug bad,” Barrington said. “I like to walk around and look at the bikes. I look at all the plates and it always amazes me how far people come for this.”

Marshall and Stephanie Matley, of Carson City, rode with their two daughters to the dealership Saturday morning.

“I wanted my girls to see all these motorcycles,” Marshall Matley said. “We just came down to enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun.”

His wife started riding on the back of his motorcycle but now is driving one herself.

“I’m just getting back into it because the girls are getting big enough to hold on tight,” she said.

The girls plan to carry on the tradition.

“They’re fun,” said 5-year-old Rebecca. “They make loud sounds and go fast.”

Eliza, 7, added, “They’re pretty.”

Street Vibrations began eight years ago when Reno’s Club Cal Neva owner Bill Thorton read a Wall Street Journal article about Harley-Davidson increasing its market.

He approached Randy Burke, president of Roadshows Inc. to become producer of Street Vibrations.

“Actually, Bill said, ‘You need to jump on this because it’s going to be hotter than hot rods – the demographics are broader and it’s not a fad,” Burke said.

The event grew from 1,500 registered bikes its first year to more than 4,200 this year. The total number of participants have topped out at about 6,000 when both drivers and riders are counted, Infranca said.

Today, stuntrider Bubba Blackwell will lead the Freedom Rumble Parade in Reno. Blackwell is back on a motorcycle after having been seriously injured July 4. He is the parade grand marshal. The public is invited to bring a flag to wave during the patriotic celebration.

IF YOU GO

What: Street Vibration’s Freedom Rumble parade

When: 10 a.m. today

Where: Starting at the Peppermill Hotel Casino to downtown Reno

Information: 329-7469.