When Janice Friedman saw four women bikers roll up to a Harley-Davidson dealership in Wyoming, she was intrigued.
“I’d never seen women Harley riders before. But I was the last person you would ever guess would do that,” Friedman said. “I won’t lie, I was kind of high maintenance.”
In fact, she didn’t even enjoy riding as a passenger on her husband’s bike. “It messed up my hair,” she said.
But there was something about seeing women in command of all that horsepower that resonated with her. She turned to her husband, who had bought his first motorcycle in the 1990s, and told him she intended to learn to ride her own bike. His response: “You only want to do that for the cute clothes.”
In the 18 years since, not only has Friedman accumulated an impressive biker wardrobe, she also founded and leads an all-female biker club, the Krome Kitty Motorcycle Club.
Members describe the club, which started in 2004, as a fierce support group that enjoys organized rides, social gatherings and charitable work.
“I have sisters, but the Krome Kitty club has brought another set of sisters that I didn’t know I needed,” said Jennifer Patterson, one of the newest members of the group. “The support is unreal.”
Creating the club
Friedman signed up for a motorcycle safety course not long after visiting that Harley dealership in Wyoming.
“Some people take to it naturally,” said Friedman, who retired as manager of the Hite Fanning & Honeymoon law firm in 2015. “I was not that girl.”
After a few months of riding, however, she was hooked.
“I just can’t describe the satisfaction and empowerment,” Friedman said.
In 2004, Lori Gibbs, a neighbor who’d seen her tooling around the neighborhood, joined her on her rides. Then another friend joined the two. Friedman had a logo created and T-shirts made.
By the end of the 2004 riding season, the Krome Kitty club had grown from three riders to 31. It now has an entire line of club-logoed gear, available for members to purchase through the club’s website.
It is, as far as members know, the area’s only club restricted to women riders. Male significant others and spouses are allowed to join Krome Kitty riders once a season for the club’s annual Tom Kat ride.
“Over the years, 140 women have found us and joined us,” said Friedman, whose biker name is Queenie. She’s put her skills as a former human resources director and law firm manager to work, keeping detailed club records.
The club currently has 50 active members; 21 are ages 55 and older. Kathryn Langrehr, 70, who started riding at age 50, is the oldest club member, followed by members who are 69 and 68.
“I was thrilled to find a group of women riders,” said Langrehr. Langrehr, who retired in October from an accounting career in the oil and gas industry, rides with two other motorcycle clubs, often as the lone woman rider or one of just a few.
“I think women are easier to ride with. Believe it or not, the guys have a lot of drama sometimes,” Langrehr said with a laugh. She moved from Kechi to outside of Hutchinson five years ago but still attends as many Krome Kitty activities as she can.
Kim Jones, a nurse in a Wichita medical clinic who has been riding motorcycles for 34 years, said she felt a connection unlike any other when she went to her first Krome Kitty get-together four years ago.
“I instantly felt like these are my people. Every single person was kind and welcoming.”
The club holds organized monthly rides of about 100 to 120 miles from April to October, weather permitting, as well as “Meow Mixers” in which members meet up for dinner or lunch.
Members also get together during the winter to stay connected. Those events are usually held at the Douglass Avenue Assembly of God or the Fire and Iron Motorcycle Club, which is considered a sort of sibling club. The Fire and Iron club’s membership consists of active and former firefighters.
“We’re so entwined that I don’t feel the riding season really stops,” Jones said. “We’re still together, just not on bikes.”
Usually, the club does one bigger annual trip, riding about 500 miles over three days. Destinations have included Pueblo, Colo., and Route 66 in Oklahoma.
Membership costs $40 annually and is open to women who have taken a motorcycle safety course or have had an active motorcycle license for two years. Locally, safety courses are offered by Motorcycle Rider Education driving school in Wichita and the Twister City Harley-Davidson dealership in Park City.
To remain an active member, members must take part in at least two organized rides a season. Members who record perfect attendance for the riding season are rewarded with a Kit Kat candy bar. To kick off each riding season, the club holds a bike blessing each April.
Since 2020, the Krome Kitty club has been supporting Family Promise of Greater Wichita, a national charity that works with faith-based communities and groups to provide shelter, meals and other support services to families without a home. The club helps the Douglas Avenue church provide meals, overnight hosts, financial support and more. The club has also raised money for the Women’s Family Crisis Center in Wichita.
Patterson, who scored major mom points with her 10-year-old daughter when she joined the motorcycle club, said her daughter sometimes accompanies her when volunteering for Family Promise, providing an opportunity for another generation to witness the power of sisterhood and helping others in the community.
“We support each other on and off the road,” said Langrehr.
Creating a safe environment for her fellow club members is paramount to Friedman. The club’s motto, according to its website, is safety first, fun second. Every year, the club has an annual safety meeting during its Kitty Konference. No alcohol is allowed during club rides.
Recently, a club member was involved in an accident that resulted in a leg amputation. The member had been riding alone on Douglas, Friedman recounted, when a car turned into her path. The rider swerved to avoid hitting the car head-on but still struck it, suffering the catastrophic injury to her leg. Also this year, another member received compound wrist fractures and facial injuries when a car did a U-turn in her path.
The accidents have served as reminders to club members to stay vigilant, Friedman said.
“You have to assume every car and truck is out to get you,” she said.
Friedman said she is creating an awareness campaign for vehicle drivers to pay attention and be mindful of motorcycle riders.
“I want drivers to understand that person isn’t just a biker. It’s someone’s daughter, mother, sister. True enough there are bikers that give us a bad reputation, who take off screaming down the road, but not everyone rides like that.”
‘You’re not too old’
Jones, the youngest member interviewed for this article, said she enjoys the intergenerational relationships she’s forming with her fellow Krome Kitty members.
“For me, having that older generation of women involved in the club helps me mature,” said Jones, who said she was surprised to learn Langrehr was 70 when the club celebrated her birthday during its September ride. “I had never looked at her as being 70.”
Langrehr herself said she doesn’t look like someone a passerby would pinpoint as a biker.
“I do not have a single tattoo. I look like a little old lady you’d meet at church. Most people are shocked to find out I ride. I didn’t start this as a young person, either. Sometimes, people get the idea that I’m too old to do that. Well, if you can do it, you’re not too old. That goes for any hobby or anything else. Sometimes you don’t have the time or money when you’re younger to start something.”
Contact Amy Geiszler-Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.