No egos, no competition, no leaving others in the dust.
A few misconceptions when it comes to the girl gang with big, badass bikes known as The Litas Manila exist. First of all, they’re not a gang. They’re no Hell’s Angels in heels, nor are they Daughters of Anarchy. In fact they’re quick to distinguish themselves from the hypermasculine subculture of motorcycle clubs.
The Litas are inclusive and diverse, welcoming any woman-identifying person who loves to ride. They ask no membership fees, only that you join their monthly meetups or rides. Litas come from all walks of life, and The Litas Manila, whose numbers are now at 20, are also CEOs, mothers, artists, rockers. Their day jobs are as wildly varying as the types of steel horses they ride, but they were all born with a rebellious streak that makes them uncomfortable with convention and lusty for the freedom that two-wheeled travel brings.
The Litas, an international network of female riders in 27 countries, was originally founded in 2014 in Salt Lake City by Jessica Hagett, a biker who was just looking for other girls to ride with. Soon, women in cities across the USA, then the world, started to open local branches. In 2017 Gaki Azurin, the YouTube vlogger known as GakiMoto, had the idea of starting a girl group, and roped in Erika Fernandez and Carol Karthe to be the other two co-founders required to start a Manila branch of The Litas.
“The Litas have established a safe riding group culture. I’ve never felt safer riding on the road,” says Erika, who works for her family company and counts knives, shooting, and freediving as her other interests. Primarily a dirt bike rider, Erika says she is not as skilled as many of the other road riders in the group. “One of the things they take very seriously is riding capability and skill. Being on the road with The Litas, I feel so well taken care of.”
One of the rules of their group rides is that no one is left behind: “We ride at the speed of the rider with the lowest skill level.”
In terms of riding experience, Karthe has clocked the most years and mileage worldwide. She got her first big bike three decades ago and has toured Chengdu to Tibet one year, the South Island of New Zealand another, and has ridden from Manila to Cotabato. “I’m more of that kind of rider,” she says. “I love camping, and I’m a sailor; my lifestyle is all about roughing it.” Carol, a former swim coach, has pivoted to interior design, but remains constantly on the move. Shortly after the Vogue shoot, she left for an extended trip to South America to ride horses and play polo.
Rasch Miranda is one of the newer members, recruited in 2020. She’s been riding for nine years, starting in college where she would use a small motorbike to commute to school. The PMAP model enjoys trail riding around Antipolo. “I like nature, going to falls and rivers,” she says. “Swimming in the falls after a ride, it’s so refreshing.”
When Rasch started working for the British motorcycle manufacturer Triumph, she fell in love with big bikes. Coming from Naga and not having a big bike of her own, she admits to being shy about joining The Litas, who typically ride bikes 400cc or larger. Cal Soesanto, one of the first members of TLM, points out that there are rare cases where members don’t have big bikes. “But Rasch has the experience. It’s like when you know how to use the tool, but you just don’t have it yet.”
As part of the group’s commitment to the network, TLM holds longer “lomi rides” to Batangas or Rizal, converging at a roadside eatery to slurp down PHP70 kickass lomi. For the girls who can’t join these rides for whatever reason, whether they lack the skill or their bikes don’t make the cut (for Erika, her asthma has been preventing her from going long distance), there are regular breakfast meetups in Metro Manila, with quick rides to places like Café Breton in Magallanes.
Beyond the community and kinship they build among themselves, the group also extends their support to various causes. “One of my favorite rides was for the LGBT Pride Ride this year,” says Erika. “The turnout was amazing, we had over a hundred riders to support the cause.” Rasch and Carol enjoy dappering up for the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride, the annual moto-parade of classic and vintage bikes that raises awareness and funds for prostate cancer research and men’s mental health. The Litas Manila founders are planning to hold more events of their own in the coming year, to keep inspiring and encouraging women to find their own adventure on the road.
“The idea is for women to share the love for the open road,” says Erika. “The spirit of The Litas is celebrating womanhood—and big bikes.” Adds Carol, “I hope for The Litas to be an irreplaceable spark plug, igniting our engines of sisterhood.”
Fashion editor: Daryl Chang, Makeup: Gery Penaso, Japeth Purog of Estée Lauder, Hair: Melen Guiritan, Noel Sesbreno of Jing Monis Salon, Producer: Anz Hizon, Production Assistant: Bianca Zaragoza, Photographer’s Assistants: Aaron Carlos, Choi Narciso, Stylist’s Assistant: Ticia Almazan. Shot on location at Porac, Pampanga. Special thanks to Porac Tourism and Poch Jorolan of Outereater Events
This article was originally published in Vogue Philippines’ December 2022 – January 2023 issue available now.