“Everything in life starts with a dream.” That’s the mantra that peech breshears carried from their father’s sermons into their love for new pursuits, from graphic novels to motorcycling. As outlined in peech’s new Narratively story, “The Fastest Formerly Blind ‘Biker Babe’ in Wichita,” the path hasn’t always been easy one, particularly as a nonbinary femme preacher’s child trying go break into a predominantly male motorcyling community. It’s been up to peech to establish their own identity, uplift those around them and find joy in riding. When not out biking, peech is a master’s degree candidate in English, focusing on comic studies. We spoke with peech about healing through writing, as well as the many junctions of community and identity.
Could you tell me what your writing process is like – especially when dealing with something intimate, personal and raw, like grief? Do you think writing, especially as descriptively as you do throughout your piece, can be a form of healing or catharsis?
I talk to my students about that all the time. Some people would see my process as messy, but it’s not. I do the same thing every time: I sit down, and I just rewrite the whole thing, until I’m done writing. If it’s 10 minutes, or if it’s an hour, I sit there and I just write whatever’s in my brain.
Then, from that free write, I go back and I pull out all the parts that are really big to me, and I make an outline from that. I start off by [putting] whatever’s in my heart on my computer because it’s private, you know? You can be free there. Nobody has to see the messy part, except for you.
Do you think that process of sifting through and rewriting helps you process the personal things you’re writing about?
For me, it does, because I think a lot of times when you’re actually engaging in the act of free writing – which is not engaging your ego, not engaging your insecurities – I feel like that’s the most honest place that we can get to. Sometimes you find ideas that you never thought of before, or you find solutions that you never considered, and you’re like, “Holy shit, that thing really did happen.” For me, it leads to a lot of clarity. I do think you can access catharsis and healing through that kind of writing, or at least I do – I found it to be really helpful.
I definitely agree with that – especially with what you said about finding things you didn’t even realize were there while you’re writing. Can you tell me a bit about your work in graphic novels, and whether that intersects with motorcycling? Are there things within each community that might parallel, or are very different from each other?
They are fairly similar, and I never considered it until right now. I do find that in my studies, and my passion for comics and graphic novels, I am isolated. To enjoy a comic or graphic novel, you’re usually reading it alone, even though there’s a huge community of people who love it just as much as you do. That’s my favorite part about studying comics. But you still are – in the actual enjoyment of this passion – completely and totally alone with your experience.
And that’s exactly how riding a motorcycle is. Even if you’re with 20 people in a pack, at the base of it, it’s just you inside your helmet. If you go down, or if you, God forbid, are in a collision or accident, it’s just you. You’re just one little fragile body. But it’s in those moments of isolation that I have the most enjoyment of that passion. Being around people, and having community and friends is really wonderful, but it is that action, that activity that I enjoy the most.
What’s the motorcycle community like? Is it welcoming or inclusive?
I have several marginalized identities, so I have a totally different take on the motorcycle community than, say, a cis-het white man who’s 28 would have. It’s not the most welcoming. It’s really dangerous for a woman or a femme who isn’t constantly aware of their surroundings, and who they are interacting with. There’s a statistic that floats around, which says somewhere between 15 to 20% of motorcycle riders are women (and I include femmes in that). That’s a super great statistic, and it makes me super happy. But on the flip side, 80% of the people who ride are men, and in the kind of world we live in, traditional hypermasculinity is particularly expected.
I will say this openly about Wichita: for the most part, I was welcomed because of who I am. I’m very short, I’m chubby and I always have long, really brightly colored braids (right now they’re half purple and half green). I look precious; I look like I need somebody to take care of me, [and they did].
I immediately felt safe, because I had Andrew, Ellie and Baba, and a couple of other people. But after Andrew passed away, I [learned that] I hadn’t been safe, I had been protected. Those are two totally different things. It was a tough lesson to learn. I am so much more grateful for the people that I’m in the community with now.
You’ve been riding scooters for over a decade. Could you walk me through how you first started riding?
I tell everybody: it’s the best experience you’ll ever have. For me, it started in a pretty non-traditional way, because most people don’t go from a scooter to a sport bike or a cruiser. They just hop on whatever they end up riding. But my very first bike was a Honda Metropolitan, and that was given to me by a partner I was with at the time. I had seen someone riding and I was like, “Man, I really want to try that.” And he was like, “Well, let’s go get one.” So that was my very first bike, and it was everything to me.
My next bike was called a Q Link – essentially, it was a knock-off Vespa. It would get up to about 50mph, if you were going downhill and praying at the same time.
Then I got married to my current husband, and we had to move for his work, and I ended up selling that scooter. And I thought, well, I guess I’ll never have another scooter. Then everything happened: I wrote my story, “The Fastest Formerly Blind ‘Biker Babe’ in Wichita,“ about getting my Vespa.
Do you have any advice for people who are interested in riding motorcycles, but don’t fit into the stereotypical image of a rider (see: a cis white man)? And how does representation play a part in helping women and femmes feel more comfortable with trying it out
When I’m riding, and I have so many women and young girls stop me, and they’re like, “I want to ride a motorcycle someday.” The other day, I met a young woman at a gas station, and she was like, “I just – I don’t know if I could do it.” She started saying all these things that were really gendered, all those things that fit into the typical, traditional, feminine role: that women can’t do anything, that they’re inept, and they can’t handle big machines.
I just looked at her and I was like “Listen, I’m five feet tall, and I am literally riding a $25,000 cruiser right now, that weighs probably 900 pounds, and I can maneuver that.” So I always encourage women: if you have ever been even remotely curious about motorcycles, you should totally try it.
I also meet a lot of Black women in the city, and that feels the best to me: that’s my community. The elders will stop and say, “Baby, so cute!” And I’m like, “Yes, it is, sissy!” They’re so proud of me, and so happy. They talk to me about how rare it is to see a Black woman on a bike. And I’m like, “I’m out here doing it, babe!” So I always try to encourage people from my identities [to ride]. This is an amazing life to have, and you could do it too, if you’re interested.
My dad, who’s a preacher, gives the same sermon once a year. It’s called “Reach For One More Dream.” The pivotal moment is when he says the sentence, “Everything in life starts with a dream.” When you tap into that dream, you can do whatever you want. There’s nothing stopping you. That’s why I think that moment on the ride with Ellie and Sissy was so meaningful to me. It finally tied all those things together. I can do whatever I want. I just have to start with a dream.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.