It’s important to Jessie Jobst that you know Meridian Child Motorcycle Club is not a motorcycle club.
by Joanne Xu
You can imagine my confusion when I’m corrected mid-interview of this. I don’t know much about motorcycling, but it seems rather ironic to name your not motorcycle club “Meridian Child Motorcycle Club,” until you visualize its initials.
As with many other perceptively thrill seeking sports, motorcycling has a seemingly impenetrable looking glass around it. Onlookers are treated only to caricatured glimpses of its culture in the media or motorcycle-adjacent redirects — case in point, the closest interactions I’ve ever had with motorcycling are the Vespa scene in “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” and watching biker gangs veer an inch too close to my car on the highway.
Meridian Child Motorcycle Club, Jobst’s passion project, was created to be exactly the opposite of all that: a non gendered space for motorcyclists that don’t feel beholden to any particular trope within the community. To answer my earlier confusion, it’s more a digital platform, and an unspoken kinship among like minded motorcyclists, than an actual club with membership and dues. The totally unironic part of Meridian Child is that it’s whatever space a motorcyclist wants it to be — free of genderness and having to be any one type of rider.
Speaking with Jobst about motorcycling reminds me why we’re taught to never buy into stereotypes in the first place. She is well-spoken and self-reflective. She speaks of motorcycling only in endearing, nonabrasive terms. And most baffling to me, she describes it as meditation. Jobst, and Meridian Child, are nice reminders that every sport is rooted in the same spectrum of human emotion; as with all other sports, I’d realize, the only prerequisite to learning how to ride a motorcycle is to find synchronicity between body and mind.
When COVID-19 was announced as a global pandemic, Jobst was in Peru on the middle leg of a round-the-world motorcycle trip. She’d quit her job and left New York on November 1, 2019 to embark on her lifelong goal of motorcycling around the world. On March 11, 2020, when she realized her trip would be cut short, Jobst had just made it to Machu Picchu. Instead of ditching her bike and hightailing it back to New York with her boyfriend, Jobst stayed behind with a Belgian couple she had met. The three would race toward the Peruvian border, where they’d be the last people to leave the country before it sealed off, and through to Santiago, Chile to ship their bikes home.
I don’t even have to ask why she didn’t just take that flight back to New York when she could. The answer is plain as day: “Otherwise I would have had to leave my bike there.” Read on for the rest of my conversation with Jobst on Meridian Child’s philosophy, motorcycling as an art form, and why it’s actually one of the most peaceful sports.
On Meridian Child
The Recreationalist: What was the thinking behind starting Meridian Child?
Jessie Jobst: Meridian Child is my manifestation of how I perceive motorcycling.
I’ve been around motorcycles my whole life. When I was younger, my brothers rode and my dad rode — my mother said she rode but I never saw her so it wasn’t a reality for me — and all I think I saw of female riders was either a woman on the back of a Harley, or a very sexualized form of a woman seeking validation from men on film. There was nobody that I could look up to who was a normal girl and embraced their femininity as much as riding.
I moved to New York when I was 29 and that’s when I bought my first big bike. It was always on my periphery that there was no real subcultured brand that was attached to motorcycling in the way that surfing and skating have. I didn’t identify with any of the riding culture in New York — it’s very hyper-masculine — so I wanted to create something that wasn’t gender specific and represented the spiritual aspect of riding.
The Recreationalist: So what is Meridian Child, if not a motorcycle club?
Jessie: It’s not a club per say. It’s not like you have to join, it’s just a platform and a community. The concept has evolved so much that it’s now becoming a place of discussion, challenging what the stereotypes are, and why they exist, and how we can modernize the culture.
It’s really important that it’s not woman-only. It’s inspired by the feminine, but it’s very much gender neutral — I ride with so many guys and girls.
On The Yin and Yang of Riding
The Recreationalist: Why do you see motorcycling as a form of meditation?
Jessie: There’s a lot of fear that you have to push through [in motorcycling]. But when you get there, it’s just … I think the best way to describe it is like meditation. All your senses are engaged, and you’re in this hyper, hyper aware space, and you just start moving. The kinetic energy pushes you into the present over and over again and it’s this complete kind of immersement into your surroundings.
The Recreationalist: I’ve never heard someone talk about motorcycling so peacefully.
Jessie: Riding is such a beautiful sport and it really doesn’t get portrayed from the outside. I don’t think from the outside, as a woman at least, you would look at a motorcycle and see this very inward, meditative, reflective, beautiful sport.
I like to think about it in forms of energy. The energy of a motorcycle is masculine, it’s the yang energy. But the energy of the rider is actually very feminine. It’s the yin part of the synergy that’s happening when the rider gets on a motorcycle and they move. And together you have this beautiful experience that any rider that you talk to will identify with, but it’s kept under wraps because it’s kind of a vulnerable space.
The Recreationalist: How do you use riding as a method of wellness?
Jessie: I personally find it as an amazing way to help with processing emotion. It’s amazing, the more that you can be in that zone for a very long time, it’s almost like your senses are so busy with whatever’s happening in the forefront, that there’s this contemplation that goes on in the background.
From the experience of my trip, whatever you’re trying to escape from will find you. You become detached enough from your current state of affairs or the environment, and the movement helps you bring some things up and let them go. You’re connecting your mind, your body, and your spirit. The motorcycle is the linear part to those three entities.
On Modernizing Motorcycle Culture
The Recreationalist: Do you think that the culture surrounding motorcycling is evolving?
Jessie: I think it has a very long way to go. I’m still very much a minority. There’s definitely been this beautiful shift in role reversal where guys will come to me and ask me for riding advice. But on the whole, it’s still kind of a bizarre place to be – a girl on a bike.
The Recreationalist: What do you think is the next step?
Jessie: It’s breaking down a lot of stereotypes and gendering. Historically [the culture] stems from toxic masculinity and the patriarchy, and it’s got so much ego to it. That’s something I’ve been questioning lately a lot. When you’re starting as a beginner, everyone’s scared. It doesn’t matter if you’re a guy or a girl, it’s just about how you push past that fear and own it and become a rider. I don’t think that fear is particularly gendered.
Keep up with Meridian Child at @meridianchildmc.
Written by Joanne Xu