Amanda Zito's tenacious vision for the industry.
Words Gale Straub Artwork Amanda Zito
Amanda Zito snapped her throttle wrist this past July while riding solo to Rocky Mountain Roll, an annual “redneck moto campout” she founded at her family’s ranch in northeastern Montana. She wept openly into her helmet but pushed on for 10 miles before seeing two outdoorsmen in side-by-sides. Reluctant to ask for help, Amanda used their satellite messenger to contact her family, who met her over 40 miles from where she’d broken her wrist.
An artist with a stubborn streak and a smile, Amanda admits, “I struggle to do what I’m told.” Which is why, safely back in Portland a week later, after her orthopedist told her that the navicular bone in her wrist was indeed broken, she set about learning how to paint and draw with her non-dominant left hand. As she saw it, she had no other option. “I felt like everything had collapsed on top of me and I couldn’t move," she explains. "Drawing is such a huge part of my life.” Amanda’s never been one to write in a journal for longer than a few days; art is her means of expression and her livelihood, as vital to her as open air.
Amanda grew up on a 120-acre ranch in Montana and she speaks about it with reverence: “Being a child and having a crazy imagination, it doesn't matter how much space you have. If you have any kind of space outside, that’s the whole world.” She loved horses and dreamed of being a jockey until another girl let her know she was “too big” to pursue that path. So, she turned her attention to drawing, absorbing lessons from her artistic older brother.
In 2010, she enrolled in art school and moved to Portland, where she discovered motorcycling as a substitute for horseback riding and a means to travel back and forth to Montana. She’s still homesick. “I've made a lot of friends here, but I have never felt 100 percent comfortable. I feel like I am a horse in the middle of a bunch of cars.” Amanda has five bikes now — six if you count the moped. Her first bike, a 1980 Suzuki GS850GL named Lazarus, broke her in: “I am really, really grateful that my first bike was that bike. The troublemaker lived up to her name. She's definitely died and come back to life.”
Thanks to Lazarus, Amanda now knows more about carburetors than she’d like. She leveraged her affinity for wrenching into a job at a Harley-Davidson and Triumph dealership, starting off as a tech. When the general manager found out she could draw, Amanda moved up to the marketing department. Of her work, she explains, “I mainly do motorcycle event posters now, which I love. With motorcycle events, the flashier the poster, the more interesting it is, the more attention it gets.”
Amanda knows there’s power in good design and cares about how motorcycle events are presented. She stresses, “I think a lot of people who aren’t into motorcycles see those posters that float around on the Internet, the ones that look like they were made in Microsoft Word.” She hesitates. “There’s not an easy way to say it: they look like they are catering to old, fat, white dudes on choppers.” For Amanda, it’s a disservice to the events she attends and to the people attending them.
Her posters are bold, graphic, and unapologetically hand-illustrated. Amanda likes to add as many storytelling details as possible, pulling the viewer into the event and her vision of the motorcycle world. She illustrates for the dealership, but she also works freelance, creating posters for events like Babes Ride Out, The Backroad Ball, and Women’s Motorcycle Show. If you ask Amanda what she’s passionate about, she says emphatically, “I care about there being more representation of female motorcyclists in our industry. I firmly believe that the statistics are wrong, and that there are more female riders than mainstream companies seem to think.”
It's also important to her how women are represented. Amanda is purposeful in the ways she illustrates riders, making sure they’re in proper gear, not bikini tops or short shorts. And sure, they look sexy, but it’s the kind of sex appeal that comes from strength, comfort, and belonging.
Doctors removed Amanda’s cast in late September. Her drawing hand is free once more — for pencil and throttle. The two months spent teaching herself to use her left hand echoed those first long rides on Lazarus. She fatigued quickly in the beginning, but over time developed endurance and precision. Amanda became stronger with her non-dominant hand by reverting back to old lessons, drafting rough sketches. At first, they didn’t look like anything, but eventually shapes revealed themselves on the page in graphite, ink, and watercolor.
Amanda wants the art surrounding the motorcycle world to reflect how welcoming she has found the community to be, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or riding style. And though it may take longer to achieve than the time it took her wrist to heal, she’s optimistic. “I think every year, we make more strides as a community, especially as the industry changes and the ridership changes.”
Amanda’s work mirrors that stubborn potential. Check out her work @blindthistle.
This article originally appeared in Issue 035 of Iron & Air Magazine.