If you’re anything like me, you spend enough time on Instagram to have seen Ria the Welder’s work. I’ve long-admired her eye for detail in her custom sissy bar creations. I got in touch with her to ask her a few questions about her work.
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First things first, how did you get into welding?
Motorcycles. I’ve always loved motorcycles, man. Straight from the get-go when I decided to go to welding school, I always knew I wanted to build bike parts. The old choppers from the 70s … so much creativity to work with. So beautiful.
What made you turn to sissy bars?
First thing I built in welding school was a whack-ass spider web sissy. I used 1″ flat bar and cut it in half and Oxy-Acetylene welded the top and tacked a bunch of rods together for the web. It was super shitty, but I knew I could do better. It was like a new box had been opened in my brain. Once I finished school and got a job and a Harley, I decided to build a cute little sissy bar with a heart inside of it. It turned out to be like 32 inches off my fender (not so little). Once I made it, I had people from the gas station, my Facebook, and my Instagram asking if I could make them a custom sissy bar. Then the more I made, the more orders I got. And now I’ve made over 100 bars (haven’t counted recently). I haven’t made two of the same bar.
Are most of your customers women or do you have a more mixed clientele?
Most of my orders are from women. I feel that women use the bars more because of all the shit they need to bring on a motorcycle adventure. I have also had my fair share of men orders, but not nearly as many as women.
Have you experienced much pushback/discrimination/harassment as a woman in a male dominated field?
This is a question I get a lot.
This is not something that has ever been a problem for me. Not because it hasn’t happened, but because I don’t give a fuck. The way that I look at the world is this: people can say or think whatever negative shit they want to about you. It’s up to you if you’re going to let it fuck with you or not. Yes, I work in a male dominated world. Yes, I have worked in shops where I am the only person with a vagina. Sometimes I would hear “you’re pretty good for a girl” (yes, that is supposed to be a compliment). At least this old crusty man has taken time out of his day to look at my work and give me a half-assed compliment.
I also had a situation where a BOY has told me that I cannot be a foreman because I don’t have nuts. I shoved my nuts right in his face and succeeded past him with my work in school.
I had some shitty Instagram meme page make fun of my sissy bars for being girly. He said “let’s go back to calling them pussy bars.” I told him to fight me and that was that.
Once I quoted a girl for a sissy bar. I later found out that my quote was thought to be a “rip off” and one of my designs was copied and made by that girl’s boyfriend. She still rocks it to this day. My work is handmade and every one is different. I charge by the time it takes me and the supplies I need to purchase.
Discrimination and harassment comes in all forms from boys and girls. It’s up to us if we want to let it ruin the day.
What has been your favorite project?
My bike! Juliette Lewis. I bought her as a stock 99 883 Sporty and made all the modifications myself, my heart tail light especially is one of my favorites. I made a stainless steel heart shaped shell and added some stained glass and an LED light.
I love all my projects. Mostly because I am usually given creative freedom when someone orders a bar. If you have a crazy idea for a sissy bar—I want to hear it.
I saw several Ria bars at Babes Ride Out—what’s it like seeing your work out in the wild like that?
Well I’m glad you saw some, I seemed to have missed all my bars this year even though I know there were quite a few there. It is really cool seeing them around though. Even scrolling through Instagram and one pops up… fuck, it feels good to know someone loves it as much as I love my job.
Do you have any advice for other female welders out there looking to make a name for themselves in a niche marketplace?
Stay comfortable. If you’re not comfy, your welds will be shitty.