You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi
At the age of 38, Danell Lynn has accomplished more in her young life than many people achieve in a lifetime. The cyclist is also a speaker, educator, author, fashion designer, entrepreneur, and humanitarian who has published a travel magazine and two books started a couture fashion company, founded two humanitarian organizations, and has traveled to 46 countries and counting.
Born into a military family, Danell grew up on the move. While living in England, she and her family would travel during every school break, so traveling became second nature. Since most of her family rides, Danell says she rode her first bike while still in the womb. Later, Danell grew up riding dirt bikes and pillion riding in South America, but it wasn’t until eight or nine years ago, while traveling and writing for a motorcycle magazine, that she started meeting cyclists who inspired her to ride on her own. So, she rented a bike, grabbed a map, and took her first solo adventure through Costa Rica.
Since that first adventure, Danell has ridden throughout North America, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Cambodia, and Pakistan. She was the only female on a team of riders in Cambodia as well as the Electric Expedition, a team that journeyed from most Alaska into Canada on electric bikes.
In 2014, she broke the Guinness World Record for the longest journey by motorcycle in a single country (48,600 miles), the first woman to do it solo, which has been chronicled on her travel blog, BlackTie2BlackTop, nearly doubling the previous record (23,761 miles) which was achieved in India. For the challenge, she rode her 2006 Bonneville Triumph, appropriately named Amelia after the famous female pilot, through all fifty states of the U.S. and three provinces in Canada. She had chosen the U.S. as the backdrop for the challenge to showcase the beauty and variety of her own backyard- from Kentucky’s rolling hills to Florida’s manatees.
Not only is Danell a rider, but a humanitarian as well. She is the founder and director of two humanitarian organizations, which are sisters to her fashion company, dl-couture: Threading Hope, which donates quilts around the world to communities in need and Highwire, which brings art education to schools and orphanages in third world countries. Most recently, Danell took part in a 12-woman expedition to Northern Pakistan where they taught local women how to ride motorcycles to the Honda factory where they work in order to bypass the daily gridlock of the city streets and highways. Their mission has become the subject of a documentary, due to come out this year.
Above all, Danell embraces her ability to inspire others. Since her record was published in the GBWR, several schools have begun following her trips and whenever she stops by to visit, she is greeted by a swarm of kids surrounding her bike to meet her. One of her biggest fans is Zoe, a little girl from Oklahoma, who has been following her journeys and sending her drawings of motorcycles since she first came across her story. Just recently, she sent Danell a drawing of a bike wearing a Super Woman cape.
“I had no idea the impact I had not just on girls, but men, too. Guys in their 60s would come up to me and say, ‘No offense, but if you can do it, so can I’.”
Still, for Danell, being a female biker is a non-issue.
“When you play in a men’s industry [like motorcycle riding], once you’ve proven yourself, there is no dividing line,” she said. “Just like with anything, you gotta prove yourself. You have to be your biggest believer.”
Once she had “earned her stripes”, she found that most riders, regardless of gender, had the utmost respect for her. This reality became apparent when she started speaking with people at big motorcycle events. On the rare occasion that there would be an awkward interaction with a man, like when one guy erroneously called her out for not having her chain tightened correctly, she found that she wouldn’t even have to respond, as others would speak to her credit- pointing out the miles she had under her belt, her awards, and accomplishments.
Instead, what has had the greatest impact on her life has been riding solo, which has opened doors for her in many ways.
“I [would be] invited over for breakfast with campers, or into an RV at night for dinner, and even home stays by people I had just met. I do not think that those are “women” specific experiences, but are [the result of the] amazingly open nature of the moto community and the world when they see a solo traveler.”
When asked how to protect yourself while riding solo, she had this advice:
“I always follow my gut and it’s never led me astray. If something feels off, listen to that inner voice. Don’t go there. Don’t stay.”
When asked if she had any plans of settling down in one place, Danell said, “For me, the road is home.”
She hopes to move internationally before she turns 40 and her life goal is to keep the number of places she has visited greater than the number of years she has lived. Currently, she is focused on her writing, as the coronavirus pandemic has put a temporary hold on her travel plans.
As an avid educator, mentor, and role model for the next generation, Danell wants her followers to challenge themselves. Instead of focusing on one thing, she doesn’t want them to limit themselves, but to embrace all of the possibilities and opportunities that are out there in the world.
“Embrace living outside the box. Go out of your comfort zone and do grand things with your life, and when you accomplish them – plan for the next!”
For more information and to support Danell in her life’s journey, you can follow her at:
Twitter / Instagram: @Danell_Lynn