Loitering on a street corner in Mexico City at 7.30AM, my eyes scan a skyline blurred by smog. I'm looking out for two wheeled forms weaving through the tangle of traffic as I wait apprehensively for my ride. One by one gliding female silhouettes mounted on motorbikes appear spectre-like through the mist. Pulling up in front of me, the throb and spit of their hot engines fills me with a childish excitement.
Feeling clumsy next to their elegance, I fish for something to say to assert myself. Sauntering over to one of the bikers called Savage I peer inside the exposed engine of her deconstructed machine, feeling the heat on my face as its guts pulse. I run my eyes over the rose-tinted metal and manage to stammer: "The body has a really interesting colour".
Without a backwards glance she replies: "Yeah, I pissed on it". Savage for a reason - I get it, she's badass.
Blackbird, the president and visionary of the group, takes me under her wing and steers me towards a shiny red bike mounted by a willowy brunette. Blackbird introduces me to the chatty Gummy Bear, I jump on the back of her bike and we're off, weaving through a congested mess of cars, trucks, food carts, windscreen washers and jugglers.
Having bonded with Blackbird over a reciprocal love of leather, I was invited to ride with Las Marias, Mexico's first all-female motorcycle gang. So here I find myself, roaring through knotted highways towards the Toltec warriors of Tula on the outskirts of Mexico City.
As we ride through the nearby town of Huehuetoca, men stop in their tracks - open-mouthed, unable to muster even a perfunctory wolf whistle. They seem silenced by this brazen display of female strength.
Gummy flips up her visor and yells over her shoulder: "It's so funny how people look at us. It's like, what the fuck? Five girls on bikes?"
In Mexico it's rare to see even one female motorcyclist, but to see five is unprecedented. I begin to understand the thrill of this feeling of liberation and power.
We pull up to a buzzing local market and attract more stares as the leather-clad girls stroll through the smoky stalls of frying meat and bubbling stew. I follow Blackbird and Savage who are making a beeline for a taco stand manned by a colourfully clad old lady who shoots us a toothless grin. On closer inspection (and not without apprehension) I notice the taco stand sells insect-only fillers…
Blackbird takes the reigns and orders us ant egg and maguey worm tacos. The girls tuck in with gusto. I follow suit and am more than pleasantly surprised. We meet back up with Gummy and Mrs Powers for a coffee and before I know it we're back on the road.
Snaking through the hot throng of cars, Gummy complains about Mexico City's traffic problem. Every member of the gang has taken a serious fall at some point. True to form, all of the girls got back on two wheels - it seems like half the fun for them is in the risk.
Reaching the archaeological site of Tula, we park and hike up a Mesoamerican pyramid. Four-metre stone giants surround us as we gaze out to the skyline of sprawling satellite towns and factories. A single flame rises from a nearby industrial site, licking the clouds.
"Mordor," says Blackbird.
As I gaze up at the towering Toltec heroes with their stony stare, it's hard not to liken their cool determination to that of Las Marias. In a society where male machismo pervades and dominates, these biker girls stand tall.
Rapidly losing interest in the pyramids and their unblinking proprietors, Savage slinks off in search of some pulque, a gloopy tipple made from fermented agave plants that was drunk ceremonially in pre-Hispanic Mexico. She reappears soon after with a sun-bleached two-litre Coca-Cola bottle half-filled with what looks and tastes a bit like a banana smoothie that has gone off - something for the ride home.
There is something poignant about the pride and enjoyment that Las Marias take from their Mexican culture, especially as they are simultaneously protesting against the traditional social norms that culture embraces.
As we roar back into Mexico City, the exhaust reverberates in deafening crescendos through concrete tunnels. I think about the tattoo Blackbird has etched on her forearm - an ouroboros, an ancient symbol of a snake biting its tail that refers to the humbling cycle of time. The hands of time keep turning, so you might as well live fast.