Saturday, December 8, 2007

Women on Motorcycles

I was reading some of the posts about women riders in a motorcycle forum the other day and it annoyed me that most of the men posting on the site talked about taking care of their wife or girlfriend, slowing down to a pace she can handle, being so proud of her when she falls, gets up, and keeps riding... If it were one of the guys, of course they'd expect him to get back on. So what is so different about women riders? I think a lot of it goes back to stereotypes from another generation. Women stay home and wear pretty dresses and high heels while they vacuum, then they sit in a bathtub and paint their toe nails pink. They climb on a chair and scream for help from their big strong man when they see a spider. Sorry, but I've never lived in that world, and I have no intention of living in that world. I may have painted toe nails, but I also haul out the garbage, change my own oil on my bike, and step on my own spiders. Real women riders are a lot more than eye candy on the back of their boyfriend's bike, or cute beginners putt-putting around the neighborhood. There are a lot of women who have been riding for years, longer than a lot of guys on the road.

As a kid I raced the neighbor boys on the dirt track on the front of our lots. I'll admit when we first started the guys pushed the envelope harder than I did. But with a little practice I was beating them at their own game. They may have had more raw speed, but I had more finesse. I think a lot of times guys get so caught up in the testosterone rush of twisting the throttle that they forget there is more to good riding than who goes fastest. Intelligence should be right up there in respected riding skills. I love to ride fast, but I also respect the dangers that come with increased speed. So when a guy smiles at me condescendingly because he passed me on the road somewhere I can look him straight in the eye and smile back with my own smirk. I know I could ride faster in the curves along Turnagain Arm, but I also know that tourists, Dahl Sheep, and rock slides sometimes block lanes right in those blind corners. My choice of speed on the road is not lack of ability, it's lack of stupidity. The same could be said for a lot of women riders. Their intelligence outweighs their adrenaline seeking.

That's not to say women don't like challenging riding. There are women who have ridden all over the world, by themselves, just because they wanted to. There are women like me, who come alive when we see a muddy, pothole filled, back road. There are women like Patsy Quick from England who completed the 5,600 mile Dakar Rally in 2006, coming back from a ruptured spleen from her attempt in 2003. There are women like Elena Myers, still just a kid without a driver's license, but already one of the best up and coming road racers in the United States.

Harley Davidson says about 12% of its 2007 sales were to women. They say they are wooing women riders with "less intimidating" bikes. How about if all motorcycle manufactures get the picture that some women may need a shorter bike, but don't worry about scaring us with all your horsepower. We can handle it, probably more intelligently than a lot of the men you're selling to. And as more women shake off the stereotype that only Hell's Angel type women ride motorcycles, it is the sexist and macho guys who can start feeling intimidated. We're in the motorcycle world already and more of us are coming, so stand back and keep out of our way!


KCDakar said...

Well Said!

LS said...

Get over yourself. Of course women can do anything a man can do if they want to and especially after doing it for any length if time. The guys that post comments about being proud are probably the guys who got their girlfriends to fall in love with a sport they otherwise would have never attempted.

It took me months to convince a girl I dated to try off road riding, and only a few weeks to teach her. I even bought her a bike, how dare I have more disposable income at the time.

That girl and I are no longer together, but we keep in touch, and I'm pleased to say that she still rides today. She is grateful that I introduced her to a sport she loves and I am proud of her for sticking with it.

JenP said...

I am tired of being told my 750 is a less intimidating bike. Intimidating? It's better of fuel. If I wanted to have some honking thing and waste gas I would get a hog and be a hog person. I don't think any bike is intimidating.