When Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach finished putting together the first motorcycle back in 1885 they didn’t have women riders in mind. So, if they could time travel forward 133 years, what do you think they’d say when they discovered that 20% of their invention’s owners are women? That’s what the Motorcycle Industry Council found out when they surveyed 2,472 adult riders in 2018 and discovered that one out of every five had checked the female box.
For most of the past 100 years or more, the picture that comes to mind (if females are included at all), is that of a male on the seat, manning the controls. Yes, the pun is intended, while a female rides behind him, her only source of control, arms wrapped around his waist, or for those, a bit braver, merely holding on to the side rails. Well, this picture needs updating. At least that’s what can be inferred from an article in Cycle World that further broke down the survey data and found that 22% of Generation X motorcycle owners were women and even more from the upcoming Generation Y – 26%.
And if the complexion of the riders in that mind’s eye picture is white, that needs to be updated as well. Conde Nast Traveler magazine published a further breakdown of the figures and found that 41% of Latinx owners and 53% of Black owners are female, and it should be pointed out that the last figure definitely tips the ratio towards females rising.
Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the number of males may be declining as more and more Baby Boomer men and their elders in the Silent Generation reluctantly leave riding behind.
A Matter of Autonomy, Freedom, Camaraderie, and Peace
There’s no one reason why women are venturing into riding. Some who’ve been on the back of the bike for years feel they can do as well if not better than the males hogging the seat. Some even say they’ve learned from his mistakes and feel safer on their own bikes. And some mothers feel that being on their bikes is not only a break from household chores, but the only place where their time is purely their own. Others note how many women bikers they see everywhere and decide why not me? When their friends see them, the contagion spreads and soon, Sunday afternoons are devoted to group runs. As this becomes more and more commonplace, some even go on to form motorcycle groups or join one of the many existing women’s motorcycle clubs.
A Bike of Their Own
Motorcycle manufacturers are not only taking note of the increasing number of women riders, they’re listening to them when they say they’re in the market for a bike that suits their stature yet delivers decent horsepower. They may not have as much upper body strength as their male counterparts, but that doesn’t mean they want to rein in the horsepower. In response, most of the big names in motorcycles are putting out bikes that are lower to the ground, have narrower gas tanks, and a lower center of gravity. And since women also have varied tastes in the type of riding they do, they now have a better choice of not only cruisers, but sport bikes as well.
A Club of Their Own
Although the face of motorcycling has changed, not every men’s motorcycle club (MC) got the memo, especially those known as 3-patch outlaw clubs. These traditional men’s motorcycle clubs may allow women to party with them or join their auxiliary clubs, but they do not allow them to become full-fledged members. Well, today’s women motorcyclists are saying thanks, but no thanks. Instead, they are joining one of the many women’s motorcycle clubs that are forming all over the country.
Bad News/Good News
More than one motorcycle injury attorney can tell you that with women making up an ever-increasing percentage of riders on the road, it only stands to reason that more would be involved in road accidents. But when you break down the numbers statistics show that while the incidents of women passengers involved in accidents remain alarmingly high, the number goes down when women are at the controls. The reason for this is that most women prefer to know what they’re capable of before venturing onto the road, and so they are more likely to take on-hand on-the-road driving courses such as the ones offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.