So where do you, a fellow female motorcyclist, kick-start your interest if you’re toying with the idea of jumping in the saddle? How do you go about sourcing the right person to help improve your confidence on the blacktop, or teach you to take the reins and wield your trusty steed off-road? You might just fancy widening your social circle of riding companions, making some fast friends if not lifelong ones along the way. The strapline isn’t ‘You meet the nicest people on a Honda’ for nothing.
By no means exhaustive, the following resources have been collated to provide the content and tools to connect with women riders, and thanks to the spirited movement of motivational ladies already out there, will help to spotlight the way in showing you how achievable it is in taking charge of your own handlebars. As well, if desired—to become the best version of you astride two wheels. ¿Cómo no?
Lisa Morris in the ragged peaks of the Andes. Image by Jason Spafford.
Bridging the gender gap
It’s 2016 yet there’s still a gender gap between the sexes in the motorcycle industry, where all things moto are predominantly marketed at those with XY chromosomes. In today’s information-laden world, we’re constantly bombarded in our newsfeeds with the ‘must haves’ and ‘must dos’ from: the best clothing riders should don, the sturdiest gear to adorn the latest bike on which to ride the world’s most alluring hotspots. Coupled with that, it quite often errs towards the male point of view. Which for the guys is superb. However, what about us ladies: just how much of a gender gap have we yet to bridge?
According to the 2012 Statistics Annual by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC)—the industry trade group that tracks the number of females in motorcycling—women made up just shy of a quarter of the US rider population. That’s an impressive 35 per cent increase from 2003 making women the fastest growing demographic in the industry. Moreover, female motorcyclist numbers continue in a realm that year on year, is increasingly healthy (detailed figures reported here). Especially over the last ten years, which have been revolutionary in terms of redressing the balance within the two-wheel community.
“Women continue to embrace motorcycling like never before,” said Sarah Schilke, National Marketing Manager of BMW Motorrad USA and chair of PowerLily, a group consisting of female motorcycle industry professionals. “Of the 9.2 million motorcycle owners, more of them are women than we’ve ever recorded. In fact, the number of female owners more than doubled from 2003 to 2014.” Which drives home to folks that we are finally getting out of our own stereotypes and gaining serious momentum. Any preconceived notion of a sexual apartheid has long been discarded among today’s well-informed riders.
Image by Jason Spafford.
In the saddle, we don’t have a “handicap” or “special needs”, we simply want a suit that fits and functions as standard, and the freedom to be fairly well catered for—where comfort and cut shouldn’t be compromised for performance. Foremost—and no offence intended to anyone that can pull off the pink—without strong connotations of princess, bedazzled sequin or sparkle. The token gesture to women’s gear by taking the men’s equivalent and featuring it in a girly fashion.
Although equal to any male rider out there, women still remain the minority in a male-dominated sport—whether we’re proactive about changing that or not. Inevitably, we are privy to less resources and riding wear specifically geared towards women. Moreover, because it’s still a numbers game, that includes the channels to connect with female riders doing a phenomenal job in inspiring more women into local, national and global communities. Namely making women more visible within the motorcycling arena.
Image by Jason Spafford.
Inspirational books and DVDs
Read the personal stories of these inspirationeering women riders, of motorcycle culture, as they chronicle their two-wheel adventures. A diverse mix of unputdownable page-turners; insightful narratives by self-effacing authors who are hilarious as much as they’re honest. As seen from female eyes, some tales are heartening, uplifting and moving. All are encouraging and impassioned. It won’t take long before you notice a common thread running through the offering: you’re left feeling ‘Yes, I could ride my own bike’. Head and heart given to the road, these women will captivate your soul, compel you to take stock and embrace life before it passes you by.
- Achievable Dream – Motorcycle Adventure Travel Guide, Ladies on the Loose DVD
- A Ride In The Sun – Gasoline Gypsy – Peggy Iris Thomas
- A Short Ride in the Jungle: The Ho Chi Minh Trail by Motorcycle – Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent
- American Borders: A solo circumnavigation of the United States on a Russian sidecar motorcycle
- Beads in the Headlight | A Flying Aga tale – Isabel Dyson
- Bikerlady: Living and Riding Free! – Sasha Mullins
- Bonneville Go or Bust: On the Roads Less Travelled – Zoë Cano
- Breaking the Limit: One Woman’s Motorcycle Journey Through North America – Karen Larsen
- Chaos in Harmony: A Motorcycle Journey Through Latin America – Alison Delapp
- Circle to Circle: A Journey Through the Americas and Beyond – Shirley Hardy-Rix
- Dream Rider: Roadmap to an Adventurous Life – Rosemary Carstens
- Growing Up Harley-Davidson: Memoirs of a Motorcycle Dynasty – Jean Davidson
- Hear Me Roar: Women, Motorcycles and the Rapture of the Road, New Ed. – Ann Ferrar
- How Far is North?: A Solo Motorcycle Adventure to Alaska – Alison Delapp
- Lois on the Loose – Lois Pryce
- Planet Earth’s Greatest Motorcycle Adventure Tours – Colette Coleman
- Rebels With a Cause: We Ride the Harley – Gail DeMarco and R.W. “Reg” Kittrelle
- Red Tape and White Knuckles – Lois Pryce
- Rugged Road – Theresa Wallach (A 1930s trans-Africa trip by two British women.)
- Savvy Guide to Motorcycles – Shirley Duglin Kennedy
- The American Motorcycle Girls: A Photographic History Of Early Women Motorcyclists – Cristine Sommer Simmons
- The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle: Life Lessons on the Road to Alaska – Diana Bletter
- The Perfect Vehicle: What is it about motorcycles? – Melissa Holbrook Pierson
- Tips for Traveling Overland in Latin America – Michelle Lamphere
- Touching the World: A Blind Woman, Two Wheels and 25,000 Miles – Cathy Birchall, Bernard Smith
- Two for the Road – Shirley Hardy-Rix
- Women and Motorcycling – The Early Years – Susie Hollern
- Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment: Fifty Inspirational Stories of Adventure
- and Self-Discovery – Liz Jansen
More noteworthy books and DVDs, courtesy of Women Riders Now.
Motorcycle-oriented travel blogs and personas
There is something in this selection for practically everyone: showcasing a stirring array of female motorcyclists spanning all age groups, race and ethnic background on a broad spectrum of wheels—cruisers, dirt bikes, dual sports, mopeds, motorcycles with sidecars, scooters, sport bikes, tourers and trials bikes etc. They have undertaken, or are still on jaw-on-the-floor journeys of all durations and destinations. Myriad miles of firsthand experience lies within; I defy you not to daydream of travel and visualize yourself following suit after reading a handful of these:
- Ants Bolingbroke-Kent, The Itinerant
Kinga Tanajewska, On her bike
- Lillian Hobbs, Touring Biker
- Lisa Morris (me), Two Wheeled Nomad
- Lorraine Chittock, photographer and film maker
- Madeleine Velázquez, Miss Rider
- Melodi Barker, 2 Wheels 2 Live
- Michelle Morgan, The Female Nomad
- Michelle, Sturgis Chick
- Rachael, Fuzzy Galore
- Sharon Faith, Moto Maven Life
- Steph Jeavons, One Steph Beyond
An assortment of multimedia resources about women and the art of motorcycling
Included here is some of the most forward thinking, respected and trusted champions—authorities on the women rider segment of the motorcycling industry worldwide. Highlighting a wealth of material from an abundance of pre-eminent women; let’s ensure that their achievements, offerings and services are not under-publicised or lost in the ether. If this group can’t fulfill your expectations of a role model for the new and aspiring riders of today and tomorrow, then no one will.
- Beginners guide to getting into motorcycling
- Bessie Springfield “The first African-American woman to ride a motorcycle solo across the United States…cross-country eight different times in the 1930s and 1940s.”
- Big girls on big bikes and the roaring relationships of women on wheels
- Black Girls Ride magazine “Black Girls Ride is not an exclusive racial statement, rather it’s an inclusive celebration of all women who live to ride. It’s the positive, fearless, unapologetic, take charge attitude we exhibit on these machines, as we navigate the streets of our respective cities. We live the urban biker lifestyle, we work in board rooms and classrooms across the nation, and we find joy on the open road.”
- BMW GS Girls “It’s all about the girls and GS motorcycles. A page where we celebrate our passion for riding, for adventure, community, and for our BMW GS Motorcycles.”
- Dirty Girls ADV “Women motorcycle riders exploring dirt bike, dual sport, off road, street and track adventures, motorcycle training, travel & connecting with riding groups.”
- Elspeth Beard The first British woman to go round the world in the 1980s.
- Global Motorcycle Adventures of Women Riders A fantastic resource for all things women and motorcycling.
- Global Women Who Ride “An exciting project that aims to profile at least one woman motorcyclist every country on the planet—collectively undertaking all types of biking, not just adventure riding.”
- Horizons Unlimited – Pertinent women’s topics among one of the premier sources for information on motorcycle and overland adventure travel since 1997. “For questions which are specific to women, including travel-related challenges to do with menstruation, contraception, she-wees, pros and cons of riding pillion, women travelling solo, safety concerns, etc..”
- International Sisterhood of Adventure Riders (Women Only) A group of comradely women riders coming together to share in their passion for motorcycling.
- Motoress “Women and motorcycling, racing or otherwise, there’s much to be said…MOTORESS® is the
- only on-line women’s motorcycle magazine of its kind devoted to women motorcycle enthusiasts of all ages and styles. We deliver an insider’s guide to a woman rider’s total motorsport lifestyle and expression!”
- New rider tips
- PowerLily “A professional network for women in powersports, founded in 2009 to offer support in times. The group includes women of diverse backgrounds and experience who support each other with connections, insights, promotions and other help. Our mission is to foster professional growth and personal empowerment among women in powersports by sharing resources and opportunities.”
- Rowan Public Affairs, Barbara Alam, a motorcyclist and director who engages in specialised public policy and communications that focus on issues in the motorcycling sector, working with the full spectrum of stake groups across the motorcycling community to protect and promote all motorcycling.
- SheADV A resource to inspire, share, and help women pursue their motorcycle travel dreams.
- The Moto Lady Created by Alicia Mariah Elfving as a way to “encourage current and aspiring women riders and replace the bad reputation the sport / hobby has racked up over the years with a positive sense of community…Those who appreciate women riders can find a massive amount of media here for daily distraction, education, and inspiration. Real women who ride, motorcycles in art, design and marketing, motorcycle fashion, gear reviews, industry news, one of a kind articles and features, and submissions are a few of the things covered.”
- Torch Motorcycles “A community of female riders, builders, designers, community leaders, artists, entrepreneurs, inventors, makers and collaborators who design and build new cafe racer bikes, components, and apparel for women, while promoting safety and building community.”
- The woman steering Harley-Davidson into new territory news article
- Why we ride Regardless of gender: “Inspire. Educate. Celebrate.”
- Women’s International Motorcycle Association (Great Britain) “Regional meets and events in the UK, annual rally in the UK, annual rally in a different European country, intercontinental rallies in Asia/Australasia, a network of contacts for when you travel and regular updates/events via newsletter and website…Motorcycling Lifestyle, For Women, and Men Who Ride With Women.”
- Women Adventure Riders Connect with yet more amazing women riders within this first-rate resource.
- Women’s International Motorcycling Association (WIMA) A well-informed platform for contacts, networking with ladies around the world.
- Women Motorcyclist “Whether you ride on your own, ride as a passenger or simply enjoy the motorcycle lifestyle; this website is dedicated to sharing the passion of motorcycles and the freedom of the open road.”
- Profiles of some out there doing it: Women Riders Now
- Women Riding Dual Sports If dual sports bikes are your bag, get connected to this gregarious group of women with the same love in life.
- Women’s Moto Exhibit “The Women’s Motorcycle Exhibition was created to document the new wave of modern female motorcyclists…that live to ride…It hopes to help discover and present female riders from all different communities, riding backgrounds, styles, and influence connectivity among riders from these different areas…The show hopes to promote and present, the freedom, independence, excitement and personalities’ of “the born to be free” woman motorcyclists.”
- Women Who Ride Rock!!!Women-only motorcycle touring and events
- H-C Travel “We offer motorcycle tours and motorcycle hire on all 5 continents, and whatever your experience, whatever you want, and whatever your budget, we have something for you. From riding Route 66 on a Harley, climbing the highest pass in the Himalayas on an Enfield, off roading in Morocco, and adventure tours in Chile to and the sublime road riding in New Zealand, we do it all, and a lot more besides…”
- Moksha Jetley’s Back ‘N’ Beyond – India Motor Biking Tours “Join us in our expeditions into the lush green, high and desert mountains. The Western Himalaya is a region full of diverse cultural lifestyles and a wide variety of wild life and spectacular landscapes.”
- Tiffany’s Travels Tiffany is possibly the world’s foremost solo female bike adventurer with her travels including Australia, Timbuktu, East Africa, northern Alaska, Labrador, Tierra Del Fuego, the Silk Road, Siberia, Madagascar and Outer Mongolia. “I’m employed as an international freelance motorcycle guide. If you’re feeling inspired, you too could join me in an adventure, check out the GlobeBusters selection of tours amongst others. In June 2016 I’ll be leading another women only tour in India. Ladies in Ladakh will be an opportunity of a lifetime to explore this beautiful Himalayan region on Royal Enfield bikes.”
- Women’s Motorcycle Tours “Come motorcycle riding with us and have the ride of your life. We offer small groups, interesting scenery, fun places to explore and the best riding we can find in each area. Led by highly experienced tour guides all of whom have ridden hundreds of thousands of miles on two wheels.”
- More touring and adventure and calendar of events across the US and worldwide detailed at Women Riders Now.
National and International Women’s Motorcycle Clubs
An extensive list of local, national and international motorcycle clubs provided by Women Riders Now and Bikers Mag. Neither make recommendations on the clubs or groups listed and advise to use discretion when meeting up for the first time with riders you don’t know. Organisations span the US, Canada, England, India and Australia.
Instructor Jenny Huntley from Simon Pavey’s Off Road Skills Motorcycle Training School, Wales
Targeted motorcycle training for women
As an advocate that it is advantageous to participate in some additional training after getting your ticket to ride—be that on the blacktop to improve your safety through traffic and confidence. And, or on a designated course that is held off road to ascertain a whole new skill set and competence you might never have thought possible on uneven terrain. Both can open up a whole new world.
And as someone that’s a far cry from being a natural rider—and helmet off to you if you are one of those individuals that learn heuristically—by self-discovery—I spent two intensive days engrossed in a basic off road skills course prior to riding the Americas. Chiefly because I didn’t wish to feel altogether inadequate in front of my partner, who had two decades of riding experience on me.
Pretty much clueless with regards to throwing my motorcycle around on anything but the smooth stuff, my dual objective was to increase my chances of coping on the rough roads ahead of me, and doing it without constantly holding my riding partner back. It was the best $600 USD I’d ever spent, and that’s as big an accolade I can give any motorcycle-related endeavour. Although my nickname still remains “Captain Slow”—my ‘marvellous other’ will eat my dust one day.
Image credit: Jason Spafford
Single-sex or mixed group training
There are two schools of thought around women-only motorcycle training. If the idea of entering a mixed group of trainees doesn’t sit comfortably, then go female-only. It can sometimes feel less intimidating in same-sex classes; the absence of any bravado may keep tendencies towards the gung-ho approach at bay. Although I’m not suggesting that would always or necessarily happen in the presence of men. However, an environment free of males might be one less thing to think about. Rather, keep you better focused on learning, assimilating and then executing the new skills and techniques in the relative comfort of your fellow female peers. Remember that taking a leap of faith will stand you in good stead although be patient with yourself, which might be the hardest part of the whole course.
Personally, I took advice from a woman owner of the training school I chose, and opted for the mixed group training with a woman instructor. Was it the right choice? For me, yes. As the weakest link in my class of two women and three men, I bonded well with a chap who consistently waited for me on the trail riding aspect. He ensured I wasn’t left behind or feeling dispirited at the back. Furthermore, there were no incidents of the ‘domino effect’ where one trainee claims that they can’t undertake an exercise because it looks too challenging, which can sometimes create a culture of fear and instill the same ‘can’t do’ attitude among same-sex students.
“I am woman, hear me roar” might be overdoing it, although hitting the loose gravel on Ruta 40 in Argentina wasn’t half as scary because of the training I’d undertaken. Nor was it miles outside of my comfort zone or stressful as I’d anticipated, thanks to the incremental learning received, my instructor’s flair for knowing exactly when and how hard to push me, intuitively mingled with a considered amount of encouragement from her. Utterly indebted to my teacher for the rich and rewarding experience, it paved the way for the gloriously rugged trails ahead of me, and as an unexpected bonus, noticeably enhanced my road riding to boot.
Schools around the globe offering women-only training
You’ll learn skills such as: techniques in sand, gravel, mud and water, riding on corrugations and in ruts, learning hill momentum and corner hairpin bends, body positioning for off-road riding, controlling the clutch, throttle and brakes, weight-shifting techniques for steering and counter-steering the bike, balance techniques, obstacle avoidance, intentional front and rear wheel skids, hill climbing and descents, how to recover from a stall on a steep hill, picking your bike up solo (ask about the ‘monkey lift’ when there’s two of you), and how to turn around a fully loaded bike on a steep hill. If there’s anything you really want to master, be forthcoming about that before you begin.
- BMW Off Road Skills Motorcycle Training, Wales, UK.
- EPM Experience, Surrey and Hampshire, UK.
- Edelweiss Bike Travel, Worldwide.
- Jimmy Lewis Off-Road Riding School, Nevada, USA.
- RawHide Adventure Motorcycle Training, California, USA.
Image credit: Jason Spafford
Apparel and footwear
No longer does the myth surround women’s existence in the world of riding, although it did for decades, which consequently impinged upon any true product innovation towards riding gear designed by and aimed at women. Fortunately, strong headway has been made in recognition of making decent provisions for ladies astride their motorcycles, the more apparent we become.
Compared to even ten years ago, the offering of women’s motorcycle gear has improved in leaps and bounds. However, which companies genuinely do justice in customising apparel and footwear for the female form? My biggest complaint when it comes to motorcycle apparel isn’t so much the range of gear on offer or what colours they are—although it is refreshing when there are options other than bubblegum pink without the words “biker chick” written in a swirly font type on the garment. No, it’s actually finding something that fits well.
Pants are commonly too long and don’t always accommodate the reality that women are shorter than men on average. The fit for jackets can be troublesome too, as often times the manufacturer presents a jacket as womenswear just because they sell it in smaller sizes, not factoring in the difference in circumference of the chest for instance.
So where should we look to find something that isn’t loose and baggy? The demand for riding gear that articulates well on the motorcycle shouldn’t be a tall ask. Nor should a suit that steps up when the weather changes: keeping us warm and dry, or cool and ventilated. Not to mention protective as aggressively as the menswear. After all, that’s the industry standard for the guys.
Image credit: Jason Spafford
A-Z of women-specific brands
A directory to get you started—precise but adjustable fits, suiting women from almost every riding discipline, a variation of budgets, body shapes and personal preferences.
- Allstate Leather, Inc.
- Alpine Stars
- British Motorcycle Gear
- Bull-it Jeans
- Daytona motorcycle boots
- Fable Riders
- Forma Boots USA
- Gear Chic
- GoGo Gear
- Gravitate Jeans
- Gyde Supply (Formerly Gerbing)
- Halvarssons UK and US
- Harley Davidson
- Hein Gericke
- Held USA
- Joe Rocket
- Klim USA and UK
- Olympia Moto Sports
- Planet KNOX
- Racer Gloves
- River Road
- Roland Sands Design
- RS Taichi
- Safer Moto
- Scorpion EXO
- Sidi Sport USA and UK
- TCX Boots
- Teiz Motorsports
- Tour Master
- Triumph UK and US apparel
- Vanson Leathers
If your bank account isn’t up to a splurge on brand new gear, why not look to find out if an online riding community, your local motorcycle club, eBay or equivalent eCommerce company has what you’re looking for. But before you do: try on, ride in and sample as much gear as you can. You’ll soon know when it looks and feels right, and ultimately, does what it’s supposed to.
The above material has been collated to make a few inroads into any unanswered questions or queries you may have from the female biking perspective. If there is anything you wish to add or ask, thank you for leaving your valuable comment below. It might just encourage a fellow woman to join, better engage in or trail-blaze her own path through the world of two-wheel enlightenment.
Personal thanks goes to each and everyone of you that contributed to the piece, every last detail of information received was insightful as much as valuable. And your images are testament to just how amazing female motorcyclists out there really are. Collectively, you’ve constructed a vehicle that promotes the real perception of women riders today, which I hope taps into the need for independence, spirit for living and sense of liberation through motorcycling. I really do.
Carol Ann Duval