Watson On: Female Riders

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Watson On: Female Riders

At the end of last year there was a survey published about women and motorcycles that didn’t say very much except women who rode felt much better about themselves, were twice as happier with their lives and overall felt sexier.

It was the sort of survey that made me roll my eyes as it told me absolutely nothing that I wanted, or even needed to know, and was directly linked to a motorcycle manufacturer that had paid good money to sponsor this research ultimately with the aim of enticing women to buy their motorcycles.

However, what the survey did do was make me curious enough to seek out about what was happening to U.S. women motorcyclists and if they were still largely being ignored by the motorcycle industry.

After a bit of digging, what I finally came up with were some astonishing numbers published by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC). A national trade association that, amongst a multitude of other things, specifically tracks motorcycle riders demographics in the U.S.

According to the MIC’s findings, up until 2012 of the 27 million people that ride motorcycles in this country more than a quarter (or seven million of them) are women. That’s a huge number, which according to my limited calculations means that one in four riders on U.S. roads is very likely to be a woman.

Not only is that a big number, but also it would seem that women riders are also the one area of the market that’s actually growing year on year. All of the MIC numbers are based on motorcycles sold to end users, so this is not subjective findings or someone in a back room guessing, but simple hard facts. More women than ever before are buying motorcycles.

But, even more surprising to me was that the MIC numbers revealed the number of female riders increased by 35 per cent between 2003 and 2012, with more than 40 per cent of them purchasing a cruiser type bike. The MIC numbers don’t split down the remaining the 60% but if they did I have a feeling that the biggest proportion would be sport bikes purchases and between 2009 and 2012 bike ownership amongst women went up by 20%. What exactly happened in those years and why was there this sudden increase?

So what business do I have by being surprised by all of this? I’ve seen a fair number of female riders on the roads but I had no idea that women are buying more and more motorcycles than ever before. But hang on a minute, why? What has happened in recent years to make women rush out and buy bikes? For so long women have been often ignored by this industry, talked down to and not expected to go anywhere near a motorcycle unless it was on the pillion seat.

Yet now they are the fastest growing sector in the motorcycle market. I can’t think of any new type of bikes being made specifically aimed at women. Instead they’re shelling out money for every kind of motorcycle from cruiser to sport bike that we as guys like to ride. What precisely is going on here? I really don’t know.

Back to last year’s subjective survey on women motorcyclists if you’re still interested. The study, conducted by global insights firm Kelton and commissioned by an American motorcycle company (I’m not going to name them but I’m sure you can work it out) interviewed 1,013 adult female riders and 1,016 adult female non-riders.

Apparently the findings suggested that riding a motorcycle greatly improves a woman’s feelings of overall self-worth. Key ‘insights’ were apparently:

More than twice as many always feel happy (37 percent of riders vs. 16 percent of non-riders); Nearly four times as many always feel sexy (27 percent of riders vs. 7 percent of non-riders); Nearly twice as many always feel confident (35 percent of riders vs. 18 percent of non-riders); and more than half (53 percent) of women who ride cite their motorcycle as a key source of happiness and nearly three in four (74 percent) believe their lives have improved since they started riding.

What none of this marketing speak tells me, or you for that matter, is why women have started to take up motorcycle riding in such big numbers. On the face of it this is terrific news for all of us that are passionate about bikes, but can anyone tell me why and how this all started?

  • Harve Mil

    Why don’t they ask me if I feel sexy?

    • CB

      We all just assume.

      • zedro

        I’m sexy and I know it (I work out!)

        • Sebastian Koch

          I play hockey :P

    • Stuki

      My first thought upon reading that “4 times as many women” feel more “sexy”, and that this is somehow important; because of their choice of means-of-transportation; was that there is either something fundamentally wrong with women, or with those that market to them :)

      • Heather McCoy

        THANK YOU!

  • CB

    My girlfriend is interested in riding with me, so when I look for gear and bikes I keep her in mind. But the industry and a lot of riders seem to have a strong idea of what’s “for girls” and it’s really aggravating. Need a bike for a girl? Anything under 500cc with lots of auto features. Looking for a jacket for a girl, just bring it in at the waist and slap some pink on it. Her first bike will be the bike I’m riding now, because she likes it. The second bike we buy will also be one we both like, so we can swap while we’re riding. Her gear needs to meet the same standard that mine does, the only difference should be the fit. And just like there’s no universal men’s fit, you can’t just change the colour of a jacket and make it a rough hourglass shape and call it the women’s version. I’m glad that there is a trend towards more female riders so I can go riding with my girlfriend and she can be as safe and comfortable as I am. I’m hoping soon there won’t be men’s gear and women’s gear, men’s bikes and woman’s bikes, just gear and bikes that suit different rider’s styles and body shapes.

    • Zanpa

      Male and female body shapes very rarely overlap.

      • CB

        Especially in my personal life. *rim shot*

        I was more referring to styling and feature sets. I think the body shapes are the most important thing that they should keep in mind. I find in a lot of cases that manufacturer just make a vague hour glass-ish shape and call it a woman’s fit.

    • Blixa

      Check out Rev’it and Dainese for ladies riding gear. I’ve had good experiences with those brands.

      • CB

        Rev’it, especially! I’ve heard good things about their women’s sizing.

        • Sam Bendall

          Rev’it makes excellent women’s gear. As does Dianese.

  • Scott Saunders

    “37 percent of riders vs. 16 percent of non-riders” feel happy? That is horrible! We need to forget about the stock market and get these numbers up.

    • Stuki

      Just get rid of ridiculous lane splitting bans, and the first number will skyrocket across every (sub)urban traffic jammed metro across the entire country. As for the second….. who cares? If you’re silly enough to lock yourself into a cage just to drag yourself from A to B, you really have noone but yourself to thank for your misery :)

  • Jimmy Cloak

    “I can’t think of any new type of bikes being made specifically aimed at women.”
    Probably for the best. By and large, the industry markets to women with pinks & florals rather than discerning design.

    • Phil Mills

      So true. It seems like they give it the most half-hearted yet intensely pandering effort that they can.

      A couple of years ago I took my wife out to a couple shops to get her outfitted with riding gear and ran into a couple of intrinsic issues:
      1) The women’s gear was inherently lower quality than the men’s stuff.
      2) Most vendors assume that women all have the same shape and that shape is “110-lb twig”.
      2a) If not “twig”, then “Diva”, which is about as insulting a label as you’re gonna get.
      3) Women’s gear must be pink, purple or black with flowers and swirls and crap.
      4) There is NO excuse for “low-rise” riding pants. WTF are you thinking? Sunburned crack is fun?

      Vendors/Manufacturers: if you’re going to take women seriously, you must admit that they come in different shapes and that the normal shape variance (hips/waist, for instance) is far greater on women than on men.

      • Red Spade

        thank you! couldn’t have said it better myself.

        As an advocate of atgatt I’ve found it incredibly hard to find exceptional quality gear with all the features i want and need in my size. after ridiculous hours of searching the internet i came to find out that it simply does NOT exist. Dainese came the closest to my needs but still lacked perforated leather and apparently even tho they offer something you can’t buy it anywhere on this planet. : after talking to several reps they said that there just aren’t enough women that care to gear up for them to make enough product. so sad and it really pissed me off.

        and if i see one more pink swirly design i’m going to puke.

        • wjung88

          I don’t know, as a lady rider, I’ve been able to find ATGATT gear that works for me. Ya the selection isn’t great, but I’ve found that Icon and Rev’it to have some good stuff. My overall look has become plain black textile, so nothing fancy, but it all fits my form very well. I will admit that I do feel lucky to be 5’8″, 150lbs, and without huge boobs, so I’ve never found sizing to be much of an issue.

          I was at Cycle Gear just the other day and saw a couple trying to pick out riding gear. The guy asked where all the pink stuff was and they both seemed disappointed that there wasn’t more pink in the store. It was obvious that she was just riding on the back of his bike, and I was glad she was trying to be safe and suit up, but the exchange made me want to vomit. I think the industry is trying to bring more options for women and it seems like websites like Revzilla are trying to offer as much as possible.

        • AFL

          I wonder how many women buy men’s gear instead because there aren’t any good women’s options, thus making it look like there is no market for women’s gear. I buy mens work pants and work boots all the time because there are no good women’s options in the sizes, styles, or colors I need.

        • Piglet2010
          • Afonso Mata

            The answer is always Miata…

            • Piglet2010

              Only for cagers. For motorcyclists, the answer is always Ninja 250R (yep, that is my track bike).

              • Afonso Mata

                I meant that when it comes to motorcycle gear, The Aerostich Roadcrafter is always the answer

                • Piglet2010

                  Works for me!

        • Jonathan Berndt

          have you tried Vanson? theyll even make their stuff to fit. its expensive but will last forever and it right here in New Bedford MA.
          i had a jacket since 99

      • atomicalex

        This. There are three shapes of women – apple, pear, and hourglass, and they don’t share much in common. Thankfully I travel a lot to Germany, where they get that and you can get all different kinds of gear in all different shapes. I wouldn’t mind pink if it was fully functional, heck, I had my leathers made in white/pink for fun. Shout out to Dave at Spartan for getting the Ladies’ thing right – all made to measure and prices are very reasonable.

        But really. Ladies gear needs to be functional first. I could see having dedicated pillion gear, though. Keep us riders in our black/grey/highvis, and still make some funky/cutesy stuff for those who prefer to sit in back. No shame in liking that.

        I ride a “girl” bike. You’d never know it, but its manufacturer actually did design it with the specific goal of being female-friendly. It never came in pink or had a girlie name though.

        • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

          Yellow, brown/earthtones, purple, and red are girl’s colors. Blue, silver, and white are guy colors. Black, green, and orange aren’t really favored by a particular gender. Thats from a study i read ages ago, and what’s interesting is it correlates with men having a higher probability of being colorblind while women can possibly be even tetrachromats—In other words the colors people prefer are the ones they can identify more shades of. “Pink” is a stereotypical cultural thing, so i don’t think it’s a sales driving color.

      • Stuki

        “…normal shape variance (hips/waist, for instance) is far greater on women than on men.”

        Which makes economies of scale from mass production all that much harder to achieve for women. Add this to the smaller number of women who ride, and to women’s generally greater obsession with secondary traits like color, and you’ll end up selling either one or none of every item stocked. While for guys, if you offer 6 different sizes, with adjustable waistbands, in black, you pretty much cover the market amongst those who are content with 80% of ideal.

        Which means; for women, even more than for men, the trick is to plan far enough ahead to order garments made to measure. Vanson will do women’s sizes and shapes in pretty much any color known to man. As will most other custom makers. It will likely take a few months between ordering and getting; and another few months of saving up to be able to afford the stuff; but unless women either “man up” and stop insisting on growing all manners of differently sized and shaped protrusions, or are happy to ride around in the equivalent of armored, unishape Burqas ( that’d be Aerostich :) ), I really cannot see how they can all expect to get exactly what they want.

        • Piglet2010

          Women just need to stop caring about how they look, and learn to enjoy the practicality and comfort of a Roadcrafter.

          • Nemosufu Namecheck

            Definitely

          • Heather McCoy

            Dude(s)…and then monkeys will fly out my butt. Ask for the moon, why doncha?!!

          • atomicalex

            I don’t fit in a Roadcrafter. At all. :-(

            • Piglet2010

              Huh? Aerostich will alter a Roadcrafter to fit pretty much any humanoid.

              • atomicalex

                I would love to, but I have the outlier body that just doesn’t play nice with US fit models. I’d gladly pay for MTM in a Roadcrafter, but they don’t do that, so no love. :-(
                Women’s gear is a huge scale and logistics issue, and one that won’t go away any time soon.

            • Nemosufu Namecheck

              Oh no! TO THE STICH CAVE! There must be a way!

              • Piglet2010

                My Roadcrafter Light was a lousy fit, so I sent it back and had a couple of long gussets added for $75 – now it is a perfect fit.

        • Chris McAlevy

          well put.

        • Heather McCoy

          How about because just about every other sector of the garment industry has been able to accomplish this, for like, ever?

          • Stuki

            The Gap outsells Dainese in units sold to women by quite some margin. That’s the difference. It’s not like there isn’t enough women on the planet, period, of any given size and shape and color preference for mass manufacturing to make sense. Just that there aren’t enough women RIDERS to do the same. Before 300lbs became the old 180lbs as far as guys bodyweight goes; big guys faced exactly the same problem with finding off the rack clothes. So it’s hardly a sexist thing. Just a logistics issue.

            • Heather McCoy

              I agree that it’s not a sexist thing; it’s not even a mass manufacturing thing. It’s a short-sighted retailer thing. I don’t care if you’re selling $8 T-shirts or $1000 leather suits; if you don’t have what the customer’s looking for, you don’t have that customer, and you really have no idea how many of those customers are out there, because NONE of them are coming to your store, right? (hint: ask the Motorcycle Industry Council; it’s 25% of your customer base). Think of it this way…that corner coffee shop that never invested in a cappucino machine didn’t know what they were missing until Starbucks came along.

      • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

        to be fair these are common complaints with dudes as well. ‘Dainese is for tiny europeans, while Bilt, Icon, and everything else is way too big.’ ‘Everything is too technical looking.’ Men’s motorcycle pants still ride low when frankly all motorcycle pants should be overalls or include an attachable bib.

        • Piglet2010

          And Alpinestars sizes are in reality two sizes smaller than everyone else’s.

          • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

            That’s not an accurate rule of thumb.

            • Piglet2010

              OK, the gloves and boots are only one size smaller.

              • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

                keep trying.

        • Nemosufu Namecheck

          You’re right they are common complaints. My Dainese jacket does not fit my arms at all – they get numb and wearing the liner is definitely out. Fits well through the waist though but they gets tight in the chest. Don’t care – looks awesome.

      • Justin

        I ride with a female friend of mine who has managed to find most of the gear she needs in designs she likes by using sites like Revzilla, which stock far more female gear then any right-minded brick and mortar would because minimal foot traffic and inventory costs just wouldn’t justify it.

        Pants have been the biggest issue, as has been said here, most companies assume all girls are 105 lbs of skeletal anorexia and if you deviate from that, an already small market becomes miniscule.

        We both insist on ATGATT, which for me is no problem but can resemble a nightmare for her sometimes.

    • Justin McClintock

      Gladius. That was it’s primary focus, women riders. I don’t suppose I need to tell you how that’s worked out.

      • Stacey Swanson

        The gladius was much too large and bulbous AND top heavy compared to the lovely cheap and cheerful SV it replaced, that is why it didn’t sell.

        • Justin McClintock

          The Gladius had many issues. But that styling was definitely one of them, and it was definitely aimed at women riders. I’m pretty sure Suzuki even said as much when they initially introduced it. The Gladius was a slap in the face to anybody who’d even ridden a SV.

    • VagrantRenaissance

      I think it’s

      • Alex

        I agree.

        But there are some girly Vespas…

    • NOCHnoch

      I agree, up to a point. Women are, on average, shorter than men, and motorcycle ergonomics should be able to account for that. Seat height being the major issue. As a six foot male, I have no problem on tall bikes, but my shorter female friends who ride are usually limited to small displacement bikes.

      • Heather McCoy

        Fact: sportbikes imported for the American market are sized with seat-heights for the average 5’7″ male.
        Fact: the average American female is 5’4″.
        Riding a 1000RR or an R6 or Panigale or a CBR is a rush on any track, but riding one through the streets of anywhere where one needs to be fully in control of sudden stops, hills, uneven pavement, etc is not excactly confidence-inspiring on your tip-toes.

        • NOCHnoch

          Insane. Like 51% of the world doesn’t exist.

          • Sportbike Mike

            I know it sounds crazy, but there are short guys….

          • Justin McClintock

            Well they can’t make them darn near infinitely adjustable like they do with cars. I’m 6’2″ with a 36″ inseam. According to Heather’s statistics, she fits on a sportbike a LOT better than I do. So what’s a guy (or gal) to do? I hit up the aftermarket. Now my bike fits me great. That being said, I also knew I could do that with my bike before I bought it. If you can’t get a certain bike to fit you, just buy a different one.

            • NOCHnoch

              You’re kind of making my point. “Hit up the aftermarket” doesn’t really work for everyone, especially shorter folks. For a 5’4″ female to be able to comfortably use a modern sportbike, she’d have to vastly alter the suspension just so her feet would touch the ground! Then she would need to alter the bars and rearsets. Even then, the bike wouldn’t handle properly or be able to achieve high lean angles because the geometry and ground clearance would be changed/lowered dramatically. Standard adjustable rearsets or factory height options (choose your seat and rear shock) would go a long way.

              At 6 feet I’m able to fit most bikes, but the average female rider has to stick with <300cc sportbikes or cruisers. Not okay.

              • Justin McClintock

                You just made MY point for me though. At 6’2″ and 220 lbs, I have to vastly alter the suspension just to properly handle my weight. Then I have to alter the bars and lower the rear sets so I fit the dang thing. Then the bike won’t achieve the same lean angle because the pegs are now lower. You don’t see me demanding they make sportbikes geared toward people 6′ and taller. I didn’t go into the Mazda dealership and bitch them out that I don’t fit in a Miata with the roof up either. The average female rider can modify pretty much any sportbike to fit them just as easily as I can. Doesn’t come from the factory that way, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Honestly, it’s a heckuva lot easier to modify a bike for somebody shorter and lighter than it is for somebody taller and heavier.

                • NOCHnoch

                  I don’t get it…why DON’T you demand sportbikes for larger riders? Or at least adjustable rearsets that come as standard?
                  Your Miata analogy doesn’t really make sense because yes, Miatas are small, but the vast majority of cars, even sportscars, accommodate the vast majority of men and women. Not true with motorcycles.
                  And I certainly disagree with your last point, mainly because you don’t have to raise the ride height in order for the bike to work. A short person needs to lower the ride height or their legs won’t touch the ground. Combine that with the suspension, bar, and rearset changes that you also need to make, and they’re expending the same amount of time and money (or more) to modify the bike.

                • Justin McClintock

                  Because if they started making sportbikes that fit everybody, they’d be heavier and slower. They wouldn’t win any races and all of a sudden nobody would be buying them because of the aforementioned reasons. I don’t want a sportbike that weighs what a last-gen Katana does. I’m not sure anybody does.

        • Nemosufu Namecheck

          BMW does a good job of having custom seats available for all of their bikes. They concentrate on seat height and inner leg curve which is really important for women riders so they can get feet down on a heavy bike like a 1000RR. I ride a bigger bike, but my friend rides a one with a custom seat because she is short. Bikes are getting bigger as well. My new bike makes me feel short and I’m 6’2″.

          • RyYYZ

            It’s time that more manufacturers realized that riders come in a wide range of sizes, and that we aren’t all the 5’9″ and 150 lbs (or whatever) of the average Japanese man that they seem to design most bikes for. It’s pretty much impossible to make a non-adjustable bike that will fit a 5’4″ woman as well as a 6’4″ man, but with adjustable seats, bars, and footpegs, it should be do-able. I mean, how ridiculous would it be if cars came with fixed, non-adjustable seats, pedals and steering wheels? Not everyone of small stature wants to be limited to little (small displacement, low performance) bikes, and not everyone my size wants to have to buy large adventure bikes to get something reasonably comfortable.

            • Heather McCoy

              I think it’s important to note that after-market adjustments (like lowering links, seat alterations, bar-adjustments, etc) can negate a new bike’s warranty in the event of, well, something you might need that warranty for.

          • Heather McCoy

            BMW is a standout in that regard, but the low seat-ht option is not available for the 1000RR.

            • Nemosufu Namecheck

              That’s a bummer. I guess sooner or later the actual size of the bikes frame is what needs to change. You could make a lot of money if you cracked the code on the perfect shape.

            • atomicalex

              Even I fit on an S1000RR. 5’6 and a 29″ inseam. You need to go test sit an RNineT. ha ha giggle need to go find money NAO!
              My “girl” bike is a BMW and it’s low. Great for confidence building, but I’m ready to convert it to normal. The singles get no love here, which is sad because they are and were designed to fit smaller and larger riders and are great bikes for all sorts of activities. BMW was able to do it with one frame and a bunch of good suspension tweaks, not black magic. The twins are another frame geometry that scales quite nicely.

        • Stuki

          Shrunken grandmothers at Bonneville aside, aren’t common riding age women on average more than 5’4″? And ditto guys above 5’7″? Most girls in Wes’ articles were lots taller than that…….. :)

          • Piglet2010

            Didn’t Wes only have models in his pictures? And female models are far from normal body types.

        • Piglet2010

          “for the average 5’7″ male”

          That is the average height of Mexican-American males. The average height of all US adult males is 5′-9½”, and for white males age 20-39 it is 5′-10½”. At 6′-0″ with a 33″ inseam, I find the legroom on pretty much all sport-bikes cramped enough that I need to stand up for a bit every few miles.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Average_height_around_the_world

          • Heather McCoy

            Piglet no…Wikipedia? Really? You just broke my heart.

    • Jonathan Berndt

      well there was the *cough* Gladius *cough*
      that certainly, (hopefully) wasnt designed for dudes…

  • Mattin11225
    • grahluk

      Nice article but there’s one thing those women have picked up that they should be a little smarter about. Alcohol and bikes don’t mix. Not in wrenching or riding. Very bad flesh mangling events result. These women talking about stopping for crab cakes & bloody mary’s on a ride isn’t any smarter than guys stopping for burgers and a brew. Bloody Mary’s & riding will lead to bloody Mary’s, Julias, & Kristins.

      • Mattin11225

        Grahluk, I do fully agree with you on this. The best way to ride is completely substance free. But as I can attest, as I was there for the delicious crab cakes (Seriously Crab Shack in Redhook is pretty great), it was a safe ride with significantly more water than alcohol, and the requisite chill down time following brunch to make sure everyone was good to ride. I kind of wish that had been stressed in the article.

  • atomicalex

    Because we can. End of discussion.

    We like to go out into the world. We like to feel the wind and the salt spray and the rain. We like to get dirty and go fast and see and smell the world. We like to hear the world and all of the things that populate it. We like the machines that take us there. We like to build and customize and decorate and hop up. We like to have something of our own that only we can claim to master. We like to learn. We like to add notches to our belts, to gain new skills, to grow as persons.

    Motorcycling is a really neat package that offers us all of that in one convenient opportunity. And FSM be damned, is it fun!

    edit – I think a lot of it is about empowerment. I did a BRC recently, and the ladies there were so pleased to pass the exam (even when their husbands/boyfriends didn’t). They said things like “wow, I did this myself” and “I want my own bike now” and “what do you call those ugly bikes that you can ride on dirt roads and on the street, I want one of those” and “for the first time in my life, I do not care about my hair any more”. It was awesome to hear these ladies see themselves in a massively positive light, simply because they had learned to ride a motorcycle. The change in perspective was phenomenal. They became new people. All because of a simple weekend class, a passed exam, and a motorcycle. What else can change your perspective on life like that? Of course women riders are happier and more fulfilled. They are riders now!

    • zion

      As an MSF instructor, I can tell you that almost every class shows that the women pay better attention, come in with no ego and are always much more appreciative and receptive to instruction.

      On the flip side I’ve seen RiderCoaches who take a wholly wrong approach to female students and coddle them and treat them as “delicate”. The good students shut that crap right down, thankfully.

      • Harve Mil

        Not just MSF. Ask any high school teacher and they’ll tell you the same thing. There is a reason that more women are completing bachelor degrees. That said, that’s not all there is to learning things. Having a ego and something to prove are also powerful educational factors. Most interesting I find are talking with transgender folks and their educational experiences before and after hormone treatments. Complex stuff under the hood, this.

    • grahluk

      Amen!
      From a refresh MSF I took about ten years ago after a brief spell not riding there was a very good mixture of male and female in class. I’d say class was probably 30-40% women. I’ve heard that this sort of ratio is common in the MSF program. What’s more I’ve heard they are better students and pass at a higher rate than men. Something about taking it seriously, listening, and applying exactly what was being taught. All reflected in my experience with one class evolution. Some of the women riders I’ve encountered had started because they were introduced by a significant male in their lives (boyfriend, brother, dad, friend, etc) but the passion seemed totally their own, not as just some effort to be included in some guy’s life. Empowering? Yes. Goes as well for men. Men don’t like to use that word for their own accomplishments. For some reason motorcycles have been considered “man stuff” so a male diving in is considered just another aspect of discovering their man-ness where when a woman does it it gets labeled “empowering” as if they were adding a feature to their being not previously present. I’d say in both cases the satisfaction comes from becoming capable in all the ways atomicalex named.

    • runnermatt

      Great response! I was disappointed to see that the #1 comment was in reference to the number of pages the article was over.

      Now, if I could just get my girlfriend to have any interest in learning to ride. She won’t ride pillion. I’ve offered to pay for her to take the MSF course without even asking that she get her license afterwards and she declined. I’m well aware that you can’t force people to do something so I rarely mention it to her now. She has some self confidence issues and I know if she took the MSF course it would help, but frankly I’m running out of ideas. (not really something to discuss on a public forum, I know).

    • Piglet2010

      “And FSM be damned, is it fun!”

      Pastafarians think riding a motorcycle is not fun?

      • atomicalex

        LOL! I would say we like riding motorcycles very much.

  • Michael Howard

    Thanks to the editors for not splitting this article into five pages. ;)

    • Paolo

      …oh because clicking 5 times would be too demanding?

      • Richard Gozinya

        Yes.

    • runnermatt

      This is the top comment? I understand other reader’s frustration with multi page articles, but considering the subject the top comment should be from a female rider addressing the subject. Not this.

      • Scott Saunders

        The top comment should always be about the content, not form of the article. The fact that it isn’t is an indication that the form (number of pages) is often overshadowing the content on this site.

      • JP

        Welcome to the Internet Matt!

      • Michael Howard

        Sorting comments by popularity is stupid and pointless.

    • 200 Fathoms

      Really? Wow.

  • octodad

    manufacturers sizing them right for women. even HD has lower seat height models. this makes sense as taller bikes do not give me (5’9″) feeling of security like my CTX does. one disturbing note, ads continue to show females in 3/4 helmets (maybe to show off pretty girl). I am full face fan, and think protection should be promoted.

  • Hooligan

    And what happens in the rest of the world? Yes there is a rest of the world.

  • Sam Bendall

    Over the past couple years there has been a paradigm shift of female leaders (as well as male supporters) in the industry. While still a minority, they are a growing and welcome voice. Its not something that happened overnight or started at one focal point. Its been a gradual escalation.

  • http://www.themotorcycleobsession.com/ Chris Cope

    Here’s my random theory as to why: Facebook. Or, more accurately, social media. We have to stray into that very dangerous territory of making blanket statements about gender but I thinks it’s somewhat fair to say that most (but definitely not all) women are slightly better at maintaining social connections than most (but definitely not all) men. And because of that I would argue that many women have taken to social media and integrated it more quickly to their everyday lives than many of their male counterparts. This has resulted in two things:
    1) Women have ever-growing “presence” and visibility to marketers.
    2) Women are better able to connect with other women of similar mindsets.

    So, you have groups like the Miss-Fires in Brooklyn (http://themissfires.com/) that spring up and grow because women across a wider geographical spread are better able to connect. When they do this, they become more visible to marketers. Notably, to the very clever marketing teams of H-D. You can complain about the product, but you have to laud H-D in its marketing and its ability to identify a market. They put a lot of effort into pursuing the dollars of females (See: http://www.harley-davidson.com/en_US/Content/Pages/women-riders/landing.html?locale=en_US&bmLocale=en_US), as well as Latinos and blacks. I mean, the garage parties. Does any other OEM do that?

    And once motorcycle manufacturers are actually targeting women that helps to see the market grow. More get into it, more talk about it, repeat. I’m all for it. I was slow to get into motorcycling and one of the reasons was because I felt, despite being a white male, that it was a little too white-male dominated.

    • Davidabl2

      Reading the article, the MissFires would appear to be a group of vintage riders..which would mean that they may buying new gear, but not new bikes.
      So the OEM makers would be SOL with them:-)

  • Dennis Hightower

    I haven’t seen the word “SCOOTER” mentioned yet, nor whether scooters are included within MIC’s definition of ‘motorcycle’ for purposes of its stats. Jus sayin’ … of the three women purchasers I know… all bought scooters. Then you can point to some scooter type motivators: trendiness, fun, fashion, non intimidating, economy.

  • HoldenL

    Good questions, Tim. I haven’t looked at the study, but I wonder if they break down the demographic info by age. I would guess that the new female riders tend to be in their 40s and 50s, and they buy bikes when the nest empties and their salaries have risen enough to afford what, for many motorcyclists, is a discretionary purchase.

    In short, I’m guessing that the median age of female buyers is rather high. For men, the median age of riders is, what, 42? It’s an old man’s activity, and I suspect that it’s an old woman’s activity, too. Basically, an activity that women feel they can undertake after the kids are out of school.

    Now that I think of it, that’s sort of what’s going on in my household. Maybe that biases my thinking.

    • Tim Watson

      Good point but I admit I was erring on the side of caution. It wouldn’t take much to work out that it was of course Harley-Davidson but I didn’t see the point of giving the company credit for the survey or start flaming H-D in the comments section, as its survey was largely irrelevant and told me nothing. Thanks for your comments.

      • Heather McCoy

        You are so right, Tim. That survey was a full-on marketing tool with little (if any) relevant data.

    • zion

      I teach both standard MSF and “Harley” classes. The MSF classes see a really good spread of age range with the female demographics. The HD classes tend to hit that 40 and 50′s mark.

      I feel confident that you could extrapolate that the cost of the HD in general tends to bring in the “discretionary income” crowd a bit more, hence the older demos.

      • Randy Singer

        I taught the CMSP (California MSF) course for about 15 years. For that entire time, just about half of the students in every class were women. There were more middle-aged women than younger women. When asked, most of the middle-aged women said that they were interested in getting a Harley to ride with their husband, who also had a Harley.

        • zion

          Here in the southeast, my current classes are fairly spread out. Mind you, when I took the old format RSS back in the mid 80′s in California, there was a lot of testosterone!

  • Campisi

    Why would women need a different reason than men?

  • TP

    Wondering out loud here, how do they count women motorcyclists that only ride pillion? Are they considered riders or nonriders in this methodology?

    • grahluk

      The article mentions that the statistic was compiled by women who were buying bikes. While it might be a rare occurrence but I think most people purchasing a bike aren’t buying it to ride on the back. So I think the stat we’re talking about here are riders not mere passengers.

      • Piglet2010

        I will occasionally ride my Honda Elite 110 while sitting on the pillion portion of the seat.

        • eddi

          Yes, but you’re certifiable.

          • Piglet2010

            Hey, I resemble that remark!

            Actually, the reach to the bars is not bad, and it provides a welcome change in position.

      • Heather McCoy

        I’m a woman who’s owned four motorcycles, and since my husband had the time to go to the bank/title/dealer and I didn’t, his name has been on the title of every one of them. Women like me don’t even show up in that number. Assessing the number of women with their motorcycle endorsement would be an interesting comparison (although I know there’s plenty of hellions out there who ride without a license, too).

  • grahluk

    You would figure if they want to make moto gear that better addresses womens’ real needs as riders maybe manufacturers should hire apparel designers that work in the sportswear industry and not from the fashion segment as I suspect? The offerings should be what they need and want & not what looks like what a man would think is “ladies” gear. Leave the pinup style garb for regular street clothing. Other sports such as running and cycling have gear that seriously caters to women’s proportions and movement. Motorcycle gear should as well.

    • Piglet2010

      Riding gear needs to be designed by people who ride. I am reminded of this when I compare (yeah I know, broken record) Aerostich to most other stuff – where zippers are located and the direction they open and close (same for hook and loop), location of pockets, armor attachment, etc all makes the Duluth stuff much nicer to live with.

      • Stuki

        At least if you are shaped more like a stereotypical Duluthian, than a ditto Italian :)

        • Piglet2010

          Well, most of us are shaped more like a corn-fed northern European than a northern Italian.

  • Luke

    From a purely mechanical standpoint, motorcycles tend to be designed for smaller stature people with the exception of dual sports. Even HD in their latest round of redesigns received credit for making a bike that can go from 5’6″ all the way up to 6’1.” Americans are taller on average than most heavy-use motorcycle countries, so our women fit nicely in most bikes. And those low-seat cruisers could be ridden by my 12 year old daughter (25″ seat height?).

    • Piglet2010

      On the other hand, tall people are pretty much forced to ride AT bikes these days.

    • EdDyer

      There are several unfortunate mechanical realities that come with a low seat height: short-travel suspension, a long fork rake angle, and pegs way too far forward to ever ride standing up on them. In other words, a low seat height only comes on a cruiser, at least in the USA, with a wheelbase in excess of 60 inches. Short-travel suspension and the inability to stand on the pegs are mutually exclusive from a safety standpoint, IMHO. The only bike I’ve found that has a prayer to suit my female spouse is the Triumph Bonneville, and this still has a challengingly tall seat height (but lower than a Honda Grom, and with a bit more power). I find it hard to believe that most female riders, and all short male riders, really want nothing but a cruiser. A 12-year old girl wouldn’t be too happy manipulating a 700-pound cruiser (63″ wheelbase, 34-degree rake angle) in the busy shopping mall parking lot, regardless of the seat height.

      • Piglet2010

        “The only bike I’ve found that has a prayer to suit my female spouse is the Triumph Bonneville…”

        I have a 33-inch inseam, and fit fine on a standard Bonnie.

        What motorcycles really need are seats that rise above 10 mph or so, and then come back down below that speed, so as to avoid the compromise between ground clearance/suspension travel and seat height.

        • EdDyer

          I completely agree. You don’t need 6 inches of suspension travel below 10 mph. Maybe with semi-active and active suspension now coming as standard on the big-$ Adv-Tour bikes, we’ll see some stall-sensitive suspension some day on less exotic bikes.

        • eastwestbrainer

          That is an incredibly good idea, there’s gotta be a really simple way to get active electronics doing that in combination with suspension. I’m trying to say, I’m sure an inch and half of “parking-lot height” would be trivial to add to Ducati / BMW’s latest tech on high-end machines, with no increase in weight.

  • Paul Willis

    Why not conduct a survey on RideApart and ask them yourself?

    • Piglet2010

      Because the sampling is biased.

      • Paul Willis

        Please explain. The question at hand is how and why women have developed a passion for motorcycling. What bias would RideApart readers bring to that?

        • eddi

          Because everyone here feels 37% more sexy since they started riding. And in some cases that would shock our married grandchildren.

        • Piglet2010

          The short answer is that a survey on a website will not have a random sampling representative of the population as a whole. The long answer is to crack open a statistics textbook.

          • Paul Willis

            Thank you for both explanations. Not having any experience in statistical analysis, I fail to see the point in randomly sampling “the population as a whole” when our interest is in a very specific audience: women who ride.

            • Piglet2010

              A better way would be to choose a group of women motorcycle owners at random from registration lists. Of course even that is flawed, since you only sample women who respond to surveys.

            • eddi

              “Women who ride and read websites.” College women getting their first bike.” “Hell’s Grannies: riding for 30 years and loving it.” All separate groups. And that leaves out the ladies who are as brand loyal as the guys.

              (I just know that last group is gonna get me yelled at)

          • ScientificAgnostic

            …and exactly where do you stand on the normal curve, with regards to actually understanding the concepts of probability and statistics, and their proper application, once you’ve actually attempted to learn them?

    • Heather McCoy

      My thoughts exactly. The sampling here would be biased, but that’s why I’d replicate the study among other populations then COMPARE the data.
      I need a raise…

  • Paolo

    I’m teaching my girlfriend how to ride on a little Yamaha Crux 100cc (You North Americans don’t get the chance to try these Hindu-based fun little bikes…so sad) There’s no reason why women shouldn’t ride, being a passenger all the time must be boring! So far she’s thrilled. She’s probably getting a cafe-racer once she gets the hang of it. More women are riding because riding is fun, plain and simple!

    • Heather McCoy

      I do believe you have correctly answered the question. That smile says it all!

      • ScientificAgnostic

        …maybe she’s smiling because women like to be seen smiling, and it’s a natural thing for them to do when photographed..

  • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

    Women are taking over almost every guy dominated market. Cars, videogames, computers, tablets, phones, all sorts of technical appliances are now mostly purchased by women. But what you notice is that they’re far more interested in social connectivity aspect of these things than men are. It wasnt until women got into computers that we had social networks and now they use computers more than men. They play as many videogames as men, but they play all those multiplayer games on facebook, for instance. It’s all about the social dynamic.

    Now if you look at cars, there still is no “chick car.” Not in the same way there’s a “dude car” like the M3, the Corvette, or the 911. The closest women have to a chick car is the Volvo S80, The VW Eos or the Nissan Rogue, all of which women buy a measly 57% of the time. Compare that to the M3 and the Corvette where men buy it 80% of the time, or the 911 which is 90% of the time a dude ride.

    So to add to this, lets assume the trend is going to continue until women are at LEAST 50% of the motorcycle market. I want to know what women think is the future of motorcycles. We see connectivity being added to cars, which I can’t help but think is because of women. Is that tech slated for motorcycles? We don’t see more than one or two women in the starting grids of any race, and when there’s a lady in the mix, every dude knows her name and if they’ve been in playboy. So is motorcycling to be further and further removed from its competitive nature?

    And what’s a woman’s take on that study? I havent seen anyone say anything on it yet. Women don’t brag. They don’t like to prove themselves. It goes against the code. Even Elen Meyers has been quoted as saying “Well, I race motorcycles because that’s all I’m good at.” If she was a dude she would’ve said “Because I love it. I love the danger. I love the thrill. Im great at it.” Rather than her typical female deflated response.

    • Justin McClintock

      VW Beetle. Chick car. Or better still, Beetle convertible. I’ve seen a ton of those in the last 6 years or so (or however long they’ve been out). Of those, I’ve seen exactly 1 being driven by a guy.

      I’d definitely agree on the Monster, specifically the 696. I know a lot of riders, and the only person I know with a 696 (or any of the 600-series Monsters) is a woman. I think the styling on the 696 (vs. the 695 and previous) may have had women in mind.

      • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong
        • Justin McClintock

          More than I would have suspected, that’s for sure. That said, I wish they would have broken out the convertible somehow. I’d love to see those numbers. Good info though.

    • Piglet2010

      “I’ve even heard Elen Meyers saying in an interview…”

      Who is “Elen Meyers”?

      http://elenamyers.com/

      • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

        I think i know who she is. I saw her first AMA win in person four years ago. You keep on keyboardin’.

        • Piglet2010

          People that live in glass houses…

          • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

            LOL

  • Katie Fox McKay

    Take notice manufacturers and dealers, our numbers will continue to grow and we are here to stay!

    • William Connor

      One manufacturer does. HD, that’s why they sell more bikes to women than all others combined.

      • Piglet2010

        H-D serves the most Kool-Aid too.

      • Stuki

        The interesting metric, would be percentage of total bikes sold to women. HD may still be on top, but it’s a lot less clear cut. I mean, Nike probably sell more clothes to women than some random wedding dress manufacturer; yet I’d hardly say they are more focused on the female end of the market.

        • William Connor

          I was looking for the exact percentage or numbers. All I could find were references to the Polk data that HD sold more motorcycles to women than all other manufacturers combined, they also led in sales to minorities of all persuasions and white males over 35. They sold 50% of all motorcycles sold to African-Americans and Hispanics.

  • aergern

    The biggest complaint I hear from my wife is that gear manufacturers keep making after thought gear or fringy/flowery “crap” most women don’t want. She’s always complaining about the fit as she’s neither heavy nor thin but middle of the road. I think if we want women to ride then we also have to give them gear they want to buy and that fits .. quite a few want to be AGATT but have a really hard go of it.

  • MarktheV

    “Yet now they are the fastest growing sector in the motorcycle market. I can’t think of any new type of bikes being made specifically aimed at women. Instead they’re shelling out money for every kind of motorcycle from cruiser to sport bike that we as guys like to ride. What precisely is going on here? I really don’t know.”

    -I would say there’s a big range of new-to-riding bikes appropriate for female riders: Ducati’s Monster 696/796, with options for different height seats along with the SV650/Gladius offer great mid-size sporting standards. Moving down there’s the Kawi’s 500 and 250 Ninjas as well as the new bikes coming out like Yamaha’s SR400. Taking it a step further to help riders of varying height fit a particular bike, there are models like the new Yamaha Tenere that have adjustable seat heights, which if offered on more bikes, would be WAY more user friendly for female riders.
    Maybe the cruiser market is often overlooked in forums like this, where sport and adventure bikes dominate, but the genre has long been a segue to new riders(male or female) because they offer a low seat height and low center of gravity, offering shorter riders(i.e., most females) a more secure riding and straddling position along with a a stable-riding bike.

    The hard goods are there, but what will make a difference is what the manufacturers and industry will do to COMMUNICATE to new female riders(and all new riders in general) in terms of buyer support/education programs to keep their stoke going and growing. For dirt riders you have women’s riding programs like the WSMX and I believe there’s a women’s MSF program as well. With those education and feeder programs has also come the rise in women-focused dirt riding gear. This can just as easily translate over to road riders.

    Coming from the cycling industry I’ve seen big payoffs for both companies and customers with programs that help knock down some of the barriers for women road or mountain bikers, like teaching customers technical details in helping to select a bike with confidence while dealing with typically testosterone-filled sales staff or teaching sales staff on how to educate and empower new riders. Hopefully this grows more in motorcycling.

    It seems like this is more of an issue in Western countries where motorcycling is viewed more as a hobby than a standard way of transportation. If you travel to Asia & South America, or any country with large populations of bikes or scooters, you see pretty equal numbers of male and female riders. These countries also seem to have better educational and cultural acceptance of riders, regardless of gender.

    All I can say is that it’s awesome to see more female riders out there, and I probably see them as 4x more sexy too!

  • susannaschick

    hmmmm. As a woman who’s been on her motorcycle almost every day since 1985, it’s hard for me to say. But I have seen a big uptick. I wonder if the younger generation are given more examples of empowered women, and less gender identification around these things? For example, a friend’s 8 year old son does gymnastic and races minibikes. There are more girls like Elena Myers and others competing at a higher level in motorcycle racing than ever before. I suspect it’s because enough moms are like mine- telling their daughters they can be anything they want to be, that they don’t have to conform to some concept of “normal female behavior” I’ll ask my girls to weigh in…

  • ScientificAgnostic

    Women worry way too much about how they are seen by other people, and not nearly enough about how they see other people themselves. That part they just take for granted. So a report about how women see themselves confuses them on many levels. Many, of course not all, don’t know what to make about an article telling them how they are seen by other people for doing something that they themselves may or may not actually be doing. This is on top of the implications of their hair-color, the fit of their jeans, etc. The solution is to get in touch with the fundamental nature of riding a motorcycle: when you’re on a bike, your life is in your own hands. You have to really tune-out the opinions of others, because they are not the ones that are going to live or die as a result. You take in the facts of your environment, you process them, you make a decision, and you live or die by it. Then you put it in the past and move on. The true motorcyclist simply doesn’t care what other people think of them, for riding a bike or otherwise. They just focus on riding, staying alive, and enjoying the ride.

    Hopefully that’s the same for women riders as it is for men.
    Hopefully the ones who complain about sexism are not the ones who perpetuate it.

    • Piglet2010

      I disagree. If others see me as a fellow commuter going to work, they will behave differently than if they see me as a squid or outlaw biker who “deserves what he gets” if involved in an accident.

      This is even more clear to pedal bike riders – a commuter (unless you are an obvious DUI cyclist) gets much more respect when riding to work in the cold, rain or dark, than the “Spandex warriors” who blow through red lights and stop signs in a peloton without even slowing down.

      • ChasedOffTwoWheels

        It is clear by your response that you are exactly the kind of person referred to in the original comment, obsessed with how others see you while you’re riding instead of worrying about riding safely. But based on what you’ve written above I’m sure that you will just refuse to accept that much less deal with it in a construcive manner. Just do society a favor and keep your insurance current.

        • Piglet2010

          It is clear by your response you are either a troll or an idiot.

          • CrowServedPipingHot

            “Piglet2010

            Stuki

            2 days ago

            Women just need to stop caring about how they look…”

            …says the sexist hypocrite.
            Oh wait, now I’ve descending to your level.

            Gee what can I say in response to that that doesn’t just sound like a weak offense attempting to masquerade as a good defense.
            “Ok you two, meet at dawn by the river, fingers at 20 yards”?

            • Piglet2010

              Ever get tired of creating new Disqus accounts?

  • LS650

    I’ve noticed that more riders are women now than when I started riding in 1992 – but 25%? I find that stat a bit suspect. When I see a motorcyclist out on the road, at least in this region it’s still somewhat unusual for the rider to be a woman.

  • CrowServedPipingHot

    A few comments here about the “need” for mfgs to make bikes “sized to fit” women. A couple of things stick out here like a sore thumb. First, if it doesn’t fit you “off the rack”, then why would you be happy with it? Maybe it’s time for a customized bike? So many people here seem to think that motorcycles just “are”, and have to be accepted “as they are”. People mod their biks all the time. Get into the spirit. Now you might say “I shouldn’t have to” blah blah blah but that’s loser-talk. You *do* have to, if you don’t see a bike that you like that fits you, but you do see a bike that you want. Face it and move on. Of course, you know, that’s a great excuse to not ride a bike afer all. But don’t blame it on the mfgs. There are plenty of bikes out there surely you can find SOMETHING that “fits” you, that you like, or modify it to fit. You can change just-about anything on the bike. You can’t think of how to do it in a way that would work? Find an expert who can help you out. Not an “expert” who tells you that it can’t be done. There are many ways to “slam” a bike safely, it’s just a matter of choosing how to do it, how much to spend on it, and realizing the compromises made in the process. Second, not every woman is so short that she can’t fit comfortably on a bike. You don’t have to be a Brazillian supermodel.

  • Genevieve Schmitt

    There are many reasons why women are taking up motorcycling, a few of which I shared in this international article for which I was interviewed. You ask good questions. Feel free to glean from it what you wish. I make it my business to know “the why” to your question.
    http://www.themalaymailonline.com/drive/article/more-women-find-freedom-on-two-wheels

    PS — Interesting that you’d criticize Harley’s survey, yet you as a writer, did exactly what the survey was intended for. Free publicity. You can question Harley’s motives, but they sure do know what they’re doing.