Women love Harleys, too
By LISA STARK
If you’re of the school of thought that motorcycles are just for men, you may want to think again. One visit to a biker event in the area will change your mind. Gone are the stereotypes of the rugged male road warrior with tattoos, long hair and a bad attitude. Today’s bikers are more often professionals — business owners, engineers, lawyers, teachers, doctors and bankers — and a growing number of these riders are also now women.
According to national statistics, women riders constitute 30 percent of national motorcycle sales, and those numbers are increasing every year. Women who have good jobs, marriages, education and sophistication are venturing into the sport of motorcycling and discovering the lure of the highway.
“We’re just some Tampa girls out for a great ride and a good time,” said hairstylist Sarah Koch, who took the day off with four of her female friends (Julie Stann, who works in pediatrics; Sharon Kramer, an accountant; Leslie O’Leary, also an accountant; and Christi Mapp, a cell site technician) to ride their bikes to the annual Showmen’s Bikefest last weekend. The enormous Bikefest ran Jan. 15 -18 at the IISA Club Grounds in Gibsonton and featured a weekend of live bands, stunt shows, and food and merchandise vendors.
All over the country, motorcycle manufacturers are noting that women, who make up half of the purchasing power in an average household, are now buying motorcycles. Harley Davidson has launched efforts to woo women motorcyclists by offering events and classes for women. Manufacturers, including Harley Davidson, are offering designs in motorcycles that are lighter and easier to handle, specifically for female riders.
According to USA Today, the number of women who own and operate motorcycles has risen substantially through the years — up 52 percent from 2003 to 2008, the most recent statistic available from the Motorcycle Industry Council. According to national dealer sales, the top five motorcycles for women are: the Harley Davidson Sportster, the Honda Shadow, the Yamaha V-Star, the Harley Davidson Softail and the Kawasaki Vulcan.
There has also been a huge market increase for biker clothing and accessories, which are now heavily focused on women. The Internet is loaded with companies featuring biker fashions tailored specifically for feminine tastes, including Old Glory, Bling Rider, LeatherUp, Motorcycle Superstore, Amazon, and the Harley Davidson online store, to name a few.
“As a lady rider, I love to offer clothes and jewelry that women can wear comfortably while riding,” said Cindy Werp, owner of Rider Styles in Odessa, Fla., which specializes in unique apparel and accessories for women riders. “I enjoy having a selection that is unique and sexy and doesn’t break the bank, and since I am a night rider, I especially like having rhinestones on my clothing that reflect in the headlights. I’m also a bigger girl, and because of this, I’m always looking for styles in larger sizes for my female customers.”
Motorcycle literature for women is also increasing. Women Riders Now (WRN) is an online motorcycle lifestyle magazine from the female point of view, now marking its 10th year in existence. The magazine is packed with stories and information geared toward the female rider. It offers a comprehensive list of women-only riding clubs around the U.S., plus safety classes and seminars for women riders. WRN maintains that women experience the sport of motorcycling differently than men, saying: “Women have different requirements when choosing a bike, and face different mental hurdles when it comes to getting into the sport.” And while the number of female riders continues to increase, women are not being given the same media consideration as their male counterparts, considering that readers of motorcycle magazines are still 97 percent male.
As for the thousands of bike events around the nation, women can turn to websites such as “Bike Week Events,” an excellent resource that offers a comprehensive calendar on a multitude of bike events all over the country. Word of mouth also plays an important role in spreading the news, especially about local bike events. For example, every Sunday, local bikers flock to Peggy’s Corral in Palmetto, located on U.S. 41 N., to enjoy live bands, drink specials, vendors, and lots of camaraderie with other bikers. Woody’s River Roo in Ellenton is also a popular spot for local weekend bikers looking for a pleasant outdoor river setting with live bands and good food. Other bike events can be found through local chapters of the Moose Lodge (mooseriders.com), the VFW, American Legion and Eagles Lodge.
“Women are always welcome” seems to be the prevailing theme of all these local venues. So, ladies: Hit the road and go for it!