Bigger isn’t always better.
Geez! Get your mind out of the gutter!
We’re talking motorcycles here.
It happens often that women are matched with the wrong bike. The downfall to this is that it can ruin the motorcycle experience and send a lady packing her saddlebags, never to return.
Just like life, if we aren’t aware or educated properly, we can find ourselves in quite a pickle. A woman follows the recommendation of a well-meaning partner or friend or is talked onto a bike from an aggressive salesperson or even comes into the possession of a free moto. All the while, the woman has never considered if this is the bike she really wants. Does it match her size, experience and/or riding style?
You don’t know what you don’t know.
A good friend of mine decided to get her license. Her gearhead husband was so excited that he ran out and bought her a gorgeous Ducati Monster S4. She attempted to ride it twice, parked it and hung up the leather jacket for over a year. It was waaaaaaay too much bike for a newbie (904cc) and scared the crap out of her because she didn’t feel in control of it. Plus, it was excessively loud which added to her angst. It truly was a monster to her.
Her husband was well meaning and generous. BUT, he picked the bike out based on what HE would ride and the vision HE had of his tall, gorgeous, blonde wife astride an Italian beast. Boys have posters of this dream on their bedroom walls. So, can you blame him?
Part of the reason we pick out any of our bikes is the personality it enhances in us.
Do you consider yourself sporty? Adventuresome? Outdoorsy? Rebellious? Unique?
Each brand and make appeals to a different personality. While this is great, it is only part of what to consider when you choose the right bike.
When we seek the advice of others, they often suggest a bike that THEY would ride or a bike that THEY envision to be the idea of YOU to them.
People don’t even realize they’re doing this. How often does this happen in your daily life? Have you ever sought the advice of a friend on a relationship issue and they answer it based on their relationship or what they want for you as a partner?
While they mean well and might get a portion of their advice right, it’s important to check in with yourself to see if it resonates appropriately. It’s easy to be lazy and just allow someone to make a decision for you, especially if you live a busy life. And, who isn’t busy these days?
A couple of years ago, I looked to replace my Yamaha R6 (600cc). I spent a LOT of time researching all makes, models and sizes of bikes. I even went to the Progressive International Motorcycle Show and had my partner at the time take photos of me on the bikes so I could see how well they fit. I got a lot of questions about what I was looking for and if I was going to look at bigger displacement bikes. After all, with all the riding experience I have, wouldn’t I want a liter (1000cc) bike at this point? The answer was – No.
I have a racer friend who sums it up so eloquently.
“I would rather ride a slow bike fast, than a fast bike slow. It’s the feeling of going fast that I seek.” Sir L.S.
There is this unspoken pressure within the moto world that BIGGER equals BETTER. Heck, its part of our American heritage. It also aligns with our egos that the best part of us should be powerful.
However, it often comes at a cost.
Literally, large displacement bikes cost more to buy and insure.
This may not be a cost effective choice for many.
Secondly, they tend to be physically larger with a taller seat height.
Women tend to be smaller and have a shorter inseam.
Thirdly, in the hands of an inexperienced rider the fast acceleration and hard braking can be overwhelming.
It’s easier to build up speed over time than to come back from an accident.
Over the years, I have had friends comment on women who ride big sportbikes with awe. “Dang, you see Diane?! She rides a Hayabusa! She’s like 50 years old and five feet tall!!!” Well, yeah! Diane’s a badass. I assume she knows well enough at this point, that bike is the one for her.
I’m all for large bikes, IF they suit your needs and experience.
In the case of my friend with the Monster, she didn’t have enough experience to appreciate and enjoy a large bike. Because she didn’t feel in control, the bike scared her. It caused her to ride timidly and often below the speed limit, which is dangerous not only to her but also to anyone else on the road around her.
The husband sold the Monster, and replaced it with a Honda CB500F. While he hates the way the bike looks, she loves the way it rides! And, isn’t that all that matters because she is the one riding it? She feels capable of handling its power and rides a lot faster now. Her riding has improved leaps and bounds, because she is actually putting miles on the bike. The best part is, she loves motorcycling! A year ago, that was an iffy conclusion.
Something to Consider
Beginner riders often get talked out of buying small bikes such as a 250cc, which is what they typically learn on in an MSF Learn To Ride Course. The argument is, “Why waste your money on a small bike when you’ll want to upgrade in six months?”
I respond, “Who cares?” Bikes are like shoes. You can never have too many. And, they’re easy to sell on Craigslist. The nice thing about all the different bikes out there and their relatively low cost is that you can own several different kinds. All at the same time!
In fact, I own three bikes that reflect different parts of my personality: vintage, dual sport and sportbike. I chose all of them for their price, size and riding style. Most avid motorcyclists end up with several bikes. They have this way of multiplying like jack rabbits.
While my ego and experience can handle a liter bike, I decided against it mostly because of size, comfort and price.
Although I always hoped I would continue to grow vertically and not horizontally, I’m a shorty. This excludes a significant number of bikes that I’m interested in. I’m OK with being on my tiptoes while seated, but not OK with just one foot on the ground. I also have no desire to modify a bike by lowering it. Manufacturers are responding to this need. However, it is mostly in the cruiser category and I wanted a sport or adventure bike. Another thing I needed to consider was the reach to the handlebars.
I wanted something that would be fun in the twisties, but that I could ride some distance, and has a light clutch.
Lastly, I wanted something a little exotic but that wouldn’t break the bank.
I ended up with a 2015 KTM RC390. It’s light, sexy, spritely, cheap, a ton of fun and fits me like a glove. My riding friends make fun of me and call it the “Baby Bike.” We all know nobody keeps Baby in the corner. I can keep up with most of my expert riding buddies on bigger bikes. For fun, I’ll challenge them at a light with a start recalling my days of road racing. They quickly smoke me on the straights with their greater horsepower reserves. We always even out on the turns. In general, I’m working harder to ride which can get tiring over a long day. But, I’m in better physical shape than most of these guys so they usually quit before me anyway. At a more leisurely pace or shorter distance, the bike is consistently a real joy and I always feel like I’m going fast.
‘Cause as we all know by now… It’s not the size that counts but how you ride it!
If you are looking for small bike suggestions, take a look at this Woman Rider story.
If you have any questions or want to share what size bike you ride and why you chose it, please comment below.
I would love to get to know you and meet you on the road!