“You don’t look like someone who rides a motorcycle.”
I’ve heard this often enough that it automatically triggers an eye roll. What, exactly, does a woman who rides look like? I’ve even heard, “What, a good woman like you is into motorcycles?”
For sure, parts of the industry – and mostly a segment of the moto media – are to blame for this. There’s a long history of women in motorcycling being associated with naked (or mostly naked) ladies draped across bikes provocatively, with the most common comment on these types of photos being, “I’d ride that.” (Couldn’t get more creative than that, dudes?)
Bike rallies, well-known for bikini contests, wet t-shirt contests and other beauty pageant-style events, are just as guilty. And women are over it. How do I know? Because in our October Woman Rider Consumer Panel we asked about event activities women enjoy, and I decided to put beauty pageants on that list. Call it curiosity. Wanna know how many women said they enjoyed them? Zero! (I hope you’re listening, event planners.)
Now I’ve gotta stop and say, I’m not calling out women who are out there killing it with careers as bike models. Hey, rock it if that’s your thing! I’m calling out those segments of the industry that, until recently, have spent far too long pigeonholing women into that one category.
Leticia Cline – model, ambassador for multiple motorcycle brands and three-time winner of the Iron Butt award – told my colleague Kali Kotoski for the Thunder Press ‘Women in Motorcycling’ issue, “I have always said that modeling killed my motorcycle career, and motorcycling killed my modeling career. I knew it when I posted a photo of my motorcycle on Instagram and it got more likes than me in a bikini.”
Why did that happen? Because women are looking for the real!
The number of women riding continues to grow. We make up more than 20% of riders now, and I know that’s going to keep growing. But as those of us in the industry work to bring more women into our ranks, introducing them to the freedom and excitement that comes with riding (whether that’s on two, three or four wheels), we’ve got to eliminate the idea that women who ride all look a certain way.
Let me share my own story here. If you’ve been following along you know I was introduced to motorcycles for the first time just five years ago, so I’m relatively new to riding and to the motorcycle industry as a whole.
I fell irrevocably in love with motorcycles, but some of what I saw around the industry made me question whether I could thrive in it. When I started working with Thunder Press and writing features for the magazine, I asked Thunder Press Editor Mitch Boehm (who has more than 40 years of experience in this industry) this: “Are you sure I can really do this? I’m not tall, skinny, and 21.” I actually asked that question (which is kinda sad). His answer? “Just be you!”
I just turned 40. I’m short, which has its own challenges when riding. I’m forever trying to cut carbs to fit in those jeans that fit two years ago. I’m a widowed, single mom of a child with unique abilities. I struggle with an autoimmune disease, which means I sometimes have to be aware of my limits when I ride. I don’t fit that ‘mold’ I was seeing all the time at all!
But I’m okay with all that. And I want other women to be okay with whatever challenges they have in life. I want girls to look at me and the women we feature here at Woman Rider and say, “I can do that, too.” I want women to know that it doesn’t matter if you’re short, tall, slender, curvy, a mom, a teenager, or a woman fighting the hot flashes of menopause…YOU CAN DO THIS! And it’s never too late to get started.
I’m lucky enough to talk with ladies across the industry who inspire me all the time, and I’ll never forget something Hayley Bell – the founder of Women Riders World Relay – said to me. “We underestimate how important it is to have role models that are ‘REAL’ and tangible and relatable,” she told me. “Women are real; we’re not models. We’re not fake Instagram accounts or naked women on bikes. We have real lives and real situations, and we’re doing really amazing things.”
Another friend of mine involved in the broadcasting end of powersports often mentions, “I’m always chasing the real.” That’s what we’re all about here. Real women.
We’re now giving you the opportunity to share your stories. We want to hear about your real. Check out the new story (and photo) submission form on our Contact page if you’d like to share.
“You were born to be real, not perfect.”