“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.”
Great perspective! Especially love the Hayley Bell quote, having ridden a leg of the WRWR. Thanks for sharing, Joy ❤️
I decided to start riding at age 57. Had always wanted to. Never got around to it, never had friends who rode. I finally just decided to do it, and this with a husband who shares zero percent of my enthusiasm. Two years in, I know I won’t stop riding until I can no longer hold the bike upright.
I’ve often heard the same thing: You don’t look like a biker. Because I wear professional office attire for my job? I don’t wear black leather, have tattoos and ride a Harley? Stereotypes. I just say don’t judge a book by its cover. I ride sport bikes, adventure bikes and scooters. 🙂
Deborah – you should know that I as a guy get the EXACT same thing. People think every guy is a “biker”, wants a Harley, wears black leather, and especially, has tattoos! I’ve actually met people who were incredulous that I ride a motorcycle and I don’t have a single tattoo! So the idiocy goes both ways. Just be you, enjoy what you like, and ignore the stupidity.
OMG, right? On the days when I roll into the office on the bike and throw my gear under the desk, people will walk in, start talking to me, clock the helmet and leathers, frown and go “OH…. you ride?” We have a “motorcycle meetup” at our company, but they’re all cruisers, and when I told people that I rode a literbike nobody wanted to ride with me, lol…
I ride with a bunch of Dainese clad sportbike ladies in my city, and a lot of them are older – quite a few in their 40’s and 50’s. The looks we get when a dozen of us end the ride in the bar are priceless.
Ride on ladies! #youdoyou
I sincerely appreciate this article. I’ve wanted to ride for the past 40 years and during the pandemic at 52 yrs young, I finally did it! Bought a newly used CB500X the day before taking my BRC, and earned my license. None of us know how long we have in this life and I wanted to ride a motorcycle all my life. I did it! Definitely I do not fit any mold and it is ok! Within 6 months I put in over 4000 miles and continue to ride during the winter months, I LOVE RIDING. Ever since, I started meeting females with like mindedness about riding and that I think is what I’ve missed out of my life and did not know I needed. So, to all female riders; you all inspire me to take charge, let go of fear and expectations, and just enjoy the ride. Thank you! And thank you for writing this article.
btw…Interestingly, my honey rides too. We are about to approach our 33rd anniversary and I swear to it, our marriage has greatly improved since I started to ride. It was wonderful before but it has improved in ways I had not considered. We ride on our own bikes and on our K1600GTL together too.