Posted from the Motorcycle News Forum:
Women bikers: Taking control leads to new feeling of freedom
By Connie Cartmell, mariettatimes.com
The very next Harley, Yamaha, or Honda that roars down the road will likely have a woman popping the clutch.
"I rode on the back for five years," Judy McLeish, of Marietta, said. "Now I'm up front. I love it. I love the freedom."
Hell's Angels move to the slow lane. Women are on the road.
Along with the growing trend of more professional and upscale types taking to the open road - doctors, lawyers, accountants, and such - ladies now are no longer taking a back seat to men when it comes to motorcycles.
It's a significant social shift that shows no signs of slowing.
McLeish, 57, a grandmother, was surprised with her Honda Shadow low rider when her husband took her to the garage and presented the new bike as a surprise gift.
"I think I said at the time, 'Oh, my gosh, now I have to get a license,'" she said. "I never thought I'd have this much fun."
New figures from Harley-Davidson Inc. show that a little better than 10 percent of their bikes, more than 23,000 motorcycles, were sold to women last year. That's not counting husbands and boyfriends who bought bikes for their girls.
"I'm the oldest person in my office and I'm on a bike," McLeish said. "The rest of them think it's pretty neat."
Riding instructor Les Wolfe, of Fleming, has noticed a huge change in the number of women taking the Ohio motorcycle riding course over the last eight years.
"It's a whole different thing than riding in the back seat," Wolfe said. "Most women are choosing the cruiser-style machines and there are definitely more women riding than we've ever seen before."
Wolfe, also service manager with Big 4 Motorsports Inc., Newport Pike (Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and others), has been an instructor with the state of Ohio for beginning riders eight years. The 22-hour course costs $25 and is mandatory for bike riders under 18 years old, and highly recommended for new adult riders.
In last Saturday's class, Wolfe said there were to be 10 people in the class.
Safety is a major concern of women riders.
"Women are more cautious than men and pay more attention," McLeish said. "Men are a little more daredevils."
Clubs and motorcycle groups often require their members to take safety courses from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and women often opt for helmets and clothing that provides greater safety.
"Women bring a different outlook, and probably are safer riders," Wolfe said. "For the most part, they are less aggressive, of course, there are some exceptions."
The largest age group of women riders is 27 to 40 years old, he said.
"The most trouble women have in class is learning to corner properly," Wolfe said. "Statistics show that the most accidents happen in corners."
Carol Cathey, of Parkersburg, learned to ride her motorcycle in the parking lot of Parkersburg High School.
"I never, ever imagined I would ride a motorcycle, let alone, have one of my own," Cathey said. "I remember the Hell's Angels, and that's what I always thought bikers were about."
Cathey's husband is long-time rider and in June 2004 bought a bike for his wife.
"We had been over to Marietta Harley about his bike, and I bought two helmets, just in case somebody was going to ride with him," Cathey said. "It turned out that I was the rider. He talked me into getting on his in 2003."
There were several long trips after that, one to Bridge Day in West Virginia and another to Myrtle Beach. The couple had a ball, she said.
"When we were at the beach, I saw a bunch of women riding. I thought, if they can do this, so can I," Carol Cathey said.
Figures mirror a national trend, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council's recent report that women account for more than 10 percent of bike owners nationwide in 2003, up from 8.2 percent in 2002.
Women ride for adventure, camaraderie, and freedom, experts say. They love the feel of the wind in their face, power and control of the engine under them, and bugs in their teeth. Women pretty much ride for all the same reasons as men do.
Today Cathey has 5,000 miles under her biker belt. She's a member of the Borderline Hog chapter (Marietta and Parkersburg) and does a lot of poker runs for charity. She is a special education teacher in Parkersburg and active.
"The kids think we're crazy," this grandmother-to-be said. "The scariest thing I ever had on my bike was riding down Grand Central Avenue in front of the mall."
She has her leathers, boots, the whole bit.
"The motorcycle was cheap," she said with a laugh. "My husband says he created a monster."
At Marietta Harley-Davidson (Marietta Cycle Center, Ohio 7 North), Jennifer Deem, an owner, said that 10 years ago, there were few women who owned bikes. Owners of the dealership are also Chris, Rhonda, and Melanie Deem.
"Today when women come in, and they do every day, they pretty much know what they want and what they are doing," Deem said. "We see all kinds of women now. They buy chrome, just like the men do, and they'll put on their own exhausts."
Harley is a "very accommodating" bike for women, she said.
"Harley-Davidson also makes modifications to lower bikes for women. That seems to be the biggest thing."
A heavy long-sleeve shirt or leather jacket.
Jeans, chaps, or leather pants - with or without studs.
Over-the ankle, sturdy footwear or leather boots.
Full-fingered leather gloves.
A helmet that meets DOT requirements.
Protective eyewear, to keep bugs at bay.
Nail polish, obviously.
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