--- Thought this might be of interest to the Ladies Forum --- Mike
Wanted: Women born to ride
April 26, 2006 - By Sharon Terlep - The Detroit News - detnews.com
Motorcycle maker adjusts marketing efforts with ladies-only events at its dealers' garage parties.
FARMINGTON HILLS -- I walked into the imposing Harley- Davidson showroom last week apprehensive and curious. All I wanted was a taste of biker life, some basic information on motorcycles and maybe even a chance to try on some chaps.
Harley-Davidson is aware of its bad-boy aura and is revving up its marketing efforts to change that -- a little.
The legendary Milwaukee-based company wants women -- and their wallets -- more involved in the world of Hogs, soft tails and sissy bars. The tide already is turning. Nearly 45,000 women purchased motorcycles in 2002, up from 10,000 in 1990. Just less than half those bikes were Harleys.
"Lots of women are getting involved," said Motor City Harley-Davidson & Buell manager Steve Martin. "They're not satisfied just being passengers anymore."
Part of the growth strategy is to host women-only get togethers at stores throughout the country. More than 40 women turned out to Motor City Harley for a garage party in the spirit of Tupperware's famous sales strategy.
At first glimpse, it was apparent that organizers had succeeded in attracting a diverse group. For every woman wearing a bandana or Harley-embossed leather, there was another wearing pink cotton or a floral print. It was Laura Ashley meets Joan Jett.
"It's hard to picture myself riding," said Northville's Patty Patrick. The 51-year-old office stick came to the party at the urging of her husband. He used to ride decades ago and wants to start again, hopefully with his wife at his side driving -- sorry, riding -- her own bike.
"It used to be you'd see a woman riding and say 'wow,' " Patrick said. "Now it's become so commonplace."
In part, because, Harley knows how to court women.
Intermingled with helpful tips, trivia and demonstrations, we dined on free baked goods, sandwich rolls and had an unlimited flow of wine.
We learned fascinating bits of history on women riders over the last century. Sisters Avis and Effie Hotchkiss, for example, rode across America on their Harleys twice in 1915. A women-only motorcycle club opened in the 1930s and still operates today.
Sure, we also learned about basic bike safety and got an overview of some of the basic models.
I now know that I could get a used bike for less than $5,000 or a new Screamin' Eagle Ultra Classic Electra Glide for more than $31,000.
We can ride with our feet stretched out in front (forward control) or beneath us like a bicycle (upright).
They make clutches that areeasier to squeeze and seats that are narrow and lower to the ground.
A Harley staffer showed us how to right a fallen 550-pound bike without help. Most of us managed, though the task was not nearly as simple as it looked.
And once they showed us that bikes weren't that scary, they showed us the clothes.
We learned about how leather is not only snazzy, but in the case of a fall, it helps prevent having your skin peeled off by gravel. We browsed through dozens of boots. There were riding boots equipped with stiff ankles and soles designed to hold tight on an oil- or-rain slicked road. And there were boots -- labeled with tags designating them as "after riding" footwear -- with 4-inch spiked heels and the Harley logo embedded in the side.
Glasses, also, are a necessity, as it is generally best to have your eyes open and unfettered by gravel or bugs when cruising 70 mph through the Mixing Bowl.
My bike-worthy getup consisted of an orange-accented leather jacket, a helmet, gloves with gel-filled palms, glasses with detachable cushioning and, of course, some studded chaps with an adjustable back.
Altogether, the outfit cost more than $1,000. That's not including boots. Noticing my sticker shock, one of the saleswomen reassured me that Harley offers cheaper alternatives. A $500 jacket, for example, is not a necessity.
Fully outfitted, I straddled the seat of a hulking Harley adorned with orange flames on the famous teardrop-shaped gas tank. I calculated the monthly cost of buying a bike in my head and weighed what I could sacrifice to cover the cost -- scrapping either my car payments or my monthly 401K contributions would easily cover the cost.
I left that day a shameless biker-stick wannabe, and sadly, with a Chevy Cavalier as my only wheels.
But I sense an 883 Sportster, open roads and more leather than herd of cows somewhere in my future.
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