The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) has always been a proponent for female motorcycle riding, from their association with the Motor Maids Incorporated women’s motorcycling organization that was founded in the 1940’s, all the way to today. In keeping with this tradition, the AMA announces the launch of their latest women-empowering endeavor, the “Get Women Riding” campaign, meant to promote riding to women. AMA expanded its online content and published a series of videos – available on YouTube and the official website – as part of this new campaign. Key components of this effort include preparation through proper training, advice in gear/bike selection — my wife and fellow writer Allyn Hinton has a few words to say on that — and combating the ’Boys Only Club’ image of motorcycle riding. They go far beyond fancy videos and online text by hosting a “Ladies Day” event at their headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio on Saturday, May 9th, with several workshops geared toward not-new female riders. This free event will feature several presenters to answer questions with the support of local partners and motorcycle dealerships.

He Said

Riding has always been one of my favorite things in the world, and so are women. So anything that brings two great things together (much like chocolate plus peanut butter) is a win-win situation! Plus, I never subscribed to the notion that being a biker was a male-only endeavor, probably because my experiences brought me into contact with plenty of female riders before I ever rode (up front, anyway) on a bike.

AMA states that this new campaign is inspired by the lifestyle and accomplishments of the late Jeanne Clendenon, who was a “prolific motorcycle rider and long-time AMA member,” and a member of the Retreads Motorcycle Club. She completed the U.S. Four Corners Tour in 21 days and won the Retreads MC long-distance award four years in a row! Her estate contributed to this campaign, and prospective female riders should look to her for inspiration and confirmation that motorcycling is indeed an accessible and enjoyable activity/lifestyle/mode of transportation for them.

She Said

That’s great that the AMA is campaigning to get more women to ride. Female ridership is up. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of motorcycles owned by women increased by 20 percent. The last time I saw a statistic, it showed 25 percent of folks riding motorcycles are women. That’s significant. It’s a huge potential market that the bike manufacturers are waking up to.

Just a few years ago, it was hard to find a bike that I could get on without needing a stepstool. I was thrilled if I could swing my leg over and still plant my feet on the ground — meaning I wasn’t tippy-toeing. Then my hopes would be dashed when I tried to wrestle the thing off the jiffy stand. As a result, a significant percent of women riders —approximately 40 percent — rode cruiser-style V-twin bikes because they were the only bikes they could find that worked for them.

Manufacturers are finally starting to put out bikes with low seat heights and low centers of gravity, that have the power and are ballsy enough to ride with the big dogs. A bike like the CTX700 from Honda, for example, fits the bill, though Honda classifies it as a ’touring’ bike but it doesn’t come with bags and only has a 3-gallon fuel tank. Maybe I’m one of those riders who can’t imagine ’touring’ without a big fuel tank and plenty of storage. Harley-Davidson has quite a lineup of bikes that, while not necessarily catering to women, have low seat heights that are definitely a draw to those of us that are height-challenged.

The Softail line traditionally has a low seat height because of the way the frame is built that makes it a Softail. Specs for the 2015 Softail Slim show a 23.8-inch laden seat height, which is amazing, but if you look at the fine print, that laden seat height assumes a 180-pound rider. Even still, the Softails generally come in unladen under 26 inches. The Victory Magnum and most of the 2015 lineup from IndianChieftain, Chief Vintage, Chief Classic, Chief Dark Horse and the Scout — all come in at or under 26 inches. Other manufacturers are falling in, as well. There are too many to list individually, but you get the idea.

Another big problem I have and that plagues women riders that I talk to is gear. We have a hard time finding gear that fits. At this year’s Cleveland Motorcycle Show, the guy manning the booth for a British gear manufacturer admitted that many manufacturers, them included, had given up entirely on making gear for women. Why? They said they have between an 80- and 90-percent return rate because of poor fit. He said women’s bodies are too hard to fit because they can be so different, but honestly, clothing manufacturers can do if they want to. Yes, there are big-busted women with small waists, big-busted women with thick waists, small-busted women with small or thick waists, small-waisted women with ample hips or narrow hips and on and on, but we all manage to find clothes that fit.

The problem I find is a manufacturer starts with a ’base’ size — maybe a size 4 — and adds an inch to all the dimensions and calls it a size 6, then adds an inch and calls it a size 8, then adds an inch and calls it a size 10 and so on. The problem is, women’s body sizes don’t ’enlarge’ that way. As the size changes, the proportions also change, so you can’t just enlarge a size 4 to a size 12 and have the size 12 fit a normal woman. If the AMA wants to encourage more women to ride, they need to kick the gear manufacturers in the butt to start making gear that fits us or all we’re left with is a pair of chaps and a struggle to find a jacket that fits well enough to mostly keep the armor in the right places.

While I’m ranting about the gear, let’s not ignore the boot manufacturers. I’m a little offended that boot manufacturers seem to think that all women buying motorcycle gear are hookers. I want a practical pair of riding boots that are comfortable, but when I shop for women’s footwear, they offer fashion boots in tiny sizes with a ridiculous heel. Honestly, you can’t operate a heel-toe shifter in fashion heels. I end up shopping men’s boots to get something that I can actually ride in. Someone please tell the boot manufacturers that some of us actually ride and aren’t just riding pillion or prancing around the clubhouse as eye-candy.

I love that the AMA has launched this campaign, but we seriously need a little help here.

Source: American Motorcyclist

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