If you think you've seen more female motorcyclists on the road lately, you're not imagining things. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, female motorcycle ownership has increased to 14%, up from 8% in 1998. Considering only about 4% of the Australian population rides, female motorcyclists truly are a rare species -like unicorns. And like unicorns, they face unique challenges in maintaining their magical status.
The number one complaint of female motorcyclists is the lack of fashionable, yet safe gear available to us. Go into any motorcycle shop and you'll be hard pressed to find the ladies section, but eventually you'll find the three jackets, two pairs of gloves, and 57 pink bandanas to choose from.
Women can't just buy men's gear in a smaller size; gear is the only buffer we have between us and the road, and it needs to be form fitted with all the protection points lining up correctly. We're serious riders and we need serious gear to protect us.
Many bikes out there seem like the perfect size - until you try to touch the ground. Women are generally shorter than men, and it tends to be a problem when looking for a bike they can comfortably and safely manoeuvre. Cruisers are usually okay, but if you're looking to buy a sport bike, you better include a lowering kit in the purchase price. It's important to be able to put both feet on the ground to ride as safely as possible.
Not only are bikes tall, they're also heavy. It's one thing to be able to manoeuvre the machine while upright, but there's always the fear of dropping the bike (usually at a dead stop). I think most of us have nightmares about asking random strangers to help pick up our bikes, or being trapped under it with bruised legs and egos.
Proper gear is important. Helmets are estimated to save over 1,600 lives per year. We take safety very seriously, which means we are continually challenged with being safe and looking good. We don't want to arrive at a party or event looking like we just woke up, makeup streaming down our faces. Shallow as it may be, the challenge of helmet hair is a real thing.
Not everything is a challenge. There's a sense of strength and accomplishment in riding, especially for women. The power behind the throttle, the self-reliance and independence of it; there's nothing quite like riding a motorcycle to remind you what a badass woman you really are.
Let's be honest, men just have it easier in this department. Try taking off three layers of pants while wearing a jacket twice the bulk of your body, possibly sopping wet with numb fingers, just to use the bathroom. Women know to go right before they gear up, and to lay off the coffee.
Women make up a sliver of the population who ride, I get it. But when a woman does take the initiative (and the safety course), and learns to ride, give her the credit she deserves. Women riders are constantly having to prove themselves, whether it's on the road, in the shop or social settings. I've even heard people compliment a woman's husband on her riding ability!
When motorcyclists pass each other on the road, there's an unspoken understanding, and even a hand-signal which says, "Hey buddy, isn't this awesome?" When females pass each other, it's like a reunion of old friends who haven't seen each other in years. It's a sisterhood, an instant understanding of the challenges, the empowerment, and the, "Hey girl, isn't this awesome? You're a total bad ass" that comes with being a female rider.
There's an unspoken rule in the motorcycle world - females don't belong in MCs. I'm not talking about riding clubs or other organizations that do accept women as members and equals, but the true, hardcore MCs that are still a huge part of the motorcycle community. As a female rider, riding solo can be a bit scary, especially when you roll into unfamiliar territory. There's a lot of rules to understand, and it can be intimidating walking into a bar full of bikers.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Why are guys so confused when they see a girl on a motorbike? Wallah it's not a boys-only thing</p>— serene (@maba3rafbye) <a href="https://twitter.com/maba3rafbye/status/765095847143112704?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 15, 2016</a></blockquote>
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The next time you see a female motorcyclist on the road, give her a nod, and a little respect. It's not easy being a mythical creature, especially in an industry that caters to man.
Let us know what else only female motorcyclists would understand in the comments below.