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Why More Women Are Now Riding Motorcycles
Posted on 3/11/2019 3:09:21 PM

Back in 1998, only 8 percent of motorcycle owners were women; by 2014, that number had increased to 14 percent. In 2014, a woman named Danell Lynn went on a 12 month, 48,600 mile trip to compete for the Guiness record of longest motorcycle trip in one country (she didn’t officially win, but it’s impressive nonetheless). A group of women called the “Highway Runaways” rode from 4,500 miles from Brooklyn to San Francisco and chronicled their journey online in the Women’s Moto Exhibition. This article will explore the appeal of motorcycles for women.

Why More Women Are Now Riding Motorcycles

According to studies conducted by the Motorcycle Industry Council, women increasingly make up a larger percentage of overall motorcycle riders. In 2009, it was estimated that up to 10 percent of motorcycle riders were women. Now, that number is thought to be at least 19 percent.

These studies have also shown that motorcycle riders are getting younger, too, and women make up larger percentages of these younger generations of riders. Roughly 26 percent of millennial motorcycle riders are women and about 22 percent of Gen X riders are women. It’s easy to assume that, as time goes on and younger people continue to enter the world of motorcycles, the amount of motorcyclists who are women will only continue to grow.

The Appeal of Motorcycles for Women

In these studies, when asked why they’re drawn to motorcycles, many women cited reasons that any motorcyclist is likely to share: love of the outdoors and nature, the fun and recreation, and the sense of freedom associated with riding. Likewise, many women who ride motorcycles, like men, value the sense of community associated with riding motorcycles.

The biker look is something that appeals to both men and women motorcyclists, and it’s not unlikely that the growth in the share of motorcycle fashion devoted to women who ride has influenced the growth of female motorcycle riders.

The Women Who Rode Their Motorcycles Across the USA

While many motorcyclists have driven their bikes across the US, Avis and Effie Hotchkiss, a mother and daughter from Brooklyn, New York, became the first female motorcyclists to complete a ride across the US. The two rode from Brooklyn to San Francisco in 1915 on their Harley-Davidson motorcycle-sidecar combination, with daughter Effie in the driver’s seat and mother Avis in the sidecar. The following year, Augusta and Adeline Van Buren became the second female duo to ride across the US. The two, descendents of former US President Martin Van Buren, also departed from Brooklyn, though they finished their ride in Los Angeles. The two were arrested numerous times throughout the ride, not for their driving, but because they were dressed in men’s clothes.

In 2014, a woman named Danell Lynn went on a 12 month, 48,600 mile trip to compete for the Guiness record of longest motorcycle trip in one country. While she didn’t officially win the title, the ride is a testament to the continued passion of female motorcyclists.

 The Biker Women of Highway Runaways

 In 2015, Harley-Davidson celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Hotchkisses’ ride across the US with a similar ride embarked upon by five female motorcyclists. The four-week ride began in Brooklyn and ended in San Francisco, just like the Hotchkisses’ trip. The ride was photographed and documented by one of the riders, culminating in a special exhibit later that year at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.

“Biker Chick” Is Taking on a New Meaning

 In the past, the term “biker chick” has been used to describe women in the motorcycle world who associate with outlaw motorcycle clubs or other male-dominated motorcycle groups. Typically, these women were not riders themselves, but were there to fill more subordinate roles within the organization. Now, as more and more women enter the world of motorcycles, the term has taken on a new flavor. A biker being a woman now has a greater air of independence and  autonomy, and all-female motorcycle clubs can now be found all over the world, including right here in the US.

 The Best Motorcycle for Women

In the past, women have sometimes struggled to make certain motorcycle models work for them. On average, women are not as tall and do not have frames as large as men do, which can make riding certain bikes designed for a man’s frame more difficult. In general, bikes that are slightly lower to the ground and slightly narrower have been key in the female biker’s search.

As time has gone on and the segment of women riders has grown, more options for women bikers have become available. For example, the Sportster 1200 Custom is one of the best bikes for women, and women can select from a variety of Sportster parts to customize their hog to their liking.

As with anyone who is new to the world of motorcycle riding, there are a few key things that  women who are beginners on a bike should try when determining what kind of bike is best for them.

One aspect of motorcycle riding that has no shortage of options for women is the clothing. Female riders can select from a wide variety of Harley Davidson clothing for women for maximum comfort while still achieving the classic biker style.

It’s likely that, as time goes on, the portion of bikers who are female will only continue to grow and, with it, we’ll see the growth in representations of women who ride motorcycles.

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