Why aren’t there more women in motorcycling?

Because I am too lazy to come up with original content this morning, I’m going to reprint a post I made last night to the Motorcycle-USA forums.

The thread began by talking about the Femmoto track day and eventually, someone asked the ubiquitous question “why aren’t there more women in motorcycling?”

Here was my response:

Now, to the question of “why don’t more women ride?”. I’ve put a lot of thought into the general question of “why don’t more women [whatever]” over the past 10 years or so, originally as it pertained to computer programming (one of my degrees is in Computer Science; my college thesis was on Women in Computer Science — available here, for those interested).

To make a very long set of theories and thought processes short, I don’t think it matters one single solitary bit why more women aren’t riding.

Ask a group of 10 women riders, and you’ll get 10 different answers. You’ll hear why this particular woman didn’t start sooner, why that particular woman is ashamed not to love riding more than she does. You’ll hear true stories about women being told that “girls can’t ride”, that “moms who ride are bad parents”, that “women aren’t strong enough/tall enough/quick enough” to physically handle a motorcycle.

All of these reasons — and more — are valid, and they’re real, and they’re true. But they also don’t matter.

Every time someone sees a female motorcyclist, we get the message across that we’re not different. A woman riding is just like a man riding. I don’t do anything spectacular or brave or incredible by slinging a leg over a bike. I vote; I work outside the home; I own property; I ride a motorcycle. There is nothing intrinsic about riding a bike that requires a penis to operate it. To me, my riding is no different than my boyfriend riding. I haven’t overcome some huge hurdle or stigma in order to commute in the rain with car drivers trying to plow me over. I just love to ride.

I enjoy discussions about women riders, and I adore events like Femmoto that bring us all together, but fundamentally, there is no smoking gun. There is no one (or three, or fifteen) reason(s) why more women aren’t riding. Every woman who doesn’t ride a motorcycle is like every man who doesn’t ride — maybe they’re afraid, or maybe a family member was hurt while riding once, or maybe they just never really thought they’d like it.

A much better question, in my humble opinion, is “why isn’t there money in women’s motorcycling?”. Manufacturers of motorcycles and of gear aren’t neglecting the women riders because of some conspiracy — they’re neglecting us because they can’t make enough money catering to us. So my question is “where’s the money?”. Why aren’t more women buying leather track suits? Why aren’t more women buying smaller sized helmets?

I think a lot of this is education — women may assume that gear will be ill-fitting, so they may settle for a men’s cut jacket or a slightly too-large helmet, for example. And this goes back to just meeting more fellow riders. This weekend, I learned about at least two or three gear companies that I hadn’t heard of before, not to mention new (to me) magazines, products, and bikes.

I appear to be rambling, so I’ll summarize.

1) Focus your energy. Write to manufacturers, stating what you like about their products and what you wish they did differently. Like your rain suit but think the legs are too long? Send ’em an email.

2) Fill out every single survey you lay your eyes on. Make sure to proudly circle that “F” under “sex” (or write it in if they don’t ask!) and be honest about what you buy. Let them know you’ve got a wallet and aren’t afraid to use it!

3) Spread the word to other women. Print up some business cards with your name, email address, website, and the name/site of any women’s riding organization you belong to. Hand them out whenever you see another female rider — at the gas station, at a scenic vista, at a track day. We’re all foot soldiers.

Power to the people, kids.

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