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Rider Education Article

Women Riders
Submitted by: Joe and Gracie Mazza
Assistant International Director Rider Education

I thought it was long overdue that I devoted time to an article about women motorcycle drivers. Our first up close and personal experience with female riders was when we joined Chapter FL1-T, Inverness, Florida in 2002. Betty Lee Jackson, Karla Rubin and Rachel Harris all drove their own motorcycles. Betty Lee, at the time, was well into her seventies when she decided to buy a trike so she could ride alongside her daughter, Karla. I was extremely impressed with the way she handled her trike and with the fact that she, at one time, rode with a group all the way to California and back.

In our present home chapter, Chapter FL-I-A, Tampa, Florida, Nancy Shrader our Chapter Director, rides a new Gold Wing trike. Prior to the trike she rode a two-wheeled Gold Wing for many years as safely and expertly as any man I have ever ridden with. I do not make that statement as if we should be surprised by it but there are those who find it hard to believe that a woman could handle that much motorcycle weight. She, and others, can.

There is an article from CBS Interactive News dated 2012 titled, "Women Riding Motorcycles In Increasing Numbers," that I would like to share with you.

Chris Baldwin was seven when she commandeered her brother's motorbike on their Wisconsin dairy farm and first felt the wind in her face. More than 250,000 miles and 42 years later, it's still 2 wheels and a gas tank for the school administrator. Baldwin is an assistant dean at Washington University in St. Louis, but that's just one part of her. She's also past president and founder of the 30-year-old Women On Wheels, one of the country's largest and oldest motorcycle clubs for women at about 2,000 members.

The number of women motorcycle operators in the U.S. has increased slowly to about 7.2 million of 27 million operators overall in 2009. About 1 in 10 owners are women. The American Motorcycle Association has about 225,000 members. The number of women is under 10 percent, but the number of new women members has increased, driven in part by a higher profile for women on two wheels, more training opportunities and better equipment.

Women no longer have to endure jackets, gloves and helmets designed for men. And it's easier to find or modify bikes for shorter bodies. "I'm only 5'1", said Maggie McNally, AMA board member. "I wore boy's work boots for years and found the perfect gloves only 3 years ago. Things have changed a lot. Manufacturers today have realized that women are a huge part of the market."

Roshani Dubel, 33, an eighth grade math teacher and mother of three in Gilbert, Arizona, was more than ready to ride but she had to face those fears after winning an essay contest telling Harley why she wanted to learn to ride. She and three others were flown to Milwaukee for mentoring and training. A video documenting her struggles shows her breaking down emotionally as she tries to walk the bike back and forth. "I'm 5 feet tall. I kept thinking to myself, "How am I going to ride this monster?" Things clicked eventually. She's logged more than 800 miles on her bike since, cheered by her students and fellow teachers when she rolled up to her school on it for the first time.

Nancy Dilley, 68, of Overland Park, Kansas may never get there, but she sat astride a bike as she learned the basics while the rear tire spun safely on a platform during a company event at the Flatiron. "I had an uncle and he had a big bike. I was his favorite passenger because nobody else ever wanted to ride with him," she said. "We would go all over out in the country riding, but once I got married and had kids I didn't want to do it anymore. I felt I had too much responsibility." Will that change now that she's had a taste of what it feels like up front? "I'm kind of chicken, but it was interesting," she said.

The sight of women riding motorcycles is becoming more and more an everyday occurrence. I say, "Fantastic!" Women have been working hard for equality in all avenues of life for a long time now. Why should motorcycling be any different?

 

Read More Featured Stories From September 2013 Wingin' It.