The percentage of riders who are female has doubled in the past ten years.
In 1990, the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety reported that only six percent of motorcycle riders were women. By 2008 the percentage had grown to ten percent according to the Motorcycle Industry Council. This year, the percentage has grown to close to twenty percent and the council predicts that the number of women riders will continue this trend in coming years.
“As the number of Boomer and mature motorcyclists shrink and are replaced by newer riders, we could soon be looking at a solid 25 percent of motorcycle owners being female,” says Andria Yu, MIC director of communications. “We’ve seen with our own eyes many more women riders — on the roads, on the trails, on the track, with families, at motorcycling events, forming clubs and just being part of everyday group rides. Many people in the industry have worked some 30 years to achieve this, and now the data confirms it: More and more women are getting out there and enjoying motorcycles.”
One rider whose riding history matches up with the steep growth of female riders is Lisa Barrow. You may know Lisa as a former features reporter at the television show Motorweek. During her time with the show she was assigned to cover a motorcycle safety course. She did her duty, took the course and moved on with her busy schedule.
Years later she happened to pick up a book called Lois On The Loose by Lois Pryce. Lisa told us “That book blew me away and I could not wait to get on a motorcycle.” Lisa re-took a motorcycle safety course and started with a Vespa. She’s since moved up to a BMW F650GS and has now toured the world on bikes, including some trips with her inspiration, Lois Pryce. Her adventures have included rides in Brazil, India, Australia, and even Kyrgyzstan. Lisa says she loves riding with her friends because there are “No egos. It’s just about fun and adventure.”
Women have been riding motorcycles in America since before they had earned the right to vote. Two of the most famous female riders in history are the Van Buren sisters who rode across America in 1916. The recent surge in interest among female riders may not be all coincidence. For decades, industry groups have seen women as a possible expansion market for motorcycles and accessories. “Major efforts to increase the number of women riders go back to the late 1980s when top manufacturers and distributors came together and formed Discover Today’s Motorcycling, the industry outreach program built to introduce new riders to two-wheeling,” says Cam Arnold, a longtime industry executive. “Throughout the 1990s and on till today, the big brands have dedicated increasing amounts of attention to the women’s market, and we’ve simply seen more and more positive imagery on TV, in movies and in many mainstream settings where women on motorcycles are just having fun.”
Another rider we interviewed, Leesa Powers, shed some light on one of the reasons female ridership has lagged male ridership. “I started riding later in life. I knew the risks and wanted to not risk injury while my children were young and needed me.” Like many riders, Leesa did have one bad experience, but Leesa says it didn’t keep her down long. “I rode for three or four years but unfortunately totaled my bike a few miles from home in a collision. I didn’t ride for a year because I was shaken up from the accident. But I couldn’t keep away.” Another challenge has been finding fellow riders. Leesa says, “Being a female biker is an interesting social experience. It’s not easy finding women riders who own their own bike. You do find other people once you ride who invite you to join them.”
In the end, the same reasons that attract men to ride are now bringing women into riding. Leesa’s summary says it all. “On a beautiful clear day, there is nothing most exhilarating than being on a motorcycle. It’s a sensory experience. It is also an immediate fix for any cobwebs in the brain or life stress. You focus on that experience and on all things safety, by the time you are done, you haven’t a problem in the world.”