Women are ‘Born to be Wild’
Women Are Hitting The Highways and Touring The Globe By Motorcycle
by Heather Cassell
In August, when the Highway Runaways roared into San Francisco on their Harley’s from Brooklyn, I suddenly started to think about Scarlett, our Ninja 500R Kawasaki, in the garage and hitting the road down the coast or up to wine country with Super G as her “back seat Betty.”
I’ve been a “back seat Betty” since my dad’s friend put me on the back of his Harley-Davidson to chase down the ice cream truck in Redwood City, California when I was about four years old. That is my earliest memory on the back of a motorcycle. While I grew up around motorcyclists – both men and women – in the Santa Cruz Mountains, I’ve always been comfortable simply as a passenger. There’s no talking me into taking the handle bars and revving the engine. I like holding on and going for the ride.
So, when Super G and I first met I was tickled pink to learn she had a motorcycle and we’ve been cruising around California on Scarlett and in San Francisco on Bruiser, our scooter, together ever since.
Revving Up Those Curves
We aren’t the only chicolas rocking the road in the US and beyond. Women’s ownership and ridership is the fastest growing segment of the motorcycling industry, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council, and hence women’s motorcycle road trips and tours are growing.
Women buying motorcycles has jumped 28% within the past five years and one in four motorcycle owners overall have a “back seat Betty,” like me. Currently, in the US, almost 12% of motorcycle owners are now women, estimates the Industry. That’s an increase of almost 30% during the past 10 years.
Women are also big decision makers where the money goes (85%), with many women urging their significant others to buy a motorcycle (25% of women are saying yes to the ride) to swiping the card for their own gear to machines. In powersports, women make up $6 billion of sales in the $23 billion industry. Cha-ching.
But this is all old hat to Harley-Davidson, which has supported women’s motorcycling since 1921 (a year after women got the vote, but we’ve been hitting the road much longer than that) through different outreach programs, such as Garage Party, gear, and more resulting in a nice lining in their bank accounts. Most recently, Harley-Davidson sponsored commemoration of mother-daughter Harley riders Avis and Effie Hotchkiss centennial historic cross-country ride with the Highway Runaways Ride (#HWYRunaways) for the “Women’s Moto Exhibit.” Avis and Effie became the first women to ride their 1915 Harley-Davidson V-twin across the US from the Statue of Liberty to the Golden Gate in 1915.
The five women – Lanakila Macnaughton, Imogen Lehtonen, Meg Marie, Nina Kaplan, and Jenny Czinder – left Brooklyn July 3 on their Harley-Davidsons for their four week journey and landed in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood July 31. Portland-based photographer Lanakila documented the women’s adventure through her edgy stunning photographs that just make you want to ride either because these girls are hot! (like awesome girl power hot) or because you want to rev up and go yourself.
In recent years, women’s motorcycle adventure tours, somewhat similar to the Highway Runaways Ride, are growing in popularity among women, Genevieve Schmitt, of Women Riders Now, tells Fix.
It’s true. There are many opportunities to get wild on the road with other women all around the world. So, rev up your engines because there are more women riding and more club and tour offerings for women motorcyclists.
Fall is a great time to head out onto the road as the weather is cooling down and in certain parts of the country the trees are turning colors making for beautiful scenery.
If history is your thing and you missed any of the Avis and Effie celebration cross-country rides? You can catch another historic cross-country trip with The Sisters Centennial Motorcycle Ride led by Women Motorcycle Tours. The ride honoring sisters Augusta and Adeline Van Buren’s historic centennial ride across America departs New York on July 4, 2016 and is scheduled to arrive in San Francisco on July 24. The 20-something sisters, descendents of President Martin Van Buren, the eight president of the US, rode from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 60 days on their own 1,000 cc Indian Power Plus motorcycles in 1916.
However, there are more places to ride than in the US, get your motor running with these tours and clubs:
Women’s Motorcycle Tours
India’s first women’s motorcycle tour company Back ‘N’ Beyond hosts five adventure and leisure tours for riders of all levels to experience India from the Himalayas to Goa and more. Check them out at BackNBeyond.com/Tours-Category/Women-Tours.
The first tour company to provide motorcycle and scooter tours of Vietnam for women they offer up to 14 itineraries and customized tours for travelers to learn about the culture, history and geography of Vietnam by two wheels. Vietnam is one of best motorcycling touring countries in the world, according to the company’s Off Road Vietnam’s website. Check them out at OffRoadVietnam.com/Motorbike-Tours/WomenTours.
Explore the world on the open road with this women’s motorcycle tour company. This New Zealand-based travel company leads tours in Australia, Europe, the US, and of course in the land of Kiwis, New Zealand. Check them out at Towanda.org.
Women Motorcycle Tours by Moto Adventure Gal
Leads small group tours for beginners to custom adventures in the US, upcoming adventures include a 4-day ride through Arizona’s Red Rocks, a 9-day journey through the Pacific Northwest, and The Sisters Centennial Motorcycle Ride, a 21-day cross-country ride from New York to San Francisco in July 4 – 24, 2016. The ride will loosely follow the route along Lincoln Highway that the Van Buren sisters’ took on their historic ride on Indian Motorcycles across the US in 1916. Check them out at WomensMotorcycleTours.com.
Women’s Motorcycle Clubs
The association has active women’s contingents building communities of women motorcyclists across the US along with providing historical information about women motorcyclists, today’s inspiring women motorcycle enthusiasts, safety tips, and more. It also offers an extensive list of rallies, rides, and meet ups, but you have to search for the women’s groups. Check it out at AmericanMotorcyclist.com/Riding/Street/PremierTouringSeries.aspx.
India’s first women’s motorcycle club launched in 2011 with 14 members in Pune and has grown to 16 chapters which host rides. There are three different types of rides from monthly rides hosted by each city to the quarterly rides hosted in one of the four zones, and then two national rides hosted on the organization’s anniversary and International Female Ride Day, reports Global Women Who Ride. Check them out at www.facebook.com/TheBikerni.
A smaller women’s motorcycle club in India, the Hop On Gurls! offers women motorcyclists workshops for motorcycle maintenance to wild trekking adventures. Check them out at HopOnGurls.com.
Celebrating its 75th anniversary, Motor Maids is one of the US’s longest running women’s motorcycle clubs promoting women’s riding through workshops and social activities. Established in 1940, currently, the club has 1,200 members in the US and Canada, according to the club’s website. Check them out at MotorMaids.org.
More than just your average women’s motorcycle club, the ShredBettys tear it up with a mix of cross-sports boarding, biking and lifestyle program offering beginning to advanced adventures in South Africa. They have three chapters at the tip of Africa. Check them out at ShredBettys.org.za.
This women’s motorcycle club has more than 90 chapters in North America (US and Canada) and the United Kingdom and hosts two annual meetings along with chapter led rides. Look for the next gathering in Pennsylvania in 2016. Womeninthewind.org
Helping women hit the road since 1950, this women’s motorcycle club has chapters building communities and hosting rides all over the world. Check them out at WIMAWorld.com.
This women’s motorcycle club has 75 chapters and an estimated 1,500 members throughout the US. Women will hit the road for its 30th annual In-Ride to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 2016. Check them out at www.womenonwheels.org/ride/ or simply visit WomenonWheels.org.
An online women’s motorcycling magazine celebrating its 20th anniversary, updated daily it’s the number one resource for women who like to ride. Check them out at WomenRidersNow.com.
Girl Biker’s Adventure Reads
Need a little inspiration to hop on that bike and feel the wind through your hair? Here are some adventure stories from girls who hit the wide open road solo in America, Carla King’s American Borders: A solo-circumnavigation of the United States on a Russian sidecar motorcycle and Karen Larsen’s Breaking the Limit: One Woman’s Motorcycle Journey Through North America.
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