Women Motorcycle Riders
A Woman's Perspective on Motorcycling and Engines
by "Smalls" for webBikeWorld.com
Summary: In a male--dominated sport, women donít have to take the
back seat -- or should I say, be the "two--up". In fact,
from what Iíve read, female riders are the fastest
growing demographic in motorcycling.
Ladies, whether youíre twenty or sixty, if youíre
interested in riding thereís no time like the present
and there are plenty of resources available to get you
started in the right direction.
First, let me preface this by saying that I still have a
lot to learn and this article is not meant to be an
end--all by any means. This is simply my story of how I
got involved in motorcycling, some of the research and
lessons I learned along the way, and where I hope to go
Ever since I was a teenager, Iíve loved sportbikes. Dare
I admit that two of the dumbest things Iíve ever done in
my life involve sportbikes? Thankfully, that was a long
time ago and Iím much wiser now!
I jumped at every opportunity to go on motorcycle rides.
I was always the passenger, but it was still
exhilarating. I have fond memories from years ago of my
dad taking me out on his dirt bike along mountain roads,
and more recently of rides with him on his Harley Sportster.
How I got into the sport for myself all came about
because of a Halloween costume. I had decided
last--minute to go to a costume party and had one hour to
put something together. I ended up borrowing my dadís
leather chaps and going as a "biker chick" to the party.
I donít know what it is about leather, but I loved
wearing those chaps! My attire sparked all sorts of
curiosity about what kind of bike I had. At that point,
I didnít have a motorcycle and had never even considered
getting one for myself for some reason.
Now that I think about it, at that point in time, I
didnít know any females that piloted their own bikes. As
a teenager I must have thought girls rode on the back
and that was the way it was -- or maybe I was afraid of
driving and getting myself killed.
Truth be told, I never minded hopping on the back of a
motorcycle and wrapping my arms around a cute guy! Alas,
back in the day when I was eighteen I was young,
reckless, and stupid and the combination of a hot guy
and a sweet bullet bike is what led me into dangerous
situations that could have gotten me killed.
But I digressÖthat night at the costume party a friend
offered to teach me to ride. The next day I was at his
house for my first lesson on a Honda 100cc dirt bike.
One of the first lessons I learned was to have smooth
clutch and throttle control. A few times, when taking
off from a stop, I accidently popped the clutch and gave
it too much gas, and as the front tire came off the
ground I screamed like a three--year old.
I was not interested (and am still not interested) in
flipping a bike over onto my body. That dirt bike
definitely reacted differently than the four--wheelers
I rode around an empty field for a couple hours
practicing shifting and turning and just getting
comfortable with the feel of the motorcycle. It was like
I was a kid again, and I almost had to be pried off the
bike. It was a blast.
The next week I went back for round two and a couple
more hours on the little 100cc. A week later there was
too much rain and snow to even consider taking the bike
out until spring. Bummer.
I was hooked and I knew it was definitely a sport I
wanted to be an active part of. What the heck was I
going to do for five or six months until I could ride
Soaking Up Knowledge
I spent the next several months learning as much as I
could about motorcycles and riding and yes, even
engines. Before I got into motorcycles I didnít know a
thing about engines beyond the fact that cars had four,
six, or eight cylinders.
Every time men talked shop, I was like, "Huh? What
the heck are camshafts?" I knew some terminology
carburetors, pistons, valves -- but that was as far as it
went. I couldnít tell you a thing about what the parts
did or how they worked together.
When I decided to get a motorcycle, I wanted to know
what I was talking about and what I was buying.
Previously, I had a different philosophy; if something
went wrong with my car, I had a cage to protect me and I
couldnít have cared less about what was under the hood.
Concerning motorcycles, I felt it was important to learn
about engines and be educated about what I was buying. I
wasnít about to let a salesperson working on commission
tell me what I should buy and what kind of bike I could
I did lots of research on the internet (Google is our
friend), read some books, and talked to anyone who owned
a motorcycle and/or had worked on engines. I wanted to
know how they worked. I read books like
The Complete Idiotís Guide to Motorcycles (review),
some great basic information on engines, riding,
protective gear, and even buying that first bike.
I had a thirst for knowledge and was consumed with
learning everything I could about motorcycles, such as
the difference between two--stroke and four--stroke
engines, Thumpers, Boxers, V--twins, and in--line fours.
The more I learned, the more interested I became.
But I didnít stop there; I learned about clutches, final
drive systems, and torque. When someone talked about
forks, rake, steering dampers, swing arms, hard tails,
and triple trees, I wanted to understand what was
I was surprised by how much passion I had for learning
about bikes. I soaked up anything and everything
motorcycle related, and became an American Chopper
junkie in the process -- "Senior, do you want any girls in
the shop? Iím a fast learner!"
On to my point: it was extremely empowering to walk into
motorcycle shops with an understanding of different
engines and bike parts. One salesman admitted later that
he wondered if I had been sent by his boss to "test" him
because I knew more about engines and motorcycles than
the average woman.
Learning Riding Techniques
I knew my two mini--lessons on a dirt bike had not come
close to preparing me for riding on the streets amidst
the cages. Iíd ridden quads for years, but riding on two
wheels in traffic was another ball game than riding on
four wheels along empty dirt roads high in the
Riding a motorcycle is much more than knowing how to
shift; I highly recommend the Motorcycle Safety
Foundationís Basic RiderCourse (review) for all newbies. Even seasoned riders may learn a thing or two. The
skills and knowledge I took away from that course have
already saved my hide a number of times.
In my mind, riding skills can always be improved and
sharpened. It is winter once again, and while I
impatiently wait for the snow to melt and spring to
arrive (sigh), Iíve been continuing my education by reading
A Twist of the Wrist II
Even though I havenít been able to physically apply what
Iíve read so far, I have already spotted several areas
Iíve been making mistakes -- such as rolling off/on the
throttle in corners when I felt like Iíd gone in too
fast or was going too wide.
That book is helping me understand more about motorcycle
dynamics and things like how to make a bike more stable
in corners, etc. When Iím done reading that one,
Proficient Motorcycling (review) is sitting on my desk
waiting to be read next.
Motorcycling has inherent risks, and the more you learn
and apply, the safer you can be. Iíd like to also
stress the importance of wearing motorcycle gear every
time you ride.
Gear can go a long way in protecting you and could even
save your life. My motto is safety first; every time I
ride I wear a full--face helmet, gloves, boots, an
armored jacket, and riding pants.
Buying Your First Motorcycle
Having knowledge of engine sizes, types, and the power
and mannerisms of each was very useful when it came to
purchasing my first motorcycle. I knew I wanted a sportbike, so I also I read countless threads about a
good "starter" bike.
For every person that said a newbie could handle a 600cc
to 1000cc bike if they were "careful", someone else said
to start smaller, build confidence, and become a better,
faster rider more quickly. I knew the power behind a motorcycle scared me, and I
decided to go with option two: start smaller. I decided
a 250cc or 500cc would be the way to go for my first
year or two.
Not to say I wasnít drooling over the Ď09 Yamaha FZ6R in
white that had just been released at the time -- and itís
still on my wish list! If I hadnít made the decision up
front to start smaller, I could easily have been sold on
getting a beautiful, seductive 600cc in--line four as my
Side note: not all engines with the same displacement
size are created equally. Different 600cc motorcycles
can vary greatly in horsepower and torque. For instance,
(review) carries less horsepower than their
2010 YZF--R6, yet both engines are 600cc.
Two Yamaha dealers gave me different stats on the number
of ponies each bike had, so I decided to call the Yamaha
Motor Corporation to get my facts straight. I was
informed that they do not publish horsepower but they
confirmed that the FZ6R has less horsepower than the
Not to say that someone canít start with a 600cc, but
with my limited riding experience, I knew I wasnít ready
for that much power. Prior to my MSF course, Iíd only
been a passenger on a street bike. Most sales
people told me I could handle one of the "detuned" 600cc bikes
-- and I probably could have, but I
would have been scared to death and driven like a
granny! What I appreciated were the few sales
said to start smaller with less power, less torque, and
less weight to control.
In my opinion more power isnít always better -- I can
hear it now, all the Tim Taylor--esque grunts that more
power is the only way to go. However, I suggest that
riders (male or female) look inward and decide what
their riding abilities and maturity level are before
deciding how much of a bike they can "handle."
Something else to consider is your height and strength.
A rider should feel comfortable on her bike, be able to
touch the ground and also to back it up. For
example, a petite friend
of mine let her husband talk her into getting a
motorcycle that was bigger than she wanted. She
felt it was too big and heavy for her size and her
abilities as a new rider -- she couldnít even back it up.
The size of her bike scared her enough that she rarely
rode; she put on fewer miles in three years than I did
in my first two months of riding.
Her fears of the size of her bike, combined with a small
accident, have made her rethink her first purchase and
she is looking at either getting a smaller motorcycle or
giving it up entirely.
Interestingly, I have read
stories of women who started with the exact same bike as
she did, and they did great.
Why is that? No two riders are exactly alike in skill or
height and strength. The key is finding what YOU are
After more discussion, shopping around, and sitting on
the only three sportbikes left in my desired range of
500cc or less, I chose an í06 Ninja 500. Itís been a
perfect first motorcycle for me with more than enough
power to keep me happy -- and plenty left over to scare
me if I wanted -- but forgiving when Iíve popped the
clutch or made some other newbie mistake.
Iíve become a gearhead and am now fascinated with
engines. I want to take a small engines class and learn
to work on my bike, and my interest in engines and
motorcycles has even led me to recently working on my
Two years ago I never would have imagined Iíd climb up
on my car to change spark plugs -- the back four were
hard to reach! With my grandpaís help I even changed the
brakes on my car and saved a few hundred dollars in
labor. By the way, impact guns are really cool!
It was actually quite fun working on my car and I canít
wait to work on a motorcycle; Iíve only done some basic
maintenance on my bike so far. I just got my first set
of tools and Iím excited because, guys, I finally get
Over the last year, Iíve met a handful of women that
ride their own motorcycles or who are taking the MSF
Basic RiderCourse this spring and then buying their
first bikes. This summer, I hope to grab a few friends
and go on a couple road trips.
As far as a destination...who knows? With a motorcycle,
itís not the destination that excites me; itís the
Ladies, if youíre new to the sport or thinking of
getting started, thereís no need to be intimidated by
the fact that there are many more male than female
The motorcycle industry is catering to women more and
more each year -- in that case, what are you waiting for?
An invitation? Well, here it is: come join me on the
MSF Basic Rider Course Review by S.G. |
Motorcycle Riding Skills and Training Page
Publication Date: March 2010
Note: For informational use only. All material and
photographs are Copyright © webWorld International, LLC - 2000-2011. All
rights reserved. See the webBikeWorldģ
page. NOTE: Product specifications, features and details may
change or differ from our descriptions. Always check before purchasing. Read
Terms and Conditions!
►Your Comments and
Please send comments to
Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
Not all comments will be published (details
). Comments may be edited for
clarity prior to publication.
From "A.K." (3/10): "I
thoroughly enjoyed this article and as a female
rider myself, can identify with your drive and
interest despite motorcycles being a road less
traveled for most women.
I started riding alongside (never behind!) my
(now) husband after completing an MSF course.
That was my first time on a motorcycle and I was
hooked! My first and current bike is a Ducati
monster 620 and I found myself dreaming of warmer
climes so I can ride year-round.
I only wish I could find more women to ride with
and more shop classes that cater to women. I
hope this story encourages more female riders.
Thank you for sharing your story!"
From "R.M." (3/10): "Very good
article and one that I will point to in the future.
I have had the, sometimes trying, experience of
introducing motorcycling to both men and women.
By far women take advice more seriously than men.
It has to do with in large part with most men having
a self image and bravado.
My latest success was with a female rider and I
believe she is in it for the long haul such as
yourself. The Ninja 250 to 500 is by far the
best bike for anyone to spend their first journeys
on and it is an overall superb machine. As you
have so well stated, engine size is only one part of
the equation. The Ninja 250 and 500 has
superior geometries that lend to better handling and
rider skill improvement.
The other advice I give to my female rider
comrades is that you should brace yourself for some
sexiest behaviors. It isn't as bad as it has
been due to the numbers of women joining the ranks
but you can ask my wife, there are still plenty of
men in the sport that will immediately think you are
clueless because of your gender. Please know
that there are far more of us that respect and
welcome you in our common passion.
In closing, I'd like to commend webBikeWorld for
their diversification and welcome the continuance."
From "M.H." (3/10): "For
Christmas, my husband gave me the MSF beginner's
course. What a surprise! He has been
riding for several years and we have made several
road trips 2-up. I hadn't really considered
riding myself. That was before!!
My main concern is finding a bike that fits me.
I'm 5'1". Before taking the course, I didn't know
there were any bikes out there that would fit.
I'm borrowing a friend's Honda Rebel 250 right now.
It fits and doesn't scare me, but I would like
something a bit more powerful when I get my own.
Thanks for the article. It answers some questions
I've been pondering.
And I wholeheartedly agree with your comments on
safety equipment. I am the proud new owner of
a high-vis yellow riding jacket! Maybe I'll
see you on the road..."
From "B.B." (3/10): "Kudos to
"Smalls" for some very informative and needed
articles. I agree 100% regarding the advice
she gave about women starting out in motorcycling.
I started out in 1992 on a 250cc Honda Rebel that
was customized by a driving school with dual clutch
and brake controls on an extra set of handlebars and
an extended rear seat for the instructor. It
was a truly innovative way to introduce a lot of
riders to motorcycling, both men and women.
After quite a few hours of training and then passing
my road test, I received my license endorsement.
I moved up to a 1991 Kawasaki Vulcan 750, a terrific
bike that was probably a bit too powerful for me,
but that I learned to control simply by not turning
my right wrist as much. Baby steps, learn,
apply, then learn more. Much like "Smalls" I,
too, learned as much as I could from reading and
talking to others, spending the long northern New
Jersey winters cramming as much information as I
could into my brain and going over it repeatedly
until the Spring thaw.
I also was working at the time as a police officer
and was able to move into an opening as a motor
officer. I attended the NYPD Motorcycle school
in 1994, and then attended an instructor course from
Harley-Davidson and Northwestern University Traffic
Institute that they sponsored the following year.
Talk about a dream come true!
Even with this training, I still try to gather as
much information as possible about riding. I feel
that the time to stop learning is when you stop
living. I also agree with her advice against
adopting the "more power is better" syndrome.
I believe it was Jason Pridmore who was asked about
engine size in an interview (although it may have
been his dad, Reg Pridmore), and responded by saying
that, for street riding, a 600cc sportbike would
have more power than you would ever need.
My current ride is a 1993 Harley-Davidson
Electraglide Sport. It is 1340cc and weighs
700 pounds (900 with me on it!). My reason for
choosing this bike is that it is the civilian
counterpart of the police bikes that I was trained
on, hence I feel the most comfortable on it.
Also, being nearly 200 lbs and 6'2" tall, I have no
problem handling the weight (One of my suggestions
to men or women trying to decide on a bike is that
they should be able to pick it up if it should
fall). Although my Harley is my favorite ride,
I still have a ball riding smaller bikes and never
miss the power.
Finally, I also agree regarding her advice on gear.
In addition to being a motor officer, I also spent
fifteen years as a fatal accident investigator.
As such, I investigated or assisted on numerous
motorcycle accidents; fatal, serious, and otherwise.
Because of my experiences, I always wear a full face
helmet and armored clothing, especially now that I'm
retired and can really start enjoying life.
"Smalls" is right on the money there, also. To
paraphrase a saying from my Navy days, "Motorcycling
itself is not inherently dangerous, but to an even
greater degree than the sea, it is terribly
unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or
neglect". If we go about motorcycling the
right way, we can stay safe and still have a ball,
and isn't that what it's all about? Thanks
again for a terrific article."
From "M.S." (3/10): "It sounds
to me like you're on the right track. I'm glad
you listened to your inner self about bike size,
About that starting too big thing, you'll encounter
people along the way who make that mistake, some of
them will kill or maim themselves or someone else.
I've been riding for most of my adult life. I had a
motorcycle before I had a car at 16. I'm 56 years
young now. I could tell lots of stories, but
there's not enough space for that, and I don't want
ruin the good vibe you started here.
Just remember, if you're anything like the rest of
us it doesn't matter what kind of bike you're riding
you'll always lust after the next one, or another
one. I've never had a bike I didn't want to
keep, and I'm constantly thinking about my next
ride. A Ducati maybe? Someday I hope.
My current ride is a Yamahaulass. I also hope
lots of women read your article and follow your
From "L.J." (3/10): "I really
liked this article.
I think it's great for not only women but also
men to start off on the right foot when it comes to
becoming a motorcycle enthusiast.
If there were enough men out there who could set
aside their egos long enough to take the advice from
articles like this one; most would not only be safer
riders but I believe they would be much better and
As an example I had a friend who used to race
professionally and the best advice he ever gave me
was to start off on a small bike. In fact he
suggested if someone was really interested in being
a good fast rider and actually interested in riding
their bike and controlling it instead of their bike
controlling them that they should start small.
In fact he suggested starting with a 250cc,
two-stroke road bike.
One thing he used to stress was most riders have
no idea how to corner and no idea how to truly
brake. When you start off on a small 250cc
two-stroke you have to learn how to brake, you can't
use the back pressure from the engine, like on a
four-stroke, to slow yourself down. And that
skill alone will make you a much better and much
So with that said, I am completely appreciative
of not only "Smalls" for taking the time to
write this article but also thankful to webBikeWorld
for publishing it.
Thanks again, GREAT WORK!!!!!"