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Why don’t more women ride motorcycles?

Aussie men may be the reason there are not more female riders. An American study has found women who ride feel more confident, happier and sexier than those who don’t ride, which has led to a rise of several thousand female riders in the US in the past few years. However, Australian women are lagging behind when it comes to riding.

Harley Sportster rider Sharon Hughes, 60, says she has been riding since she was 50, despite a chauvinistic trend among male riders. “They says stuff like ‘you ride at the back’, or ‘you’ll need to ride slower’,” she says. “I’ve been to the US and there are a lot more women riders there because the men here are different.”

She says Aussie women need to change. “A lot of women who ride pillion say they would like to ride but their husbands won’t let them,” she says. “They need to know that they can do it.”

Female riders
Louise Bentley with rider Adam Budd

Pillion Louise Bentley, 33, says she has considered getting her motorcycle licence. “I love the excitement of riding,” she says. “But I haven’t got around to it. I also have a bit of fear.”

Sharon started riding when her longtime marriage broke up and says she agrees with the Harley-commissioned survey which shows women riders are happier, more confident and sexier. (Read my story here.) “I agree with the survey; riding has dug me out of the biggest hole,” she says. “It’s given me more confidence than I thought possible.”

Sharon says she has ridden with women’s groups, but found many of the women “too butch”. But not as butch as American women. “The women there ride bigger bikes because the girls are a lot bigger too.”

Louise says she would prefer to ride a smaller bike than her friend’s Softail Standard. She says she would be interested in riding the learner-legal Harley Street 500 (pictured below) which is due in Australia in 2015.

Female riders
Harley-Davidson Street 500

A learner bike with the street cred of the Harley badge may be just the ticket for getting more female bums on seats in Australia. What’s the bet Harley-Davidson moves heaven and earth to get the bike here sometime in 2014!





  1. not so many suitable bikes for short ladies to gain confidence with. Trail bikes are ok as there are sizes and speeds made for kids, but not too many road bikes out there for smaller women.

    1. .plenty of bikes out there for us shorties. I have a Kwaka ninja 650 but there’s the suzuki. 600, yamaha, hyosung, bmw even the trumpys have a few and they’re all sports bikes!

  2. I’m 5′ 4″ and short legs. I ride a 2007 Honda Shadow Aero 750, a mid-size cruiser here in the US. I’ve been riding it for more than 5 years, taken several solo trips of a week or more traveling back roads thru Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. My next bike will probably be a 1600cc engine or bigger. It’s not really about your physical size. I’ve met a young lady who will ride anything, the bigger the better and she’s only 4’10”! It’s learning how to ride, practicing and building confidence.

  3. I am 61 and have had my bike licence since I was 17, although didn’t ride much during the years spent with babies and young children. However the older I get the more I ride and try to get out on the bike most weekends. And I don’t just go to the local coffee shop – the Friday after Christmas I did a 630klm ride in both extreme heat then a storm – I LOVE riding and I love my bike!
    In this busy life it sets everything back to default and all is good with the world again.
    A couple of years ago I discovered the joy of riding on my own and have done a number of solo interstate trips. In every little town I stop in for a look around, I am beseiged by women telling me they wished they could do what I do. I end up feeling sorry for them. So get out there girls and go for it.

  4. More and more women are coming out of the woodwork and starting to take up Motorcycling. There is a huge range of bikes out there to suit women of all shapes and sizes. A lot of the cruiser style bikes have low seat heights that are more suited to those with a short inseam :-). There are a lot of Naked bikes out there that have a higher seat height but are very light and nimble and not as bulky as those with a fairing. I can’t wait for the new Harley LAMS bike to hit our shores as I think this might prove to be a winner if it has the right price tag.
    I’ve spent years riding through Australia, US and Canada on all different size bikes and have had some of the most incredible experiences and met the most wonderful people along the way. Most of the guys are fine about having a woman rider amongst them, and stuff those who have a problem with it.. The women I know who ride and those I teach to ride are definatly not Butch, most are women about my age (50ish) who have completed the responsibility of raising a family and now wish to do something for themselves that is a little more challenging than joining the ladies knitting group :-/.
    Women riders starting out just need to take their time and learn the correct skills from someone who is a good coach. We all learn at a different pace and sometimes it takes a little longer for a new skill to become natural, but just like driving the car, it eventually happens. There are a lot more resources out there now day and websites dedicated specifically to women riders, they have great forums where you can ask as many “dumb” questions as you like and not be ridiculed for it.
    Get out there girls and give it a go, you CAN do it!!!!

  5. My dad was big into motorcycles my whole life. I am sure my first ride with him was when I was about 3 years old. I’ve been licensed since my early 20’s and now own my 3rd bike. I am 51. I didn’t ride too much when my children were small, but 3 months after the last one left the nest, I went and bought a bike. I had sold my previous bike 9 years prior.

    I don’t care if I am 51, female, and 25 lbs overweight! I could give a rats ass!!

    Down the Road….

  6. As an American female rider I take offence to this comment..Sharon says she has ridden with women’s groups, but found many of the women “too butch”. But not as butch as American women. “The women there ride bigger bikes because the girls are a lot bigger too.”….completely untrue biased opinion! Obsurd!!! Easy to make ladies want to ride! Maybe this opinion is what holds women back!!!

    1. Agreed. We deal with enough BS without being made to feel like we aren’t feminine enough by other women. Women should support each other not be overly critical. Perhaps you should focus on how skilled these women are as riders that they are confident riding “big bikes”.

      1. Sharon’s right. American women are heavier than Australian women & lots heavier than me (Japanese).
        They also ride slow as.

        pls remember your own advice:
        ” Women should support each other not be overly critical” .

  7. I have to admit, the bike market itself can be hard to crack. I am not a cruiser rider. Its just not my style. I prefer to get out and off the beaten track, have a mix of tar and dirt, and there are almost no adventure tourers for women who are short (which is definitely me).
    Sure, i could get a ninja and be exactly like every girl around me, or as a 30 year old, I am a little beyond just looking “pretty” and would love something with a bit of bite. I currently ride an Yamamha XT250 as its one of the few duel sports I fit on. But I would love an adventure tourer with twin cylinders and a bit more oomph. Maybe one day?

    1. The Scrambler style is coming back strong at the moment… the Ducati version has a nice low seat height and is light enough that many women are finding it a good choice. Outfit it with the right tires and it’ll handle dirt roads/adventure riding no problem. It’s also got plenty of power so fun can be had on the road too.

    2. Hi Kris, why don’t you get a TRIUMPH Scrambler or a BMW scrambler- these are fantastic hybrid bikes just for your needs as described, a perfect solution for both off and on road fun. They are such beautiful bikes, timeless in style and designed by fantastic people for customers like yourself. You will love the experience. Watch the BBC series with David Beckham “INTO THE UNKNOWN” to get a good feel for the machine. Another option would be the Harley entry level STREET 500. What a sexy piece of kit that is!! So there is stuff out there you just have to try and test riiiiide them !!

  8. I’m about to take the plunge at 48 on a Harley street 500. Was told since I was 18 it was unsafe for me to do it. Just broke up with a guy that said the same but rode a Ducati and Moto Guzzi like an absolute idiot while I was a pillion. Can’t wait to get my licence and ride with my friends. Time for me now and ladies don’t let any one hold you back xxx

  9. I’m short but really comfortable on my KTM Duke 390. Easy to ride, I don’t have to lean forward as it is upright rider position. It’s perfect for short women I think.

  10. Biking is a mans world!! Women don’t belong On a bike . You need to go shopping in your little Nissan Sentra or whatever the hell you drive !! And leave bikes to men.. that will be the same as a man taking up sewing or some female shit !! Burns my ass every time i’ll see a woman want to ride a motorcycle because she thinks her shit don’t stank . Well I hate to tell all these women have been riding bikes since I was four years old I started out peewee dirtbike racing . I don’t Bring your I want to be a biker bullshit to this thread !! Biking is a man’s world just like Snap-On Tools !!!!!

    1. Yikes, imagine being this insecure. Jim, you old prune. This aint the 1950s anymore mate.

  11. Interesting article. I can see where many Aussie males would prefer females stick to cars, esp when it comes to pulling up at a pub or cafe and blokes being blokes wanting to talk bikes, not having to mind their language around female company. All that been said, no reason why females cant enjoy riding bikes as well, they can ride solo or with a few other female riders, they can of course ride with guys, but they have to be prepared they could cop some flack/cheek. I encourage females who were good push bike riders to upgrade to a good quality scooter, then a motorcycle. I say good push bike riders, because some ppl should never be on 2 wheels, ive seen this many times, they are a risk to themselves, not everybody (inc males) is suited to 2 wheels. The idea of getting a good quality scooter (taiwan/Jp/Eu) is you learn weight control, braking, cornering and safety with a automatic gearbox, if anybody can ride a scooter well, upgrading to any small/med size bike is easy, they just have to learn the manual gearbox, just practice and steady as she goes. Now days there is very good scooters in bigger engine sizes as well, so ppl dont always have to go for motorcycle. My advice as a much older rider and starting very young, is keep your speed down, esp around corners, always have room to brake quickly if needed. many times the problem is other vehicles on the road, that dont signal or tail gate or U-turns on bike riders, ie. they are all out to kill you, so keep your distance from other vehicles, keep looking around you ”be alert as you ride, dont day dream” Once you gain experience you move quicker if you want? but think safety and live to ride (for another day).

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