Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Women riders: love of the sport

Are women less accepting of other women when it comes to motorcycling? All motorcycle riders judge other riders to a point, whether it be based on looks, wearing gear or not wearing gear, the type of motorcycles they ride, or the style of riding they do. But it seems like women have even more criteria that they use to judge other female riders. The hot discussion topic right now is pink motorcycle gear for women. It’s the new trend right now and some women love it and some hate it. The ones that love it say it’s more feminine, it separates them from the guys, the ones that hate it, say it’s just a way of getting attention, “hey look at me, I’m a chick riding a bike”.

This made me think. If a woman rides a pink bike, or wears pink gear, is she any less of a rider then a woman that wears gear in a the standard colors, like blue, red, yellow, black, and what about the woman that doesn’t wear any gear at all? But does color really matter, or is it just our perceptions of what one does with a motorcycle? Women wearing pink gear get pegged as posers, but what if they race, or tour, or do moto-cross, or day rides, are they less serious about the sport? Whether you care about color of bikes or gear or the types of riding women do, we're not all equal, but are we that different? And who decides which women get the “real rider” stamp of approval?

How many times have I heard a woman motorcyclist say “I have yet to meet a woman that is riding because of the love of the sport and not for the look at me I'm a girl on a bike”. I say that exact thing to myself sometimes, but what does it really mean? It means that I have not yet met a female rider like me. I have a hard time relating to many female riders, they don’t ride for the same reasons that I ride, but that’s OK, we can all be different. So how do you measure “love of the sport”?

Maybe there is no way to accurately measure if someone is a “real” rider because you have to define what this “love of the sport” means not only to you but to others. A person only knows what that means to them, it means many different things to many different people. People can love the sport just as much, but in a different way, a way that you might not approve of. I think that’s what it’s all about. If you don’t approve of something, you tend to dismiss it, put it down, make it less significant, or make fun of it.

I’m very guilty of this. It’s really hard for me to take any rider (male or female) seriously when they only put on 1/10th of the miles that I do a year. I measure “the love of the sport” by annual mileage. The more miles someone puts on their bikes, the more they love the sport, the more I give them props for being a real serious and passionate rider. But that’s me. That is my way of measuring “the love of the sport”. In my head a rider that rides for the love of the sport gets on the road before sun rise to avoid traffic, rides until sun-set, rides in all kinds of weather, chooses to ride a bike over any other activity. But we all know that is not how everyone is, and I know that other people enjoy their motorcycles too in a way that I can’t comprehend, because it’s not me, it’s not what I like.

But is measuring the “love of the sport” based on just your criteria such a bad thing? I don’t think so. This is what brings people together and why people choose riding with people that have similar riding styles. They want their friends to understand them, to connect with them emotionally. I have to admit, I’d never waste a perfectly good riding day standing outside of Starbucks with my bike, and I can do about 3 track days a year but that is my limit, after that I’m bored of going around in circles, I need changing scenery. It’s easy to think all other kinds of riding is insignificant, when you’re so busy focusing on only one aspect of it. For me it’s sport-touring.

My passion is the open road. While I ride with many types of people and I can usually adjust the duration of the ride for them, riding 50 miles in a day, 500 miles in a day, 1,000 miles in a day. Nothing beats packing up my bike and taking off to unknown places, for 2 days, for 10 days for a few months. For me, there is nothing else that you can do with a motorcycle that compares to the excitement of a motorcycle road trip. The discovery of new roads, enjoying the changing scenery and sharing that experience with friends, is what it’s all about for me. When a hobby becomes an obsession and not a day goes by that you aren’t thinking of those machines that are parked in your garage, the need to take them on the open road, that’s when you forget about all the other types of riders. Maybe that’s why when I see other women riders out there; I still feel I’m alone in this sport. Still, any woman that gets on two wheels has a bunch of respect from me, it doesn’t matter why she rides, what she rides, or what she wears when she rides. Because whether it’s riding fast laps on the track, touring the country on back roads or sitting in front of the mall on a Saturday evening looking pretty, we’re all motorcyclist. We all ride for the love of the sport.


Rick said...

I have a hard time with posers, either male or female. I don't have a measuring stick for posers, it usually takes a good conversation for me to figure out if they are a "real" rider or not. Some riders have many other obligations to fill before they can put in real mileage, so I rarely use milage as a indicator of rider or not. Some are into the machines just for the mechanical aspects, they not only know ever nut and bolt on their ride and just about every ride on the market. I usually think of these people as true riders, rather than a person who puts on mindless mileage. Then you have people like me, wearing mis-matched leathers, who could be riding an ancient bike, that may or may not burn some oil, but they aren't really concerned about it. They know basics about their machines and some other bikes, but feel no need to quote the specs of every bike on the road, or remember every model number. They ride for their own reasons, feel no real need to document their own personal travels, or even share them with other riders. I have my own "poser" definition, but rarely express my ideas about riders or posers, but rather happily look at maps of places I have been, and places I want to go, remembering past riders and rides, and eagerly looking forward to new adventures.

Busagirl said...

I'm impressed that you wrote this Anna... I really am. I hope that it's all heartfelt, and if so, maybe you might not feel so alone.

Ps… I love the Starbucks comment ;)

Deuces said...

"Still, any woman that gets on two wheels has a bunch of respect from me, it doesn’t matter why she rides, what she rides, or what she wears when she rides. Because whether it’s riding fast laps on the track, touring the country on back roads or sitting in front of the mall on a Saturday evening looking pretty, we’re all motorcyclist. We all ride for the love of the sport."

Well put Anna... It's the love of the sport! I Hope we can get some good rides in this season with people who enjoy riding the ride. Keep up the great posts!!

Jerry James said...

That was a great read. I might not have the best bike or the best gear, but I do know that I ride as often as possible and I grin from ear to ear while doing it. I really do think that real riders are a different breed, my father was one and he passed it on to me. Keep up the good writing and stay safe, if your ever in Texas again, maybe we can ride some together, my wife would love to meet you.

Rebecca "Squeaky" Nelson said...

Wow. Love your writing style and if you pass through Texas again, we should definately go for a ride. Personally, I don't wear pink because I'm not into skirts and makeup and purses and all. Also, black is more thinning : ) I know women riders who wear pink and others who think pink is for posers, but like you said - it really all comes down to why you love to ride.

I've always wanted to hit all 50 states on a bike, but a job and lack of funds prevent it (for now) so I suppose I'll continue to live vicariously through people like you until I can do it myself. In 16 days (I'm so excited, I'm counting down!) I leave on a 15-day riding and camping trip with 3 friends, one of them being female. We're only planning on hitting 4 or 5 states, but it should still be a blast. If you'd like to keep up with us, we're posting over at

Keep the shiny side up!

Zixxer said...

Anna, very good writeup.

Honestly, I don't think I have met many women riders that aren't after the shock factor. You are serisouly the first. But, take pride in that. You aren't following the norm, or doing something because someone else thinks it's cool. You love what you do, no matter what.

Consider yourself a REAL rider, and pass the posers by, just like those of us who share your passion, male or female.