Women are fueling the future of motorcycle riding, according to new data from the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC). In the last 10 years, the number of women riding motorcycles has roared up 9 percent, driven in part by Gen Y women.
The MIC polled 2,472 adults across the United States for the 2018 Motorcycle/ATV Owner Survey to confirm that a wave of women has entered the sport. A solid 19 percent of motorcycle owners are women. When isolating for Gen Y, that number rockets up to 26 percent.
“It makes perfect sense that millennial women are fueling the future of riding,” said Tai Day, who is the vice chair of Women’s Coalition of Motorcyclists (WCM), a nonprofit group that works to grow women motorcycle ridership. “Millennials crave experiences over things, and riding a motorcycle is the ultimate experience.”
Day, who is a young baby boomer, got started riding late in life because her dad discouraged her from riding. “Millennial women weren’t encumbered by their dads telling them they shouldn’t ride,” she said. “They were told they could do anything.”
Speaking of being able to do anything, the WCM set a goal of doubling the percentage of women riding motorcycles by 2020. It was 2013, and at the time, 13 percent of motorcycle owners were women. With 19 percent of women riding in 2018, the WCM is well on the way to reaching its goal of 26 percent—and they’re revving up their efforts, according to DP, the chair of the board for WCM.
DP, which stands for Dangerously Persistent, lives up to her road name. A scientist by day and a motorcycle advocate by night, she’s on a mission to make the sport more accessible to women.
WCM is forming a coalition of avid riders, manufacturers, and motorcycle clubs to inform and inspire cultural changes to the industry—from the design of bikes to the availability and aesthetics of women’s motorcycle apparel.
“Pink it and shrink it doesn’t cut it,” said DP. “Women riders want clothes they can move in. Manufacturers should cater to a range of body types.”
According to DP, the same goes for motorcycles.
“Women want to be able to plant their feet firmly on the ground,” said DP. “And sit comfortably in a bucket seat.”
In addition to influencing and informing the motorcycle industry, the WCM is continuing to make a cross-section of training available to women.
The organization offers three tiers of scholarships to encourage women to get started in the sport and to stick around for the long haul. They provide scholarships to train beginners, advanced riders, and the trainers themselves.
“Women want to be trained by other women. It gives them the confidence to know they can do it, too,” said DP. “We’re providing the resources for more women to become instructors, so more women will want to become riders.”
For women who can’t afford to pay for training, WCM provides scholarships to motorcycle academies where women learn the ABCs of riding, from shifting to stopping abruptly to navigating difficult terrains.
“We all develop some bad habits when we’ve been riding a while,” said DP about the advanced rider training that keeps experienced riders from getting complacent and helps them continue to grow as riders. “Sharp skills make safe riders.”
The timing of women flocking to the sport couldn’t be more perfect. It just so happens that the same year WCM set as their goal to double the number of women riders coincides with the 100-year anniversary of The Suffragists Centennial Motorcycle Ride. It’s a cross-country motorcycle ride that runs from July to August in 2020 to celebrate the passage of the 19th amendment of the U.S. Constitution empowering women with the right to vote. WCM plans to make a big showing there in 2020.
In the meantime, all signs show more and more women are expressing their right to ride free on the open road, and WCM is paving a path for them do what they love.
“Women ride for the same reasons men do,” said Day. “Freedom and friendship.”