The statistics speak for themselves, so why is there an increase in female motorcycle riders?
Although motorcycle riding has been stereotypically seen as a male dominated activity, women riders are on the increase. The UK Statistics On Bikes And Motorcycle Licence Holders have confirmed there are now over half a million women holding full motorcycle licences.
According to MAG UK there are about 1 million taxed motorcycles on the
road each year, which implies there are around 1.3 million active riders given DVLA’s assumption of 15-25% road fund licence evasion. There are 5 million full motorcycle license holders in England, which means there are 4/5ths that are inactive. Of this number, there are now 525,000 female full motorcycle licence holders.
In the USA the Motorcycle Industry Council reported a rise of 52% in female bike riders between 2003 – 2008. The number of women motorcycle owners has also risen 37%, according to the Women Riders Now magazine. MIC’s Owner Survey found that women now make up 14% of all USA motorcycle owners, a number which is definitely on the incline as in 1998 this was a meager 8%.
The council also produced some really interesting statistics about female riders:
► Median age for female motorcyclists is 39 and 48 for males
► 49% of female motorcyclists do their own maintenance
► 49 % of female motorcyclists are married
► 47 % of female motorcyclists have a college or post-graduate degree
So Why Are More Women Taking Up Riding?
In 2013, Harley commissioned survey conducted by Kelton to find out if women who ride bikes are happier than women who don’t. The study involved interviewing 1,013 adult female riders and 1,016 adult female non riders. The results were incredible:
Women Bikers Women Non Bikers
Report they always feel happy:
Report they always feel confident:
35% 18% Report they are content with communications with their partner:
The survey also found:
✓ 33% of women bikers report less stress after riding
✓ More than ½ of women who ride consider their motorbike as a source of happiness
✓ 74% of women believe their lives have improved since starting riding
Women were also been noted saying the following points are the reasons why they ride bikes:
“The freedom and the pure adrenaline rush I feel when I’m in control of such a beautiful machine” –Lamparelli
“It’s my Zen, I’m completely in the moment. There’s no cell phone, music, or email that can take me away from my Zen.” – Norton
“Riding’s been the driving force behind life changes. I now know I can do anything I set my mind to.” – Watson
“I’ve also noticed a shift in more women seeking the adventure style of riding with an eye toward long distance touring on two wheels” – Schmitt, founder and editor of Women Riders Now
Horizons Unlimited is a great place to check out if you are interested in motorcycle adventure and travel.
Women Biker Clubs
Female biker clubs are becoming more and more popular, many people think this is a massive reason why more women are starting to ride. There is a sense of community in these biker clubs, women are reaching out and creating strong relationships. Females are supporting each other through these clubs and making riding more accessible.
“It’s given me a sisterhood with a group of women that has changed my life,” – Watson
Some UK women only bike clubs include the Curvy Riders, run ‘by lady bikers, for lady bikers’. The Hells Belles, who are by invitation only, or the Lippy Ladies of Yorkshire ‘for ladies with attitude’ who often record the best stops for coffee and cake!
The Women’s International Motorcycle Association has also grown massively, it was started in 1950 by Louise Scherbyn in the USA. It now has 20 WIMA divisions with approximately 1300 WIMA members worldwide! Membership of WIMA GB has increased by 33% since July 2014. The Great Britain group is a great one to be involved in, they organise regional meets and events, an annual rally in the UK and Europe, regular updates and a network of contacts for when you travel.
Famous Women Riders
The fact there are famous female riders can only help inspire. We are surrounded by different types of media these days, seeing more women riders has shone a new light on biking.
In a review done by Motorbike Writer, the Harley Sportster rider Sharon aged 60 explained there was once a thought of being seen as “butch”. This is now being replaced with what is being described as “sexy” and a sign of independence. Women have an amazing ambassador in Lauren Hutton, who is a sportswomen and an actress. She has always loved riding bikes and is actually the vice president of Guggenheim Museum Motorcycle Club.
Other famous women bikers & what they ride:
♦ Angelina Jolie – BMW F650GS & MV Agusta
♦ PINK – Triumph Bonneville
♦ Cher – Harley-Davidson
♦ Alanis Morissette – Ducati Monster
♦ Catherine Bell – Harley-Davidson
There are also the women that aren’t actresses or models riding, and riding well…
- Patsy Quick – The first British women to complete the Dakar Rally. The Dakar is one of the hardest races in the world, Patsy has done this race a few times determined to finish it. During these races she has had a serious crashes and even fallen temporarily blind due to one. In 2006 she completed it.
- Laia Sanz – Laia is a thirteen time Women’s Trials World Champion, and also is ten time Womens European Champion in outdoor motorbike trials. She is a member of the Spanish Female Team in the Trial Des Nations, making sure the team has won the event five times.
- Jenny Tinmouth – A British motorcycle racer competing in the British Superbike Championship. Tinmouth broke the lap record on her first ever Isle of Man TT in 2009 and gained a Guinness World Record.
- Emma Bristow – Born in Lincolnshire, Bristow is an International Motorcycle trials rider, she is current Women’s World Champion. Emma became the first British rider to win the Women’s FIM Trial World Championship in 2014, she also won the British Women’s title in 2014.
- Katy Bullock – Katy has been riding off road motorcycles since the age of 5, she started competing in trials and then motocross. She became National and European Champion of Motorcycle Trials at the age of 15, Katy now competes at Enduro competitors including Husqvarna British Sprint Championship representing MPS racing.
- Maria Costello– A British motorcycle racer who held the Guinness World Record for being the fastest women to do the
lap at an average speed of 114.73.
- Jane Daniels – Is the dirt no place for a lady? Think again. Daniels is one of the UK’s top enduro riders, taking second place overall in the Women’s Enduro World Cup in 2013 and then winning the final race in France, beating Dakar competitor Laia Sanz. Male riders have tipped Daniels as the talent to look out for, regardless of gender.
- Ana Carrasco Gabarrón – A Spanish Grand Prix motorcycle racer, the first female to score points in the Moto3 class in the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix and the first female rider to score points in any class since 2001. She improved on these results again with eighth place in the 2013 Valencian Grand Prix.
- Beryl Swain– (1939 – 2007)This amazing lady had to be mentioned. Beryl was a female motorcycle racer from the London area. Beryl was noted as the first solo women ever to compete in the TT race on the Isle of Man course. This did not sit well with the male racers and which led to the world of motorcycle racing revoking her intentional licence due to the introduction of a minimum weight limit. This was because the sport was perceived as too dangerous for women to compete in, female entrants ceased until Hilary Mussom in 1978.
Reading about these remarkable ladies having the guts to do what they want can inspire us all to aim high and achieve big things.
Riding a motorbike doesn’t have to be a dream, women everywhere can and are making it happen.
Something that has definitely effected women riding bikes is the fact the whole motor industry is becoming more and more female friendly. This is shown in the amount of products now aimed at women, it’s unusual to now look on any motorcycle clothing website not there not be a section for females.
All of the big providers offer a range of styles and accessories such as Get Geared and Infinity. Women can now feel protected and happy in what they are wearing, and actually have the opportunity choose how they want to appear. Motorbiking isn’t about making a fashion statement, however it is a part of peoples identity and it’s great that women can wear clothes that feel right as well as being protective. There is so much female biking gear now you can find fashionable and functional clothes.
So is there a particular age range of women that are riding more?
There is evidence to show that women in the UK over the age of 50 are really going after life on two wheels! Statistics show that the number of women 50 and over that are taking up motorcycle has increased at almost double the rate of men. Between 2013 – 2015 the amount of women who passed their test has increased by 34%, compared to the 16% of males.
Something that really highlighted this change was Saga acquiring Bennetts. Saga is an insurance company specialising in services for over 50’s and Bennetts in the UK’s leading motorbike insurer. Which speaks for itself! Saga spotted a massive movement in beginner motorcyclist in their audience.
“While almost one in five of the ‘baby vroomers‘ use their bike to commute, there are significantly more that are turning to bikes as a hobby, using the spare time they have in retirement to fulfil a long held yearning for adventure.” Roger Ramsden, the Chief executive of Saga
In 2014 Centre of Economic and Business Research found that between
2008 – 2014 money spent on motorcycles by people aged 50 and over grew a massive 41%. In 2014 over 50’s spent £340 million on motorbikes, which was over a third of UK’s total motorcycle spending.
The Department for Transport then reported that from April 2014 to March 2015 nearly 10% of people passing their practical test were actually people 50 or older. Its not just males, Carole Nash confirmed that in 2011 women of this age range made up just 14% of its customers, compared to 2014 when the figure rose to 20%.
In 2015 the Daily Mail interviewed Christine aged 64, motorcycle rider. Christine has reached a lot of people with her story and gives great advice:
“I reached 60 and realised that my life was absorbed by family, and I was always doing things for them but never myself.
I’d secretly loved bikes for years, ever since I rode on the back of a friend’s boyfriend’s bike when I was 16. It was thrilling and something about it stuck. I never bought one but now I could.
My family thought I was crazy but I wasn’t scared. I was excited; I think the adrenaline took over. I’d made a decision that I wanted to bike and that was that.
My only regret is that I didn’t start ten years earlier. I’d encourage all older women to have a go — it opens up a whole new world”
You can read Christine’s full story on Daily Mail online.
The Bikes Themselves
If you have been biking for years, male or female you can probably ride just about anything! However if you are a new rider, you may have more specific requirements from your motorbike. For example you might want to consider height and weight when looking for a bike as a beginner.
When you are still learning it is nice to have to option to put both of your feet firmly on the ground when you think it’s needed. Also moving the bike around in general, with experience you will be able to handle any bike but when you are new it’s great to not have something ridiculously heavy to manoeuvre. I personally think these points apply for both genders, for a short male with no strength or tall female packing a load of muscle!
You need to think about more than just the seat height, for example the distance from the seat to the foot pegs and the width of the seat itself. Bear in mind if you are 5’4’ or shorter you will probably need to have a seat that is 30” or lower. If you currently own a bike that isn’t working out for you, have a look at We Buy Any Bike to sell it on.
Different manufactures are promoting ‘women friendly’ bikes. Women Riders Now have suggested:
- Honda Rebel 250 – SeatHeight: 26.6 inches Weight: 331 pounds
- Yamaha Star Motorcycles V Star 250 – SeatHeight: 27 inches Weight: 326 pounds
- Suzuki GZ250 – Seat Height: 27.8 inches Weight: 331 pounds
- Suzuki BoulevardS40 – Seat Height: 6 inches Weight: 381 pounds
- Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD – SeatHeight: 28.1 inches Weight: 439 pounds
- Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 SuperLow – Seat Height: 5 inches Weight: 562 pounds
- Suzuki TU250X – SeatHeight: 30.3 inches Weight: 326 pounds
- BMW G 650 GS – SeatHeight: 30.7 inches Weight: 431 pounds
- Buell Blast 500 – SeatHeight: 27.5 inches Weight: 360 pounds
- Kawasaki Ninja 250 – SeatHeight: 30.5 inches Weight: 330 pound
- Honda CBR250R – Seat Height: 5 inches Weight: 357 pounds
- Harley-Davidson Sportster XLH 883 Hugger – SeatHeight: 27.1 inches Weight: 486 pounds
- Yamaha Virago 535 – Seat Height: 28.3 inches Weight: 401 pounds
- Honda VLX/VLX Deluxe – SeatHeight: 25.6 inches Weight: 452 pounds
So there it is. Women riders are definitely increasing in numbers, and fast.
Everyone has their own personal reasons for wanting to ride, the above studies point towards women bikers feeling happier, more confident and gaining a feeling of freedom on the open road. Whatever makes you ride keep it up, or if you’re thinking of starting.. don’t think for too long.
Never trade the thrills of living for the security of existence
Photographs on this article were provided by Women’s International Motorcycle Association GB.