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Reader Story: So You Wanna Buy Your Wife a Bike?

A step-by-step guide from an MSF Instructor

By Cliff Brown, Ozark, Alabama
12/8/2010


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OK, let’s get this part over with: Are you crazy?

I know, you think it will be really cool if she has her own bike, so why not just go down to the (fill in the blank) motorcycle dealer and buy her a bike you think would be perfect?

Problem statement: You will buy the wrong bike, she will get hurt, and yes, it will be all your fault!

Let’s go back in time, back to the first motorcycle you ever rode. Let’s see—you were anywhere from 12 to 26, and it was a small, underpowered yet fun motorcycle that you rode until it blew up. Then you went on to bigger bikes, gradually increasing in power and engine size. Now you have a big-man bike, big cruiser, big sport bike, big sport tourer. Yet by some twisted logic, you think that your 45-year-old wife standing all of 5-foot-3, weighing between 100 and 150 pounds, is just going to throw her leg over that 883 Sportster you just bought and ride off with you into the sunset. Are you crazy?

A salesman helps a female customer shop for a motorcycle.
A salesman helps a female customer shop for a motorcycle.

Why would you deny her the opportunity to start small and grow into a bigger motorcycle, kind of the way you did? As a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Instructor, I have run up against this scenario at least 5,000 times in the past 13 years, sometimes with fatal results, and often with serious, life-threatening injuries. As with all things mechanical, there is a right way and then there is your way of bringing your wife into the sport of motorcycling.

Your way: expense, pain, suffering, marital stress leading potentially to divorce, and your children/grandchildren hating you forever for getting their mother/grandmother hurt or killed.

My way: expense, fun, joy, everyone is happy.

Cliff, a Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor, speaks from his experiences teaching his wife, Dottie, to ride and from his years teaching motorcycle training classes.
Cliff, a Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor, speaks from his experiences teaching his wife, Dottie, to ride and from his years teaching motorcycle training classes.

It’s your choice, so let’s try it my way and see what you think. First, do not, do not, do not buy her a motorcycle. Instead, sign up with a good local company or state entity that provides the MSF Basic Rider Course (BRC). When I say good, I mean woman-friendly. Many guys do not have a clue how to effectively impart motorcycle instruction to women, so talk to women who have taken the BRC and get their take on it.

Your good local provider will supply a training motorcycle for her to use and abuse during the course. After she finishes the course (and if she is still interested), then she needs to get her motorcycle endorsement on her state driver’s license. Next step is to shop at a motorcycle dealership that will let you test ride. You may need to fill out a credit application to prove you have the credit to actually purchase, fill out a waiver to absolve the dealer of any liability and leave a copy of your driver’s license in their possession while on the test ride. If your dealer does not allow test rides, then go somewhere else—there are plenty of dealers in your state who will.

A motorcycle is a very personal choice, which is why you cannot pick one out for her. Does she send you to the store to buy her makeup or unmentionables? Of course not! Why? Because you are a big, bumbling man who would buy the wrong thing. Same reason applies to why you cannot pick out a motorcycle for her. This is also why she must test ride before you buy. Just because her feet can touch the ground does not mean that motorcycle fits her.

Cliff stresses the importance of giving all new riders the opportunity to start small and build up to a bigger bike.
Cliff stresses the importance of giving all new riders the opportunity to start small and build up to a bigger bike.

After test riding several different 250cc motorcycles, she will most likely find one that suits her best. You can then buy it and truck or trailer it home.

But wait, you’re not done yet! Of course she’ll need to buy a full-coverage white helmet; a brightly colored armored jacket; armored pants; over-the-ankle riding boots with good gripping soles and a low heel; and armored gloves. So now you two are ready for your first husband and wife riding experience on the mean streets.

The rule is, she leads! I know, you are the man and used to being in charge and leading the way, but in this case, you need to back off! When she leads, she will: go through an intersection when she is ready; make that right turn from a stop when there is no cross traffic so if she screws up and swings wide, she will not become a hood ornament for an oncoming SUV; pull over when she needs a rest; and ride at a speed that does not overwhelm her newly acquired riding skills. If she has a problem, you are right there behind her to block traffic and get her off the road as necessary. If you are in the lead, you can do absolutely nothing but watch in horror in your rearview mirrors while she tries to catch up with you.

Cliff's wife, Dottie, says she's a better rider for having a patient husband who let her learn at her own speed.
Cliff's wife, Dottie, says she's a better rider for having a patient husband who let her learn at her own speed.

It’s now six months since you two have been riding. You must wait and wait and wait until she says, “Honey, I think I am ready for something bigger to ride.” Then off you two go to a dealer who will allow you to test ride again. Sell off the smaller bike, accessorize the newer, bigger bike, and off you two go into the sunset, or Sturgis, or anywhere you can imagine, in one piece, together.

Cliff Brown owns a motorcycle rider training school with classes in northern Florida and southern Alabama. His story is a culmination of 15 years of running into the situation described. To learn more about Cliff or to sign up for a class, visit his Web site at learn2ride.biz.


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Reader Comments


Thanks for your insightful article. I started riding at age 4 on a 50cc Indian and yes, I did progress to bigger and bigger bikes including dirt bikes and road bikes. I have owned everything from Japanese multi-cylinder sportbikes to a couple of H-D's. I currently commute from Santa Cruz to San Jose on a BMW K 1200 GT which is by far the favorite of all.

I too had grand ideas of what my wife should start on when she decided she wanted to ride. Having enough "couple's" experience I was able to back off and let her choose her first bike. A sweet low mileage 2008 Honda Nighthawk 250 made its way to our home after a marathon run to the Sacramento area (couldn't find a clean one closer to home). She is 63 and has never ridden a motorcycle but got the bug after riding a scooter around Lake Tahoe while on vacation a few years back. She is now learning the basics by way of women's support Web groups and YouTube videos. We make short runs up and down our street which is in the Santa Cruz Mountains and she practices in a large research facility parking lot. I follow behind running interference and let her set the pace while grinning from ear to ear. She is scheduled to take the MSF in September.

The little Honda has become her "baby" right after me and our pooch Bella (maybe not in that order). She spends as much time as I surfing the Web for the "right" riding accessories etc. I may have created a monster but one I am very happy to ride with!

Glenn Damron
Santa Cruz, CA
Monday, July 04, 2011
This article is right on the money! Got interested in riding after I met my current boyfriend who owes a Honda VTX1800. Surprised him when I got my motorcycle permit and he immediately took me down to our local Honda shop where I will well-fitted with a little Suzuki Boulevard 650. Learned to ride everywhere on that little bike and have now stepped up to a Honda Shadow Spirit. He let me lead everywhere we went, was extremely patient with me and was a great teacher. Now we are quite the motorcycle riding pair! Getting ready to take my intermediate riders course and pass my tests to I have my full motorcycle endorsement. I am one happy rider!

Shawn Habedank
Salem, OR
Sunday, February 13, 2011
I took my MSF Basic Rider Course about a month ago. I own a Yamaha 650 V Star and can't wait for the weather to break so I can put my training to work.

I am a 51-year-old grandmother of two and have been a passenger for more than 30 years. I never really had the desire to ride untill my son joined the military and I took over the payment of his bike (the 650 V Star). I would sneak out to the garage and climb on and to see how it fit. My husband caught me one day and started encouraging me to take a riders course.

Then my husband recently bought a new Harley and they offered me the Riders Edge course for free -- how could I pass up the opportunity? I was the only female with five other guys in the class. My class was taught by two women and I really felt they were cheering me on every step. I out scored three of the five guys in my riders class and doing so really boosted my confidence. I would highly recommend a riders course for everyone, men and women.


Gina
Brighton, TN
Friday, December 24, 2010
Great article, great thoughts, and completely on track. I've taken the BRC twice (passed it each time, but spent a period of time away from motorcycles and wanted a refresher) and I think that providing it as a gift is a tremendous idea -- not just from husbands to their wives, but from parents to children or anyone to a loved one or friend. It's a fantastic course.

Diana Baker
Kennewick, WA
Sunday, December 19, 2010
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