With the theme "Riding to New Heights," the 2009 American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) International Women & Motorcycling Conference, presented by Harley-Davidson and Buell, wrapped up in Keystone, Colo., on Sunday following four inspired days of riding, learning and networking in one of the best riding areas in the United States. Women Riders Now editor Genevieve Schmitt was there covering all the action and will have several reports on various aspects of the event in the coming weeks on the WRN Photo Gallery page.
Conference attendees at the International Street Party on Friday night posing for a group photo. The official group photo will be given to those who fill out and return the conference survey they receive.
The event, which ran Aug. 19-22, not only honored the contributions of women riders to motorcycling's past and present, it also celebrated the fast-growing role that female motorcyclists are playing in the future of motorcycling. With the breathtaking Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, more than 1,000 enthusiastic motorcyclists gathered at the Keystone Resort & Conference Center in Keystone, Colo., for a full slate of activities that included guided tours, seminars, demo rides from multiple manufacturers, inspiring speeches, social functions and training sessions. Click on photos for a larger view and to see them in a slideshow.
Heather Lewis heads up the seminar on dual sport riding. On the left in the front row are several of the "Dirty Dozen" riders, street riders who raised money for charity to participate in a dual sport ride prior to the conference. Yamaha was one of the manufacturers offering demo rides.
"We are thrilled with the success of the AMA International Women & Motorcycling Conference, presented by Harley-Davidson and Buell," said AMA Marketing and Special Events Manager Tigra Tsujikawa. "From the opening ceremonies to the Rocky Mountain Barn Dance and the International Street Party to the closing address, we couldn't have asked for a better conference -- or more engaging attendees. Even the weather was incredible." A high pressure system was centered over the Keystone area for the duration of the conference making the weather conditions picture perfect with crystal clear blue skies and mid-80s temperatures.
Peg Wearsch from Steamboat Springs, Col., takes Tonya Overmyer's picture at the top of Loveland Pass, just 8 miles from Keystone. Tonya rode out from Kansas City, Missouri, after riding just 10 months. The two met at the conference. After running around non-stop covering the conference, moderating a panel and working her WRN booth in the vendor area, Editor Genevieve Schmitt did a quick ride up to Loveland Pass on Friday before the Street Party to take in the incredible scenery and warm sunshine. Leading ladies of the conference: Tracey Powell and Tigra Tsujikawa of the AMA at the Welcome Celebration Wednesday night. Tracey handled the nuts and bolts of the conference; Tigra organized sponsors and big picture tasks.
AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman added that the conference was a further demonstration of the AMA's commitment to represent the entire motorcycling community. "The conference was another example of how the AMA is 'all things motorcycling'," Dingman said. "The AMA welcomes all riders. It doesn't matter if you are male or female, an off-road or cruiser rider, a commuter or a long-distance rider. If you are a motorcyclist, you belong in the AMA."
The conference kicked off with a welcoming ceremony that included an inspiring keynote speech by defending Women's Motocross Association National Champion and X Games gold medalist Ashley Fiolek. The 19-year-old Fiolek, who is the first women to ever compete on the Honda Racing Team, was born profoundly deaf. In her remarks she explained how her greatest challenge was not overcoming her hearing loss, it was achieving success in a male-dominated sport. In addition, Fiolek stressed the need to advance the sport of women's motocross and honored the accomplishments of the female racers who came before her. More than 800 motorcyclists watched as she deftly addressed the crowd using sign language, while her mother, Roni, interpreted. Fiolek's passionate and emotional account of the importance of surrounding yourself with those who will support your dreams had the audience on its feet several times, and most were visibly moved.
Ashley Fiolek was too cute in her Red Bull cap and pink shirt. She shared how she set out to create a career track for female motocross riders who want to turn pro, as prior to her there was no path for women.
Two other highlights of the conference were the Rocky Mountain Barn Dance, sponsored by Kawasaki and Denver dealer Fay Myers, and the International Street Party, hosted by the Motorcyclists Confederation of Canada (MCC). Both events were social gatherings that featured dancing, refreshments, music and activities such as horseshoes and fashion shows.
Deborah Grey, the Reform Party's first member of Canada's Parliament, entertained the gathering at the International Street Party with a speech that featured her unique blend of humor, frankness and passion. Liz Jansen, a director of the MCC and chair of its Women Riders Council also made comments, as well as Brigitte Zufferey, who represented the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM).
Deborah Grey was the keynote speaker at the International Street Party. Since there were a few deaf attendees, all the speakers were accompanied by a sign language interpreter. The Friday night Street Party was held in Keystone's River Run shopping and dining village slopeside. Here people are listening to Deb Grey's speech. Canada's representation included journalist/artist Lesley Gering looking oh-so-hip (left), and Liz Jansen responsible for organizing Canada's involvement with the conference.
The Closing Banquet brought the event to a resounding conclusion with inspiring stories from author and motorcycle adventurer Lois Pryce. Pryce detailed her 20,000-mile ride from Alaska to the tip of South America, as well as her more recent two-wheeled journey from London to Cape Town that took her across the Sahara Desert and through the Congo.
Lois Pryce captivated the audience during the closing banquet with her tales of riding from London to Capetown by herself on a dual sport bike. While many women left early to get home, there were still hundreds left who stuck around for the closing banquet where a delicious meal of chicken picata, steamed veggies, salad and dessert.
Other speakers included the AMA's Dingman; Maggie McNally, the newest member of the AMA Board of Directors; Karen Davidson, great-granddaughter of Harley-Davidson co-founder William A. Davidson; Leslie Prevish, who oversees women's outreach initiatives for Harley-Davidson; Kawasaki Public Relations Manager Jan Plessner; and land-speed record holder and 2008 AMA Female Athlete of the Year Leslie Porterfield.
Leslie Porterfield talked about how she dreamed of racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats. She holds the record of the fastest woman on two wheels. Karen Davidson shared stories of growing of with Willie G. Davidson as her dad.
During her speech presentation, Leslie Prevish, Harley-Davidson's Women's Outreach Manager, shared an audio interview of Vivian Bales who rode in the 1920s. The Vivian Bales clip, recorded when she was in her 80s, got many in the audience teary eyed as they heard the voice of this pioneering woman motorcyclist tell her stories of riding a century ago. The clip is from the Harley-Davidson Museum.
Event sponsors, which provided everything from demo rides to door prizes, included presenting sponsors Harley-Davidson and Buell, the MCC, Michelin, BMW, Ducati, Kawasaki, Kymco, Yamaha, EagleRider Motorcycle Rental USA, the Cycle World International Motorcycle Shows, Fay Myers Motorcycle World, Bell Helmets, BikeBandit.com, Scorpion, Freedom Harley-Davidson, Honda of Canada, Deeley Harley-Davidson, BMW Motorrad Canada, Inside Motorcycles and Motorcycle Mojo.
"The AMA is appreciative of all the speakers, guests and sponsors who helped make the 2009 AMA International Women & Motorcycling Conference, presented by Harley-Davidson and Buell, possible," Tsujikawa said. "We had an incredible time in Keystone, and I'm sure I speak for all the attendees when I say that I came home more optimistic about the future of women and motorcycling than ever before."
WRN Editor Genevieve Schmitt with Cris Sommer Simmons, author of the book "The American Motorcycle Girls 1900-1950." Cris did book signings at the WRN booth.
Many participants asked when and where the next conference will be. That is still undecided. However Harley-Davidson announced an event called Celebrate Women Riders to be held May 22-23, 2010 in Milwuakee. The Motor Company held a breakfast on Friday morning at the conferene inviting conference attendees to provide their input on what they think should be included in the event. As the event shapes up, information will be available on WRN and well as Harley-Davidson.com/WomenRiders
To capitalize on the momentum and excitement generated at the conference, Harley-Davidson announced an event called Celebrate Women Riders to take place next year.
For stories and photos from the conference, see WomenAndMotorcycling.com.
Video coverage of the conference is also available on the AMA's YouTube channel at YouTube.com/AmericanMotorcyclist.
Editor's Blog: Initial Reflections on the Conference
Riders Roll in for AMA Women & Motorcycling Conference