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Commentary: Can Women Save Motorcycling?

How female riders can help the industry with its dirty laundry

By Steve Johnson

For decades, a certain percentage of the automobile driving public has targeted their disdain to some lesser or greater extent towards the motorcycle riding public. Citing fatality statistics, loud noise, and recklessness, they've rallied for tougher laws on motorcycles.

But are women riders on the verge of changing that perception?

In May, some analysis came out of Virginia, specifically from the AAA Mid Atlantic and Richmond Ambulance Authority, that motorcycle-related deaths have come down due to an increase in the number of female riders. Based on this report: "According to Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles, since 2011 for every male who has gotten a motorcycle license, two females have gotten theirs…”  “...Simultaneously, motorcycle fatalities across the state are down 33 percent. AAA and RAA attribute the trend to the rise in women riders."

So assuming this trend continues, and spreads throughout all 50 states, will that change the minds of motorcycle-frightened cagers? Will the Debbie Downers and the Negative Nelsons stop prodding their legislators to enact helmet laws, noise laws, lane-splitting rules, and tougher licensing requirements? Can women riders save motorcycling from becoming legislated into extinction?

Me thinks not. But then again, maybe I'm just too much of a Skeptical Steve.

This statistic doesn't mean that there are fewer male riders, nor does it mean that the number of squids have dropped off. It just means there are so many more women riders that it makes the entire motorcycling community look better in more ways than one.

But can that change? Will having more women riders cause male riders to ... well ... ride like women?

Well, maybe. 

I do believe in the "mob mentality,” that is, how individuals adapt to the people around them. And if that ultimately changes the way people in general view motorcyclists, and it reduces the slate of prohibitive motorcycle legislation, then it's a testament to the libertarian way of letting people solve problems.

I remember reading about a decade ago, something written by a 1%er, who basically said that 1%er MCs (motorcycle clubs) need riding clubs, riding groups, and other law-abiding motorcyclists as a way of putting rose-colored glasses on the general public. They needed the rallies and runs to benefit disadvantaged children so that the public could smile under a collective "ahhh!" as they watched three-piece patched bikers deliver oversized teddy bears to sick boys and girls.

As a parallel, it's like the motorcycling community needs more female riders as a way of hiding its dirty laundry.

Us guys have this "ego thing" that makes us want to appear more manly, which is just our natural way of establishing rank and courting females. We put on louder pipes, custom paint, do burnouts, ride really fast, and brag about our feats of daring just to attract attention.

Women riders, however, seem to be happy with just being on their motorcycles. Even with stock pipes and stock paint, without regard to make or model, they don't seem to have anything to prove. It's like just being seen on a motorcycle is all the ego they need.

So as more stay-at-home moms and working women trade in their hybrid SUVs for CVO Street Glides, will it drown out the noise of male rider egos? As Bunco parties give way to garage parties, will it leave the anti-motorcycle lobby with less voice?

If it does, then super. Maybe that's what we need to save our favorite pastime from the obliterative jaws of legislation. Maybe it's going to become a woman's job to clean up the dirty laundry in motorcycling. If more women become experienced in all facets of riding motorcycles, then what will male riders have left to brag about?

But even if the cynic in me doubts this trend will have an impact on laws and attitudes, I still love seeing more girls riding their own. At the Steel Horse Sisterhood Summit, I had a lot of fun hanging out with hundreds of leather-clad femme fatales. But then again, maybe I'm just too much of a Mommy-Boy Biker.

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Author Steve Johnson

About the Author

Steve Johnson has been riding motorcycles since 1985, and is the writer behind Road Pickle, an online motorcycle touring publication, and Motorcycle Philosophy, his own personal perspectives on motorcycling. Steve and his wife, Sash, currently operate their own marketing and website development business catering to the motorcycle industry. He now rides a 2006 Honda ST1300 and has ridden all over the United States and Canada. When he's not riding or working, he's enjoying a craft brew and writing his science fiction novel. Steve and Sash live and work on the road. Visit Steve on Google+

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