It's Not Just a Guy Thing More and More Women Buying Motorcycles

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), October 10, 2005 | Go to article overview

It's Not Just a Guy Thing More and More Women Buying Motorcycles


Byline: Ken Glassman

When I learned that the Daily Herald was going to publish a separate Motorcycling section, I began to think about addressing the role of women in motorcycling. After all, the female market is the fastest growing segment in motorcycling, and I've always received lots of mail from women riders, women passengers and women readers who didn't ride at all. So I began to assemble some pieces in the hopes that maybe the non-riders might get inspired to try it, and current riders might be motivated to expand their horizons to include other facets of motorcycling.

Peppered throughout these pages are brief biographical pieces on some notable women riders and industry spokeswomen. They are different ages, come from different backgrounds, ride different kinds of motorcycles, and they pursue different motorcycling interests. The one thing they all have in common is their love of being on two-wheels. I hope you find these women as interesting as I did when I met them.

If you look at women riders by the numbers, you see some interesting statistics. The median age of women riders in 1998 was 38. Today it's closer to 42; just like men, older women are joining the sport in large numbers.

In 2004, just over 1 million motorcycles were purchased in America. Ten percent of those were purchased by women. Actually, that number is probably much higher because when the Motorcycle Industry Counsel tallies up the numbers, they go according to the person in whose name the bike is titled. So, if a married couple goes in to buy a bike for the wife, and the husband is the one doing the paperwork and titles the bike in his name, it's counted as a male purchase. Or, if a father buys a bike for his daughter, and titles it in his name - same thing. When a husband passes his old bike down to his wife, and gets a new one for himself, nobody knows that his wife is riding his old bike. And those are not uncommon scenarios. I've handled the car purchases in our family, and have been on the titles of my wife's cars and my kids' cars as well. So it is apparent that even a greater number than 10 percent of women bought motorcycles in 2004. That's considerably more than 100,000 units, which is well over twice the number from just a decade ago.

So what's fueling the huge increase in women riders? Well, I set out to find some answers.

I began calling some of the major manufacturers to find out what they do specifically to market their motorcycles to women. And I was surprised to find out that most of the companies don't do too much. Suzuki doesn't have specific marketing plans or advertise specifically for women. Honda doesn't either. Honda shows women riders in their brochures and catalogs, but they're advertising targets all motorcyclists, without being gender-specific. Honda does have a large rider training program, and they are the only manufacturer who has built specific Honda Rider Training Centers located in Colton, Calif.; Irvine, Texas; Troy, Ohio and Alpharetta, Ga. And while they say that the number of women who are taking the course has increased dramatically - with some classes having up to 70 percent women students - it's apparently not because they specifically reach out to women in any concerted effort.

Harley-Davidson takes a stronger approach to courting women. They advertise in various active women's lifestyle magazines to expose the brand name to sporting-minded woman in the hopes that they might consider adding a motorcycle to their lifestyle. It's not a huge portion of their budget, and you won't be seeing Harley ads in the mass magazines like Good Housekeeping, or Ladies Home Journal, but they are very conscious of just how much the female marketplace has grown over the years. Here's a factoid that proves this out: In 1985, Harley-Davidson sold just 600 motorcycles to women. This year, they will sell over 30,000 motorcycles to women.

Helping to fuel the growth of the sport among women is the Harley-Davidson Rider's Edge program, which teaches the basic riding skills at select Harley dealerships throughout the country. …

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