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Motorcycle Mamas [Washington Woman magazine]

by Hope Katz Gibbs
Washington Woman magazine
September 2003

Think motorcycling is just for men? Think again.

According to the Motorcycling Industry Council, women motorcycle riders make up the fastest growing segment of motorcyclists. The average age of women riders is 38, up from 26 in the mid-1990s. Celebrities such as Cheryl Crow are making biking glamorous, too. Mostly, though, the typical motorcycle rider is the lady next door.

Fifty-seven percent of riders have some college education; most are married and have families. Knowing more women are climbing aboard motorcycles is good news to Matt Kirn. Last year, he opened a franchise of the international motorcycle rental and tour company, Eagle Rider, Inc., in Fairfax, VA.

Based in Hawthorne, CA, Eagle Rider specializes in Harley rentals with two-dozen franchises throughout the country in hot spots like San Francisco, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Kirn’s Eagle Rider is the first in the D.C. area and is attracting large numbers, of biker buffs of both sexes—including businesswomen, mothers and even grandmothers.

They can choose from the newest Harley-Davidson models, including the Electra Glide, Sportster and Low Rider. Mileage is unlimited. Before sliding onto the seat of a
top-of-the-line Harley, or any motorcycle, Kirn tells riders: You must have had a few lessons.

“It took me nearly two decades to learn how to ride a motorcycle and ride it safety,” he says. “I think I did it right. I started small and worked my way up to bigger, faster models. I encourage other people to do the same.”

Kirn, if fact, points to the rules in Europe which don’t allow new riders to drive a motorcycle that’s more powerful than 250 cubic centimeters (CC) until they have clocked designated time in the saddle.

“There’s a direct correlation between the size of the engine and the performance of the motorcycle,” Kirn explains. “Lower numbers, such as 250 CC, mean the bike provides a more manageable, in-control ride. The higher the numbers, the more likely the bike will respond like a rocket.”

So novice riders can avoid landing on their rear ends, or worse, Kim sends them to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). Lessons are affordable, he says, and the instruction is invaluable. This year Kirn is studying to become a certified safety instructor at MSF.

“Fortunately, most women don’t need to be told to learn to ride a bike before they rent one,” says Kim, pointing to a statistic from the MSF indicating that one-third of the people taking motorcycle training classes are female.

There are plenty of other resources to help women improve their motorcycle lQs including books, websites, magazines and brochures that explain how and where to get started.

Although Kirn’s wife, Laurie, doesn’t have a bike of her own, she does enjoy jumping on the back of her husband’s for a ride. He encourages her, though, to experience the joy and freedom for herself.

“For years, women have been told not to be thrill seekers through religion, the media, and parents,” he notes. “Now women have the chance to be free, ride motorcycles and be wild. I think it’s just great to see so many women taking advantage of the opportunity.”


If you’ve always wanted to ride a motorcycle but have been to scared to, Kirn recommends the following resources:

• Contact the Motorcycle Safety Foundation at 1-800-446-9227 or visit www.msfusa.org to inquire about local two-day courses.

• Order a 19-page booklet, “Discover Today’s Motorcycling: A 10-Step Guide to Motorcycling,” by calling 1-800-833-3995 or visiting www.motorcycles.org.

• A useful website is www.RiderReport.com Filled with links to sites that
test bikes and gear, it also offers information on tours and travel by motorcycle, competitions, and has a “Women Rider Zone.”

• Another useful source of information is Women Rider magazine, launched in July 2000 by the Ehlert Publishing Group. The company also publishes Rider, American Rider and Cruising Rider magazines, among others. Women Rider, the only national magazine aimed at female motorcyclists, publishes quarterly and is available on newsstands.

• “Women on Wheels, Inc.” is based in Sparta, WI, has more than 65 chapters in the U,S. and Canada. The group was organized in 1982 to promote the interests of women motorcyclists and provide support, encouragement and camaraderie. Call 608-337-4676, or visit wowmag@centuryinter.net.

Check out a few good books on the subject, including:

• Hear Me Roar: Women, Motorcycles and The Rapture of the Road by Ann Ferrar, www.whitehorsepress.com
• The Complete Motorcycle Book: A Consumer’s Guide, by Jim Bennett, Checkmate Books

• Proficient Motorcycling. The Ultimate Guide to Riding Well, by David Hough, viww.bowtiepress.com


More Washington Woman Articles

"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.