Ride Like a Girl!
Tips from women to women!
by: R. Bruce Thomas
Last year I sent out a request to my riding friends asking for input into what became a three-part series here called Advice For (new) Riders.
This year, at the suggestion of my little sister who had her own Kawasaki KZ400 back in the 80's, I sent a request to the women I know who ride their own bikes asking for items of particular interest to women with the intention of turning their responses into an AMSS Blog. With March having been Women's History Month, March 8 in particular being International Women's Day and May 7 being International Female Ride Day, the timing seemed right.
While we keep getting told that the number of female riders is increasing, I personally don't know that many women riders. It turns out I know less who want to offer advice. Nonetheless, I did get a few responses, from relatively new riders and from ones approaching 200,000 km of riding, and present their feedback here. Not surprisingly, many of these items are applicable to male riders as well.
Make sure you are getting into riding because YOU want to...not because you are being pressured by someone to do it.
Take a Learn to Ride course - learn from professionals and not from the bad habits of your friends. There are lessons I have kept at the forefront to this day, 15 years later.
Take lessons… being an experienced passenger is not the same as being a rider. It was stressed that 4 days of lessons over 2 weekends was the equivalent of 6 months of ‘learning on the road/ seat of the pants’… and 6 months was also the timeline during which most new riders have accidents.
Don't ever feel pressured to "keep up" with the group. Ride for you, no one else. It's good to push your skills, but not outside your comfort zone because someone is making you feel bad for lagging. Those are not the right people to ride with.
Get good gear. There is so much great women's gear out there varying in price. Fashionable and full protection...get it!
Find gear the right size for women and ‘made for riding’ gear… my mistake was getting a ‘too large rain suit’ off the shelf at any store. I found it interfered with driving, getting on/off, and caught on bike pegs.
I wish there was a better selection of riding gear for women, especially for our different body types.
A lot of riding jackets for women are short. I found a nice Joe Rocket jacket that has a good length to keep me fully covered while riding.
I use my Harley Davidson ankle boots which are very comfortable and have had for 10+ years now and they are still like new.
I am actually in the market for a new helmet. I do like the modular helmets but find them to be very heavy so not sure what I will be getting next.
Finding your style...
Find a bike that fits you… height/feet on ground, to manage stopping, sitting, and walking/ reversing the bike if needed.
If you aren't comfortable on your bike you won't ride it. Try a different style of machine.
After many thousands of KM on a cruiser, I found a bike with rear-set pegs was super comfortable for me, until it too wasn't. Pain in my leg; locking up was too much. I got another different bike, more upright ergonomics with mid controls, which proved to be the position I now need to ride without the pain.
Find a seat that fits you … narrow enough and comfortable for my thighs
Find a bike weight that fits you …be able to move it around, pick it up yourself, no man required
Dual-sport bikes with electric starters take away the effort of kick-starting your bike.
Understand you control the bike, not the other way around. So when someone tells you "that is too much bike" do what you are comfortable with. I have had my fair share of "that's a big bike for a girl" comments.
Ironically, my only bike that was brand new was my first street bike, in spite of much "you should never buy new as a new rider" advice
I was responsible in learning each of my bikes, let alone the countless others I have been afforded the opportunity to try. Women tend to be a bit smarter.
Where to go....
Riding off-road is a great way to build your confidence before taking on the madness of the street.
I usually ride to and from work
My favourite bike trips have always been the ones I do on my own, or with one other person.
Riding is for me, at my pace, stopping for pictures where I want. It is my happy place so I travel alone or with like minded easy going people.
I would like to do more weekend trips and long trips but we will see what this year has planned.
My most memorable trip would be my very first long ride. Hubby and I did a trip down to Montana to do the Going-to-the-Sun Road which was absolutely beautiful and busy so lots of stop and go. It was a great and scary adventure learning how to take corners and ride with lots of traffic.
Riding around at the Nelson Rat Raid I surprised everyone riding my own bike and the great roads they have there were tons of fun. Even got to ride in the rain a couple times.
Riding is all about your comfort level and always improving yourself.
My biggest, and fondest memories will always be when I try something new. It makes me fall in love with riding all over again.
I really enjoy riding and every time I get on the bike I am always learning something new.
It took me a few trips before I finally figured out how to downshift for corners instead of braking.
Every time I do something new, it reminds me so much of why I love this sport and it is one where gender doesn't really play a role...just for small minds out there who think gender does play a role. Those are getting less and less though, which makes me super excited for the next generation coming up who won't have to deal with so many barriers because you are a woman.