As motorcyclists, we form only a tiny minority of road users and women comprise a small but growing segment of this family. As a woman rider, I consider the upswing in female ridership a good thing – most of the time! Sadly I have become increasingly aware that not all is smiles and happiness within the circle. There is an increasing number of women out there who are riding for all of the wrong reasons, and this is creating a serious negative ripple effect.
I have been involved with the Canada Safety Council’s ‘Gearing Up’ program for a number of years. For me this has been more of a learning experience than a teaching position, and I thoroughly enjoy the students and the program. The students are predominantly willing, motivated, and eager and interaction and participation in discussions is generally lively.
To generalize, the percentage of female students has been rising steadily over the past few years. We now expect somewhere north of 40% of our students not to be male. This is a good thing – except for those unfortunate few ladies who are taking the course for someone else!
For a few women the motivation to get into motorcycling is being provided externally from their partners. When this happens, everything goes sideways right from the start. The students who have been pushed to enrol are nervous, unhappy, frightened and un-receptive. Their concern is to please the partner – not to learn or to enjoy the experience. Fear is a good motivator if one is being chased by a bear – but it doesn’t work well for acquiring the skills to ride a motorcycle! Bad nerves and pouting and anger and much repetition of “I just can’t do this” inevitably result. We have had female students confess quietly to an instructor that their partner has purchased a brand new bike for them – usually of a rather large displacement – and that they are terrified that it will get dropped or scratched. Many also become the unwilling recipients of their partner’s hand-me-down bikes – usually also large and unwieldy. They tell us that they are quite comfortable riding pillion and have no desire to assume control of a heavy, expensive machine. This is not a recipe for success when it comes to actually riding solo – on any size or model.
Riding well takes commitment, physical skill and co-ordination, and a willingness to accept the inherent risks of moving fast on two wheels. If one doesn’t want to be at the controls – then the safe and wise choice is to not go there! Regardless of how much one’s partner longs for a riding buddy – the motivation has to come from within.
It pains me greatly to see women shivering with fear when confronted with a real, live 250cc motorcycle during the training program. It shouldn’t have to happen like this, and as an instructor and motorcycle enthusiast, I am distressed at the situation. Besides the time and money wasted on bikes, clothing, courses and the like, lives are being unnecessarily being put at risk – to say nothing of the stresses created.
If the burning desire to master riding a motorcycle doesn’t come from within, then do not go there!
Ride pillion, drive the support vehicle, or participate in any activity that pleases you, but I repeat, do not become involved with the sport of motorcycling. And the flipside – do not push partners or friends to become riders if they are reluctant. A degree of uncertainty and nervousness is perfectly normal for the novice rider, and positive encouragement is a good thing – but the desire has to come from the inside, never external, for the outcome to be happy and successful.
Motorcyclists are still a select and special group of people – and that is because we want to ride, and ride, and ride….