Women are entering the sport in increasing numbers, and the industry has finally taken notice. There are more options for women than there have ever been – motorcycles, riding gear, even training – have been adapted to suit this growing segment of the motorcycle riding demographic.
What’s taken so long? We think it is because those already in the sport, the manufacturers, and even well-intentioned friends and spouses have inadvertently created barriers to entry by women. Many of the designers and planners started from the premise that women were vastly different from men in their needs and approach to the sport. Turns out that is largely untrue. New riders of either gender want the same things – motorcycles they can ride, riding gear that fits, and training that provides the skills they need to ride well, and ride safely in the modern traffic environment.
Simply providing a motorcycle with a low seat isn’t the whole answer for women riders. If the handlebar is too far from the seat, or the clutch springs are too strong, riders of smaller stature, men or women, are going to struggle to learn. The bike has to fit the rider, the controls must be accessible (and adjusted correctly), and the function must suit the intended use. Manufacturers are providing a wider range of adjustment, with controls that can fit small to large hands, seats that move up or down, sometimes forward or back. In some cases, manufacturers have developed kits that improve leverage to reduce clutch or brake lever effort. Some motorcycles include, or can be fitted with, lockable luggage to broaden their functionality.
Similarly, riding gear has to fit, look good, and be road-worthy; decoration or fashionable colours are not enough. Clothing manufacturers have started producing functional clothing in women’s sizes (and shapes) to meet growing demand. Are they there yet? Not by a long shot, but we’ve come a long way from the “here, try the men’s small; it’s all we’ve got” days.
Rider training has adapted as well. We learned very early on that “women only” courses are a non-starter. What we heard was that most women didn’t want special treatment, and weren’t put off by men in the New Rider Course. What they found intimidating as a new rider was training alongside riders (of either sex) that had previous experience, and thus seemed to pick it up so much quicker. New riders of either gender also didn’t function well in a training regime based on rigid time frames. Everyone learns better, and performs better, if allowed to learn at their own pace without pressure.
So, how has rider training changed? Progressive schools have always taken a “skills based” approach, breaking the art of riding down into elemental steps, then combining skills in a progressive manner to build a competent rider. The next logical step was to take rigid time frames out of the process. New riders must be allowed sufficient time to develop each skill before moving on to the next step of combining the skills. By focusing on the skills, not the drills, and the rider, not the clock, new riders move through the learning process at the pace that is appropriate for them, without pressure or anxiety.
A big step came from listening to our new riders who came to the course with no previous experience. Even though they were given plenty of time and opportunity to learn, they still felt intimidated when mixed in with riders who had some previous, though in some cases long forgotten, experience. Those with limited previous experience didn’t want to feel like they were holding up the group. The obvious solution was to create a separate program for people who had some previous experience, but were seeking to get their first motorcycle license. We call it “Accelerated Rider Training” or ACRT, and it has been a big success. Not only does it allow us to focus on the needs of new riders in our NRC, it also lets us give credit to riders in the ACRT for that past experience, and makes the training more efficient for both groups.
Between the changes in the industry, and the changes we have made to rider training, we feel that motorcycling has never been more accessible to women. As a result, the number of people entering the sport is up, and the number of people taking training with V-Twin continues to increase. That allows us to say, in all sincerity “you can do it, and we can help”. When you are ready to join in, review the course schedules to find one that fits your needs, or call us for a custom option, further information, or a thoughtful answer to your questions.