What Exactly Is A Biker Chick?
by Kristin Leary
The workday is over, and the metamorphosis begins. Heels change to boots, nylons to jeans and blazer to leather. Now comes the business of biking.
As I put on my helmet I remember back to when I first began working for this progressive, upbeat and innovative company. With any new job, you’re constantly meeting people who ask you similar questions like “What do you like to do outside of work?” When I would enthusiastically respond, “motorcycling”, their jaws would usually drop in disbelief. Many couldn’t picture a professional, conservative business woman in the driver’s seat of a motorcycle. Again and again I would hear, “You just don’t look like a biker!”
That statement made me take a step back and wonder. What is a female “biker” supposed to look like these days? Does society continue to expect our uniform to be a leather halter top and thong accented by the obligatory rose tattoo?
When I was on the outside looking in, I probably shared that opinion. But years of involvement in cycling have diluted that image. I’ve met such a diverse group of women cyclists and gained a more clear understanding of the sport.
Female motorcyclists can no longer be categorized. They include business women, stay at home moms, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and accountants. They are women with a passion for the great outdoors, the open road and the feeling of independence. Now it’s about as easy to stereotype women bikers as it is comedians; is it possible to find generalizations that apply to Robin Williams, Ellen DeGeneres and Steven Wright?
Unfortunately, stereotypes do exist even within our sacred world of motorcycling. The different classes of bikes usually conjure up images of different kinds of people. What kind of person do you picture riding…a Gold Wing?…a sport bike?…a Harley?…a trike? I’d bet that the bikes you know the least about were also the ones about which you had the strongest stereotypes. Stereotypes simply come from trying to make sense of something we know little about.
But motorcycling is truly a melting pot. It breaks down barriers and lessens inhibitions that are present in other situations. Conversations start easily between two riders or from those who are simply curious. I laughingly ignore the small percentage of tiny minds who believe it’s beneath them to acknowledge the rider of another brand. Most motorcyclists just respect the fact that you ride and are interested in trading stories or learning about your bike.
In this spirit, I encourage women riders to talk to other cyclists to lessen our own stereotypes about them. Find out what makes them tick, where and how they like to ride. We’re all in this together so we may as well be a team.
As for lessening the stereotypes against us, here are a few suggestions. First off, learn more about how the motorcycle operates and continually work on improving your riding skills. Mastery of the knowledge and skills of cycling will increase your credibility with acquaintances and other motorcyclists alike.
Second, get your female family members and friends involved in this sport. They might not want to be a driver right away, so break them in slowly as a passenger.
And finally, accept that some individuals just won’t understand your passion for this sport. Minimize your defensiveness and focus your explanation on the enjoyment you receive from riding.
Stereotypes against bikers will always exist. As long as there are people who need motorcycles to make themselves feel important, tough or cool in the eyes of others, we will be battling it. It is this small group of riders who leave the strongest impression in the minds of the general population.
To gain more respect in the eyes of the masses, we have to simply give more respect. We can be more respectful to auto drivers on the road. We can be more courteous at campgrounds. And, we can ignore rather than antagonize those individuals that are discourteous towards us.
Women aren’t new to biking. In fact, we’ve been a part of the sport almost since the beginning. Thankfully, we no longer have to disguise ourselves as men as we did in the ’30’s and ’40’s. But it’s nearly as confining to know that others don’t see the individuality of the women involved in the sport. Hopefully with a bit more effort on our part we can create some positive changes.