An article published in our BC paper. Although I would never have thought to myself I would be in an article titled “Chopper Chicks” I find myself in this one! ;-) Have a read…some of it of course was the writers own interpretation. Enjoy!
Sunday, September 23, 2012By The Province
Heavy-metal thunder stole Leslie Sofarelli’s heart just after she learned to crawl.
When she was three, her dad plunked her down on a Honda 50 and taught her the basics. A year later, she was riding it herself.
The downside was that not many other girls her age had developed a taste for motorbikes.
Forty-two years later, the Maple Ridge resident is still riding bikes – her latest is a 2013 BMW F800 GS dual sport that weighs 213 kilograms. A year ago, she and her partner did a 15,000-kilometre return trip to Alaska and the Yukon.
And Sofarelli is finally getting loads of female company on the road. Droves of women are falling in love with bikes and sticking their knees in the breeze.
We’re not talking sensible electric scooters – they’re straddling fully juiced mountains of chrome.
“Women are getting off their partners’ bikes and onto their own and finding it’s awesome,” says Kimberly Reid, 41, business manager with Trev Deeley Motorcycles in Vancouver.
“They discover it’s empowering and they love the camaraderie.”
Greater affluence, independence and a growing awareness of time’s passage fuel women’s attraction to bikes, says Reid, who has been riding for 17 years.
“They’ve often dreamt about it all their lives and now they’re able to afford their dream bike,” she says.
“I recently sold a bagger [a large Harley with saddlebags] to a woman who was probably in her mid60s who wanted to go touring.”
Women are rediscovering the sport as much as they’re discovering it, says Pat Doyle, general manager of Pacific Motosports in Richmond.
Females in their 40s and 50s who rode in their youth and then took a break to pour their energy into family and career make up a big part of Doyle’s clientele.
And women’s renewed interest often recharges the commitment of male partners whose devotion to bikes might have been flagging.
“Men are becoming energized again because their wives are feeling comfortable and confident and want to get out of the house and ride together,” he says.
B.C. women may have a more severe case of bike bug than females in other parts of the country. Doyle, who moved to B.C. from Ontario in April, says the percentage of female riders has been climbing more slowly in Central Canada.
Doyle senses a more can-do attitude among West Coast female riders because they refuse to recognize barriers.
“There seems to be a stronger support network and more encouragement in B.C.,” he adds.
At Surrey-based Pacific Riding School, which trains motorcyclists, women accounted for 31 per cent of students last year, up from 26 per cent of students a year earlier, owner Mark Kruger says.
He expects that to rise to at least 50 per cent for a simple reason: 96 per cent of female riders take a training course; only 61 per cent of men get formal training.
Female bikers are statistically far safer than men, Kruger suggests.
“When we get women in a parking lot, they’re softer and more precise with the motorcycle than most males,” he says. “If men get uncomfortable, they get strong and intense and the bike gets upset.”
At Trev Deeley, women accounted for 13 per cent of the Harley-Davidson dealership’s overall sales for the fiscal year ended last month, up 14 per cent over the two previous years, Reid says.
“There’s only one way for women’s share of sales to go and that’s up,” she says. “Why wouldn’t they want to get into it?”
Manufacturers and retailers are tweaking their products in a bid to attract female buyers.
Harley-Davidson has been lowering seats and making it possible for handlebars to be moved closer in order to accommodate women’s shorter arms, Reid says.
Once a year, Trev Deeley holds a ladies’ garage party for women to sit on bikes, ask questions and get a feel for whether they might like to own one.
Bike retailers have come to understand that potential female buyers are often more comfortable discussing a purchase with female sales people, Doyle says.
Women share men’s sense of adventure when it comes to bikes but they’re also more realistic about the risks, Doyle says.
They also tend to be better informed in the showroom.
“Most women purchasers know exactly what they want,” Doyle says. “They’ve done their homework and they’re much more decisive than their male counterparts.”
Prices for new motorcycles, depending on make and model, range from an entry-level $9,000 up to $43,000.
At Pacific Motosports, the two most popular bikes for women this year have been the Triumph Street Triple, and the BMW F650GS, each selling for $10,000.
Reid reports that women are buying a wide range of bikes, undeterred by weight. She herself rides a Harley Dyna Switchback weighing 326 kg when fully fuelled.
“I look like a beanpole. I’m fivefoot-eight and about 125 pounds,” Reid says.
“If I can do this, anybody can.” Sofarelli says women have yet to make big inroads into dual sport – that is, on-and off-road riding.
But the rewards of riding, whether you’re on pavement or dirt, can be huge, she says.
People in cars have little idea how the world smells, she says. Or how it feels to hurtle through dark, cold and rain.
“It can be hard and exhausting and even kind of scary,” she says. “But, at the end of the day, you feel like you’ve been on an adventure.”