So your wife wants to ride a motorcycle. What do you do? Guys you better ask yourselves a few questions first. Riding your motorcycle is special. You feel free. Liberated. It is therapeutic and nothing fulfills you like getting out on a weekend ride, a long distance motorcycling adventure or even kicking tires with your buddies in the garage. That space is everything to you.
Suddenly your wife expresses an interest in wanting to ride her own bike. Is that space under attack? Where did that come from! She has been a great passenger. Or, she’s been uninterested in anything to do with motorcycles; until now. Happy wife, happy life.
So this is one you won’t be able to push under the rug. What do you do?
Accept it. Motorcycling is not just a man’s domain
Being a woman is not a disqualifier. You better get that in your head. Women now make up more than 23% of motorcyclists in the USA and that figure is growing. Motorcycle manufacturers recognize this evolving market segment and increasingly, advertising and even designing motorcycles with suitable ergonomics to meet their demands, has become part of the marketing strategy. Manufacturer sponsored events such as Centennial Sisters Ride in summer of 2016 bring attention to women riders and a heritage that dates back to 1916 when Augusta and Adeline Van Buren road a couple of Indian motorcycles 5,500 miles from Brooklyn to San Diego across what was then a primitive and largely unpaved and unpopulated USA. A remarkable and courageous feat during a time when women still did not have the right to vote. You can bet if your lady is serious, she knows about this women's riding movement. Now is not the time to get macho.
Does she have the right stuff?
In our experience conducting motorcycle tours serving thousands on roads around the globe, we’ve occasionally encountered someone who simply has no business being on a motorcycle. This is not a gender specific condition. The mental focus, physicality, awareness and coordination just isn’t there. Survivability is in question and it can be scary.
A good start is enrolling your wife in a local Motorcycle Safety Foundation course under the wing of a qualified and experienced instructor. As with any educational experience, the teacher is key so be selective and get references. Often bikes are provided, the curriculum is tried and tested, and this could be a first step in vetting your loved one to see if she can handle it. You can take this on yourself as a show of support however an independent and less invested third party such as MSF may be best. You’ve been warned. You decide. After she learns the basics and gets some miles under her, an Adventure Training Tour will help solidify those skills in beautiful, real-world adventure environments.
Is she doing it for the right reason? Are you doing it for the right reason?
This can be touchy. So you’ve done a few “two up” overnight trips, your passenger did well but not enough room for all the stuff. The added weight of passenger and gear robbed you a bit of the riding pleasure, but she was fun to have along, so you get by. The idea of her having her own bike sounds attractive. That makes sense and these circumstances for many gets the idea rolling. But any inconvenience associated with two up riding can’t be the only driver here.
Believe it or not we’ve seen couples riding their own bikes and it is apparent that she simply hates it. She doesn’t want to be there. It could be fear. It could be helmet hair low tolerance. It could be they hate each other anyway and it doesn’t really matter. But at the risk of flowing into marriage counselor mode, assuming she has the right stuff to skillfully ride, ask yourselves these questions before you make the leap.
Does any of this sound like your situation? Be honest.
Get the right bike. Wear the right gear.
Shopping for her bike can be daunting. Dealerships have been known to be marital battlegrounds. It is a bit like buying a pair of shoes. Has to be the right color, it has to fit and be comfortable… and it has to be the right color. Get my message? But unlike shoes, you just can’t go waltzing back to the dealership for a refund or to try on a few more in pursuit of the perfect pair. If you've been together for any length of time you know what your exposure here is.
A common response is to get a bike that YOU like so be careful to monitor where your advice is coming from. The temptation is to get her a machine that suits your performance and style. It is a clandestine means of increasing your own stable of bikes, to be expected. You might get away with this once but the next go around will tougher. If she chooses pink, she is on to you. Go ahead and ride it. I dare you.
We’ll save room for another article to address the physical and ergonomic preferences of most women riders, but paying attention to this is vital. Too much horse power and physical mass is not a good idea for any new and inexperienced rider irrespective of gender and age. For this reason maybe you should consider her first purchase be a bike that is less intimidating. Above all she needs to be part of the purchasing decision process.
Gear? Get it, use it. Establish the rules of safety in the very beginning. Buying a helmet, gloves, protective riding apparel from head to toe may smoke a credit card but anything short of emphasizing this as part of motorcycling is reckless. It may be goretex but to her it is shopping (whoopee!) so you’ll probably get no resistance when it comes time to make your purchases.
She should own the experience. Make it hers, but don’t be a jerk.
It is a delicate balance. How much support is too much? Will you get beat up if you just point her in the right direction and wish her luck? These are decisions only you as couples can make, but from a guy’s perspective, there is a lot to be said in facilitating a process so that the space you so revere does not become “ours”. Step back a bit. She deserves to own her own space, to take all the credit and relish her achievement! This is not a selfish move. It is a gentle nudge out of the nest so she can fly on her own. You can’t fly for her. For some women of independent nature and those with natural instincts, this is easy. For others more timid or less confident, a little shove may be needed.
On the other hand be sensitive to her riding limitations and don’t introduce her to conditions that could result in injury or worse. Go slow. Be patient. Allow the confidence to build with her experience and skills. A synced mind, body and spirit are important to enjoyable motorcycling. Remember this is supposed to be fun. Be a jerk and even Dr. Phil won’t be able to help you. Who is Dr. Phil? Ask her. She’ll know.
Guys, can you live with the fear?
Lets face it, motorcycling is risky; well, more risky than staying home in front of the TV watching a marathon session with the Kardashians. In the beginning, seeing your most cherished get on a motorcycle and become exposed to the same elements, risks and possibilities that you know so well, may quite frankly, be too much to handle. The concern never really goes away. In fact for some men, once on the road, worrying about the riding partner can mute the enjoyment and even be a distracting safety hazard. To the other extreme, don’t be a jerk, remember her limitations, avoid stressful situations and be there when you are needed, especially until she gets her wings and is ready to fly.
Should she ride her own motorcycle? Maybe. If it works out, you may just discover that the space you felt so sacred, will become even more so, shared on the road with the one you love.
Skip Mascorro is founder of MotoDiscovery, an internationally recognized pioneer in organized motorcycle tours and expeditions worldwide since 1981. Since before their marriage in 1978, his wife, Nancy has ridden and owned motorcycles. MotoDiscovery regularly organizes all women motorcycle tours, the latest, a 12 day tour of Cuba sponsored by Women’s MotorCycle Tours scheduled for February 2017.
For more information go to www.motodiscovery.com