The number of female riders has doubled from 2003 to 2015 in the United States, while in Australia where such official figures are not kept, there has also been a significant increase.
The American Motorcycle Industry Council’s Motorcycle Owner Survey shows female riders account for 14% of the riding population.
In 1998, it was 8%, in 2003, it was 10%, and since then the numbers have doubled from 600,000 to 1.2 million.
Estimates of Australian female riders seem to vary substantially from 6% to 10%.
Motorcycle Council of NSW chair CJ Burns believes it is about 6%, but says there has been “exponential growth” in female registrations.“Probably double what they were 10 years ago,” he says.
“The growth in regos in NSW and Australia has many causes; more leisure time, cheaper to holiday in Australia on a bike than go overseas, commuting in particular on scooters has been the biggest winner and scooters are non-threatening which gets female riders hooked and then they opt for something larger with better brakes and suspension, a natural progression.”
The American survey found a surge in younger riders was pushing up the female figures with just over 17% of riders in both the Gen X and Gen Y segments being women. By comparison, only 9% of Baby Boomer riders are women. The median age for American female riders is 39, compared with 48 for males.
There seems to be many reasons for the increase in female numbers:
A Harley-Davidson commissioned survey found that riding makes women feel sexy. That’s as good a reason as any to go riding.
However, the American MIC survey also cited “fun and recreation,” “sense of freedom” and “nature/outdoors” as the top three reasons to ride.
Harley has directly targeted women with initiatives such as women-only Garage Parties where they are taught basic mechanical maintenance.
Interestingly, 49% of the American women surveyed said they would prefer to do their own maintenance or have a friend or relative work on their bikes, rather than paying a mechanic.
Harley and several other manufacturers have also targeted the lucrative and growing female market by introducing new low-seat models, or offering adjustable or optional low seats.
The lowest seats are in the cruiser range, so it follows that they are the most popular choice for American women with 34% ownership. Scooters are second at 33% and sport bikes third with 10%.
And the major barrier to women of the danger involved in riding has been lowered with many rider training companies now offering women-only courses.
Our extensive MotorbikeWriter global survey this year found 82.5% of women claimed road safety was their main concern in riding, compared with 76.9% of males.
Consequently, the American survey found 60% of women riders have taken a motorcycle safety course, compared with 42% of men.
First-Aid for Motorcyclists course organisers Tracy Hughes and Roger Fance confirm these statistics.
They say that while women may only comprise 10% of the Australian riding population, they represent 24% of their course participants.
Women are becoming more and more emancipated and wanting to do things for themselves, such as start riding.
They just need a little encouragement, says Sue Corrigan, one of the organisers of the International Female Ride Day.
“Many husbands/partners/family/friends are encouraging women to no longer be pillions, and to get out on their own motorbikes and ride themselves,” she says.
“Many women are discouraged by the way in which some male riders act/speak, and I think this plays a large role in the decision women make about not wanting to get involved in riding motorbikes themselves.
“Experienced riders need to encourage women to start riding motorbikes, they need to take new riders under their wings, not pressure them into riding but be patient and considerate with them, and also let each person ride their own ride.”
And more women are using their motorcycles to see the world, says World on Wheels owner Denise Ferris who is considering a ladies-only tour.
“There are a lot more women who ride these days, so why not?”.