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The New ‘Female Rider’

May 1, 2008

Folks, I’m entering uncharted waters here so please, cut me some slack…I want to kick around a few thoughts about the new ‘female’ rider. This is a title that I’m not completely comfortable with, but because I’m not the coldest cube in the tray, I’m going to use it until someone comes up with a better one. I also need to tell you that I’ve been warned. Motorgirl states that she categorically hates the idea of a ‘female rider’ title and is emphatic that we should just be ‘riders’ and forget the female moniker, I can’t help but agree, however…from my viewpoint there’s more than just a little testosterone stinking up the thought processes here.

The issues:

I want to buy my wife a bike. Jeez, I’m such a nice guy. Somewhere in my mind’s eye I picture her cutting a perfect line on her own bike, then telling me how awesome it was and how smart I was to suggest she ride. Oh Baby! Don’t ask me if I actually found out if she really wanted to ride or was honestly more comfortable as a passenger. Nope, didn’t ask that one, didn’t even think about it, why would I? After all, she’s gotta want to ride because heck, I do! Okay, I’ll take a mulligan on the assumption that she wants to ride. So what’s the score here? Who cares!? I say she wants to ride and now I’m on a mission, whether she likes it or not. I want to come up with the right, correct and perfect ride for ‘her.’ What the hell, I’m an accomplished rider. I should know exactly what she needs! Right. First mistake. Hey, it’s a guy thing.

At this point I have just made myself a complex problem, you could call it a hole that I just can’t help but make deeper. I’m sure that some therapist would view me as creating an extension of myself and in doing so, I get to gleefully stroke my own ego. I digress, back to my hole. I have my own ideas, I know exactly what I like to ride, and I know the apparel I prefer to wear. I know the options I want on ‘my’ bike. I even know the colour. If I were to apply all of that towards picking the right motorcycle out for my smarter half it would equal–zero, zip, nada. Guys, do you want the truth? All of your preferences mean absolutely diddly squat when it comes to picking out a bike for your better half.

Us guys need to understand something here. What we think is perfect may be a complete reject for someone else, and that someone else may very well be your better half. It also can mean the difference between life and real nasty alternatives. I recently read a report of a fatal motorcycle accident not twenty kilometres from where I live. A new female rider impacted the front of a truck when she failed to negotiate a simple curve. The result? An absolutely tragic loss of life, but what was behind the scenes? A bike she wasn’t comfortable on? Maybe she was riding at a pace that was beyond her skill set and no one simply slowed down to her comfort and ability zone? Who knows? The long and short is that an important and precious life is needlessly gone and that turn of events set the local sport of motorcycling on its ear, and rightfully so. Lots of people can argue that she didn’t do this or do that, but I’ve seen like situations that speak a different language. Hubby wants mother to ride her own. There’s what you want, ride like this, and it’s perfect! What’s-a-matter, speed up, c’mon!

Intimidation versus education. Big difference folks.

So what to do? The big point: listen. Your better half may not want a Sportster, or a Katana. She may actually have a preference that will be in flux until the time comes to pick her second bike. She may want to start with a Honda 125 or a Suzuki Hayabusa, or any point in between. She may not want to reflect your riding style or brand affiliation. Suck it up Hombre; this is what should remain as the holy grail of any new rider. Choice. If I were to say to you: “here is what you will ride and you will enjoy,” I may end up with you giving me the bird and rightfully so. The new rider should have the advantage of serious, honest input and the ultimate end choice.

I’ll be straight up here; my gal actually wants to ride, to the point that I’ve been getting suggestions about “my own bike,” ergo, clear sailing on that point. Where I really screwed up was by making the mistake of thinking that I knew what my wife wanted to ride. It had to be low and have a comfortable riding position. Here’s what I draw from…I grew up on sport bikes. I love the way you sit on a Ducati, for about an hour or first speeding ticket, whatever’s shorter. I factor that in. I like long haul cruisers, kind of a straight up to La-Z-Boy, Barcalounger position. Yeah, turn up the tunes dude! Factor number three: Over the last couple of years I’ve been mucking about with adventure riding and am really impressed with the riding position because you can take a ton of abuse and just shrug it off. Next factor is budget. Nasty word eh? All of these factors get summed up into my decision of what ‘she’ really, really wants. What a hole. Should I stop digging? Thanks, I needed a beer anyway.

Some good folks from Windsor, Ontario had a bike that I thought would be the bee’s knees. I put a deposit on it. Then my wife sat on a similar model. Nope, nope, double nope. Not gonna work. No way. I stand there like a deer caught in the headlights. “Gosh honey, are you sure?” I know, stupid question.

If I had just presented it to her like a ‘done deal’ she would have no doubt said wonderful things about me, ridden it once and then quietly put it away…forever. If I ever did manage to talk her into riding it again she would be riding a machine that she’s not comfortable with and because of that she is neither confident nor safe on. Aside from the fact that even a short ride is unsafe you can see how the whole ‘come and ride with me’ kind of crumbles into some nasty shards of shrapnel and perhaps an extraordinary case of road rash…if you’re lucky.

So what to do? Rule one: Find out if your better half actually wants to ride. Rule two: Motorcycle safety course. Rule three: Sit on everything out there and keep yer trap shut unless you’ve got something truly constructive to say. Rule four: You have a ton of bad habits. You know it and so do I–we share a dozen or so, thus there’s no burning need to pass them on to a new rider. Let the pro’s do the teaching. Rule five: Accept your better half’s choice with open arms and then ride at her pace. If you’ve done it right you will know that after the first riding season your new, extra special riding partner will have formed a better idea of what she wants in comfort, power, options and even the colour. Hey, isn’t that the same thing you did after your first year of riding? Son-of-a-gun. Weird how that works out, eh?

Want a perfect, extra special riding partner? Let her do what you did way back when. Educate, never intimidate and you will have that riding partner forever and a day. Guaranteed.

Ride Safe. Ride (very) Far!

Stu

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