If you arrive at a Woman on Wheels event in the middle of the day, you won’t find anyone there: they will all be out riding. These women are passionate about the sport, riding thousands of miles in a week. Women rode from Georgia, New York, Michigan, California, Colorado, Missouri, Texas, Florida, Ohio, Delaware and Kentucky – to name a few -- to attend the 24th annual Women on Wheels Ride-in at Stratton Mountain Resort, July 6-8.
Pam from Illinois is typical. She rode 100,000 miles on her last Goldwing. She had just gotten a new one the day before the rally and rode from Illinois to Vermont. Rebecca from Massachusetts is another example. She has two motorcycles and has ridden in every state except Alaska and Hawaii.
Women on Wheels has 2,500 members worldwide and 500 riders attended the Stratton Vermont rally, the second largest in the group’s history. They welcome all types of bikes and you do not have to ride to join. Men can join as support members. An enthusiasm for motorcycles is all that is required.
Amazingly, these women still see discrimination because of their gender. They reported having difficulty finding gear and bikes that fit them properly. “There’s one vendor here with pants. He didn’t have any pants for women,” Pam from Illinois said. “How stupid is that?”
At the Women’s Round Table discussion on Tuesday afternoon, leaders in women’s motorcycling charged the group to take the lead in getting the industry’s attention. “We really need to be consumers,” said Sue Slate, National Programs Chair at the Women’s Motorcyclist Foundation and a Kawasaki Motorcycle representative. “Start spending out loud!”
It is estimated that twenty-five percent of motorcyclists are women. This estimate is low, round-table panelists said, because it is based on motorcycle registrations, not licenses. Women often begin riding on bikes passed down by their husbands or boyfriends. If the new woman owner does not re-register the bike in her name, she goes uncounted.
Maggie McNally, the first woman member of the AMA Board of Directors, encouraged women to join the AMA as full voting members. Many women join AMA as family members and become associate members. Associate members do not get to vote. Seventy percent of AMA’s associate members are women. “We need to count,” McNally said.
Barb Grueschow, Women on Wheels Board of Trustees member and past president, challenged the women to take on leadership roles. It’s easy to get involved and a great way to meet people, she said.
“We need to have our heros. We need to be more visible,” said Slate. Grueschow agreed, saying all riders can be a source of inspiration for others.
While advocacy for women’s motorcycling is important, the main agenda at the Ride-In is friendship and riding. Each night’s schedule includes a party with a band; but, by 9 a.m. the next morning, the parking lot has few bikes – the women are out riding.