Are women riders poised to save the motorcycling industry? If trends continue, they very well may pull it off.
Motorcycle ownership has been on a decline over the course of the past two decades, a trend some have blamed on economic instability among Millennials. It can be difficult enough to afford rent/mortgage, kids and the family car without the added cost of a motorcycle. Furthermore, the bloc of men and women that make up the majority of weekend riders are slowly aging out of the scene and hanging up their helmets for good. With the old blood retiring and new blood trickling in slower and slower, motorcycle manufacturers are looking for new methods for growing the industry. And some believe that women may be the key to saving motorcycling.
Women now make up one of the motorcycling industry’s fastest growing demographics, and they have for a good while; in 1998, only 8 percent of registered riders were female. By 2014, that number nearly tripled. What is it that has spurred women to take up motorcycling in such massive numbers?
Perhaps it is that motorcycles are a potent symbol of freedom. No more is motorcycling strictly a man’s sport; no more are women relegated to hanging from the backs of their beaus as they tear up the open road. According to rider and model Kelly Yazdi, “There's always been this box for women to fit into, that [says] women can only do these certain things.” By becoming a face for women motorcyclists, Yazdi – and many others – hope to make this box bigger by cultivating this rapidly-growing culture.
Leah Misch, a 31-year-old Wisconsinite who makes her living as a nurse, agrees with Yazdi. Misch first experienced the thrill of riding at the age of 10, when she flipped a dirt bike by throttling too hard. For eight years, she avoided riding, until a friend of hers decided to learn to ride. Misch thought, at first, that motorcycling was a man’s game and that the potential for injury was too high. But after taking a motorcycle riding class, her friend was bitten by the bug. Inspired, Misch left an abusive relationship and made a bucket list – learning to ride being one of her top goals. She enrolled in the same class and by the end of the day, she had become a motorcyclist. After a few hard knocks, including a broken back and punctured lung, Misch has fully immersed herself in the culture, attending Sturgis and traveling the world to embrace the open road. Misch believes that women are the future of the sport as well – “For every one woman rider, you can bring in four men.”
For these women and many more, motorcycling is a way to live one’s life at full throttle. And if more women like Misch and Yazdi take up the helm, we very well may be at the cusp of a motorcycling Renaissance.