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Motorcycle Industry: Efforts to Reach Female Bikers Paying Off

According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, the biking industry is increasingly drawing more female riders, many of whom are revving engines as part of a growing younger audience.

Ride or die—men and women included.

Perhaps Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) was representative of many female motorcyclists when she exclaimed at her first annual Roast and Ride fundraiser last year, “Ride to live; live to ride!”

The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) says the number of female riders has more than doubled in recent years, illustrating that its work to increase female ridership has been successful.

“The number of female owners better than doubled from 2003 to 2014,” Sarah Schilke, marketing manager of BMW Motorrad USA and chairwoman of the female motorcycle-industry professionals group PowerLily, said in a MIC press release.

Confident Growth

The numbers say it all: 14 percent of all motorcycle owners in America today are women, compared with 8 percent in 1998, according to MIC.

The council’s most recent Motorcycle Owner Survey also reveals women’s main motivations for being high on the hog: They ride for “fun and recreation,” for a “sense of freedom,” and to “enjoy outdoors/nature.” As for their priorities when choosing a bike to buy, women, in the survey of 48,000 U.S. households, said they consider “fuel economy” and “test rides” first.

“Women continue to embrace motorcycling like never before,” Schilke said.

And female bike owners tend to skew younger, as well: MIC reports that a little more than 17 percent of generation X motorcycle owners and 17.6 percent of millennial owners are women; among baby boomers that figure is 9 percent.

“It’s encouraging that we’re seeing more women among the riders who are entering the sport,” Schilke said. “Motorcycling is for anyone, and that’s being recognized by younger generations and nontraditional customer segments.”

Getting Past the Gender Bias

Traditionally, there has been a gender bias in motorcycle advertising. Anne Zube, president of the Milwaukee-based women’s motorcyclist group Stilettos on Steel, says she’s experienced it herself.

“The marketing gig used to be the 45-year-old guy with the 25-year-old girl on the back of his bike, like she was an accessory … I always kind of took offense to that,” she told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Clearly, times have changed, and women are trying out motorcycle riding more than ever.

With the mission of empowering women to enjoy motorcycling safely and with street smarts, Stilettos on Steel has grown its membership by 30 percent every year in both Michigan and Wisconsin.

“Not only are women strategic in that they want to get their motorcycle license, they want to become great riders,” Zube said.

(iStock/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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