Good for you! But where do you start? Launching out into the world of two wheels can be intimidating for a girl new to the sport. If approached correctly however it can be one of the most rewarding and interesting things you ever do. The sport of motorcycling has always been thrilling, but for many decades it seemed reserved for ruffian outlaws or teenagers with a death wish. Things have changed. The modern motorcyclist now is often a professional, with a family even. Many women riders are emerging and even women rider coaches. The diversity of rider groups range from The Christian Motorcyclists Association to rogue outlaw groups. There are a plethora of special interest groups, like BACA, which stands for Bikers Against Child Abuse. The modern female motorcyclist is rarely the hard looking, chain smoking, black leather garbed example we all think of. Now, the female motorcyclist may be the cute little college student riding to her classes to save money on gas. It may be the junior high teacher who wants to be able to actually smell the wildflowers on her way home from work. Motorcycling has changed.
But what hasn't changed is the fact that motorcycles still pose a higher element of risk than a car. It's a fact. In a battle for right of way between a car and a motorcycle, the car will always win. So what can you do to minimize your risk, maximize your fun and be a good rider?
Take a Class: The Basic Rider Class is offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Let me give you some background on me. When I was 19 I first decided I wanted a bike. I was a poor college kid so I bought a $400 bike, had my boyfriend at the time spend 20 minutes showing me how to ride, rode 45 miles home ( at night), and wrecked on a tight S curve 5 minutes from my house. Not very smart. I wrecked because the concept of leaning to turn the bike was not yet second nature for me. It was an expensive and somewhat painful lesson! But I see people make the same mistake all the time. You would not go ski a mogul without ski lessons. You would not want teenagers driving without drivers ed. Motorcycling is easy in some respects and very very difficult in others. It requires use of every one of your senses, simultaneously. It requires you to balance, assess your surroundings, and react in split seconds. This is where the thrill comes in but it is also where a class is imperative, to make you learn and practice the skills you will need to stay in one piece. I personally take an Advanced Riding Course once every year, just to stay sharp.
Get the Right Gear: Motorcycle gear has come a long way and there are some really cool styles out there for women now. Icon and Joe Rocket are two that have a great selection of colors and styles. On a bike, you no longer have thousands of pounds of steel protecting you so you have to find other ways to protect your skin and your brain! There are many good online dealers for gear - one of my favorites is New Enough and they sell on Ebay.
Pick a Bike That Fits: Many women are, like me, height challenged. At the Basic Riding Course, I learned to ride on a 250cc Honda Rebel. These little 250cc cruisers are short, light and easy to learn on. After the class I bought a 250cc Kawasaki Ninja. The Ninja is a sportbike and so was a big change from the cruiser. It took some mental adjustment but it didn't take me long to love it. I now have a 600cc Kawasaki ZZR. It is the 2004 model so, unlike the new ones, it is more of a touring sportbike, meaning more comfortable for long hauls. If you are 5'5 and under you probably want to look for a bike with a seat height below 31". Being on your tiptoes is neither comfortable or safe for a beginning rider. Start with something small and easy and stick with it until you feel very comfortable.
Don't Give Up: Ten years after my wreck, now with a family, a career and a graduate degree, I decided to pick up the sport again. Only this time I did it right. I found a BRC course before I even bought a bike. The class was hard for me at first. It involved skills of balance and hand/eye coordination I hadn't used in years. I stayed patient and stayed with it and it paid off. Don't get frustrated if the learning process is slow for you.
Get on Forums: There are great forums out there on the BRC, on women riders, on choosing the right type of bike for you and on improving your skills. These really help you keep your perspective and keep getting better.
Join Groups: Your local motorcycle shops will advertise flyers for rides, rallies, classes and groups.Get involved and you may just be surprised at how many people have motorcycles! I know I was!