"There are more than 4.3 million women motorcyclists on the road today, and more are joining our ranks every day," said Beth Hazen, a motorcyclist and Nationwide Insurance agent. "Women's Motorcycle Month celebrates the pioneers who broke down gender and racial barriers in the early days of motorcycling, and we hope their stories inspire even more women to consider getting out on bikes or scooters this summer."
According to the Motorcycle Industry Council's most recent research, the number of women motorcycle riders increased 34 percent between 1998 and 2003. Today, major manufacturers report annual increases in sales to women and actively court female riders. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation says women make up nearly 30% of students in its learn-to-ride Basic RiderCourses across the United States.
Many remarkable women have blazed a path on two wheels. Here, Nationwide salutes four who have been named to the Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
- Adeline and Augusta Van Buren: In 1916, Adeline and Augusta rode to coast to coast on Indian motorcycles — the first women to make the transcontinental journey solo on two motorcycles. The sisters rode to convince the military that women were capable of serving as dispatch riders. Although they were unsuccessful in that mission, they were able shatter many of the early 20th century's stereotypes about women.
- Bessie Stringfield: In the 1930s and 1940s, Bessie — a female, African-American motorcyclist — broke down barriers by completing eight solo cross-country tours and serving as a U.S. Army motorcycle dispatch rider. During these tours, she rode fearlessly through the deep South when racial prejudice was a tangible threat. Bessie rode her first motorcycle, an Indian, at the age of 16 and went on to own 27 Harley-Davidsons.
- Dot Robinson: In the mid-20th century, Dot paved the way for women motorcyclists. In 1939, she and fellow motorcyclist, Linda Dugeau, began Motor Maids of America. Today, Motor Maids is thriving and is the oldest motorcycling organization for women in North America. Dot also opened doors for women in motorcycle competition. An enduro racer, in 1940, Dot became the first woman to win in AMA national competition.
Women who have been considering two wheels and are inspired by Women's Motorcycle Month have many resources available to help them learn to ride. Nationwide's Hazen offers three tips for getting started:
- Websites such as www.motorcycles.org, www.msf-usa.org and www.AmericanMotorcyclist.com provide information on everything from locating a safety course in your area to buying proper riding gear.
- Find a local dealership where you feel welcome and learn about different motorcycles before purchasing. Sit in the saddle and check out the practical aspects, such as making sure both of your feet can easily rest on the ground and determining if handgrips, controls, and mirrors are easy to reach and operate.
- Join a women's motorcycle club in your area. Not only do these clubs allow women to enjoy the community of riding, many also focus on charity work.
Click here for more information for first time motorcyclists.