The motorcycle market breaks records of innovation every year with better models, improved equipment, and new services for riders. What is not always heard of is the role of women in promoting this innovation.
In fact, the field of motorcycles has always been considered masculine even though women have taken part in it from day one. So in honor of this week's International Female Rider Day, here are four areas where women have changed and are changing the way we ride.
Paving a wider road
It is impossible to talk about women and innovation without noting the many glass ceilings women have smashed over the years. Time and time again brave women rebelled against the boundaries of society and paved the way for future generations. Women like Effie and Avis Hotchkiss, that were the first transcontinental female motorcyclists. Susan Lang, who was acknowledged already back in 1917 as one of the most accomplished motorcycle mechanics in the country. Cathy Birchall, who is the first blind woman to circumnavigate the world. Mary McGee, that was the first woman to compete in motorcycle road racing all the way to the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. And we can go on and on with this long list of brave pioneers.
Each of these women opened the road to many others and contributed to the growth of our field. This willingness of women riders to challenge the conventional can perhaps also explain their part in MC innovations that affected the way we ride over the years.
Many riders owe their lives to female developers. One of those inventors is Stephanie Kwolek.
Back In 1960 DuPont, Kwolek's employer, was trying to find a lighter alternative to steel to reinforce car tires. Kwolek discovered that under certain conditions, aromatic polyimides formed liquid crystals in solution. While most polymer solutions are thick, the one she was working with was thin and cloudy. The fiber produced from it was nearly five times stronger than steel — and yet it was roughly half as dense as fiberglass.
Eventually, this invention become to be known as Kevlar - a synthetic fiber of high tensile strength used as a reinforcing agent in the manufacture of tires, helmets, vests, and other protective gear. Thanks to Kwolek invention motorcyclists can ride lighter and much safer today.
If there is one thing female riders excel at is openness to innovation in riding. A great example of this is the new service of VOOM. VOOM offers the world's first pay-per-mile motorcycle insurance that allows to significantly reduce the way-too-high costs of MC insurance for most riders. In the past month, 47% of VOOM's innovative service users were women even though they make up only 20% of all motorcyclists. Wendy McCubbins from VOOM team explains this trend:
“In the 50+ years I’ve ridden I learned women riders are adventurous and are risk takers by nature. This willingness to push up against stereotypes helps them adapt quickly and take the industry forward.”
VOOM is only one of the many new solutions that can make riding more affordable and you can be sure female riders won’t miss these opportunities.
Men and womens motorcycle gear may look the same and have many of the same materials but women's needs have brought to the world some unique equipment and even motorcycle models.
Designers developed riding gear for women like jackets, pants, and boots that are specifically cut and sewn for the female form so that it offers the utmost in both protection and comfort. Motorcycle manufacturers made the range of set and suspension wider and crated solutions like dog bones to fit the average height of a woman. Some companies like Duke, Suzuki, Kawasaki and more even crated lighter bikes that can be easier to maneuver for a lighter wight woman. The challenge of creating gear that is adjusted to women's needs keeps bringing new products that benefit not only the woman but many other riders that didn’t have proper solutions before.
Moving to the front seat
As more and more female riders are joining the MC community their impact on the field is growing. Women riders open the community to new audiences, bring great developments to the market, lead the path to innovative ways to ride, and always push the industry to new limits. We hope to see more and more great things coming from the women of our community and wish you all a happy Female Rider week!