The road is open and waiting for anyone to take it. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, more than 29 billion vehicle miles were traveled in 2009, the most recent year of statistics. This was an increase of 8 billion miles since 2003, reports the council.
It seems as if more and more women are jumping on Harleys, choppers and other motorcycles to take advantage of the freedom of traveling the road without the constraints of a car. "Women have been the fastest growing demographic of new motorcycle riders in the last 15 years," says Genevieve Schmitt, the founder and editor of WomenRidersNow.com, an online magazine for and about women motorcycle riders.
Schmitt was a producer on "Good Morning America" and was working on a story about women riders. After she did the shoot, she was hooked and fell in love with the sport. She started working for a women's motorcycling magazine that eventually folded in 2004, and soon after that, she introduced her own site.
But not every woman will hop on a bike as quickly as Schmitt. Most men who want to ride get their motorcycle license and add it to their list of toys. For women, there's often a deeper mental struggle that goes into riding. Maybe she's a woman in her 50s and has recently become an empty nester. Or maybe she has always wanted a bike but worried that society would look down upon her biking with the boys. There are many mental barriers that women have to overcome, Schmitt says.
"Women come to the sport through different sets of circumstances. We all want the freedom, the liberation," she says.
Many new bike owners are older because of the expense of the hobby, but because women are making more money, climbing corporate ladders and have more disposable income than ever before, they can be assertive with the way they spend their paychecks. Schmitt says they are choosing to buy bikes and get out on the road.
"Women really want to spend a lot of time on their motorcycles. They've invested in a high value toy and they want to spend time touring on their bikes," she says. Overnight touring has become popular as motorcycles have become more comfortable for longer road trips. And now, women are joining other women on these trips, not just couples going with other couples.
"I was trying to find women to ride with, but I could hardly find anyone to go to Sturgis with me," says Schmitt about the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D. But now women want to spend time with other women riders, which is easier with the increase in women riders.
Schmitt's company is going to offer an alternative to the traditional touring model of long days of riding, late dinners and early wake-up calls to do it all again the next day. What could be termed as girlfriend packages, Schmitt is proposing an opportunity to ride, relax and rejuvenate with other like-minded women riders. Sightseeing, spa trips and shopping will accompany the actual ride.
This same concept of hanging out with the girls has fueled the success of Schmitt's website. "If you're a women motorcycle rider, you're often the only person in your personal sphere of influence who rides, " Schmitt says. These riders flock to the "Reader Stories" section of the site, where they can see themselves in other women's stories and make a connection that way.
The sport is still very much about enjoying the freedom you experience when you're on a bike. But with more women becoming active in the culture, there's a different vibe to it.