This week, REALRIDER® Helen Cullen tells us her journey on becoming a rider and what the world of motorcycling is really like for a female biker.
“I’ve been riding since 1979 and in that time there has been more acceptance towards all bikers, not just women.
Biking was the cheapest form of transport which is why I learned to ride. My first bike was a Honda C50 step-thru, but I quickly moved to a Suzuki TS185 which is what I passed my test on. In those days there were no CBT’s, just a man with a clipboard walking around the block assessing your ride.
My friend Sara and I were an exception to the rule in Huddersfield in the 80’s. We didn’t know any other female riders and the guys we rode with just accepted us as part of the group.
People who weren’t in our ‘riding group’ were always surprised to find we were women on bikes back then; but now people in general aren’t as surprised when they find out you ride. Although, I’ve had some comments along the lines of “Is that really your bike?” and “You don’t look like a biker; you look like a normal person”. I’ve often been tempted to ask what ‘normal’ is…
I had a little break from riding to have my children and got back in the saddle around six years ago.
I have found there are more women riding now and I think society in general is more accepting of female riders. There is more training available (at a cost) meaning you might find more mature riders brushing up on skills.. But the cost of learning can also be prohibitive now, especially for learners with limited means. It’s not easy to pass your test now. Gone are the men with the clipboards, replaced by vigilant observers of a two-tier process, which results in more careful riders anyway… in my opinion!
Talking about the actual machine itself, for me it’s whether I can get my feet on the floor. I’ve never bought a brand new bike, mine have always been pre-owned.
However, motorcycle clothing for women is a complete nightmare! It’s about time manufacturers realised us women have curves. The sheer amount of jackets and pants that simply don’t cater for curves and shapely women is beyond belief. Yes, we have curves and no, we don’t want flattening out to such an extent we can’t fasten anything up. If manufacturers can put in things like air vents and removable lines, then why can’t they put elasticated concealed panels down the front so that they fit better?
Shoulders are another bone of contention. We are not all shaped like supermodels that sit pillion and don’t need to be able to move; give us more panels in there that enable us to be able to ride safely and not make them so restricted that it makes life difficult when we try to manoeuvre our bikes. Not all of us need made to measure gear, just something that fits comfortably.
So, in a nutshell… I think we are absolutely accepted more – we’re essentially riders now and not just ‘women on bikes’; but manufacturers need to get their act together and cater for all riders equally.”