I do have a ride to share with you that took place recently, but first I wanted to tell you about this awesome little business in Sioux Falls, SD – on the way to Sturgis, for those of you traveling westerly! The grand opening of Doris Schumacher’s store, Ride Empowered, takes place Saturday May 3, 2014 – International Female Ride Day! Store Hours in Sioux Falls are 10 am – 6 pm. Stop by if you are in the area, and support Doris and her new venture!
Doris Schumacher was having a hell of a time finding a suitable leather riding jacket. Now I must say right off the bat, I can relate. But, while I was content to bitch about the difficult task of locating a well-made, well-fitting jacket in the appropriate size, Doris was not. Instead, she began the process or researching and eventually turned her challenge into a retail store: Ride Empowered, in Sioux Falls, SD and online at www.rideempowered.com.
I recently asked Doris to take a pop-quiz about her life-changing decisions to ride and to become a business owner, and despite all the millions of other tasks on her to-do list she happily complied. So here, to coincide with the Grand Opening of the Ride Empowered Store, is a revealing Q-and-A with owner and EMPOWERED RIDER Doris Schumacher.
Tell me about your own personal background in motorcycling – how long have you been riding, and what has riding done for you personally as a rider and as a female rider?
My uncle was a biker, so I’d ridden on the back with him a few times as a kid. Aside from the exposure I really didn’t start riding until my husband got a bike the Spring of 2009. I rode on the back with him for one year. At first I was scared, but it didn’t take long for me to decide that if I’m going to be on a bike I’d rather be driving it. For me it was almost like a women’s lib issue. In my mind being his passenger somehow implied that I was incapable of doing it myself. I hate feeling incapable.
I took a beginners riding course the summer of 2010 & had my own brand new shiny red 2009 Kawasaki 500EN before I even completed the class. After I passed I would take my bike up to the local church parking lot to practice. I was terrified almost every time I rode that bike for the first couple years, (which is actually just 2 three month riding seasons in SD), but I just kept pushing myself past it until I got used to it, and it became a personal liberation. Riding my own bike helped me gain a lot of self-confidence, and the empowerment I gained through that started crossing into my personal and professional life. I started standing up for myself more, taking on new challenges, and reprioritizing the things that mattered to me in life. When I was on my bike I (wasn’t thinking about) my messy house, the bills I had to pay, remembering the schedules of myself as well as my husband and three children. I started to realize… I needed to get out of (the rat race). That’s when I started looking into starting my own business.
What was the inspiration for you in terms of deciding to start a retail business?
Starting my own business was already in my mind, but I really didn’t know what type of business I should shoot for, so I just started doing research on the various franchises that were out there thinking that would be the route I’d take. Then, I went out shopping for a leather jacket – this was last Spring (2013). I was having a really hard time finding a suitable riding jacket. I didn’t want to shop online and end up with something that didn’t fit right, and since I ride a Kawasaki I had no interest in shopping at our local Harley dealership. That’s when it hit me that there might be a need for a women’s motorcycle apparel shop, so then I started focusing my research on that. After a few months of digging I felt that I had enough to support at least a small business, and that was all I really felt I needed to accomplish.
What is it you hope to do for women riders through your business?
I’m hoping to provide them with a place they know is there for them. Although women are a fast growing demographic in the motorcycle industry, it’s still very much male dominated. I see this changing as several large companies are recognizing their needs and reaching out to meet them by creating new lines of riding gear and apparel that are just for women. Now we just need to start bringing more attention to the various size and style needs as so much is limited in size ranges. If Ride Empowered grows, or at least grabs some attention, then we have a real shot at helping manufacturers see that need too. Aside from that, I’m also hoping to provide women with a support network, rider education classes, and some fun events to participate in!
Starting a retail business is a risky and life-changing proposition. How has it changed your life so far, and how do you think it will change the degree to which you personally enjoy riding?
It’s very risky, and it’s nowhere near in the safe zone yet. I couldn’t have even taken the leap without the support of my family, friends, and community. I’ve had to share a lot of work with my family. I even put my kids to work if they’re in the shop. Without their support I wouldn’t have enough hands to get all the work done. My friends do everything they can to help promote the business so I have a fighting chance at keeping it going. And my community is one that really supports local businesses. Not all community developers would be willing to take a risk on a small business of this somewhat unusual type. I didn’t have much for comparable businesses to discuss in my business plan to show my lenders its potential success. They just believed in me and its potential knowing that it was a risk. And really, I still haven’t “done it.” Yes, I’ve started a business, but it’s not yet a success. I set my goals a little at a time now. If I can make next month’s rent that’s a goal achieved. If I can’t get through my first year that’ll be a HUGE goal achieved. People know starting a business is risky, but you don’t know just how risky until you do it.
Oh my gosh, I don’t even know where to begin with that. This experience has taught me so much about my family and friends… I get pretty emotional. They didn’t just believe in my business idea, they believed in ME and MY ability to make it work. That’s been the most amazing part of all of this. I saw more of myself in seeing what they saw in me – if that makes sense. Most supportive? Certainly my husband and kids, my mom, my brother, and all my in-laws. My husband does all my advertisements and website development – it’s been a LOT of added work for him. I don’t want to name any friends because I don’t want any of them to feel more or less important than the next. My friends are local riders I’ve met that have supported and encouraged me from day one, everyone who likes & shares my Facebook page to help spread the word, everyone who comes in and buys something so I can keep paying the bills, everyone who signed up for my newsletter… It’s a long list and without any of them Ride Empowered is no more. They all keep it going with me and I just can’t do it without any of them.
What has been the biggest challenge for you in terms of getting the business up and running?
The WORK, OMG. This has been the most time intensive, labor intensive, learning intensive thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s hard to stay on top of everything, it’s hard not to get scared of failing, it’s hard to know that I’m adding a lot of work to my husband and family who already juggle a lot… Everything is hard, but it’s the kind of hard work that keeps me going every day. I’ve always thrived on challenges. It’s part of the reason I’ve never stayed at one job for more than two years. Once I learn something and it becomes routine I get bored. There will never be routine with this. I will always multi-task a half dozen different positions to keep the business going. I will always have a list of things to do, new ideas to bring to life, and now there’s no boss telling me when, where, or if I can do any of it! Also, I know that I have to hang in there when it’s hard and when it’s scary, not just for me or my family, but now for everyone else who’s counting on me. Ride Empowered means a lot to a lot of people. It’s touched them in ways I didn’t expect because its special to them too. It’s real proof that women are establishing their place, and more importantly their respect by the men in this industry. In a really small way I kind of feel like I’m making a little history here.
Oh yeah, that’s been a challenge for sure. When I placed my initial orders I didn’t stress too much and just ordered a full size run in each item I wanted to test out, but I wasn’t expecting my 2X tops to be as small as they were. Each time a full figured woman came into the shop and had to leave because she couldn’t find something in her size I was crushed. I’m now on a mission to find gear and apparel for plus size women but man, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack sometimes. Luckily, I have found a few brands I can count on and will order more from them as I’m able, but I’m also anticipating the start of a new line (yes, my own) that will hopefully help meet the needs. Unfortunately I can’t start with much. It’ll be just t-shirts in the beginning. It would be nice if at some point it can be riding gear too.
How easy do you think it will be, going forward, to provide merchandise that meets your mission?
There is no “easy”. It’s going to be a challenge plain and simple until the motorcycling industry comes through with more thorough size ranges. The only thing that will make that happen is providing them with evidence that there’s enough of a need for it to warrant their investment in making it. We’ll all have to do that together.
The online store launched in April at www.RideEmpowered.com. It isn’t really an extension of the store because it offers many different products than what I keep in the store. With some products there’s more available online than in the store, but then some of the specialty items I carry in the shop are not available online. There is now a link at the top of our business page that will take you to our Shopify store, but the work involved in getting the store setup is much more labor intensive than we anticipated. It’s a long process of matching each inventory item to a photo and description before putting it online. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to afford a commercial website developer so my husband has been building it himself. He has about fifteen years of experience, so he’s more than qualified, but he isn’t a co-owner or employee of Ride Empowered. He has a full time job as well as a part time job, and now added work at home to pick up my slack. It’s coming together, but it is definitely moving slower than we’d like it to.
What has been your favorite experience so far in launching the business?
Seeing the smiles and hearing the kind words of everyone that supports me and Ride Empowered. I feel like I’m serving a real and needed purpose through this business.
Your least favorite experience?
Doing all the painting myself, oh, and the GLITTER FLOOR! It’s awesome, yes, but it was far more work than I thought it would be and it really set me back with many more important things. I’m still catching up on tasks and responsibilities that I should have had completed before I even opened my doors. If I ever do this again I’m hiring people!
What are the “particulars” of your brick-and-mortar shop: days/hours of operation, address of retail store, web address…
I just changed my hours for the summer months, so you can now get me at
Doris Schumacher, Owner
945 S Marion Rd Ste 109
Sioux Falls, SD 57106
Store: (605) 275-5580
Toll Free: (855) 371-4971
Tue – Wed: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Thu – Fri: 10:00 am – 8:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sun: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
All photos in this post are courtesy Doris Schumacher and Ride Empowered!
Have a question for the Biker Chick? Just send me an email!
I am learning to ride and just have my permit at the moment. My husband is totally ticked that I am not ready to go on long rides and am wanting to just cruise around our neighborhood. Do you have any words of wisdom to overcome my anxiety? Is it wise to hop on and go for a long ride?
First and foremost, stress to your husband that if you are going to ride, you are going to learn at your own pace – not his. Only you know how comfortable you are on the bike, and because of this only you have that innate sense of what you might be ready to tackle.
Keep in mind that for experienced riders, everything about the operation of the bike is already second-nature – they’ve probably forgotten what it’s like to have to learn the various aspects of riding the bike, observing traffic, and generally being safe – all while trying to get just a quick glimpse of that “freedom of the road” that everyone seems to be talking about. So just tell him you’re prepared to spend the time it takes to get good at riding, but it has to be at your own pace. Encourage him to go on solo rides or rides with experienced friends so he doesn’t feel like he’s completely dependent on your learner’s pace.
Having said all that, if you are comfortable on the bike riding around your neighborhood, it’s possible you are ready for a slightly longer ride and you’re just reluctant because you’re enjoying a little “plateau” in your comfort zone. I encourage you to venture a little farther out, but safely and in your own way.
So try this: get out a map and pick a destination about 30 miles from home that you really want to go to. Plan a ride with that destination as your half-way point – hopefully it will include some 45- and 55-mph roads to give you a sense of what faster speeds are like, without putting you on the 75-mph Interstate too soon. (For me personally, it’s important that I be the one planning the comfort-zone-expanding ride… it gives me a sense of ownership of the plan rather than feeling like someone’s trying to control me.) Just take that round trip once, to see how you like it. You might find you really are ready for a new challenge!
If you really don’t feel comfortable riding outside the neighborhood yet, by all means just keep at it and stress to your hubby that it’s important for you to feel you’ve mastered this step before you proceed to the next.
Anyone else want to take a stab at this one? Feel free to comment!
Have a question for the Biker Chick? Just send me an email!
What’s your best advice for a woman wanting to learn to ride her own motorcycle?
Here are the top five things I learned in two years of riding. You can learn these same things in a lot less time if you take MSF safety course rather than “learning by doing.”
- If you apply your front brakes during a slow-speed turn, the bike will go down. Guaranteed. Both my drops occurred because I didn’t internalize this rule.
- Look where you want the bike to go. If you stare at an obstacle, you’ll ride right into it. Guaranteed.
- Don’t let your spouse, significant other, or child be your first passenger. Practice with an experienced, willing passenger first.
- There IS a reason why the safety courses teach and test you on slow-speed maneuvers. Know your friction zone for maximum slow-speed control, and practice your tight turns and figure 8’s. You’ll use these skills more often than you think.
- Assume that cross- and oncoming traffic doesn’t see you. Assume those that do see you, want to kill you. Always scan the road 10-12 seconds ahead to spot potential dangers in time to react.
Update 2007: Read my “No B.S. Guide for Beginners.”
Have a question for the Biker Chick? Just send me an email!
I’m a biker chick but neither my husband nor my son rides. I’d like to learn to take a passenger, but I don’t know how to do it. Does the passenger get on first? Where do they hold on? Can a 10-year-old be a passenger on a bike? Help!
It’s important for me to start by saying that I have never taken a passenger on my bike. Inexperience aside, there are a few things that I believe I have “learned” by listening to others and thinking through what they’ve said, and by being a passenger for many years on my husband’s bike.
The first thing is, you should not take your child as your first passenger, especially if that child is not an experienced passenger or some reason cannot physically get on the bike (too small to reach the pegs, etc.). It simply is not fair to ask them to be the “guinea pig” while you are getting used to the extra weight – for one thing, they could get hurt if you do happen to tip over, and as a parent you probably don’t want that on your conscience. And for another, it could scare them away from bikes for a long time if they have a bad first experience. (It’s also my opinion that a child should absolutely wear a helmet and protective gear – at the very least a leather jacket and long pants – every time they are on the bike. If you don’t have that equipment for your 10 year old, I would not recommend putting him on the bike.)
Second thing is to instruct your passenger in the safety measures associated with being a good passenger. This means: do not get on or off the bike until I tell you I am ready. Do not wiggle around, stand on the pegs, or make sudden movements while riding. And, do not try to lean *away* from the direction of a curve. More on each of these:
I believe the best way for a passenger to mount the bike is to wait until you have mounted and have the bike pulled upright and properly balanced. You should have both feet on the ground and the handlebars straight. Then tell them it’s okay to climb on: put one foot on the left side peg and hold onto your shoulder, then push themselves up and swing their leg over the back of the bike. Get seated and make sure they find both foot pegs. If the bike has been running, be sure they don’t touch the hot pipes. They should, of course, be wearing long pants, socks and sturdy shoes. In dismounting, you should have the bike at a complete stop, balanced in an upright position or possibly with the kickstand down, whichever feels safest to you and your passenger.
They need to remember that sudden movements will throw off the bike’s balance and could result in you losing control. They should always hang on to you, especially if there is no backrest. It’s preferable that they ride with their arms around your waist if there is no backrest. The other option is to hook their fingers through your belt loops, assuming you have any – but certainly this won’t give them as good a “grip”. They could also reach around behind and hold onto the sissy bar if you have one. In my opinion, a backrest for the passenger is really a must – especially for a child. I used to get really nervous about my daughter riding with my husband on his old bike which had no backrest, because it just looked to me like she could fall off very easily, especially when taking off from a stop, and especially because he is a big guy and she could not even come close to getting her arms around him.
Regarding handling curves: it will be natural for the passenger at first to try to “help keep the bike upright” when you go into a curve by leaning away from the direction of the curve, because they subconsciously feel the bike is going to tip over. But, by leaning away from the curve they are making it more difficult for you to complete the turn because they are “fighting” the lean of the bike. Tell your passenger not to try to actually *lean* one way or the other – just turn their head so they are looking over the driver’s shoulder in the direction of the turn, and that will redistribute their weight sufficiently to help the bike around the turn.
Finally, carrying a passenger really DOES change the feel of the bike, so you need to practice in a parking lot with a willing adult before you hit the streets. That way you’ll get used to the additional weight without encountering other traffic.