I was interested – and glad – to see that International Female Ride Day will now be held on a Saturday. This means I (and millions of female riders like me who are tied to the US version of a “work week”) will not have to burn a vacation day to participate.
And participate I will! Now make no mistake, ANY day I ride is a “female ride day” – and I don’t depend on a designated day or month to validate me as a female rider. But I don’t begrudge the fact that there IS a designated day – in fact I think it’s kinda cool. And I’ve always wanted to be able to say that I rode with millions of women worldwide on IFRD. This year, it looks like I’ll have that opportunity on Saturday, May 3.
Here’s the full story, from founder Vickie Gray’s website, Motoress.
Thanks to BCN reader Kathy W. for the tip, shared in the comments on my calendar post!
In 2007, “Motoress” Vicki Gray created a day to celebrate women riders. It wasn’t an event with a location, a start time, and a 50/50 drawing. Rather it was just the idea that on a certain day, women would ride in celebration of being women on motorcycles. At that time, Vicki took some time to answer questions from me about the concept of International Female Ride Day, then in its infancy. Now we’re seven years down the road, and it seemed like a good year to do an update with Vicki. So here we go: a brand new and exclusive Q & A with International Female Ride Day Founder, Vicki Gray!
Vicki Gray: IFRD has blown up in global participation and especially with the assistance of Facebook, social media and our now web-savvy civilization. Its been in the past four years that the boom has really evolved because the word gets out there and women are more comfortable with the internet and have been making it a part of their daily ‘connecting’ lives. I can’t tell you the numbers who participate but it is thousands! And not all women report in on the day. Many women just enjoy riding – they get out there and are not needing to share their actions. If you do a search on Facebook alone for International Female Ride Day there are oodles of events. Women are thrilled about this action all over the world and it’s not diminishing–its become bigger and bigger every year embraced by women riders the planet over. Each year women collect the annual t-shirt – and book the time off work from what I’ve seen via messages, as early as eight months out. It is something that is embedded in our love of motorcycling – there are so many reasons this day will continue to rise – its truly part of our women’s riding culture now.
BCN: What is most satisfying to you about having started IFRD, considering the scope of it today?
Vickie Gray: The best part for me is meeting the most amazing women riders the world over! I can tell you honestly, I know a lot of women who enjoy motorcycling! I’m very fortunate. It’s been seven years that I’ve been on the direct receiving end of pretty much every question or enthusiastic comment. I’ve received emails upon emails of triumphant women who have come forward in their lives, in their cultures, in their regions through motorcycling and what this day means to them. One of the best events I recall was the first time a group of women riders rode through the streets of Tel Aviv on IFRD which had never been done before in history.
Additionally, the motorcycle industry has taken good advantage of the campaign and I’ve encouraged their support which has definitely been great! But I’ve also been protective about IFRD. It’s for all brands. It’s because of this amazing happening that other organisations, brands and individuals have used this network to reach out for their own [often commercially selfish] needs. I’ve had to do a lot of policing over the years and that will make a great book one day! Much of the market’s growth for women in motorcycling is due to the existence of International Female Ride Day – it underlines the activity of women riders but here women riders take lead of who they are. And women riders are able to meet like minded, make friends we are able to join together around the globe- it brings us together and that goal continues to be achieved
BCN: Do you have any notion of how many miles are racked up on IFRD, worldwide?
Vicki Gray: No idea. And it’s not about the miles or kilometres, it’s about getting out there. Whether you opt to take the motorcycle to work on IFRD rather than the car – and ride only 10 kms – you did your part. You got out there and represented women riders and inspired others.
BCN: What do you still hope for IFRD in the future? What would you like it to become?
Vicki Gray: I hope it continues for eternity! I hope it becomes an official day in all countries. I started this as a woman motorcycling advocate; I had many goals/dreams with it , and one (was) the demonstration of the many numbers of women riders. We’ve always been there and I wanted us to show the world our numbers. Of course there’s a feministic women-power part to this goal as well. The days are disappearing, and have in Western cultures, of women being in and taking the back seat – we buy houses alone, we run businesses and we charter our own paths. But of course, its still up to women to choose the way they wish their lives to play out. And what’s happening now in the evolution of International Female Ride Day is a massive bringing together of like minded women through all cultures and nationalities. This was the plan and I think this link is the substance which will keep International Female Ride Day going. In a world where we know unity, sisterhood is the strength which will make changes for our world as women going forward- and is!
Though, funnily enough there are as in any case, many women who’ve through one reason or another, tried to dispute the date, hold it on another day – quite simply- it’s always been my policy, if you don’t like the criteria, don’t get involved. I must laugh, as obviously this idea and its huge global success struck a chord with women! You can see by the massive success of this campaign and the passion women have for it, it’s working. The women who’ve picked up the torch and carried it on every year – it’s been their choice to support the date with little effort from my side. I’m truly honoured!
There have also been attempts and particularly by one large global manufacturer to take this idea, this day and rebrand it for their own. It’s been difficult for me keeping this event just for women riders – an all-brands focus. Unity, no discrimination. I think the most difficult part for me is that I do it all for free. I’m self employed, a struggling entrepreneur, and this costs me time, effort and of course financially. Sure I produce some t-shirts but the profit is nothing to speak of.
My gain is simply for the mission, which is at the truest core of my heart – to expand the knowledge, change the perceptions and reap the pleasures and rewards motorcycling provides us- on all its levels.
BCN: Is there anything specific about IFRD for 2013 that you would like readers to know?
Vicki Gray: Just that the women who join in and have in the past to JUST RIDE on International Female Ride Day are truly unique, inspiring, incredible examples of tremendous ability and spirit. Through all ages, experiences and cultures women have joined together our power and passion through something that’s so fun and rewarding. This example is a great bench marker for others. Community is strong and women are demonstrating that simply by taking the handlebars!
Sincere thanks to Vicki Gray for taking time to answer my questions once again!
International Female Ride Day 2013 is Friday, May 3! Incredibly enough, it’s snowy again here in Iowa so my riding plans have been thwarted by Mother Nature. But I hope YOU will get a chance to JUST RIDE!
The Harley Davidson company has proclaimed (among just a little bruhaha) May to be Women Riders Month, with a variety of events and celebrations planned to call attention to the number of women riders now on the roads. As I’ve pointed out in some of the discussions about the value of a celebratory month, this is HD’s way of celebrating and catering to their growing female ridership. While some don’t see the need and feel like HD is pandering to them, I say that this kind of attention is good.
For one thing, it raises the visibility of motorcycling in general. As HD spends time and money promoting its products and programs aimed at women riders, it calls attention to the very facts that a). motorcycles exist and share the road; and b). in the seasonal states, it’s now motorcycle season so drivers should be on the lookout.
For another thing, it encourages women who aren’t yet riders to get out there and follow their dream to learn. If a women wants to get off the passenger seat and take control of her own machine, she should absolutely be encouraged to do so. Maybe seeing more women riders on the road will convince others that it’s time to ride.
Finally, this celebration should not be and does not need to be limited to the Harley Davidson company. With HD having taken the step of publicly acknowledging and celebrating their share of the women’s market, other groups should follow and grow Women Riders Month to include safety and educational components, local riding celebrations for all makes and models, and more. Just because HD said it’s Women Riders Month, doesn’t mean they’re the only ones who should be celebrating. While HD may dominate the celebration this year, it would be great to see other companies and organizations add more components to it for next year and beyond.
Okay gals, enough talk – it’s a bright blue sky, and reaching for almost 70 degrees today. It’s also Demo Days at Big Barn Harley Davidson. Think I’ll go for a ride. How about you??
In the comments, the debate continues about the value of women ‘celebrating’ their growing market share in some kind of official or organized way. In particular, Chessie makes some excellent points and questions whether Harley Davidson was the appropriate entity to designate Women Rider’s Month. (She notes that a group such as Motor Maids would likely have taken an approach that was less about profit and more about education or safety.)
I personally don’t have a problem with HD taking the lead and proclaiming a month for women riders. For one thing, they’re only proclaiming it on behalf of themselves: it’s their opportunity to showcase women who ride HD motorcycles, offer specials on gear, host some rides, and generally promote the ideas they’ve developed around the female market.
Perhaps more telling, though, is that in all their long history, groups like Motor Maids have not done this – and now I’m curious as to why.
Why, if their focus all along has been women riders, did they never put the power of their nationwide chapter network behind the task of creating Women Riders Month, perhaps with an awareness or safety focus? Apparently, such a thing never occurred to them or was not important to them. That’s fine, but that doesn’t make them more deserving now of the attention or the money that may come out of it.
Finally, on the notion that HD is “just trying to make money”: of course they are, and I say let them! This is still a capitalist society (at least for the moment), and they are a business hoping to stay afloat. I have long wished for companies like HD to PLEASE market to women with quality, appropriately-sized clothing, bikes built for my shorter stature, more style choices in accessories, etc. So, personally I welcome them attempting to make money off of me because I have needs and they have something to offer.
While each ride we take is indeed an affirmation regardless of what the calendar or “the MoCo” says, I see nothing wrong with setting aside a day to reflect and celebrate being women who ride. (After all, we love our mothers all year-round, but we still have Mother’s Day!) And, if HD wants to pick a month to focus on me, who am I to argue?
More to the point, if Motor Maids or anyone else wishes to put their own spin on Women Riders Month, or pick a different month altogether, I’m all for that too. As far as I’m concerned, HD may have named it but they’ve only taken the approach that meets their own needs. Other groups, with other needs, should step up and do likewise.