Rules for talking to woman bikers

by on January 27, 2010
in Blowing a Gasket

Although the number of women who ride their own motorcycles is growing (aren’t we up to, like, 13 percent now? I think that makes us THIRTEEN PERCENTERS!), I’m still astounded at the reactions some people have when they learn I am a rider. Most of them are well-meaning, I’m sure. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take a step back and reconsider their words. Here are a few “rules of the road” when it comes to communicating with women bikers:

DO NOT share your gruesome stories right off the bat of friends/relatives/mythical figures who have died in motorcycle accidents. It’s not helpful. And if you do, be prepared to hear about someone she knows who died a horrible death doing that thing you love.

DO ask her what make/model she rides. DO NOT ask her if that’s considered “a girl’s bike.”

It’s perfectly okay to ask her how long she’s been riding her own. But, DO NOT start a conversation with, “Do you ride that big ol’ bike all by yourself?” Because you’re bound to get this in return: “No, I have my big strong husband run along behind and push it for me.” Or maybe this: “Do you see a sidecar, Douchey?”

DO NOT chastise her for riding just because she has children. Anyone who has children could die stepping out the front door or driving their car, so don’t blather on about “greater responsibility.” DO congratulate her for showing her kids that life was meant to be lived doing things you love, and that it’s never too late to discover or learn something new.

Okay, women riders, it’s your turn – what are some of the reactions you’ve had to the fact that you ride your own motorcycle?

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35 Responses to “Rules for talking to woman bikers”
  1. Wyzwmn says:

    in my case I’d like to add DO NOT sit on my ride…just cos it’s got 3 wheels and won’t fall over does not mean the seat is open for just any butt to sit on!

  2. Wendy says:

    Several times I’ve been parked at gas stations or restaurants and had people ask if I rode “that” bike all by myself … twice I’ve said, “No, someone starts it up for me and then I just walk beside it” :)

  3. Stacy says:

    Don’t yell “THAT’S SO HOT!” at her from across a parking lot.

  4. Kathie says:

    I loved this article, most of these rules are the stuff I hear, accept I ride a small bike, Honda Rebel, as I’m small 4’11, and most guys laugh and call it my girly bike,(and laugh at my husband when he rides it while his is in the shop) I just laugh and tell them its just to bad they can’t look this good! Women just exclaim you ride?(due to my height)Or I hear the motorcycle terrors, mostly I just say you should try it’s a blast or it’s so much fun.
    Thanks for some great come backs, I’ll remember them and use them often.

  5. Hey gals thanks for jumping in here – Wyz, HOLY CRAP – we used to go to a lot of car shows… my now-biker-bud (former car-show-bud) Shirley has an AWFUL story to tell about parents that let their kid sit on hot exhaust pipes – because they thought every car was their own playground! Unbelievable.

    Love hearing everyone’s stories!!

  6. Holly says:

    I always get asked (1)have you been to Sturgis (2)Do you have a tattoo? (3)Do you wear a leather thong. Seriously…leather THONG? I don’t think so!
    I also had one guy asked if my bike was the biggest thing I could get between my legs! I responded “You pull something bigger than this Harley out of your pants and then we’ll talk!” (Then I prayed for the light to turn green!)

  7. Diane says:

    While recently at the International Motorcycle Show, every time my friend and I stopped to talk to someone in a booth, they (mostly men) asked “Do you ride?” to which we said yes… and the question was always followed by “Do you have your own bike?” Yes. Look of surprise and confusion. Why is that so hard for people to fathom?? Especially at a motorcycle show…

  8. Pauline DiBartolomeo says:

    I can’t even respond anymore anymore to shallow minded people.
    I do remember one time at the car wash when this guy next to me said that I must have the luckiest husband in the world…and that I was doing such a good job of washing his truck. I think he was a bit surprised to hear that I didn’t have a husband…but I did have a nice truck!!!

  9. Corn Dog says:

    Gals, I am really enjoying all your comments – keep ’em coming! I wanted to share a few I’ve received via email:

    “If I hear one more time . . . ‘It must be a mid-life crisis,’ I always comment, ‘No, that was what the boyfriend was for!’ Why (must) a woman doing something fun and exciting for herself, be a mid-life crisis?”

    “I have no business riding my own and belong on the back of a bike!! And that was from another woman!”

    “My answers after 32 years of riding are: Is that your bike? No, I stole it and a couple of minutes, to the question, how long have you been riding?”

  10. Lee says:

    I’ve ceased to be surprised by the sexist comments, and I haven’t even been riding that long.

    I’ve gotten “Wow, that’s a big bike for an itty-bitty little girl like you!” (I ride a Honda Shadow 750… not THAT big.)

    Also, a middle-aged guy at a gas station (I’m 21): “Hey, I’LL take a ride!”
    Me thinking: “I’ll bet you would…”

    And my little sis, who also rides, once got slapped on the butt at a gas station, followed by “Nice bike!” She was so surprised she didn’t know what to do, but if I would have been there, that man would have gotten what-for! I mean, what the heck are these guys thinking?!

    But I do like it when normal people chat me up, or ask genuine questions about my bike. I love to see other women on the road!

  11. Chris says:

    “What would you do if you tipped it over?” My answer is “The same thing the big guys do, get a friend to help me pick it up. But if they aren’t around, I would just do it myself because I can and have.”

  12. Tazer says:

    A couple friends of mine were once asked (as the motel attendant looked over their shoulders), “Where’s your mens?” We often get things like, “Are you girls all by yourselves?” (Once there were 4 of us on bikes & 2 more plus a baby in a truck on a trip and all I could think is, ‘No, we’re all together.’) We always describe these remarks as “Where’s your mens?”

  13. ROFL “Where’s your mens” – that is FABULOUS!!

  14. SWAT says:

    I love it when a man says “HEY! Take me for a ride!” To which I smile and say, “Real men don’t ride Bitch!” That shuts them up pretty fast. A few have said “Then let me be in the front!” .. my expression changes as does my whole demeanor when I say “YOU MUST BE OUT OF YOUR *#&@ MIND!” and I ride away.

  15. Easy Rider says:

    Well, as a guy who rides and who finds it attractive when women ride, I have to apologize for those of my gender who are clueless, rude and otherwise obnoxious. I don’t get the sexism thing either…but I plead guilty to taking a second look when I see a lady riding.

    Sorry, I just do. It’s hot. Sue me.

  16. BucketList says:

    My own sister called me stupid when I got my motorcyle temps and my mother-in-law called me an idiot, but most people think it is totally cool that I have my own bike. To those who talk about how dangerous it is, I say “Hundreds of motorcyclists ride and return home safely every day. I intend to be one of them.” Finding out that I’m a lady who works at a church and owns a motorcycle really raises some eyebrows on folks! :) Riding is a great way to enjoy God’s creation!
    My husband’s friends are giving him a hard time wanting to know when he is going to get a bike. I tell them having a motorcycle was on MY bucket list, not his.

  17. Me&MyShadow says:

    My doctor thinks it is so cool I ride. Maybe that explains the free medicine! Hell yeah!!! :)

  18. Andie says:

    Im training to be a motorcycle mechanic and find that to be even worse with the sexism then actual riding. My own boss actually made a comment about how he couldnt understand why women would be interested in mechanics considering the only thing they are interested in is battery operated devices. I threw a spanner at him :D

    My message to all those out there who think we should ride bitch – we are not back rests, we do get sick of looking at the back of a lid and WE look better riding them :D

    Ride safe Girls!!!

  19. Nanakat says:

    Loved the “Mens” one! A group of us, yeppers all Lady Riders, went to a She Rides Conference this past Saturday. I was, for the first time in my life, the Road Captain. On the way back home we stopped at a gas station to fuel up and rest a minute. As I went to pay for my gas the attendant asked, “Where are your guys?”. I looked at him as innocent as could be (I’m a Preachers wife after all!) and said, “They are at home cleaning the house and keeping the babies, just as they ought to be doing!” and I turned and walked out. One of our ladies came falling out the door laughing and said, “you should have seen his face! He was dumbfounded!” I grinned and waved at him cos he was watching and waving out the window as we pulled away. hehehehe……….

    Ride on Ladies!

  20. BwitchnLola says:

    Love ALL these comments!! I’m a new rider & have been supported by many, many people……but if I hear “organ donor” or splat one more time! And snide comments from men, mind you I’m a small bone female who rides an 06 Fatboy & some of my commnets have been………Yep got rid of him & bought my own fatboy & a younger model!! Of course at times I can’t let this one slip by; “It Stays Long, Hard & never ending vibes! Can you do that? Also this is one ride I NEVER complain of a headache!!! I can go on & on, but I must also admit, I’ve been told by many men that there isn’t anything sexier that a woman riding her own bike. Ain’t intimidation great?!

    Enjoy ladies, ride proud, be safe & keep em’ guessin

  21. Coppertop says:

    I once had a guy stare at me while I was filling up my Shadow 750 with gas. It had SHADOW written on the tank and he said “wow ma’am is that a SHADOW.” I politely did my Vanna White and pointed out the wording on the tank and said “here’s your sign”… I now ride a Harley!

  22. Christine says:

    I had one big guy look at me and my Harley and say “Well, if YOU can learn to ride, I sure can!” Ha ha. I don’t think he realized the insult hidden in his comment.

    I had one guy just stand in front of me at a gas station and gawk, without saying a word.

    I turn heads all the time. I’m sure there will come a time when a girl biker will be nothing new. but that time is not here yet.

    I loved Holly’s comment!

    And girls, lose the pink! I HATE anything pink, especially when it’s a Harley! The other day I saw a pink Harley and I wanted to throw up!!! Oh well, just my opinion….but seriously, it’s nauseating and ruins the whole biker image.

  23. I LOVE that this post continues to get comments two years later! Thanks for jumping in, everyone!

  24. Karen says:

    My favorite is “You ride really well, for a woman!”

  25. Hood Ornament says:

    The comment I hear the most is, “That’s an awfully big bike for a lil gal like you!” I’m 5’4″ and ride an Indian Chief. I just smile and say, I wish I had a buck for each time I’ve heard that, I’d have two Indians!

    The other one is “How does a little thing like you ride such a big bike?” I tell them, “It’s very easy. I just sit on it, crank it up and go.”

    Oh, and when they say, “Isn’t that bike too big for you?!” I reply, “It would be if I was carrying it.” =D

    To the folks who enlighten me of the dangers of riding, I just tell them that “I’m completely aware of the risk I assume every time I park my butt in this saddle, thank you very much.”

    But I have to add that most people are more interested in telling me stories of everyone they’ve known throughout their lives who had an Indian motorcycle. Then they tell me what a beautiful bike I have and to be careful.

  26. Hood Ornament says:

    I forgot to mention that someone tried to make me a hood ornament once by driving head on into me in an intersection, but I fooled them and flew OVER their car and landed 25′ down the road. If I wasn’t on such a “big” bike, I probably would have sustained more damage than a broken pinkie toe and a bruised butt! =)

  27. Jeff McEntire says:

    My youngest daughter, who is 17, is only 4’11. She wants to ride, she has ridden with me for several years. I have told her to start with something smaller and work up to anything she wants to ride. Bikes can be modified to fit shorter people. It’s the same advice I gave my oldest son who is 6’1″ and weighs 190. It’s just good advice for anyone. I have never wanted my daughters to limited by their socially planted ideas in their heads. I certainly do not want them limited to the ideas others may have in their heads. Most men who marry women who only cook and raise children, both activities of which are fun for women and men when performed in proper perspective of other activities and priorities, did so because they don’t know how much fun a woman can be when she is your best friend. I think their ideas have deprived them of the joy of life as much as it has the women in their lives.

  28. JKH says:

    ‘Do you ride it all by yourself?’. No, hubby runs alongside.
    ‘Did you ride it all the way here?’ No. Pushed it for the first hundred miles.

    I think these kind of questions are often an ill-thought out way to start a conversation. The speaker is impressed that you ride and has no idea how dumb his question really was.

    I’ve been riding proudly since I was a teenager. Did the big bike thing for a while but learned that a 650 was just a better fit for my short little legs. I ride street, long distance, sand, trails AND I commute daily on the bike. Not a guy wannabe but a girl who enjoys riding a bike.

  29. feathers says:

    One of my favorites ask to me was ” Did you put all those miles on that bike?” Like duh . Feathers

  30. Della Heideman says:

    After learning I’ve ridden cross country twice, by myself, I was asked “Aren’t you worried about getting lost?” Seriously? In this day and age? My answer was “Hell no. If I keep riding east, I’ll hit the Atlantic Ocean then I’ll know where I am again. If I keep riding west, I’ll hit the Pacific and then I’ll know where I am again. So no trouble. As for North and south, they’ll let me know at the border.”

  31. Amanda says:

    I had to laugh because I was just thinking about this stuff while I was out riding today and then came home to see your writing. I’ve heard ’em all too and added some of my thoughts to my own blog along with a link back here. Hope you don’t mind!

  32. SnapShot says:

    Hilarious. Holly: you’re my hero. Will borrow that one. Andie: tell your supervisor not to take it out on you because his girlfriend perfers batteries.

    My favorite was a “here’s your sign” moment. Rode into the auto parts store parking lot on a yellow Harley Sportster – not a quiet bike, kind of hard to miss and parked near the door. November in Washington, DC, so I walked into the store wearing heeled boots, chaps, leather jacket, winter gloves, belaklava (sp?), and carrying my full face helmet. Found the part I needed with all the men in the store watching the whole time but I was trying to act like I didn’t notice them. I found the part, walked up to the counter and another customer said, “Do you ride?” I looked him dead in the eye and said, “No.” Paid for my item. As I was walking out, I heard him say, “I wonder what she’s going to do with that part?” Wow.

  33. natasha says:

    Hi Ladies
    I have been a biker from a very young age.My dad was a biker,so we grew up in the community. Just over a year ago I WAS VOTED AS THE PRESIDENT OF OUR CLUB,

    I have had to butt heads with more than 27 male presidented clubs, and came out standing tall and proud at the end.

    South Africa is still extremely narrow-minded where female biking is concerned. its always protocal this and old school that and they still try and force us out of the scene. its alwas woman are a trophy on the back of the bike to be shown off, or paraded like a piece of meat.

    meatings are men only and even as a president i do not get recognised for it.
    many of us ladies here inSA are getting fed up with their notion of “woman shouldn’t ride, they dont belong amongs us, a woman cant be a president” blah blah blah!

    so i ask you. who do they think gave birth to them,cleaded up after them, fed them, dried their tears etc etc, definaterly not their daddys!!!!

    i would love to know how many woman such as myself hold a position of presidency and or have the balls to make woman biking stronger in SA and around the world

    I sure as hell am willing as i am fed up with men and their stupid little comments!


  34. Kathy W. says:

    Men never approach me when I am riding with my husband. Is it part of the “Biker Code” not to talk to another man’s woman??? I don’t know… I’m new to this.

    Women don’t normally approach me either except to give me surprised / approving / envious glances. Most of my friends think I’m “bad ass.”

    I have had some really decent conversations with men about riding. Most of them are intrigued by it and treat me respectfully. I love when I’m approached in the supermarket parking lot by a guy who asks about my bike and what I like about it, etc.

    But, I have had my share of knuckleheads ask me if I ride all by myself, and some of the other stupid comments that were voiced in the article. I do think that it’s just a clumsy way of starting a conversation and try not to take offense, although some of their remarks are pretty offensive.

    The thing I find most disconcerting, though, is the constant “be careful on that bike,” as though the mere fact that I ride makes me reckless. Maybe male riders are patronized the same way…?

  35. reg says:

    I was on the Street in 1987 all over with my Honda Twinstar 200…My Twin and I were the Only females in town of 80,000 plus who rode in High School…then on to Secondary college 3 Hours farther away….actually Not long after that I had a Guy walked up to Me after I had riding a short group ride with Him..Hand Me His 750 Keys and Said take It ..
    I hemmed and thought and thought…and finally Said got full coverage with a Smile..:)
    He said Yes I DO …and Like I said Ur a Good Riders I watched U ride all the way Here..I was 19 :) ….I didnt get alot of BS ! from men back then ..I think mostly because it was So rare…and Im amazed ! how far we have come since 5 years ago ..
    and How many men ACTUALLY noticed Me and give Me huge ROAD RESPECT..about fricken Time..! a Roads a Road and a iron Horse is a Iron Horse ;)

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