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Bikes for Women - How Fabulous or Terrible (depending which side of the bike you're sat on) - Jan 2014

After my tarmac surfing I went out on the bike to join Jeanette on her test ride. Jeanette has not been out much on her bike this year and like me she is nervous today. Also like me she mentions how she thinks her bike has grown. It is amazing how much the mind can play tricks on us. I know it is impossible that my own or Jeanette's bike have magically grown. But that does not mean that is does not feel bigger. Confidence is a strange thing. It can make a bike bigger or smaller, heavier or lighter.

Jeanette does brilliantly on the test ride on the Triumph and the huge grin after says it all. It looks likes she has found her perfect bike. The fact it is lower and lighter than her old bike has instantly boosted her confidence. I have never seen her smile so much and she is very smiley. It might be smaller but it is faster and more powerful then her previous one and it has one hell of a grunt.

My own confidence however remains low. I stall the bike and wobble around corners. While Jeanette talks to the salesman to get the deal she wants on the bike I sit on a Ninja 250 and dream about the day I might ride something just like this. I look at the shiny fairings and have to admit I will need to stop throwing my bike on the floor before I can even think of contemplating a faired bike.

I look around the bike showroom and apart from the Ninja 250 not a single bike would be short enough or light enough for me to ride. Most bike are manufactured for the average sized man. I used to wonder why with a growing number of female bikers there are not any bikes designed specifically for ladies. However a recent discussion on a all female biker forum shed some light on this. It was about an article in the magazine Visor Down entitled 10 Best Motorcycles for Women and shorter riders too.

It started quite a debate with some ladies feeling the article was sexist and was quite upset by it.  
My response to women who said the article is sexist was as follows.

"I don't see it as sexist. Truth is like it or not most women are shorter and weigh less than men. I am tiny and therefore welcome an article like this. I have seen too many women get put off motorcycles by buying bikes that are too tall and heavy for them. Once they get a lighter smaller bike they are like racers reborn. We do not need to prove ourselves to men by claiming to be able to ride any bike a man can. We need to have our own confidence to know we can ride and we will choose the best bike for our individual needs. If you are a tall strong girl then yes you may ride most bikes. For little ones like me I am happy to find an article about smaller bikes. I think the real problem is most bikes are made for the average male. Nothing is made specifically for female riders. And no wonder if women would not buy it because it dared to be called a girl's bike."

The debate continued for some time with some agreeing with my view and having similar views to mine and others on the opposite side believing any mention of a bike being called suitable for a girl was the ultimate insult. So no wonder I have never seen a bike proudly displayed claiming to be smaller and lighter and especially designed for the lady biker. Maybe the best I can hope for is a bike designed especially for the shorter biker. Then again that may cause offence to the little people who will then decree that they will not ride a bike for short asses and that they are more than capable of handling a taller bike.

As for me well you know where I stand...5 foot high and 7 and a half stone. Small light bikes bring them on, I would buy it. I have no axe to grind, I embraced my small stature many years ago. So if there is any bike manufactures out there who want someone to champion small bikes for small people I am your girl.

jeanette at 5 foot tall sitting securely on a lowered triumph street triple r
Di on a gpz 300 ninja, comfortable with the lower weight
Smaller ladies showing huge confidence on their new smaller and lighter bikes. Jeanette on her lowered Triumph Street Triple 675R and Diane on her Ninja 300.   

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Reader's Comments

John De ville said :-
I fully understand where you are coming from Shar. For some reason, ( and thinking about it is the MEN who run the biking world) and more so its Japanese men who have domineered the biking world over the last 40 years or so and before that the British MEN . So its no surprise that the only decent two wheelers are like you have said are for MEN. I suppose it all comes down to market forces and a risk factor if a company decides to make a smaller lighter version of a larger bike just for women. Dont forget that there are also small men out there who like your self are only 5 foot tall and are the same weight ( DISCUSS.)

If you think about it the country's that design and make motor cycles in great volume are far eastern and they look at women totally different to what the western world does so they would need a mahoooosive kick up the ass to give in to women.

A good read non the less Shar and some good points made.

John, 6 foot tall, rides a big bike, so there........................;)
UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Interesting point John. Do many Japanese women ride motorcycles? In the burgeoning countries such as India and China what does the culture say about female riders? Also remember in the poorer countries small capacity bikes are the norm.

That said Kwak, Yam, Honda and Suzi have a large European and American market. That market has culturally shifted such that there must now be a market for motorcycles made for shorter, lighter people. Male or female, not everyone is capable of handling a 220kg motorcycle with a 900mm seat height!

And any manufacturer that says it can't stick a 400-600cc motor in a motorcycle small enough for someone like Sharon is talking out of their ass. Moto-GP bikes put 800 to 1000cc motors in units that weigh 150 or 160kg. These have to have ballast added because they can make them much lighter. European models are as big as they are not because they can't be any smaller, they're that size to fit European men.

Imagine a 600cc sports tourer, similar to the CBR 600 F. Seat height maybe 740mm, weight 165kg, low centre of gravity and solid steady handling. Whoever is the first to make this bike will sell a shed load.
UTC
Sharon said :-
The thing is I am not so sure that if a small bike was manufactured it would sell well. It will all depend on the marketing. Take the small Honda MSX 125cc. It sales outstripped all expectations. I believe that was due to the huge advertising campaign made for it by Honda. They successfully made it appear funky, new and exciting. They showed you could all do all kinds of hip tricks on it.
My concern is that if a small bike is advertised as a small bike especially made for either girls or small guys then certain peoples egos will get in the way of potential sales. In the worse case scenario the manufacturer then decides there is no market for such a bike.
Like I said some people can somehow be offended by the words girl or small even if they are either one or both of these things. To suggest to some small people that maybe they should buy a small bike can be seen as the ultimate insult.
Take our cars for example, the roads are full of huge 4x4's which on the whole are totally unnecessary for the average family. They are rarely even used for what they were originally designed for. But they ARE big and bulky and in most peoples eyes they are better right???
So although I personally would love, love, love some manufacturers to start producing smaller lighter bikes I do worry about its success until the average person lets go of the idea that the bigger ... the better.
UTC
Dippy - Aka Diane said :-
Again myself being height / leg length restricted, and after riding a lowered Honda CBF600 for some months, not realising I was lacking in confidence, mainly because subconsciously thinking that if I should have an accident, I would not be able to pick up and move the bike safely, and carry on my journey, so after trying out some different models, mainly sitting on them to see if I could touch the floor and the weight / balance ratio, I plummeted for the Ninja 300, thus riding has become enjoyable again and I look forward to riding, no matter (within reason) the weather conditions. So a small framed evenly balanced bike would certainly sell.
UTC
Joanne said :-
I've never ridden but sat on my BF'S FZ6 and it's huge. I tried to hold it but nooooope and he thought I was being dramatic. I'm just under 9st, not strong and 5' 1". I agree wholeheartedly on the confidence point you made. He's taking me to sit on an MXS tonight but im still terrified!!
UTC
Sharon said :-
Hi Joanne, How did the MSX sit on go? It was a bike I considered before I found my perfect bike my Keeway RKS. If you can go sit on the Keeway too. It is actually a little bit lower than the MSX just as light but has a bigger bike look and feel to it. The more options you have the better you are able to know which bike just feels better for you. Good luck with the bike hunting.
UTC
 

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