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Posts Tagged ‘Effie Hotchkiss’

Leslie Porterfield

Bonneville Salt Flats.  It’s no stranger to speed records.

And if you stroll through the race pits now days you’ll probably notice a lot of ponytails beneath helmets.  And they belong to women racers!  Racing in general is no longer a male dominated sport and motorcycle racing is no exception.

Harley-Davidson has made no secret of their strong interest in the female motorcycle market.  From support of the Women Riders Month, the International Female Ride Day to the dealer garage parties, Harley is helping women all over the world to join together to ride and break down any old stereotypes.  In some ways this is old news because in 1915 the 20-year-old Effie Hotchkiss drove from New York to California on a 3-speed Harley.  Or if you prefer during WWII, Bessie Stringfield rode from Army base to Army base as the only woman in the Army’s motorcycle dispatch unit.  Solo women motorcycle riders are revving engines as much as the next guy.

Now we have the world’s fastest woman on a motorcycle, Leslie Porterfield (34).  Not only does she hold the world record as the fastest female on a motorcycle, but she owns and operates High Five Cycles (Dallas, TX).   And, among many other accomplishments she has become the first woman to earn inclusion in the prestigious Bonneville 200 mph Club.  The first woman in its 61 year history.  After a nasty crash in 2007 she came back in 2008 to set the land speed record of 232MPH in the 2,000cc turbocharged class (on a 2002 turbo-modified Suzuki Hayabusa) and in the 1,000cc production class (2008 Honda CBR 1000) set the record of 192MPH.  Then at the 2009 International Speed Trails she claimed top speed of the meet award with a 240MPH pass.  Motorcycle tuning is performed by Scott Horner (Heads Up Performance) and Rhys Griffiths (APEX Speed Technology).

It turns out that Ms. Porterfield is featured on the cover of MyTekLife Magazine’s current issue, and for those lucky enough to be in the area she will be visiting Buddy Stubbs Arizona Harley-Davidson.  She is the honored guest during the Hogs and Dogs event on June 26th.  The location is 13850 N. Cave Creek Road and the event will include an opportunity to get autographs, and hear Ms. Porterfield talk about what’s next and going faster.   As a sidebar, Mr. Stubbs has an extensive racing career too which includes winning the Daytona 100 mile race in 1963.

For reference — the world’s fastest motorcycle crown belongs to Chris Carr and Denis Manning who logged 367.382MPH through the measured mile.

Photo courtesy of MyTekLife Magazine’s

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davidsonsMen have dominated the world of motorcycles.  Sure women on Harley’s date back to the early 1900’s and the first women’s motorcycle group in America was Motor Maids, which started in the 1930’s.   However, in the past 10 years or so women riders have skyrocketed.  Women love motorcycles, it’s a fact! Women riders during the last 20 years have gone from 4% to 12% of all motorcycles registered in the US. Women represent 10% of the U.S. motorcycle population, and nearly 12% of new Harley-Davidson purchasers.  The Motorcycle Safety Foundation estimates that one-third of students in the rider safety courses are female.  Harley has clearly figured out women are a growth market for a number of reasons and in that process they also discovered that following the money trail in a household often leads to women.

Karen Davidson

Karen Davidson

One individual who has shaped and dramatically influenced women riders is Karen Davidson, the great-granddaughter of HD co-founder, William A. Davidson.  She is the daughter of Willie G. Davidson, yet doesn’t seem to get a lot of press unless it’s about participating in a charity event.  As the Creative Director for General Merchandise and responsible for Harley-Davidson MotorClothes I found that somewhat peculiar.

Karen is “4th Generation” and one of three children by Willie G.  She studied fine arts and fashion design in college and was employed in the NYC garment industry for a time.  She began a free-lance leather design business in 1985 and joined HD in 1989.  The company created a new, branded line of apparel and accessories for its customers at that time – MotorClothes.  She is involved in most everything from creative direction of the leather collections to design of diamond rings.  She is an active rider and involved in charity events from the Women’s Day Ride benefiting Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), Film contests to the Love Ride.  She has been a key company “booster” in support of women motorcycle riders.  Second only to Leslie Prevish (Women’s Outreach Mgr) who is also very involved with women in motorcycling.

Karen’s influence was noticeable in 1991 when the runways in Paris and New York looked like biker rallies.  Harley-inspired emblems were on everything and Bloomingdales had a “Bad and Beautiful” shop devoted to women’s motorcycle jackets.  That year the Council of Fashion Designers of America gave HD a special award for its influence on fashion.  In 1998 she was involved in a Patent and Trademark trial (and appeal) over the mark “BIKER BLUES” for clothing line which Harley ultimately prevailed.

Beside owning and riding motorcycles, women have formed a presence within the industry that has gone way beyond being umbrella girls or trade show booth babes.  And in no small part thanks to Karen Davidson’s continued efforts to promote women in motorcycling.  I prefer to think of it as a gender-neutral activity, but I get the marketing angle.

Avis and Effie Hotchkiss might have been the first women to ride across the U.S. in 1915, but I’m sure they’d be pleasantly surprised at how far women have come from the motorcycle race track to urban streets.

 

Photo’s courtesy of HD (Family Picture L to R: Karen, Michael, Bill and Willie G.)

 

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