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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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BD_CalOrganizing your schedule shouldn’t be a burden.

I use a number of calendars both paper and electronic as I suspect many of you do the same.  Personally I think paper is easier, always available and generally more portable.  I was looking around for a new calendar and ran across the 2010 Big Dog Biker Calendar.  Should be no problem keeping track of important dates as the calendar has oversized date boxes providing plenty of room to write in important events as well as 12 months of inspiring images. However, don’t be fooled because most of these ladies aren’t the ‘gas chick’ on the back seat type… they ride motorcycles for personal enjoyment.  Go figure!

That’s what impressed me about this calendar.  I must be getting old(er) as many of the models are “real” women! Mature women who ride their own bike.  There is real beauty in maturity versus the plastified bimbo’s with platform shoes that are too fake, too overdone.  To each his own… I suppose.  I’ve made every effort to avoid sleazy and keep it classy.  It’s a challenge, but someone’s got to do it.

Photo courtesy of Big Dog Biker.

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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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steedHarley-Davidson announced earlier this year that they were looking for female film makers who could capture the sense of empowerment, freedom, and adventure that is inherent when women get behind the handle bars of a Harley in a short film. The winning film maker would win: $5000 cash, a hi-definition video camera, a Harley-Davidson leather jacket, and a Los Angeles premiere party for her film.

Victoria Sampson’s (Need for Speed) was the grand prize film contest winner.  Harley rolled out the orange and black carpet for the gala event in L.A.  You can view her short film HERE on Facebook.  Melissa Kosar and Marta Masferrer each were selected as First Prize winners.  Congrats to all!

Victoria’s film is a well crafted short, but I can’t address whether it inspires women to get behind the handlebars of their very own motorcycle.

 

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Have you noticed the increase in women riding their own motorcycles?  I noticed many during my riding adventures this year. Every year more and more women are sitt’n in the saddle and riding solo on the open road.  Female riders have increased from 4% in 1990 to 12% today.  This aligns perfectly with Harley-Davidsons marketing plans and key product messages as the female demographic represents a significant expansion for the company.

To help “drive” the gal’s to or into their products, Harley introduced a special website and included a laser targeted publication.  Called “We Ride“, there is a lot of information on choosing models, basic handling techniques and how best to customize your ride.  Don’t be confuse.  It provides Harley-centric information about getting into motorcycling.  It’s called “soft” marketing to push product messaging at a key audience and ultimately sell more motorcycles.

I have no idea if similar to the best selling novel by Ann Brashares whether women wearing chaps gain insight into their life or are emboldened to change it.  I’m the first to admit I need help from the “sisters” on that front.

You can download sections or the entire (23Mb) PDF from the jump site here.

Photo courtsey of HD website.

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Girls Oatman It’s true. Just like there are differences in how men and women communicate there are differences in how they ride.

Whether you’re at work, at home or going for a Harley ride, understanding these gender-related differences – and learning the “tips and tricks” will help you navigate through them.

For example:

You’ll never hear a guy say:

  • Here honey, let me ride “bitch”
  • Do these chaps make my belly look big?
  • I know we just filled up, but lets stop and grab a latte
  • You’ll never hear a gal say:

  • Don’t stop for directions, I’m sure you’ll be able to figure it out
  • I can sure feel the difference of the $4000 in that “103” kit
  • Let’s smile at that car load of college girls
  • If you don’t get these differences then stop reading here. The biker babe is somewhat stereotypical, but it does make a point. Traveling with the opposite sex can be incredibly fun, entertaining, but if you’re not careful or didn’t think it thru it can be frustrating.

    In fact, Female riders are no longer satisfied hanging on to their significant other and want to grab the handlebars and do their own gig. I’ve never had the pleasure of a female lead driving our posse on a route. I’m sure it will soon come and I expect it be uneventful. How do I know this?

    The demographics for female motorcyclists are:

  • 1 in 10 motorcycle owners is a woman
  • In ’03 of the 23.5M people in the U.S. that operated a motorcycle about 4.3M were women
  • Median age of female motorcyclist is 42
  • 28% of female motorcyclist have a college or post-grad degree
  • 35% of female motorcyclist are in a technical/professional occupation
  • (Source: 2003 Motorcycle Industry Council (most recent))

    As you can see above women are straddling Bold Blue with flame motorcycles. Mostly for the same reason men ride – desire of freedom, relaxing from stress, friendship, garage parties, camaraderie. Now you know why the cycle industry is trying to figure out “How to speak to women?” There are a couple hundred “Queens Together” or “Chicks ‘N Chaps” motorcycle clubs for the sisterhood. In the Northwest there is GRIP (Girls Riding Independently Proud – “Gripsters”) and a couple other groups Women in the Wind (WIW) and Chrome Divas out of South Florida. The “Divas” are women only…both riders and passengers…hummmm?

    This isn’t about who can ride more aggressive or wrench a spark plug best. I really wanted to acknowledge the fact that more riders are women and that we need to understand the differences in how we communicate. I suspect many don’t give a hoot what I think. If the truth be told I got a fortune cookie after eating Chinese and it stated You should enhance your feminine side at this time…so, here is a blog about women…?!

    Point being that if we don’t learn to communicate better (at work, at home or going for a Harley ride) — that off-ramp you just took might be a result of “Sally” checking out a broken finger nail…not a right turn signal! I couldn’t resist.

    Yes, honey I’ll gladly sleep on the sofa tonight… Have I told you how wonderful you look in those chaps?! What color roses do you like?

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