Motorcycle trade shows look to attract female bikers
The Salon Moto de Montreal is bursting with bikes and with riders itching to hit the road.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, February 29, 2016 8:00AM EST
MONTREAL -- Last year, Sylvie Brisebois fulfilled her longtime dream of taking a solo motorcycle ride to California. She also completed a less-solo ride when she led 200 other women bikers on an all-girl breast-cancer fundraising ride she organizes annually.
She started riding 10 years ago at the age of 45 and was instantly hooked.
"It's freedom; it's the place I feel the best," she said. "You're complete, you're away from all troubles, you're just happy."
Brisebois' bright pink booth may have been one of the most overtly feminine displays at Montreal's annual motorcycle trade show over the weekend, but it was hardly the only one targeting women.
As baby boomer men -- traditionally the biggest bike buyers -- age and retire, the motorcycle industry is trying to entice newcomers, including women, to buy in.
In Quebec, women make up 13.8 per cent of motorcycle owners, and their ownership rates are growing slightly faster than men's.
The trade show's manager, Bianca Kennedy, says manufacturers are working to increase that number by offering products geared towards women, from different apparel to equipment design to advertising.
Many companies are also rolling out smaller bike models that are better suited to new riders and women, who Kennedy says are showing up in growing numbers.
"The interest is there, and we're really seeing women embracing the sport and coming out in groups and with friends," she said.
But although the number of women owners is increasing slightly, some say more can be done to bring them in.
Patti Derbyshire is the founder of Torch motorcycles, a Calgary-based company that builds motorcycle components adapted for women. She says that although women make up 30 per cent of new riders, only a third of them end up becoming serious motorcyclists.
"We hypothesize that maybe they get on bikes that are too big and too fast and not built for them," she said.
Her company hopes to increase the number of women by offering equipment built for their bodies, and by initiatives like a women's build program, which teaches them how to work on bikes.
Renee Larouche, a track instructor, says the company she co-owns started offering women-only track classes last year after seeing too many women dropping out of mixed groups.
"We saw they weren't always comfortable and felt they were in competition with the men, even if that wasn't the reality," she said.
Larouche says that while men often want to go fast right away, women prefer to perfect their technique before increasing the speed. That isn't to say they aren't good riders, she is quick to say.
"Women move up quickly because they're very technical," she said. "Often at the beginning of the day the women's groups are the slowest, but by the end the of day they're passing the men."