Motorbiking is racing away from its image as a macho hobby, with women of all ages revving things up on the biking scene. With dedicated training and meet-up groups, new clothing launches and a bevy of Instagram stars, women’s riding has really stepped up a gear in the past few years. And according to Stevie Muir, spokesperson for the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA), the trend for women taking up biking is set to increase. ‘We recently conducted research among potential new riders and 54% of those who said they were considering a motorcycle or scooter were women,’ she says.

Here’s everything only a female biker on the open road knows...

The sense of freedom

Emma Morter, chairwoman of women-only motorbiking network Curvy Riders, believes there’s nothing better than being on a bike. ‘I love the feeling of freedom and the fact that it’s something I do for myself,’ she says. ‘I’m very proud to be a lady biker – we’re still very much a minority, albeit a growing minority –and I enjoy the surprised reaction of people when they see me pull up on my big adventure bike, then realise I’m a girl.’

Female bikers: sense of freedom

There’s no need to be a lone rider

An increasing number of women-only biking groups has launched, creating a vibrant social scene. Curvy Riders organises regular ride-outs, training and an annual trip with around 100 bikers from around the UK. Member Kat says: ‘We create the best friendship groups and have great times together, all because of our love for two wheels.’

Hell’s Belles, another UK-based group, was launched by a group of friends in 2010 and is the only independent women’s motorcycle group – and they have their own clubhouse. Member Debz, who’s been riding for 40 years, says: ‘The friendship is very important to me. Being female, it’s harder to find women of a similar mind to me, but I’ve found that with the Belles. We feel that bikes shouldn’t be a man’s world.’

Rider Lisa adds: ‘My eldest brother rides bikes and, growing up, I decided I wanted to ride too – so I did. I bought a Honda Hornet 600cc, then looked for a club to join that shared the same passion as me. Hell’s Belles is that club – it’s a proper sisterhood; my family.’

Female bikers: lone rider

The social scene is huge

Women bikers are also making an impact on social media. Some of the biggest biking Instagram stars include The Throttle Dolls, with 119,000 followers, The Litas, with 71,300 followers and racer Leticia Cline, who has 100,00 followers. Facebook groups, such as Motorbike Women and Woman on a Motorcycle, are also springing up.

Stevie Muir comments: ‘Posts range from women proudly waving their compulsory basic training (CBT) certificates to those who’ve obviously been riding all their lives. And whether you’re on a pink moped or a top-of-the-range Triumph, these groups offer support and an environment where women feel safe asking each other all sorts of questions – from which bike leggings to buy, to advice on DIY maintenance, as well a lot of non-bike related stuff in between.’

Female bikers: social scene

You can learn with or without men

VC London, a group launched by four friends with a shared love of bikes, decided to organise women’s-only CBT classes with London Motorcycle Training, after finding very few training courses catering for women riders.

The MCIA also offers sessions for women who are considering whether to take up riding. Stevie Muir says it’s a personal choice whether to train in a mixed or female-only group. ‘We’ve had some women saying they preferred to be in a female-only learning environment, while others prefer to join the guys. There are no hard and fast rules, although instructors often tell us women are easier to teach, because they tend to listen better!’ she says.

Maria Costello, the only female motorcycle racer to be awarded an MBE, runs women-only track days for riders of various levels. ‘Women-only groups are beneficial because they allow women to build their confidence, which gives them the opportunity to do more on two wheels and take part in other biking activities,’ she says. ‘When I started there weren’t any female role models, so I’m keen to pass on my knowledge and experience.’

Female bikers: practice

The stereotypes still stand

It might not be so unusual to see a woman (or group of women) on a motorcycle, but that doesn’t mean the butch, hairy biker stereotypes have disappeared.

Elspeth Beard became the first British woman to ride a motorcycle around the world in 1982. ‘I think women are still discriminated against and we’re treated like idiots when we go into bike shops,’ says Elspeth, now an award-winning architect based in Godalming, Surrey. ‘When trying to discuss a mechanical problem in the workshop, we often get talked to as if we’re children.’

Hell’s Belles co-founder Debs, who started riding with her mum, adds: ‘There’s been many a time I’ve had men (bikers and non-bikers) comment on how I can’t possibly ride my bike as it’s a big one, and that I must be pretending that it’s mine. I love seeing the look on their faces when I kit up and ride off.’

Female Bikers: stereotypes

But gender doesn’t always matter

Ashmore Ellis, the co-founder of Babes Ride Out, which organises events and trips for women bikers, aims to help increase women’s confidence with riding. But she believes there’s no reason why men and women riders can’t go hell for leather together.

‘Our goal is not to create differences between riders based on gender, but rather just to ride and enjoy motorcycles as a person,’ she says. ‘We bring together women with the purpose of finding their place in the community as a whole.’

Female Bikers: Gender doesn't matter

You can still look stylish

‘There might be some women who worry about their make-up being smudged or their foundation getting on the inside of their helmet,’ says Elspeth Beard, ‘but I don’t wear much make-up so it’s never really bothered me.’

Rebecca swears by hidden instep boots, adding: ‘They’re essential to reach the ground on most bikes for the average height woman.’ And fellow rider Sheila has this suggestion: ‘Bike to work in a bodycon dress, but wear it as a T-shirt with the bottom folded up. You’ll arrive at work and look professional in three minutes flat.’

There are some cool clothing choices for women riders too, including VCC London, a spin-off from VC London after the group saw a need for something more fashion-forward than riding boots with pink flowers.

Racer Maria Costello says: ‘Twenty years ago I couldn’t find a one-piece suit for women. Now I can and there’s more choice of leathers out there. It is possible to look stylish on a bike.’ Her top tip? ‘Get your eyelashes tinted so you don’t have to wear mascara, which is guaranteed to run when riding a bike.’

Female bikers: stylish

You could become a tourist attraction

Groups of female bikers can still stop traffic. Amanda, a member of Curvy Riders, says: ‘You get random people taking photos and videos of you when you’re on a ride-out.’

Biker Bex adds: ‘I had a little girl drag her granddad to a stop in the middle of the zebra crossing just to get a good look at me.’ Her friend Paula says: ‘Everyone wants to say hello. Older men tell you about the bikes of their youth, young women tell you they want to ride and ask lots of questions, and kids want to sit on your bike for a photo.’

Female Bikers: tourist attraction

Whether you’re one of those women waving around your newly acquired CBT certificate or you’re a seasoned female biker with years of experience, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting a good deal on your bike insurance. Check out the latest deals here

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