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Five bikes that aren’t tailored only to men
Think motorbikes are made just for men? Here are five that aren't.
A few years ago, I was a passenger on a friend’s Harley for a long ride through Santa Barbara, California.
There’s really something special about being on a motorcycle, you’re part of the whole experience in a way you don’t get in a car. Ever since then, I’ve been in love with the idea of learning to ride on my own.
A recent conversation with Ty van Hooydonk at the Motorcycle Industry Council (http://www.mic.org/) says I’m not alone in that desire, and that the number of women riders have been increasing; in fact, the 2014 MIC Owner Survey shows that 25% of America’s 28 million riders are women. That’s essentially one-quarter of the population of the state of Texas.
Ty told me “We’ve actually seen a good deal of growth — about double the number shown in the 1998 census — among women riders. We’re also seeing more girls among young riders, as well. The stereotype of macho men on bikes is falling by the wayside as women embrace two-wheeling.”
“You can truly feel the sense of motion as you move with your motorcycle, leaning into turns on pavement or counterweighting as you move through off-road trails. You will see the world in a whole new way,” says Andria Yu, Director of Communications for the Motorcycle Industry Council.
Whether you want to ride on the street or off-road, Ty said “the variety and choices available to new riders are staggering.” When asked how a newbie can find the perfect first ride, Ty advised “Your best first ride should be by taking the Motorcycle Safety Foundation starter course. They teach on bikes that are smaller, lighter, and easier to handle. Once you’re ready to make a purchase, their riding coaches can help provide guidance,” or, he suggests, “search online forums or Yelp! to find a good dealership with a helpful staff who will help you find what best fits you.”
According to Ty, “It’s such a wonderful buyers’ market right now. There are so many small, great entry-level choices in the marketplace and at shows today. The variety of all types of bikes is just mind-boggling.” To help guide your choice, we selected the following five models that would be perfect for women riders for street and off-road riding.
Launched as an all-new model in 2016, the BMW G310R is an extremely popular entry-level motorcycle — good for new or first-time riders — and, at just about 350 pounds, is also quite lightweight, making it easy to manage. The G310R features a low standard seat height of just 30.9 inches and a short inner-leg length, making it well-suited for smaller riders. Its relaxed, comfortable seating position means you’ll be just as happy winding its way nimbly and flexibly through the narrow streets of a city as travelling supremely and powerfully along country roads.
Its 34-horsepower/313-cubic-centimeter liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine features four valves and two overhead camshafts and electronic fuel injection; it’s paired with a six-speed gearbox and can accelerate past 90 mph in sixth gear. Individually tailored accessories — including seat options, a luggage rack, and heated grips — are also available from BMW Motorrad.
Designed in Munich by BMW engineers but manufactured in India by the company’s TVS Motors partner, the G310R is intended as a “world” model that will be sold in the USA and Europe, as well as numerous markets around the globe. With an all-in price of $4,995, the G310R is also BMWís most affordable motorcycle.
Harley-Davidson Street 500
Did you know the majority of the female riding population chooses a Harley-Davidson? In fact, IHS Automotive data says Harley-Davidson has about a 60% share of women riders! Also, Harley offers its own beginner riders training course called Rider?s Edge that’s very similar to the Motorcycle Safety Foundations beginner’s course — and in some areas it’s actually taught by the same people.
The Street 500 replaces the familiar Sportster as Harley-Davidson’s entry-level model. This stylish black-on-black “learner bike” is powered by a liquid-cooled 53-horsepower/494cc Revolution X V-Twin engine mated to a six-speed transmission.
The Street 500 weighs in at 514 pounds and has a low 26-inch seat height (laden). Light with a low center of gravity, this smaller Harley is better for women riders because it doesn’t require much upper body strength to lift off the kick stand and the frame and seat are slim, so it’s easy to reach the ground; it also features an ergonomic brake and clutch lever designed to save your hands. From the confidence-inspiring optional ABS brakes to the nimble chassis and dialed-in suspension, the Harley-Davidson Street 500 is built specifically for city streets. At $6,899, it’s one of the least expensive Harleys out there.
Kawasaki Ninja 400
Aggressive styling and advanced performance are at the core of the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400 sportbike. All-new for 2018, this approachable sportbike offers the perfect balance of everyday street riding and sport riding. The Ninja 400 weighs about 362 pounds; its narrow seat design and low 31-inch seat height offer a comfortable reach to the ground and a lower center of gravity for confident handling, while its forward-oriented footpeg position contributes to a riding position that should be more welcoming to riders of all sizes. Clip-on style handlebars offer a raised position for added comfort.
The 44-horsepower/399cc twin-cylinder engine is paired with a six-speed transmission that can be modulated with a single finger to deliver smooth and broad power that’s easy to use for a range of riders. Experienced riders have taken the Ninja on top-speed runs above 120 mph.
With a starting price just shy of $5000, the Ninja is right in line with the other motorcycles in this article. The Ninja 400 will surely inspire confidence in new riders, allowing them to build a solid foundation of skills and grow as motorcyclists. “What a spectacular little motorcycle,” said Ty. “If only we had that bike when I first started riding!”
KTM 390 Duke
This small-displacement street bike was named the Best Lightweight Streetbike two years in a row by CycleWorld. Tom Moen, KTM marketing manager describes the 390 Duke as “perfect for many skill levels for women riders,” saying it’s a good learning platform they can keep for a while, as they grow into biking.
At 325.5 pounds, the 390 Duke is light as a feather for nimble handling, and boasts a powerful 44-horsepower/373cc one-cylinder, four-stroke engine and six-speed transmission. It’s also packed with state-of-the-art technology, including a light-sensitive TFT display featuring the latest (but optional) KTM MY RIDE system, which allows you to connect your cell phone to the display via Bluetooth, and then turns the screen into a control center for such things as phone calls and music, controlled by thumbing your selections on a handlebar switch.
Updated in 2017, the 390 Duke now features a 32.7-inch seat height, plus repositioned handlebar and foot pegs. Its adjustable brake lever and clutch lever can accommodate both large and small hands, while its ride-by-wire throttle promises smooth acceleration for people just learning to ride. Suggested pricing starts at $5,299 (£4000).
Looking for something that’s more of a family experience? Consider the Yamaha YZ65 dirt bike as a way to get started on outdoor adventures, without some of the street-riding risks that might worry new riders. Off-road riding is an amazing way to get away from it all in a much more mellow environment.
The YZ65 weighs in at just 134 pounds and features a seat height of 29.5 inches, making it ideal if you’ve got a particularly petite frame, or want to share this bike with your kids. Ty describes it as looking like “a full-size motocross bike was hit by a shrink ray, it’s so trick and advanced!” It’s also highly tunable to fit riders of various sizes, with a four-position adjustable handlebar clamp, adjustable position clutch and front brake levers, grippy foot pegs, and a long seat design to help riders move across the bike.
At the heart of this little blue bike is a carbureted 65cc two-stroke powerplant that’s equipped with a six-speed transmission and a digital ignition. A steel frame reinforces Yamaha’s competition-worthy off-road quality and durability. Suggested retail is $4,599 (£3500).
Whichever bike you choose, make sure you’re properly attired for safety. If you’re going to invest in a motorcycle, invest in the right gear, and gear up from head to toe for every ride. Today’s gear is more comfortable and safer than what’s been available in the past, and obviously, women’s bodies (and even our heads) are shaped differently from men’s, so make sure you’re not wearing a hand-me-down helmet loaned to you by your male companion. BMW’s Motorrad Ride Collection (https://www.bmwmotorcycles.com/en/accessories-and-gear/ride-style.html) offers quite a bit of bespoke gear and lifestyle equipment just for women riders.
“My femininity is not defined by what I wear,” said Jenny Smith, managing editor for Rider magazine. “I am feminine, whether I am in a dress, or if I am covered in mud. To me, it’s more important that I’m protected and safe, even if that means wearing a jacket that the sleeves are too long on, or spending a lot of money on gear. Because I’m worth it.”
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