Girl power: Female motorcyclists take to the roads
International Female Ride Day highlights the growing numbers of women with motorcycles
It's International Female Ride Day today and women around the world are getting behind the throttle and revving those engines.
Right now, only one in eight motorcyclists in B.C. is a woman, but they are the fastest growing demographic of riders in the province.
And it's not just riding. More women are owning dealerships, working as mechanics, selling gear and taking a leadership role in the motorcycle community.
But in many cases, the industry and market for women-specific gear hasn't caught up with demand.
"A lot of companies aren't understanding the power that women in motorcycling have," said Becky Goebel, the organizer of Vancouver's version of the women-only ride.
'We're such a little powerhouse'
Riding with men is fun but, Goebel said, riding with just women has a unique vibe.
"When we ride with all our girls, we're such a little powerhouse," she said.
Another Vancouver-based woman advocating for change in the motorcycle market is Doreen Walmsley. She is the CEO of the Ducati dealership in Richmond, the only woman to own a Ducati dealership in North America.
Walmsley said she's been called a pioneer before but doesn't feel any different from the men she works with. As a woman in a leadership position though, she recognizes her ability to influence the industry.
"I see a lot of Ducati advertising aimed at men," she said. "They have the pretty woman next to the bike but they are not actually trying to get women on the bikes. I would rather see them on the bikes and I'm trying to change this attitude."
'Sense of freedom and being in control'
Riding didn't come easily to Walmsley. The first time she got on a motorcycle, she was in her forties and a single mother. She hadn't ridden a bicycle in decades and admits that, even after getting her license, she still dropped her bike many times.
But for Walmsley, riding was a personal mission.
"I really wanted to do something like that before for years. I was married and my husband didn't want me to ride and so when I got out of that marriage, I decided I'm getting my license," she said.
Now, Walmsley owns four bikes and regularly races at the track.
"It's a whole sense of freedom and being in control," she said. "You can feel that engine beneath you. It's just like nothing else."
Both Walmsley and Goebel view motorcycling as a way to empower women and bring them together. But not all female riders are onboard with women-only events.
Bringing riders, all riders, together
"I'm not very supportive of separating genders into groups," said Neda Hamidzadeh, the founder of the Vancouver Motorbikers group. "I like to bring people together, no matter what."
But for Goebel, the organizer of today's event, International Female Ride Day isn't about excluding men. It's a way to strengthen the motorcycle community as a whole.
"You see a lot of the girls who are on bikes who come to these events and they've had help from males," Goebel said.
"A lot of my influence comes from my dad and my male friends who build bikes," she added. "I've just taken their influence and made it my own and created this women's community around that. But a lot of it is all the support that has come from men."
With files from On The Coast.