MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When you’re out driving, you’re more and more likely to see women on motorcycles. In the last 10 years, the number of women riding motorcycles in Minnesota has grown more than 58 percent — from 31,576 riders in 2002 to 53,784 in 2012. And one of the brands that is seeing the most growth is the one that is considered the most masculine — Harley Davidson.
“When they portray riders on TV, it’s like big, mean guys,” said Rachelle Wise of Plymouth, who’s taking a motorcycle instruction class, “and it’s not really like that at all.”
Now 13 percent of motorcycle riders in Minnesota are women.
Some are moving from the back of a guy’s bike.
“I’d rather be the one in control, riding it, with the wind in my face,” said Steph Blanda of Minneapolis, while taking a class.
Others are looking to join a different kind of motorcycle gang.
“I just have a lot of female friends that go out on rides together, do fun adventures – and I want to be a part of that” Wise said. “And I kind of want to be a part of that.”
And they have a reputation for being more interested in safety.
“The ladies seem a little bit more…they listen a little bit better than some guys,” said safety instructor Dusty Rhodes, who says 44 percent of his students are women.
“I run an all-ladies class during the year, because some ladies don’t want to be with men. They feel intimidated, but I’ve got ladies that run a lot better than some guys.”
Now purses and pedicures are not only welcome at Harley Davidson, but dealers are finding ways to cater to their new customers, hosting special ladies nights events and sponsoring women’s riding groups.
“I think it’s just barely scratched the surface,” says Tom Giannetti, owner of St. Paul Harley Davidson. “There’s a lot of dreamers.”
Customizing bikes has always been a big part of the Harley culture. But now that includes special tools and options to make big bikes fit shorter riders.
“We can adjust that bike, whether with shocks, whether it’s with a seat that we might change, maybe we change the position of the handlebars,” Giannetti said. “So it helps us fit more people.”
Like Lisa Pap of Lakeville, who was getting bored being her husband’s passenger. So, she moved into the driver’s seat.
“My husband is a little bit of a speed freak and I’m not, so when we ride I ride in front and I control the speed and he’s behind me,” Pap said.
And Rachael Harvey of Stillwater, who started riding a year ago for her 60th birthday.
“As you’re riding up the highway and you’ve got nature surrounding you,” she said. “When you’re in the car, you’re surrounded by that metal cage.”
Watch the video above to see how Amelia does on a motorcycle.