As the popularity of motorcycling continues to grow, more women are learning to get their motors running and head out on the highway. Industry experts say that about 12 percent of all riders are now women, drawn by the same combination of emotional and practical factors that appeal to men, from the feeling of freedom to combating the reality of high fuel prices.
Dealers like Angela Annamalai of Shelby's Powersports in Bronx, New York, see a lot of new riders. When discussing first-time buyers, Annamalai offered some buying advice geared to women, who she says can often be intimidated by the male-dominated world of a motorcycle shop.
Visit our motorcycle buying guide for more advice on choosing the right bike and riding safety.
"Sit on a lot of different bikes first," said Annamalai, who stressed the importance of getting over that showroom discomfort that may discourage women from trying enough models on for size. "Riding position is critical," she says. "Arm length and being able to maneuver with your feet touching the floor is critical for safety."
Annamalai says that women new to riding might want to consider a first bike with an engine in the 250cc to 300cc range, because these relatively lightweight models are easy to handle and not too powerful, yet they are able to keep up with traffic. And their good fuel economy makes them prime choices for commuting. (Discover the most reliable motorcycles.)
Honda representative Jon Seidel said that 40 percent of their 250cc Rebel street bikes are sold to women, who he says are also responsible for a big chunk of scooter sales. (See our test of entry-level motorcycles and scooters.)
But be careful of not buying a bike you'll outgrow too fast. Seidel says that some women are stepping up to larger models like the Shadow Spirit 750, about a quarter of which are sold to female riders. Honda has high hopes for its new CTX series, a family of 700cc models with a low seat height and center of gravity that offer user-friendly features like ABS brakes and an automatic transmission.
Other women riders are looking for neither an automatic nor a small bike—apparently in sufficient numbers that big-bike maker Harley-Davidson claims to sell more cycles to women than any other brand in the United States. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based, manufacturer is looking to capitalize on that success with instructional programs and a section of its website devoted to female riders.
Regardless of your gender, or whether you're looking for an around-town scooter or a big rumbling Harley, remember to start your adventure by investing in the proper protective gear, including a full face helmet and eye protection, and protective jacket, boots, pants, and gloves. And don't even think about swinging a leg over any motorcycle or scooter without first taking an accredited instructional safety course, like those offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). The MSF offers courses all over the United States; ask your dealer or go to www.msf-usa.org.
—Jim TraversMore from Consumer Reports:
2013 New Car Preview
Best and worst used cars
Complete Ratings for 200 cars and trucks
Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.