The numbers never lie: female motorcycle ownership is at an all-time high. According to the latest data from a Motorcycle Industry Council survey, women are now 14 percent of all U.S. motorcycle owners, a substantial increase from the meek 8 percent reported in 1998.
Now, forget the motorcycle numbers. Numbers are not all that sexy.
What’s really sexy is to see a woman fully dressed in leather, handling a machine that is anything but docile and sweet. Julie Maioli, from Team USA2Ride is all too familiar with that. As a former racing pilot, Julie knows a thing or two about controlling a motorcycle at high speeds on a race track, something that got her hooked up into motorcycling a long time ago.
Last December, Julie got an invitation she could not refuse: to join an all-female bikers group on a ride to Clewiston for lunch. Better known as The Litas of South Florida, this group holds monthly rides with an average turn out of 20 girls piloting all kinds of bikes. Everyone is welcome and they even give the boys a chance by hosting a co-ed ride every once in a while.
Julie Furman, the leader of the group, is categorical when describing The Litas: “We’re not a gang or a club. We’re a network of women who love to ride.” And this network is growing everywhere. According to Sarah Schilke, national marketing manager of BMW Motorrad USA, “of the 9.2 million owners, more of them are women than we’ve ever recorded”.
Julie’s ride happened right after Christmas and for that reason, the turnout was not among the largest they ever had. However, a young rider named Kendra hops on her bike and rides all the way from Fort Myers just to join the group on their rides that more often than not originate in the Miami-Dade/Broward areas.
The South Florida Chapter of the Litas may be young but consider this: The Litas have already spreaded to 10 different countries and count with chapters in 50 cities accounting for over 600 female members. So many official motorcycle clubs would envy this kind of presence.
But talking to the girls, there’s almost a high level of innocence in the air. Something that only a network of women can generate. They are real, honest, genuine. They are not trying to be something they are not. The reason why they ride motorcycles has nothing to do with appearance – although this particular group puts up a fashion show on two wheels like no one else. They do it because they love the ride. Some of them know about the mechanical aspects of the bikes, while others couldn’t care less about how combustion happens.
Their conversation during lunch involves bikes, but also revolve around kids, husbands, work and other somewhat irrelevant day-to-day subjects that you would probably never hear in a male-driven group. This makes The Litas of South Florida even more fascinating. These girls are young, good looking, fun to be around and free spirited but surprisingly mature. And, most importantly, they know how to ride.
May the trend of female motorcycle ownership continue at the current pace. And may groups like The Litas find and establish their place on the roads. Because while this trend grows, we’re bound to see more and more Harley-Davidson, Honda and Yamaha riders wearing lipstick and smelling like Chanel Nº5.
By Eduardo Schneider and Julie Maioli – Team USA2Ride