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April 30, 2010

Miss Vicki starts the day

The big day is almost here … nope, I’m not referring to my birthday (May 31!) but International Female Ride Day! On May 7, women around the world will be riding their bikes, celebrating our great sport. It’s no secret that women and motorcycles are becoming a much more common sight on the tracks, trails and roadways.

In my personal experience with motocross racing, not long ago I could count the number of Ladies’ racers on my fingers and toes—now there are separate classes for beginners and experts and the CMRC has been running a National Women’s Championship since 2006!

As far as street bikes go, I’m sure everyone has noticed the increase of women on the road. I think it’s great. To me, there is nothing more fun than riding a two wheeler and men and women deserve to share the experience together. (In fact, Yamaha’s Facebook Photo Contest winner was a woman rider, Katrina Bryant, who owns an R1).

To be honest (not that I’d ever lie to you :)), I didn’t know much about International Female Ride Day, so I called up someone who does, the founder and extreme motorcycle enthusiast, Vicki Gray.

Bike Blog: What’s your background with motorcycles and what is MOTORESS?
Vicki: My background includes 27 years of riding, licensed back in 1983. I decided to get into motorcycling because I grew up as sort of a thrill seeker/tomboy. I’d climb trees, build rafts and ride snowmobiles. I really had an interest in motorcycling, but it wasn’t until I moved to the East Coast of Canada and was very busy with a corporate career that I took the opportunity to take the training. I needed an outlet to get away from the stress of work. I tried sailing as well, it’s nice and calm, but didn’t give me that kick I found from motorcycling.

Tell us about MOTORESS.
It’s a one-stop shop for women and motorcycling. MOTORESS didn’t just come out of the air; it’s a take-off from a brand that I had in the community called RaceGirl Motorsport in Europe. In Canada, I did a lot of riding and teaching here, but in 1989, I left and went to the Caribbean. I lived there for six years and within a year I opened my own training school. So this whole journey of MOTORESS is stuff that happened in between.

I think what spurred it on was when I started racing in Europe in 1998. Again, it’s a guy’s world there, especially in racing. I decided to start a brand and community called RaceGirl, which encouraged women into motorsports and through the non-profit organization, I gave higher skills training. I gave lessons to men as well and held track days. I worked with TT Circuit Assen during MotoGP and World Superbike. I was constantly interviewed when these races were in town, and I always spoke of women and encouraging them to get into motorsports. All of that and my passion seemed to grow like crazy! It was only a hobby but RaceGirl started to get so big. I was working in the telecomm industry at that time, which was having its up and downs. I kept changing jobs and then sat down and made a business plan for MOTORESS. To be honest, all along I searched for a way to make my passion my livelihood.

Vicki raced throughout Europe, and in the first ever European Women’s Cup, supported by the renowned Ten Kate Honda Team.

Now, you’re the founder of International Female Ride Day. What goes into creating an official “day?”
It was an idea … as you can imagine, in 1983, I was a woman riding a motorcycle and there were many women before me, but even then, I was part of the very small number of women riding. Of course, we have challenges keeping it in our lives but we really do have so many women riders out there. In North America—in Europe it’s not such a phenomenon to see a woman on a bike—yet it still gets a lot of response. I thought if we introduced a day, where women would just get out there, we’d show everyone first hand how many of us there are! The day also promotes women in motorcycling. Women are role models in themselves, and they influence other women. You have younger and older women, on cruisers, sport bikes, dirt bikes and it’s so diverse, I thought this concept, synchronized would show other women how wonderful and fun it is.

What’s your take on where women and motorcycles are at now?
It’s really evolved, just like women have. Social values and choices have changed; women buy houses alone now. The whole role of women has changed. Women go exploring other stuff, like motorcycling. Some women are terrified of them [laughs], and I meet some men who are too. I think it’s how we are brought up; generally women are not pointed in the direction of more dangerous “deemed male” activities, like the guys.

What advice do you have for those women who are shy and nervous about riding bikes?
[Laughs] Things are not as they appear. You know, that whole illusion theory and perception-motorcycling looks intimidating but once you’re sitting on a bike, have some good lessons and skills under your belt, you’ll see the other side of motorcycling that catches us all; it’s the same for racing.

Favourite bike you’ve ever owned?
I don’t have one because I love them all! They all bring something different to the road. Obviously my Ten Kate Honda race bike was exceptional, and riding that thing, on my God! Even Honda Japan would come to see how they tune their bikes. I really love the Yamaha R6. When I teach at F.A.S.T.  I often use that bike.

Where do you see women going in this sport? And what can dealers, manufacturers, anybody do to help promote women’s involvement?
I think you (the manufacturers/industry) are already doing it. You guys have ladies events, you have a great array of motorcycles that are available and you’re underlining these to women; the clothing is getting better. There isn’t much more to do, but it’s accepting the fact that women ride. For instance, when I see women at motorcycle shows, my mindset is that they are there because they ride. The goal of MOTORESS is to show women that motorcycling belongs in their life, and it should be placed higher on the priority list.

Unfortunately, for the average women, we have so much to juggle in our lives. There are big debates to that, but studies have proven, women, unlike men, can’t leave domestic duties alone for too long. After a day of work, arriving home, tending to say a partner, children, household demands … when all is said and done, if we have any time or energy remaining, what will receive the priority? With MOTORESS, we’re trying to bring it to an easier belonging, a lifestyle and make motorcycling that choice priority.

With that, what do you hope for International Female Ride Day, simply to get women on their bikes and ride?
Of course! There is so much going on around the world it’s unbelievable. I received an email from Cape Town, South Africa where women are organizing a ride day. Women riders just seem to take such pride in being a part of it. It’s awesome! This year, I even had to translate the logo into Hungarian so they could post it and use it. I would really like this to one day, similar to Mother’s Day, be recognized by the country as an official day.

Hey ladies (and guys) are you going to be out supporting In. Female Ride Day? If  so, please comment and let us know! Feel free to share your bike of choice as well!

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Posted @ 3:51 pm in Commuting,Industry Insights,Ladies Only,Special Events   

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