Wednesday, December 05, 2007


The number-one reason female riders fail: Husbands

Search your favorite motorcycle forum and you'll find the article topics, usually worded as questions:
What kind of bike should I get for my wife?

Tips on teaching the wife?

Where's an empty parking lot near [location] where I can give my wife riding lessons?
Invariably, these posts are quickly filled with gaggles of responses from married motorcycle dudes from all walks of life, each sharing loudly his alpha-male advice and experience on what's best for a woman rider who's just starting out -- most of which is totally wrong.

Never do the actual aspects, wants, or interests of the female in question ever come up in the conversation -- and the responses are generally always the same. It's get her this bike or get her that bike. Have her do this or have her do that. Blah-blah-blah.

Then three months later, you see this topic:
Selling the wife's bike!
This type of thread is also filled with typical, predictable content:
"She just doesn't get it."

"She's not strong enough to control the bike."

"She won't listen to me."

"I'm afraid she's gonna get hurt, so I'm selling her bike."
And so another female rider, one who could've potentially enjoyed a lifetime of happy riding, is forever frightened and intimidated out of the sport -- all because her knucklehead husband felt like he had to be master over the process. Most times, she was on the wrong bike, had been given poor instruction under condescending duress, and was otherwise set up to fail.

Well listen up, machomen of the world. Your wife doesn't need you in order to pick out a bike and learn how to ride. At all. In fact, according to Motorcycle Safety Foundation stats, she's more likely to fail under your wing than under anyone else's. If you really want to help her, back off and:

1. Let her take the MSF RiderCourse on her own, and then get professional, private instruction thereafter if needed. The fundamentals taught in the MSF curriculum are more complex than many realize, and are absolutely essential for a beginner to understand. Besides, judging by many of the self-described "experienced" riders who've taken the basic course from me over the years, many husbands don't know enough about the fundamentals to be teaching anyone anyhow. So leave it to the pros, instead of filling her head with incorrect techniques and bad habits. Statistically, she'll also learn better if she's being instructed by someone other than the person she must ask ten times to take the trash out.

2. Let her pick her own bike. Not only is it a big part of how someone falls in love with motorcycles, it's also essential for confidence and safety. Just because you ride a sportbike (or cruiser or whatever) doesn't mean that's what she must ride. She'll instinctively pick her motorbike just the same way you did, by fit and feel, and by the emotions the bike gives her.

3. Let her practice and/or ride by herself if she wants. What makes you think she can't have a productive day practicing in the parking lot down the street or going on a toy run just because you don't happen to be there? She needs to discover the spiritual beauty of motorcycling, and chances are she won't ever have that commune if you're hawking over her every moment she's in the saddle.

Oh, and conversely, one last thing: Just because she likes being a pillion doesn't mean she wants to be a pilot. In several different chapters of my time as an MSF instructor, I've had a female student who told me, "I don't want to ride my own bike, but he sent me here because he's tired of always hauling me on the back of his." Most times, that's a formula for either failure or disaster.

Grow up, guys. You ain't that great.

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