According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, one in four riders is a woman, and female motorcycle ownership has been climbing steadily, exceeding 1 million in 2009. However, women riders are still grossly under- and misrepresented by both mainstream and national motorcycle media. Last July’s sixth AMA International Women & Motorcycling Conference (IWMC), held in Carson City, Nevada, may not have been for all women riders, but for many attendees, it filled a void in a male-dominated world.
Providing women riders with connections, rider education, and a venue to celebrate a common passion where the activities are geared specifically toward the smaller, but fastest-growing demographic, the AMA-sanctioned event is not just for women, or AMA members for that matter, although membership provided a huge discount off the entry fee. A handful of male riders took part in the festivities as well. Most women I spoke with had been to prior years’ conferences, and some even rode thousands of miles to attend this one. As Deborah “Spokes” Walker, of Oakfield, California, put it, “I come back because I automatically have two things in common with the women that attend the conference.” This year marked her fourth IWMC.
Nevada’s capital city was a perfect location — a picturesque Sierra Nevada backdrop and great riding roads in all directions. Staying at the JA Nugget Casino Resort in nearby Reno for my first two days before moving closer to the action at Carson Station Best Western Hotel/Casino, I borrowed a new Victory Judge from Reno Cycles, where they kindly installed some touring accessories on the muscle cruiser. The fun way to Carson City from Reno was via Route 341’s freshly paved, twisty climb to the Old West mining town and host of Saturday night’s street party, Virginia City. Continuing from there, you descend through canyons and past an old steam railroad station toward the capital city. Carson City’s Gold Dust West was a fitting host hotel with easy access to Highway 50 and Carson City High School, where most of the daytime action took place. Inside, a vendor marketplace, seminar classrooms, and a health expo area, all specifically targeting women’s needs, were busy. Outside, demo trucks from Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Kymco, Star, and Victory were active. A “moto-action center” was the meeting place for daily guided rides, as well as hands-on seminars like making roadside repairs and how to load your motorcycle onto a trailer alone.
The blazing desert heat kept many of us indoors much of the time, allowing me to sit in on a number of classroom seminars. A personal favorite was Cris Sommer Simmons’ tale of her 2010 Cannonball Run experience. As one of the only two women to finish the cross-country pre-1916 motorcycle endurance ride, her story, like so many others during the four-day event, motivated and inspired the crowd. This was the running sentiment that was felt in the classrooms, out in the parking lot, at the kickoff parade through downtown Carson City, and everywhere women riders gathered.
By Tricia Szulewski
Originally printed in RoadBike’s Nov/Dec 2012 issue.