Roaring Politely

I gave my first video interview the other day. It was at the end of our one day press ride of the new Kawasaki Ninja 1000. Unfortunately for print mags like RoadBike, Kawasaki has put almost all of its advertising dollars into online and tv promotions. <Shameless plug for print subscription support… > So, it was my first press intro where, in addition to my favorite moto-photo experts, Tom Riles and Brian J. Nelson, a videographer (Rich Van Every) was accompanying us. I was asked if I’d like some video footage, and I reluctantly agreed to record an interview with Rich after the ride, both for Kawasaki’s needs and for the RoadBike web site.

Nervously thinking about what I would say once I got in front of the camera consumed a lot of my riding time during that day. While I’d have complete control over the photos I use in my layout, I’d have no say in what Kawasaki might use. So I wanted to be prepared. I ran up to my hotel room before the interview to brush my helmet hair, put on some earrings, powder my face, and practice my lines. I thought I had it down, and was all ready with my response about “how I felt about the bike” when Rich threw me for a loop. The first thing out of his mouth with the camera rolling was, “So, you’re a biker chick…”

How do I respond to this? I spend so much of what I do every day working to disparage the typical stereotypes that follow women (and men!) who ride motorcycles. I’m careful about how I word things, and work hard to promote all the positive aspects of our sport. While it’s true, I am a chick, and proudly so, we don’t call ourselves bikers anymore. That has a negative, drug-running, outlaw connotation to it. Bikers ride Harley’s or choppers, have pit bulls, and wear black leather vests with patches sewn onto them. At least that’s my idea of a biker. There’s nothing wrong with any of it, except the drug-thing, but it doesn’t describe me, or most other women I know who ride. But how did I react? I’m sorry to say, that I was put instantly on the defense, unprepared for any kind of general motorcycle question, and while nervously laughing, responded with some remark about how I “keep up with the boys.” Well, in all honesty, I not only keep up with them, but in most cases, I outride them. But I don’t brag about my skill, or say anything for that matter about being proud to be a female motorcyclist. Instead, I remark sheepishly about being just as good as most of the guys. Ugh. Yuk. Cut!

So many women who I teach the MSF basic rider course to carry around a lack of self-esteem. I often wonder how some of them had enough courage to even sign up for the class. But kudos to them for trying! It’s mostly because of these women that I teach. Whether they stick with motorcycling or not, the mere fact that they show up to participate in something that is completely intimidating to them, makes me an admirer. And the best part is that I get to share their experience, as their confidence grows along with their skill. For some, learning to ride motorcycles is a life-changing experience in more ways than one.

I think the ego is biggest difference between the girls and the boys, especially when it comes to motorcycling. I’m acutely aware of this, which I why I go far out of my way to make sure that the woman’s voice is not only present, but confident and strong in my magazine. I’m used to being the underdog in my office, as I’m surrounded by boys of all shapes, sizes, and intellectual capability. I take more than any one girl’s fair share of good-natured ribbing when it comes to all things female, but admit that sometimes it doesn’t feel so good-natured. I’m also often the only female journalist on press rides. So, even though I have to remind myself that I have not been elected to represent all women riders everywhere, I still feel the load that I put on myself to make sure I always come off as a positive role model.

I am a woman who loves riding motorcycles. If that means that you think of me as a biker-chick, then that’s okay with me.

Comments

  1. Awesome article, Tricia. You are quickly becoming my new hero with your well said commentary. Thanks from another motorcyclist known fondly as a biker-chick to some.

  2. Lee Kessler says:

    Okay Trish; you’re a biker chick.

    And aside from being a highly skilled motorcycle rider and teacher, you’re a first-class graphic designer. And a first-class photographer. Oh, one more thing: an excellent writer. (One who would not dream of starting an interview with an offensive question.) And a Mom.

    I’ve never heard you sing, play the ukelele or grand piano, or recite the Gettysburgh Address from memory, but it simply wouldn’t suprise me if you were good at all of these things. In short, you’re way more talented than any person – male, female, or other – has the right to be.

    On second thought “biker chick” just doesn’t work.

    • Wow, Lee. You sound like my #1 fan… thank you very much. Now, let’s see if my head will fit in the elevator when its time to go home tonight….

  3. Jo Novak says:

    You are my new hero!! I was a newly widowed 59 yr old when I took my first MSF class & tried to learn how NOT to fall over. I didn’t pass. A year later I took another & passed. I have been riding for 4 years, now. Last week, on my new-to-me V Star 1100, I took a 1000 mi trip. My self-esteem is off the charts!!
    I, too, am not a “biker chick”. In fact I would be very happy to NEVER see another little pink skull ‘n’ crossbones on black leather.
    Thanks so much for your blog!!

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