Spring brings out motorcycle riders, more of them are women

By Amanda Woita, NewsNetNebraska

On a motorcycle, the wind is loud, even going slower than 40 mph without a helmet.

The air is crisp and the cold makes its way through your clothes.

Bumps jar you in your seat. Even though you’re going slow, it feels fast.

Without the metal encasing of a car, your vision is open. You can see everything.

Danger is around you. But fear gives into exhilaration. And it’s only your first ride.

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With warm weather comes more motorcyclists on the roads. And lately, there has been an increase in the number of women joining those ranks.

According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, in 2009, 26 percent of all riders are women – an increase from 2003 when women made up 18 percent of the motorcycle population.

Senior women and gender studies and sociology major Ardelle Buck has been riding her motorcycle for two years. Her stepfather rode bikes, so he got Buck her first scooter. After that, she got herself her first motorcycle – a dual sport bike.

When she first started riding, Buck said she didn’t see very many female riders. But within this past year, she has noticed an increase.

“I wasn’t so surprised to see them this year,” Buck said.

Buck said she gets mixed reactions from men when they see her riding her motorcycle. Some men, and women, will comment on her bike and talk about riding. But others will cat-call her, especially at red lights.

“If they’re being nice, I’ll talk to them,” Buck said. “But if they’re cat calling, I don’t respond or I’ll shut my visor.”

David Gallentine, a machine specialist from Lincoln, hasn’t seen a lot of female motorcyclists, but he knows a few.

“I know a couple of women who can actually ride and keep up,” Gallentine said.

Another rider, Dustin Forsgren, said women riders are a good thing.

“I don’t have to carry passengers, then,” Forsgren said.

For those who are thinking about getting a motorcycle, Buck suggests starting with a smaller bike with less power. She also said learning how to drive a stick shift in a car will help when riding a bike. Another way to learn is to take a motorcycle class.

“You just have to get on your bike and ride,” Buck said. “It’s the best way to learn.

The Motorcycle Industry Council reports that only 44 percent of male motorcyclists and 58 percent of female motorcyclists take a riding course. But even with that extra training, there are still plenty of dangers for motorcycle riders.

Gallentine rides a Kawasaki Zx10 – which can reach 60 mph in 2.92 seconds – and he has had a few close calls on his bike. Once, a van was merging onto the interstate when it cut him off on his bike.

“We more or less drive around them [cars] than they do us,” Gallentine said.

Not only do motorcyclists have to watch out for other vehicles, they have to be attentive to what they’re doing. Gallentine totaled his previous bike, a Beckman GS-6R, when he drove through a patch of mud going through a corner.

Forsgren has also had encounters with cars while on his bike. He has even ended up in the hospital.

“That’s the most painful part,” Forsgren said, “when you go to the hospital and they get the gravel out [of your skin] with a wire brush.”

Buck, Gallentine and Forsgren all had the same advice for people in cars – be aware of motorcyclists. Buck said she was driving behind a car that missed its turn. So it stopped and started backing up. Even though Buck honked her horn at the car, it still tapped the front of her tire.

The U.S. Department of Transportation states that motorcyclists are 34 times more likely to die and eight times more likely to be injured in an accident compared a person in a passenger car. The department of transportation has several tips for both bikers and car drivers when it comes to motorcycle safety.

For cars:

  • Check twice before turning left – especially for motorcycles.
  • Leave bikers plenty of space. Cars can’t stop as quickly as bikes and motorcyclists need to dodge hazards on the road.
  • Make a conscious effort to watch out for bikers.

For bikes:

  • Stay out of cars’ blind spots – especially trucks.
  • Wear a helmet.
  • Drive defensively.
  • Follow the rules of the road.
  • Wear protective clothing (riding jacket, gloves, boots).
  • Perform a safety inspection on your bike before each ride.

Despite all the risks that come with riding a bike, Buck, Gallentine and Forsgren won’t stop riding any time soon.

“It’s just fun,” Gallentine said. “It helps clear your head because you concentrate more on what’s going on around you.”

For Buck, she said riding her motorcycle is a lifestyle. She said she tries to ride as long as she can into the cold weather – even if it’s only 20 degrees out. Buck added that she thinks everyone should ride a motorcycle at least once, that way they will become more aware of other motorcyclists and they will get to experience why Buck rides her bike everywhere she can.

“I love riding,” Buck said, “It’s a sense of freedom.”

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