Riders Celebrate at International Women Motorcycling Conference

Comprehensive coverage of the AMA event

Story by Genevieve Schmitt; Photos by Genevieve Schmitt, Tricia Szulewski and Karen Derby
Though the AMA International Women and Motorcycling Conference ended three weeks ago, women motorcyclists are still talking about it on Facebook, sharing photos and connecting with new friends online.The four-day celebration of women riders, held July 26-29 under warm and dry blue skies in Carson City, Nev., was structured much like previous years’ events in that there were ample opportunities to meet new friends, reconnect with old ones and learn about various aspects of motorcycling.
A group shot of conference attendees at the Virginia City party.

“The seminars, along with all the wonderful women I met, provided me with the tools and motivation to do more than just what feels comfortable,” said Lonnie Mercer, who traveled to the conference from the Denver area with her twin sister, also a rider.

Stacey Swanson rode 400 miles roundtrip from her home in California on her 2001 Aprilia Futura. “This was my first women’s conference, and it was fun to meet so many different women who ride for many different reasons,” she told us. “I really enjoyed the seminars I was able to attend and the chance to meet some of my ‘heroines.’ “
Susan Woods, a rider from Lewiston, Idaho, poses for our cameras on her custom camo-painted motorcycle. “My town does not have many women riders, so before I rode down to Carson City with Deb Schaeffer and Susan Loucks, the only female I had ever ridden with was my daughter,” she said. “We met lots of very nice, interesting women, and just witnessing that many women riders all together was totally the coolest part for me.”

“I always enjoy coming to the conference to see the many women rider friends I’ve made south of the border. It’s kind of a reunion of sorts,” said Liz Jansen, a rider and author from Ontario, Canada, who was there promoting her book, “Women, Motorcycles, and Road to Empowerment.”

“His and her” Moto Guzzis spotted in the parade. Yes, men were welcome, too.
A lot of women’s riding clubs were in attendance at the conference, including the Bella Gypsies.

Women rode in from all over the United States and Canada—some solo, some in groups of all women, and some with their male significant others—to scenic Carson City in western Nevada, situated near Lake Tahoe with the Sierra Nevada mountains forming a beautiful backdrop. International women riders were in attendance as well, with the FIM Commission for Women in Motorcycling represented by riders from Switzerland, Poland and France.

Brigitte Zufferey, from Switzerland, and Aleksandra Knyszewska, from Poland, stand at the FIM Commission for Women in Motorcycling booth. They shared with conference attendees what women are doing internationally in motorcycling.
Christine Firehock, owner of New-York-based Christine’s KickSTART Motorcycle Training Series, brought her 11-year-old daughter, Amber, to the conference. Amber is a fifth-generation woman rider in the Firehock family.
Here’s Amber perched behind her mom, Christine, on the Ducati Diavel that they rode from Southern California to the conference.
The 2012 conference was the sixth large-scale women’s event that the AMA has organized in the last 13 years, and hundreds of women attended this year’s special celebration that is part conference, part rally, and part trade show.
“It always amazes me when I’m around groups of female riders—the energy and enthusiasm for the sport are so tangible,” said Tricia Szulewski, a journalist who attended on behalf of RoadBike magazine. To mark its commitment to recognizing women riders as a viable market segment, the AMA introduced a special “Woman Rider” version of its membership card, which new AMA members picked up at the conference.
“This was another fantastic gathering of women motorcyclists,” said AMA Board of Directors Vice Chairwoman Maggie McNally. “I am awestruck by these women and their inspiring stories. They represent the most exciting development in motorcycling over the last decade.”
Maggie McNally spoke at the conference’s opening ceremonies on the lawn of the Nevada Supreme Court building, where she shared what it’s like to work on behalf of the AMA and its members. McNally is the first female board member of the AMA to hold the vice chair position.

Carson City rolled out the red carpet for conference attendees, with room discounts from its hotels and discount coupons from restaurants and merchants in the welcome bag.

Carson City welcomed attendees with this banner stretching across the main drag downtown.

Women remain the fastest growing segment of motorcycle riders, with one in four riders today being female. Click through the photos below to make them larger to see the rest of the story in pictures. Also, wed love your feedback on the conference. You can post a comment at the end of this story, but if youd like to be involved in a conversation about it, visit the WRN Forum and post your comment there. If youre new to the WRN Forum, youll need to register. Its easy to do.

Conference emcee Jessica Prokup greeted attendees and kicked off the opening ceremonies on the first day of the conference.
At the opening ceremony, Carson City Mayor Robert Crowell proclaimed the week of July 23-29, 2012, as AMA International Women Motorcycling Week. A sign language interpreter was provided at all the major speaking events to translate for the two deaf riders in attendance.
Riders pose for a photo with the conference banner, which was later signed by attendees.
Before the opening ceremonies, a police escort led a parade of riders through the streets of Carson City.
Riders were all smiles during the parade.
Cruiser motorcycles, usually the dominant style of bike at women rider events, represented about half of the motorcycles at the conference.
Sport touring motorcycles and sportbikes represented the other half of bikes ridden by women at the conference.
Members of the Motor Maids carried the flags for their countries.
Kymco was one of five manufacturers showing its commitment to women riders by hauling out its fleet of motorcycles and scooters for women to test ride. The other manufacturers in attendance were Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, Star Motorcycles and Victory.
The Harley-Davidson Tri Glide, part of the Motor Company’s demo-ride fleet, was the touring trike most purchased by women in 2011.
Women take a couple of Victory baggers out for a demo ride.
Motorcycles line the main drag of historic Virginia City, an old mining town in the hills of western Nevada. The woman on crutches in the road is Larraine Best, who injured her back in a diving accident. She rode her trike solo from New York City to Nevada for the conference.
Lining up for the buffet dinner in Virginia City with some local color mixed in.
A rider poses for a picture with land speed racer Erin Hunter (center) on the streets of Virginia City. Erin participated in the “Women in Competition” seminar.
Cris Sommer Simmons presented a slideshow for her seminar, “History of Women Riders.” She also shared her experiences riding in the 2010 Motorcycle Cannonball Run.
Journalist and adventure rider Carla King’s seminar focused on how misadventures can be turned into life-changing experiences, with tips taken from her years of solo motorcycle travel around the world.
Holly Ralph, who hails from Canada, has been riding for 50 years and logs many of her miles solo. Here she is teaching her seminar, “Riding Past Your Limitations.”
Kathy Tolleson (in blue), owner of ROAR Motorcycles, was meeting and greeting conference attendees in the DesignWraps booth.
The Conference Bookstore was a new addition to the conference this year, giving female motorcycle book authors a place to convene and sign and sell their books.
There were some non-motorcycle-related vendors on hand to take advantage of the opportunity to sell to an all-female crowd.
Michele Carter (left) was busy selling sets of her Adventuress skin-care line, which includes her unique sunscreen wipes that were much-needed in the blazing hot desert sun.
Not everyone in the vendor area was selling something. Dariyoosh Hariri from e-Tint was introducing his companys innovative helmet visor tinting device that eliminates the need for an extra visor or sunglasses under a full-face helmet.
Sarah Schilke from Schuberth was excited to share with the mostly full-face-helmet-wearing crowd the benefits of Schuberths helmets, including the women-specific C3W. Sarah is part of the executive council that helped organize the conference.
Visitors at the Women Riders Now booth signed up to enter an Icon jacket giveaway.
WRN Editor Genevieve Schmitt (right) with two fellow motorcycle journalists, Tricia Szulewski (left) and Cris Sommer Simmons (center). Cris just took over the American Iron magazine column that Genevieve wrote for the last seven years.
The Moto Action Center provided hands-on workshops in the outside parking lot. Thanks to the Women’s Motorcyclist Foundation for facilitating those workshops.
Conference attendees enjoyed a dinner at the Saturday night celebration under a pavilion at a park in Carson City.
Emcee Jessica Prokup (right) interviewed Sue Fish onstage during the dinner. Sue is being inducted into the 2012 AMA Hall of Fame in November because of her early days as a motocross racer and champion.
Mary McGhee, who at 75 years old is still racing vintage motorcycles off-road, was the special guest speaker on Saturday night.
With the event she’d been working on for the last few years finally underway, conference organizer Tigra Tsujikawa was all smiles. “Simply put, we could not have done this without the support of Rob Dingman and the AMA, all of our sponsors and vendors, the companies who provided demo rides, and those who rode, in some cases, thousands of miles to be here,” she later said.
Last but not least, Karen Derby, a rider from Seattle, was the official photographer for the conference. No one else was taking her picture, so we did!

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15 thoughts on Riders Celebrate at International Women Motorcycling Conference

  1. Great article. I hope to join you all in 2015. I will be 75 at that time and I think it will be a great time to celebrate. My grand kids think it’s so cool that their G’Ma is still ridin’, and one occasionally joins me. He gets a kick out of people telling him how lucky he is to have a grandma that rides.

  2. I would love to attend the next conference. How about east coast or at least in the middle of the country? Keep the great women rider movement growing strong!

  3. Count me in for 2015! I am currently conducting research through my graduate program at Howard University in DC and stumbled upon this story. I really look forward to participating in this event in the future.

  4. I would love to attend one of these. It looks like a lot of fun!

  5. Any clue where the next conference will be held?

    1. TThe AMA has been holding the conference every three years—except for the first two, which had a two-year gap in between. At this time, the AMA has not even announced whether it will hold another one, let alone date and location, as it’s just too early to even know those details.

  6. Nice to see so many women in attendance! Even nicer to see the Motor Maids there. Wish I were there too!

  7. So good to see old friends, make new friends, and meet FB friend in persons at the conference! Thank you for the shout out Genevieve! Amber had the “trip of my life Mommy!” Big thank you to all the wonderful power of examples demonstrated by the female love of the ride and support of each other!

  8. As always, love being a part of this community with Gen and Tricia. I have to say the AMA conference rates at the top of my list for events to attend. Gen…you forgot to describe our ride to get there—let’s see…heat, heat, oh yes…and more heat through the desert of Nevada…and the lovely welcome you had meeting up with me in Park City—-hydroplaning rains on Interstate 80 up Parley’s Canyon! Just runnin’ with the big dogs!

    1. Some grueling riding indeed. Will never do 570 miles (in one day!) across the Nevada desert in the middle of summer again! Crazy!

  9. Hopefully the conference will come to the east coast somewhere so many other women can attend next time!

  10. Looks great. I just wish it hadn’t been scheduled for the same weekend as MotoGP. For me, the trip to Laguna Seca will win out every time.

  11. This was wonderful to read. I only hope to make this event next year!

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