People always wonder why I choose to ride a sportbike. They ask, “Aren’t you afraid of what might happen?” My guess is they assume youth is the reason I’m so willing to drag a knee through a corner at more than 100 mph on a motorcycle I’ll probably never master. After all, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says the median age of sportbike riders is 29. Had I not seen so many men and women with gray hair doing the same thing alongside me, I’d be forced to agree with this statistic.
For me, riding a sportbike is where I feel at home. Life is awkward and requires a lot of effort for someone who is quiet and introverted. I’d say that riding a sportbike over the years has brought me out of my shell, giving me confidence and ambition I might not have had otherwise. The more I learned from my peers about riding, the faster I got and the more admired I was by those around me. Because of this, I grew more open, assertive and tenacious.
Like women who ride cruisers, women who ride sportbikes thrive on independence and freedom on two wheels. But female sportbike riders choose to ride sportbikes because, to them, sportbikes are sexy and appealing. Hanging with a small, familiar group of guys is fun, and continually experiencing the rush that a sportbike creates can be extremely addictive.
To compare the two types of bikes, a cruiser may sit lower to the ground and have a more comfortable seating position, but it’s usually nearly twice as heavy as a sportbike. For example, a Yamaha V Star 950 weighs in at 613 pounds and has a 26.6-inch seat height. It allows for an easy reach to the ground but offers limited cornering clearance. Contrast this with a Yamaha R6, with its 32.3-inch seat height and an approachable weight of 455 pounds.
“Choosing a cruiser is like choosing a beach cruiser bicycle over a mountain bike,” says Ivana Ford, 41, who rides a 2009 Triumph Street Triple. “Cruisers are too laid-back. I prefer the ergonomics and style of sportbikes.”
Sport-oriented bikes, like the Street Triple, may sit a little tall, but they are easily adjusted to fit women of smaller statures. This adjustability also enables women to push their limits. “I watch other riders with more riding skills than I have, and I feel challenged to improve my riding,” says Issey Wiriyahyuttamar, 28, who lowered the suspension of her 2008 Triumph Daytona 675 to feel more confident on her bike. She regularly attends track days at road-race tracks throughout Southern California. “I always want to learn more,” she says.
Ladies like Elissa Everett, 25, are attracted to sportbikes because of opposition. “I grew up around guys who made me feel like I couldn’t do things like play football or ride because I was a girl,” says Elissa, who purchased her 2003 Suzuki GSX-R600 after serving in the Marine Corps and envying the male Marines who talked about riding their sportbikes back home. “Proving them wrong is a feeling I can’t get enough of.”
For others, the decision to ride a sportbike did not come easily. Lisa Runyan started out in the passenger seat behind her husband, who’d been riding for 26 years. “My husband and I started going to the AMA races at California Speedway, and it was there we began discussing me getting a motorcycle,” she says. “I chose my 2009 Ducati Monster 696 for its performance, style and image.”
Dena Sodano, a competitive freestyle stunt rider, was a tomboy growing up who took to sportbikes like a fish to water. “The smell of bondo is one of my favorite things,” she says of the auto body repair putty her dad used around the body shop he owned while she was growing up. Her father also drag raced, which left an impression on Dena. “There is something about riding on one wheel that puts me at ease,” the 25-year-old says of what it’s like to do stunts on her 2003 Kawasaki 636. She also enjoys working on her bike and installing accessories that give it a distinct sound and enhance its performance.
Jen Jaynes, 27, owns M1 Sport Riders, a sportbike aftermarket shop in La Habra, Calif., with her husband, Pete. She rides a Kawasaki 636 that is a “Frankenstein bike” (a motorcycle modified with parts from different motorcycles), with parts installed from 2005 and 2006 models. “I love adding aftermarket parts to increase my motorcycle’s horsepower, and I love testing out these accessories at the track,” she says.
This is another aspect of owning a motorcycle that female sportbike riders share with cruiser riders—they love cosmetics. “Sportbike fairings have more room for stickers,” Jen says. Her motorcycle is covered in graphics, from nose cowling to tail section. Her chain is even pink!
Despite the riding style differences, women riders continue to reap the rewards of the camaraderie that only women can offer. “I choose a different creed than a cruiser girl,” says Sofia Amadio, 35, who races a 2003 Suzuki SV650. “But our goal is one and the same: self-expression and independence by way of two wheels.” Julie agrees, saying, “I am unbiased. Anyone who loves to ride should be riding, whether it be on a cruiser, sportbike, dirt bike—whateva!”
About the Author
Rachael Maltbie is a freelance writer from Lake Forest, Calif. She currently rides a 2008 Kawasaki ZX-10R. She started riding dirt bikes when she was nine years old, then moved to street bikes at 19. In addition to WomenRidersNow.com, she writes for MotorcycleShows.com. She serves as vice president of the US chapter of the Women’s International Motorcycle Association (WIMA USA) and is a certified motorcycle technician. She loves riding in the canyons, attending track days and mentoring new riders.
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