Women Sportbike Riders Vs. Women Cruiser Riders

What's the attraction to those racy, go-fast machines?

By Rachael Maltbie

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.

women sportbike riders rachael maltbie
Writer Rachael Westfall riding her 2008 Kawasaki ZX-10R at Willow Springs Raceway in California while working as an instructor for TrackXperience.com. The opportunity allows her to work with students who are riding on the road-race course for the first time and help them to be faster, smoother riders. “It makes my day to help someone feel more confident on the racetrack,” Rachael says.

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.

women sportbike riders
“When it comes to women and motorcycling and the style of riding one woman prefers over another, at Women Riders Now, our mantra has always been, riding is more about the fact that a woman is riding her own motorcycle, rather than the style of motorcycle shes riding,” says WRN Editor Genevieve Schmitt. “Just seeing a woman on her own bike is cool no matter what style of two wheels shes on.”

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.

women sportbike riders group M1 sport riders
Rachael Maltbie (second from left) with Elissa Everett, Jen Jaynes and Lisa Runyan in front of M1 Sport Riders in La Habra, Calif. Rachael interviewed all three of these sportbike riders for this article.

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.”

Ivana Ford has attended several riding schools. She is always striving to be a more efficient and safe rider. Photo taken by Mike La Putt at Spring Mountain Motorsports Park in Pahrump, Nev.
Ivana at the Grand Canyon. Ivana’s been known to take long rides on her Triumph Speed Triple that would make even the toughest cruiser chick raise an eyebrow. She even rode her sportbike from Los Angeles to Pahrump, Nev., rode the entire track day, then rode home the next day. If you give Ivana a couple of saddlebags, a route and some time off, she can disappear for days at a time.

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.

Issey Wiriyahyuttamar is originally from Thailand, and having the freedom to ride a motorcycle is one of the main reasons she moved stateside. Funny thing is, her brother and sister were close behind her; both moved to the US and purchased a sportbike as well. It’s amazing how infectious two wheels can be.
Issey has improved her cornering dramatically this year and recently purchased a van to transport her bike and all her gear to the track. Photo taken by Cali Photography at Streets of Willow in Rosamond, Calif.

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.”

Elissa Everett, who is currently attending nursing school, is pretty hard core when it comes to taking long rides. She attends rides with GirlClutch.com, sometimes riding more than 100 miles just to meet up with other lady riders.
Elissa’s white custom-painted GSX-R is one of the cleanest old-school “gixxers” around. She takes good care of her baby.

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.”

Lisa Runyan decided on the Ducati Monster after shopping around because it fit like “Cinderella’s slipper.”
Lisa is a member of OC Moto and considers the online community of motorcyclists to be her family. She regularly attends large group rides and plans events for OC Moto.
Some women sportbike riders were introduced to the nimble machines at an early age. Thirty-three-year-old Julie Heinz, a mother of two boys and owner of a 2009 Honda CBR600RR, says she used to ride dirt bikes with her family as a child, so making the transition to a sportbike seemed the obvious choice. She enjoys canyon riding with her buddies and attending track days with her boyfriend, Sterling, who is currently serving in Afghanistan.

women sportbike riders  honda cbr600rr
Julie Heinz’s 2005 Repsol Honda CBR600RR (shown here) was stolen, which kept her off the bike for several months before she finally purchased a new-to-her 2009 Honda CBR600RR. She’s now looking forward to getting some track time in and riding with friends again.

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.

Dena Sodano competes in the freestyle XDL stunt circuit, where she’s won two consecutive championship titles in the women’s freestyle class. She has many sponsors and is constantly working to fine-tune her wheelie skills.
Dena is rocking the stunt world with tricks that take a lot of body strength and mental discipline to master. She considers her Kawasaki 636 to be the perfect platform for trying new stunts.

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!

Jen Jaynes and her husband are busy raising five children in addition to running M1 Sport Riders in La Habra, Calif. Jen somehow still finds time to host barbecues for fellow riders, gather groups of friends to attend track days and occasionally hit up a canyon road whenever her family or business allows.

Before Sofia Amadio sold her 2009 Honda CBR to Julie Heinz, she was using it to commute to work every day, the main reason she began riding sportbikes. But after doing a couple of track days, she decided to start road racing.
Sofia is a member of GirlClutchRacing.com and recently began competing with Chuckwalla Valley Motorcycle Association (CVMARacing.com).
While a larger percentage of women ride cruisers than sportbikes, both groups are growing as more women take to riding motorcycles than ever before. The only difference dividing the two styles is that some women riders prefer miles of open road while others prefer a spirited pace through the twisties or the thrill of wheelie.

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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31 thoughts on Women Sportbike Riders Vs. Women Cruiser Riders

  1. I’ve been riding for 50 years now and will not stop riding … ever! I started out riding mini bikes and graduated to motocross by the time I was 12 years old. Got my first cruiser at 36 years of age, but soon traded it for a sportbike. I eventually bought my first Harley at 55 years of age and have settled into a comfortable riding style. I think riding, over the course of a half century, sort of evolves and morphs with our degree of aptitude, attitude, and desire. Keep on riding!

  2. As I approach my 50th year, I couldn’t imagine not riding. My first bike five years ago was a 2007 Yamaha FZ6. It was a great bike for me to learn on, however, my skills quickly out grew it. I purchased a 2006 Triumph Sprint ST 1050. It’s a blast in the curves and I go on comfortable multi-day 10+ hour rides. My record is 1400 miles in three days. Last year I added a 2014 Triumph Street Triple R 675 straight out of the box. It’s my day trip bike. Both bikes are triples (3 cylinder engine) and I love the torque they create. I ride mostly with men. It’s hard to find other women riders in my area that don’t ride cruisers. The men accept me as equals. I even lead rides once in awhile. That’s a hoot. They even let me ride their sportbikes. I have participated in one track day. I loved it! A great way to work on my riding skills. I’m looking forward to another track day this spring.

  3. Awesome article. You’re next one should focus on female cruiser riders and why they prefer cruisers!

  4. At nearly 50 years old and having grown up riding dirt bikes, I’m on my eighth motorbike now and have tried all styles from adventure to naked to classic cruiser. Nothing compares to the constant and predictable thrill of a super sport. In 2004, I was given a ride home on my neighbors Kawasaki ZX10 after my adventure tourer broke down (for the 20th time). I was amazed at just how little had to be done to extract the bike’s genius in turns of accelerating. I haven’t ridden another kind of bike since that first ride until I sustained a climbing injury in the fall of 2012 – sport riding position was painful and holding up the bike unsafe. I also hated seeing my ’07 Triumph Daytona 675 sitting for months. When I sold it in March and picked up the twin sister of the D, the STR 675, I longed even more to be back on the sport saddle. The more upright STR had many advantages but it was kind of…boring. Not nearly as intense as it could have been for having the exact same engine as the D. Sold that Aug. 13 and Aug. 15 took Amtrak down to Virginia Beach to pick up a 2012 Daytona 675. Wonderfully subtle advances in this bike’s engine since 2007, so it’s as if my old bike was reincarnated. Would I like to have a V-Rod, naked bike, and even a vintage Scrambler in the garage, sure, but if I can only have one, it’s got to be a sport bike, at least while my back can take it.

  5. Love reading about other women who ride sportbikes! I am on my fourth and fifth sportbike, my fourth GSX-R, a 2009 GSX-R750 for day rides, and for sport touring, a 2007 Honda VFR800 that I purchased for my 50th birthday present to myself last year.

    1. Congrats on the new motorcycles! What fun to have the best of both worlds at your disposal. Please send us a review. We’d love to hear what you think. Here’s the link for our guidelines.

  6. I am on my fifth sportbike after having learned to ride in the early 1970s. After all those years of canyon and track riding, many of them chasing after an AMA racer ex, I can’t imagine riding a cruiser. Plus I need that bit of forward lean angle to keep my spine reasonably comfortable. A grandmother now, I’m still out there on a Ducati M1100Evo.

  7. I did it! I am the proud owner of a 2002 Yamaha R6! Definitely could use some feedback. I must admit wanting and having are so different. I was a little bit intimidated when I first sat on my bike. I most definitely have to get it lowered. I can only touch the floor on my very tippy toes. I’m looking into lowering links now…but I couldn’t be happier!

  8. WOW! Power to the women riders! I, a single mother of two boys — riding has always been my dream — my something. Since I devote my all to raising my boys I don’t really have much to call my own thing. I just recently took on a second job. All proceeds will be going into my bike fund! Hopefully I am able to meet up with you ladies before the summer is up. Awesome and beautiful you all are!

  9. I took the classes and want a bike so badly. The women in this article really make me want to get a move on. To be honest, I still have a fear. How do you get over that? People make me feel bad and say that I shouldn’t play around due to my children. But I don’t want to live in fear. I want to ride by myself on my one bike. I really admire woman who can do that.

    1. We will be posting our revamped Beginner’s Guide soon, which will address some of the fears you’re feeling. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter so that you know when that revamped Beginner’s Guide goes live. In the meantime, read some of our Readers Stories. A few of them address fear.

  10. I have been riding for a long time, mostly sport touring bikes. Recently I met and fell in love with a Victory Cross Country. Never having ridden a cruiser style bike. I have been impressed with the handling and rideablity of this bike. I am having a great time with her. She runs down the expressway with ease and can run through the twisties as well. I still wear my gear. No naked riding for this lady. But above all I feel that no matter how you ride just get out and ride!

  11. I have recently found interest in riding and am now researching on finding a bike that will suit me. Not exactly sure on how big of a bike i should get. The bike I have my eye on is a Yamaha R6 600cc. I’m only 5-feet-2 and am worried about not being able to hold the bike up. Any suggestions anyone?

    1. Priscilla,You might consider posting your question on the WRN Forum, where you can reach out to hundreds of women to get an answer to your question.

  12. I’m 51 and love my 2011 Kawasaki 650! I also have a cruiser, a scooter and a little Honda CT trail bike. I just love to ride! I took lessons when I was 50 but used to ride a little CT90 when I was young. I’ve only been riding for one year and it is the best thing I’ve ever done! My sportbike is my favorite and I would love to learn how to race it. I can make it go really fast but need technique to go with my crazy need for speed. Tthanks for this super great Web site!

  13. Thinking about getting a bike and taking classes. Wish me luck.

  14. At 50 years of age I ride a 2011 Tri Glide. I was introduced to riding as a passenger behind my husband on his 2006 Fat Boy. We traded his in this year for a Street Glide so he could keep up with me on all the miles. I had the urge to ride so I took the class March of 2010 then nine months later I had my first bike with more than 18,000 in 13 months. It’s hard to keep me off of it. I even did a 1800-plus-miles solo ride back home to South Florida to show it off. It has lots of bling and beautiful artwork on it, and it has been in several bike shows and has won. I would love to ride on two wheels but with bad knees that’s just not possible. I love all the people I have met along the way, with many more to come.

  15. It was about time to include sportbike girls on your Web site, even though it doesn’t matter whether you ride sport or cruiser. I love seeing the girls ride and I am proud every time I see one take her helmet off. The article was very good so keep them coming.

  16. Women who ride sportbikes are the same as me on my tourer, women riding motorcycles. We do it for the same reasons, freedom, personal growth, empowerment, adventure. We do it on two wheels or three. There really doesn’t seem to be much difference between us, just the type of wheels we choose. It’s like boats, I prefer sails, someone else wants 150hp but we are both enjoying the water. Ride on, and ride safely. We all represent a growing minority.

  17. Great article! While I love to read about the increasing numbers of female riders in general, it’s truly enjoyable to finally see more articles about other sportbike riders. I certainly hope age never becomes a deciding factor for me at the bike shop, because as a 48-year-old professional I can’t imagine a time when I won’t want to come home and jump on that Ninja to relieve the day’s stress. Choosing a bike is all about having what makes you happy and gives you that awesome feeling of independence. Fast, slow, big, small, whatever you ride, be safe, respect your sister riders, and enjoy life!

  18. Very good article, though not enough comments from ladies on cruisers.I’ve spent 5-plus years on the back of our Gold Wing loving every minute of it! It has always been on my bucket list to learn to drive/ride a motorcycle and I took the lessons and completed my dream in July 2011. I bought an ’07 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 because it fit me perfectly and is a beautiful ride, too.I take my helmet off to the ladies on sportbikes. You go girl! If I were 25 years younger, I’d probably be there with you.

  19. Great article! I owned a sportbike as my third bike and was amazed at what it could do, safely. I loved my Suzuki Katana 600. Am now four bikes after that one, a Can-Am Spyder. I’m 64 and nothing takes the place of a short ride or a long trip (3,500 miles in two weeks) on my bike. Ride safely and love every minute of it.

  20. Did someone say sport touring?Last summer I put on 15k spins on my new to me 2001 Honda ST1100. My 2004 to 2011 rides have been a 1,000 pound H-D Ultra Classic, two Iron Butts and 100,000 spins later the switch to a 630 pound 100hp sport touring ride. A new world of open road riding and mucho dinero less spent on fuel and maintenance and acquisition cost. Sure would be fun to do some Road America-style track days with the ST with the quick-release hard bags off. Maybe 2012 riding season will bring it on. Having reached “Club 75” last year, Illinois required I pass the rider exam to renew my motorcycle license. With the help of a refresher course, renewed license issued. We can never get too much education, happy me. Ride on fellow road warriors.

  21. I ride a cruiser but there isn’t anything wrong with riding a sportbike. I never tried one, but don’t think I would be comfortable for long rides, but that is just me! As long as you ride, that is all that matters and it sure would be boring if everyone rode the same thing!

  22. Thanks so much for adding sportbikes to WRN! switched from a Vulcan 800 to the sport tourer Concours model a few years ago. It’s certainly no lighter than my cruiser was, but it is far more maneuverable and the ergonomics are better too. The big gas tank is a bonus because now I can ride longer distances without wanting a break. I have no plans to ever hit the racetrack, but do enjoy improving my skills. Oh, and by the way, I’m a gray-haired grandma.

  23. Loved the article. Love riding them both, HD Deluxe amd Triumph Street Triple. Depends on my mood. I don’t do much knee dragging though. Age 61, 4 feet 11 inches.

  24. Great article. Sportbike or cruiser, young or old, female or male, none of it matters. Let’s all ride and be safe.

  25. Awesome article Rachael. You are such an awesome writer, rider and friend!

  26. Great article! Women, mostly young women, riding sportbikes is getting to be more common here in Cheyenne but they’re still in the minority when compared with the women on Harleys and metric cruisers. I have a cruiser (Honda Magna – V4 engine derived from the VFR700 sportbike), an adventure bike (650 V-Strom – engine from the SV650 sportbike), three nakeds (ZRX1200R, FZ1, Speed Triple) as well as three sport tourers (FJR1300, Bandit 1250S and Ninja 1000). I also have three scooters (250cc – 500cc). Fast bikes are fun, as are large scooters. I take a skills class every year or every other year so I can more fully enjoy my speedy steeds. I’m not so young age-wise (53) but I don’t think age is really indicative of the kind of bike you prefer.

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