Are you a woman who rides her own motorcycle? Or do you know one and want to help them feel more comfortable on their bike? No worries- here are some of the best tips and tricks for female motorcycle riders- both for safety, and generally having fun on the road. I hope you find it useful!
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Being a female motorcycle rider
When I started riding, I had no clue what I was doing. I never really planned to get a bike or ‘ride my own’… but when our daughter grew up, she wanted to ride pillion, which meant I lost my seat!
So I had to learn to ride.
Since then, we’ve spent several years motorcycle touring and I’ve travelled thousands of miles around the UK, Europe and the USA and I LOVE riding my own motorcycle. It’s empowering, fun and, quite frankly, I feel like a bada$$.
I know more and more women are getting into motorcycling every day (yay!) and I want to help and encourage every single one of you. I’ve learnt a LOT about being a female motorcycle rider (mainly through getting it wrong!), so I hope these tips help you too!
Dress for success, not sexiness
Ok, let’s deal with this straight up.
If you come off the bike, any skin which is exposed will hit the tarmac. It will be scarred. Badly. DO NOT ride a motorcycle in a tank top, or a short skirt or a bikini (I mean, seriously, WHY?!)
You are already a rockstar- you do not need to wear skimpy biker girl clothing to attract men or women to be a female motorcycle rider. I have no problem with feeling good in what you’re wearing, but wear decent clothing with proper armour and material which will have a chance of protecting you should the worst happen.
Even WONDER WOMAN knows better than this…
Ok, rant over.
Many people assume that motorcycle gear is expensive and ‘ugly’, but I promise there is cute female biker gear out there which is suitable for wearing on a motorcycle. It also doesn’t need to be expensive- online stores are competitively priced and gear for female bikers is getting much more accessible. Besides, motorcycle gear makes GREAT gifts for female motorcyclists– add it to your wishlist.
Before you go anywhere, make sure you have:
- A properly fitted helmet
- Proper clothing (Jacket, Leggings/ jeans, boots, gloves
Choosing a motorcycle helmet
I prefer a full face helmet. I’ve ridden with an open-faced one and hated how exposed I felt. I’ve also ridden without one for 3 hours in the Florida Quays and HATED that. Felt like an idiot.
Buying a motorcycle helmet online can be difficult because it MUST fit properly. If it’s your first time, or if you’re debating buying a new brand, going into a shop is best to make sure you get the right size for you. And helmet size has nothing to do with body height or shape either. I’m 6ft and wear a larger clothing size than my 5’10 husband… but my head is a small and his is a medium. So get measured. Having said that, we’ve reviewed 10 of the best pink motorcycle helmets here so you can buy with confidence.
Choosing the right motorcycle gear as a female biker
Here’s the thing about girls- we have boobs. And hips.
So, although there are many things in the biking world which could be unisex, or you could get away with wearing a mans… jackets and trousers aren’t one of them. (Boots and gloves are!)
As a 6ft female motorcycle rider with 34″ inside leg, I KNOW how tough it can be to find proper motorbike clothing which fits. It’s an ordeal. I ended up buying 4 different sets of biker leathers before finding the right one for me.
Whether you want proper leathers, or a jacket and leggings for summer riding, make sure it is made from protective material and include armour/ kevlar in the appropriate places.
I see many bikers riding in trainers and while that’s not illegal, you can do better. For a start, there are plenty of cute biker boots for women who ride; you want to make sure the boots cover your ankles AND make sure you’re protected from hot exhausts (this will depend on your bike model.)
Don’t Wear any Loose Clothing or accessories
Pretty scarfs may look cute, but they WILL come loose and they WILL drive you crazy, which is dangerous as your attention will be on it and not on the road. Neck gaiters are much more practical- you can get some really cute one to match your biker leathers.
The same goes for anything else loose- satchels, skirts (see rant above), ribbons etc.
Wearing Makeup as a female biker
So, further to my rant above, you do NOT have to wear makeup to be a female motorcycle rider.
However, having said that, I almost always wear makeup- that’s just part of who I am. The trick is to find makeup which doesn’t smudge when you’re riding- there’s nothing worse than taking off your helmet and discovering you look like a sad panda.
The worst culprit is mascara and eye liner. You want to find ones which are 24h wear- ideally waterproof. I love this mascara and this eyeliner- I’ve gone through loads of them!
Foundation is also an issue because it comes off inside your helmet. I prefer to use a _____ as I don’t need so much coverage but again, find one which doesn’t budge in water and it should be fine on a motorcycle.
Figuring out how to wear your hair
If you are a male or female biker with short hair, you will never understand the struggle it is to arrive at your destination without looking like you’ve been pulled backwards through a hedge.
Heck, half the time you might have bits of an actual hedge in your hair.
I don’t recommend riding a motorcycle with your hair completely loose- it will become a mess AND will likely fly into your face as your riding, which is dangerous and distracting.
Also, you don’t want to do anything which will be uncomfortable inside your helmet. A high ponytail looks cute, but the band can dig into your head with the helmet on. Same for bobby pins, grips or pretty clips. Also, don’t secure your hair too tight that it pulls- that’s also distracting.
Some people swear by hair wraps (I use one of these on longer rides), but mainly I just plait it and appreciate the ‘wavy’ look when I take it out. I sometimes go for low pigtail plaits, which are cute but can flap in the wind, and I once tried a side pony- which drove me nuts!
I also carry a teeny tiny hairbrush in my thigh bag if I’m going to a party or somewhere I need to look smart.
NOTE: If you’re a female motorcycle rider doing a track day, you’ll need to tuck your hair inside your jacket to ensure it won’t get caught and snap your neck if you come off at high speed. The easiest way to do this is put your hair inside BEFORE you zip your jacket up- trying to tuck it down afterwards is a pain is the…neck.
You do YOU
Ok, so now you’re kitted out and ready to go (assuming, of course, that you have a motorcycle) it’s time to get out on the road.
Most important thing here is to ride at a speed and on roads which are best for you. If you’re a new rider, avoid riding in a group until you feel comfortable. If you’re riding with a partner or friend, ask to ride in front so you don’t have to worry about keeping up with them. If you’re motorcycle touring, don’t head straight for crazy mountain roads- give yourself time to build your abilities and confidence (this is one of the craziest mountain roads we’ve ever ridden on!)
If you find yourself riding with a group and can’t/ don’t want to keep up, just drop back. Ride for yourself on the road, always. Be alert and aware of what’s going on around you and don’t feel pressured to do anything. If another biker comes past you and overtakes a car, that doesn’t mean you have to overtake the car. Ride in your own comfort level.
Pick the right bike for you
Many people believe female motorcycle riders should start with a ‘small bike’.
Personally, that drives me nuts. My first bike was a 650cc (Suzuki Bandit) and my current bike is a 900cc Scrambler. The smallest bike I’ve ever owned is my 636 zx6r ninja… but that’s a race bike.
You do NOT have to start with a 250 (unless you do for legal reasons, of course!) But, as an adult with the appropriate licence, worry less about the size of the bike and more about how you FEEL on it.
- Can you grip the tank?
- Can you put your feet down and stop safely?
- Can you pick it up?
- Do you LOVE it?
Don’t let anyone tell you what you SHOULD be doing; do what feels right for you. If you’re not sure, get advice from a garage or close friend.
NOTE: If you’re in a garage who’s ignoring you or treating you like an idiot because you’re a girl, go elsewhere. You deserve better and I promise there are decent showrooms around who welcome female motorcycle riders.
Learn to pick up your bike
Urgh. I know. This bit sucks. But it’s vital for your confidence as a rider. Because, at some point, you WILL drop your bike. Probably in front of a lot of judgemental idiots who’ll laugh at you (sorry, but I’m keeping it real.)
The fact is that anyone who has been riding for any length of time has dropped their bike. I’ve dropped mine twice. At least if you can pick the thing back up again, it makes it a little easier to handle. Although, yes, you’ll feel like crap for a while. Sending you a huge hug xx
There are plenty of Youtube videos about how to pick up a bike and lots of different methods. It will mainly depend on the type of bike you have and also how strong your arms/ back/ legs are. Keep practising- you’ll get it eventually I promise.
If (when) you do drop your bike, be sure to check it mechanically. You’ll probably have some cosmetic damage, but it’s important to know the bike isn’t badly damaged internally before you go on any long rides.
THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP YOU WILL EVER GET: Assume no-one else on the road has seen you. Because they probably haven’t.
If you ride defensively, it’s easier to spot cars waiting to pull out, people doing crazy u-turns, vans about to open their doors or cyclists who swerve into the road.
The scary fact is that nearly 40% of accidents involving a motorcycle are caused by another vehicle. Most car drivers are never really taught to look out for motorcycles or bicycles and it’s up to you to avoid them as much as you can.
Some of the best tips I’ve learnt for riding defensively include:
- Rev to get attention. If you see a car waiting to pull out and you don’t think they’ve seen you, pulling in the clutch and revving to make a noise will bring their attention to you
- Don’t ride in a blind spot. The old adage ‘if you can’t see my mirrors I can’t see you’ is really helpful with this
- Also, putting your headlight reflection right in a wing-mirror will help them notice you
- Don’t follow another vehicle too closely, just in case they brake without warning
Learn To Do your Motorcycle Maintenance Yourself
The sad fact is that some garages (both for cars and bikes) assume that, as a woman, you don’t have a clue about anything mechanical. And then they try to abuse that.
It drives me nuts.
For this reason, I think it’s important for every female motorcycle rider to be able to do the basics on her bike- or at least understand them enough to know if the work has been done properly.
- Checking oil/ fluid levels
- Cleaning and maintaining the chain
- Checking tyre tread and pressures
- Cleaning the bike
Your motorcycle manual is a great resource- many companies include exactly what is needed and how frequently. You can also use resources like Google and Youtube to find out HOW to do the jobs.
If you come across any you can’t do or are unsure of, ask a biker you trust to show you.
It also helps to find a garage you trust. We got lucky with our Triumphs; the showroom has a garage attached and the mechanics there are fantastic. I can drop my bike in if I’m worried about something, get them to fix it and ask them questions until I understand (I’m sure I drive them nuts!) Don’t be scared to ask questions- no decent mechanic will have a problem with that.
Keep important details to hand
- If you breakdown, who do you call?
- If you have a crash, what do you do?
- If you are in an accident and are unconscious, who should the emergency services phone?
This is actually called a Disaster Recovery Plan and my husband does this for his business- finding the risks and learning how to combat them. It’s a useful skill to have as a biker.
Carry a note somewhere obvious with your name, blood type and an emergency contact (NOT your address)- many people put this note in the waterproof bit on their tank bags.
Also, some motorcycle helmets have a system which allows you to include this- the emergency services are trained to look for this.
If you’re motorcycle touring, one of the best ways to share the adventure with friends, family, or anyone interested is on social media (you can follow us on Instagram here)
However, it’s important that you don’t give away your real-time location. This is especially important if you are solo motorcycle touring. Don’t share where you are whilst you are there; wait until you have left or are about to leave before posting your location and photos.
Similarly, don’t share where you are planning to go next. Sadly, you just don’t know who’s reading or what their intentions might be.
If you want to make sure someone knows where you are, you can share your location with them via an app like ‘Find my Friends’- that way someone can find you should things go awry and an accident happens.
This also applies to apps like Polarsteps, which tracks your real-time GPS location. I would never recommend using something like this; again, you just don’t know who is using and seeing that information. Creepy, yes, but better safe than sorry.
Do you have any more awesome tips for female motorcycle riders? Drop them in the comments below so we can all benefit.
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